The Yellow-tailed Thornbill [poem by C. J. Dennis]

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

The Yellow-tailed Thornbill

I’m a fussy little fellow
In my kilt of glowing yellow;
As about the garden ways I bow and bend,
Many a melody I bring to you
In the soft, gay songs I sing to you
With a cheery little grace-note at the end —
“Chip, chip.”
Oh, I never miss that grace-note at the end.

Summer into autumn passes,
And among the seeding grasses,
’Mid the midges, goodly provender I gain.
Little for your presence caring,
Confident and greatly daring,
I will charm you with a sudden, sweet refrain —
“Chip, chip.”
Oh, a very soft, yet valiant refrain.

When the time has come for nesting,
Our sagacity attesting,
We erect a neat, twin-chambered bow’r of love:
Mother in the nursery sleeping
With the babes, while sentry keeping,
Father has his parlour-bedroom up above —
“Chip, chip.”
Oh, it’s cosier — and quieter above.

In my kilt of golden yellow
I’m a friendly little fellow,
And my spangled sable crown I proudly bear.
Tho’ my way be meek and lowly,
I can capture, win you wholly
If you’ll listen to this cheerful little air —
“Chip, chip.”
Oh, I’ll charm you with my cheerful little air.

C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 141-142

Editor’s notes:
air = melody, short melodious song, tune

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)

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)

’mid = an abbreviation of “amid” or “amidst”: of or in the middle of an area, group, position, etc.

provender = food; animal fodder

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

sagacity = the quality of being sagacious: wise, shrewd; having or showing acute mental discernment, sound judgment, good perception

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
bow’r (bower)
tho’ (though)

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