The Butcher Bird [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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

The Butcher Bird

I might charm you with my song,
Could you but forget my trade,
Where I pipe the autumn long
In some bowered wattle glade —
Pipe a rollicking refrain
Such as Circe might not scorn,
Jovial amongst my slain
Grimly dangling from the thorn.

Never yet had siren sung
From a falser heart than mine,
Witness these grim trophies hung
Round me, while a cadence fine
Ripples on the balmy air
To the Fall’s soft winds astir,
While anew I set my snare
For some feathered voyager.

There’s a note of careless glee,
Impish laughter in my lay;
Droll duets my mate with me
Improvises. We are gay
Lest the silence, were we dumb,
Should betray the evil mind
Of hunter and of huntress come
To bring destruction to our kind.

Yet, tho’ grisly be my trade,
Is man’s consciense clear as mine,
Singing in my wattle glade
Where I innocently dine?
And, when autumn comes again,
Haply you’ll forget it all,
Lured anew by that refrain
Of the singing cannibal.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 129-130

Editor’s notes:
bower = a shaded, leafy resting place or shelter, usually located within a garden or park and often made of latticework upon which plants (especially vines) are grown, or made out of intertwined tree boughs or vines (also known as an “arbor”) (“bower” may also refer to a country cottage or retreat, or to a woman’s bedroom or apartments in a medieval castle or mansion)

Circe = a goddess in Greek mythology (sometimes portrayed as an enchantress or sorceress)

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)

haply = by accident, by chance, or by luck

lay = song, tune; ballad (may also refer to ballads or narrative poems, as sung by medieval minstrels or bards)

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