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.

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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