The Black Cockatoo [poem by C. J. Dennis]

[Editor: This poem by C. J. Dennis was published in The Singing Garden (1935).]

The Black Cockatoo

In laboured flight above the gums,
Calling its harsh, discordant cry,
Our dark, funereal cortège comes
To rest a while in tree tops high;
Then, flashing many a sable coat,
With heavy flappings, on we float
To some far sky.

Garments of mutes and voice of ghouls,
We live the nomad’s life apart
And seem withal sad, gloomy fowls;
Yet are we gay enough at heart
As, thro’ the sweeter, rarer air
We seek our shrewdly hidden lair
With cunning art.

None but the eagle knows our ways,
None but the ventursome may know
The toil of our domestic days.
In solitudes where few men go
’Neath the vast dome of heaven’s tent
We seek and win our full content
In sun and snow.

Scarce are we of your humdrum earth,
Yet know the wide skies’ every mood;
In fastnesses that gave us birth
The spoiler may not yet intrude.
Where hills are high and paths are hard
The grim bush sentinels still guard
Our solitude.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 165-166

Editor’s notes:
gay = happy, joyous, carefree (may also mean well-decorated, bright, attractive) (in modern times it may especially refer to a homosexual, especially a male homosexual; may also refer to something which is no good, pathetic, useless)

’neath = beneath

sable = a colour that is black, dark, or gloomy (“sables” was an archaic term for garments worn for mourning; “sable” in heraldry refers to black); arising from the colour of dark sable fur, as taken from a sable (a furry mammal, Martes zibellina, which is primarily found in Russia and northern East Asia, and noted for its fur which has traditionally been used for clothing); in the context of the Australian Aborigines or African Negroes, a reference to their skin colour as being black

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