There’s something in Australian air,
Something about Australian sun
That reputations one time fair
Fall from us, and we are undone.
Gay, carefree chatterers at Home,
Pert innocents of English eaves;
But, when to newer lands we roam,
Branded as pilferers and thieves.
But tho’ we raid your orchard trees
And wake your anger now and then,
Surely such little sins as these
Ban not all sympathy from men.
A bird must win a livelihood
In stranger lands when fare is scant
And, for amends, we work some good
As grateful farmers freely grant.
But who gives thought to rifled yields
Who deigns to wait and watch awhile
Our flocks upon your sunlit fields,
When summers indolently smile —
A merry, free, exultant band,
Our gay coats glinting in the sun
When, at some swift, unseen command
We rise, we dip, we wheel as one.
Men rave and count us enemies,
And many strive to work us ill.
Yet pray remember, if you please,
That we are here not at our will.
Some homesick exile brought us hence
To be a solace for his grief
So, spite of all our grave offence,
Can’t you forgive a cheery thief?
C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 137-138
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)
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)