EASY IN THE SUN

© Max Merckenschlager


Winner, 2011, 'Henry Lawson Festival', Grenfell, NSW.


Old Man Collins lights his pipe to advertise the day’s begun;

drawing on its blackened stem while resting easy in the sun,

he contemplates a cottage neat across the lane – between the plumes

of smoke – from which the master’s gone. His paintin’ neighbour, he assumes,

was long away to catch the rays of breakin’ dawn at sparrer fart,

and probably till close of day he’ll capture sunlight with his art.


Old Man Collins ruminates on coins that jingle in his coat,

as payment for his modellin’ – an easy take at Billygoat!

“Just walk him up and down the lane”, he says to me and so I do,

while him as asked me sketches fast to catch the mood and movements true.

“I’ll model for you’s anytime,” says I to Hans, and, ‘taint no joke,

he pays me more to strike a match and light me pipe and have a smoke!


Old Man Collins cocks an eye and squints to block the brilliant light

while studying his neighbour’s work. “You’ve caught that mob of woollies right,”

says he to Heysen, “dwarfed by gums, I’d say your paintin’s like a po’m.”

The canvas Sallie knew she’d lose, but named in hope ‘The Coming Home’,

Old Collins loved – he knew not why. Perhaps it was the Hahndorf hills

that Heysen, in his mystic way, had captured with his wondrous skills.


Old Man Collins taps his pipe against a leg of Sonneman’s chair;

wrinkled nose applauds the kuchen – heaven wafting on the air,

as Village folk discuss his neighbour, float their widely canvassed view

that ‘Heysen idles with his brushes, when the work is there to do.’

Could a father feed his children, sketching others while they toil?

Old Man Collins puffs an answer, “Heysen might, our prince of oil.”



Footnotes to “Easy In The Sun”

1.    Alfred (“Old Man”) Collins was Sir Hans Heysen’s neighbour in Billygoat Lane (now English St) Hahndorf, South Australia.

2.    “Sallie” is the affectionate name that friends used for Hans’ wife Selma (Lady Selma Heysen). She regarded her husband’s           paintings like ‘children’ and hated parting with them.

3.     Sonneman’s Bakery was located in Main Street Hahndorf. “Kuchen” is the German word for “cake”.

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