To a Sea Curlew [poem by John Shaw Neilson, 1942]

[Editor: A poem by John Shaw Neilson. Published in the Jindyworobak Anthology, 1942.]

To a Sea Curlew

Unwanted, uninvited, supercilious —
Such impudence I have not heard before.
Your constant invitation to be bilious
Insults me to the core.

Luckily your cowardice is not contagious,
I have heard such from immigrants before.
Our own birds most cheerfully courageous
Your blitherings ignore.

Here you take all we have — the most nutritious
And as you gormandise it seems unfair.
Sir, you insult me! You would make me vicious
With your prolonged despair.

All that we eat we gain by toil laborious,
All that we have you take; you eat the best.
You are, I think, remarkably inglorious,
Distressingly distressed.

Travellers I love, but O the supercilious!
Here in good jobs you overpaid we find.
Always you bring that something worse than bilious —
’Tis the imported mind.

Victor Kennedy (editor), Jindyworobak Anthology, 1942, Adelaide: F.W. Preece, Ltd., 1942, page 65

Editor’s notes:
blithering = talking foolishly; blathering, jabbering (the phrase “blithering idiot” refers to a foolish or stupid person)

gormandise = (also spelt “gormandize”) to eat gluttonously, greedily, voraciously


  1. Hazel Finn says:

    Utter doggeral!
    “All that we eat we gain by toil laborial” : there is nothing to indicate here that Anglo immigrants were uninvited, in contrast to the subjects of this impoverished verse. After more than a century of Australian culture seeking approval from the Mother Country, the second half of the 20th century showed Australia’s multicultural identity to be liberating and culturally sophisticated.

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