The Grey Fantail [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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

The Grey Fantail

The bushmen call me “Cranky Fan,”
Because my strange, erratic flight
Seems to uncomprehending man
Sign of a wit not over bright;
But nimble wit and nimble wing
Uphold me in the trade I ply
Of ever-restless foraging —
Excuse me — there’s another fly!

A tireless ball of buff and grey;
White-shafted, my important tail
Guides me on my eccentric way
When stronger aviators fail;
Now right side up, now upside down,
Now tumbling crazily from high,
I ape the antics of a clown —
Whoop! — and that’s another fly!

’Tis thus my daily fare I earn
By nimble trick of wit and wing;
And, when my nestlings so would learn,
A clothes-line is a handy thing.
And that is why we’re sitting now,
Tho’ not for long, my brood and I,
That they may be instructed how —
Whoo-oop! — and that’s another fly!

I loop the loop with careless ease,
Now in a tail-spin watch me fall;
Yet, spite these eccentricities,
I am the friendliest bird of all.
Upon your shoulder, lordly man,
I pause as I go flitting by.
Spare a kind word for Cranky Fan —
Whoop! — and that’s another fly!

C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 83-84

Editor’s notes:
spite = an abbreviation of “despite” (distinct from “spite”, meaning to regard someone with hatred or ill will; wanting to annoy, irritate, offend, or upset; a desire to defeat, harm, injure, or vex someone; to be full of petty malice; to hold a grudge)

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