The Wonga Pigeon [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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

The Wonga Pigeon

Men knew and loved my calling in old days —
Days ere a bitter wisdom taught me fear.
Trusting and unafraid, I went my ways
By many a crude hut of the pioneer;
Calling by paths where lonely axemen strode,
By new-cleared farmland yet to know the plough;
Calling by deep sled track and bullock road . . .
But where to-day man builds his last abode
Few hear my calling now.

Too trusting. When they found my flesh was sweet —
Was sweet and white and succulent withal —
What mattered beauty? I was good to eat!
Then trust was my undoing; and my call
A summons to men’s hunger and the chase —
A tame, ignoble chase with me the prey —
Till far into some secret forest place
I fled, with that poor remnant of my race
In hiding here to-day.

And only by lost paths o’ergrown with fern —
By old, abandoned tracks in scrubs remote —
You may, by chance, around a sudden turn,
Win some brief, fleeting glimpse of my grey coat.
Then, with a swift wing-clapping, I am hence;
Or, crouching down, ingenuously seek
To merge my colours with the brushwood dense
And trick the spoiler, with the vain defence
Of all earth’s harried meek.



Source:
C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 143-144

Editor’s notes:
ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)

scrub = small trees, shrubs, bushes; stunted trees; areas with a lot of scrub; scrubland, low bushland (also, the low trees and shrubs that grow in such areas)

Old spelling in the original text:
o’ergrown (overgrown)

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