The Firetail Finches
Like little children out from school
We come in bevies, primly gay;
On sunlit lawn, in shadow cool
With meek propriety we play
And in and out about the grass
We weave, not for a moment still;
Determined, ere the daylight pass,
To make our fun and eat our fill.
Our crimson kirtles bob about
As here and there we bend and prance;
And in and out, and in and out —
Like little children at a dance —
We never weary; nothing strange,
We’ll tarry with you all the day,
Providing that you can arrange
Good faring, and a field for play.
We build our quaint nests, swinging low
Like childish stockings from a peg —
Hung topsy-turvy by the toe,
The snug heel holding many an egg.
We set them in the scrubs remote
Where no trespasser rude may roam,
And sit and sound a plaintive note
To call a laggard help-mate home.
Watch when the late spring days are here;
Watch in some meadow by a stream,
When cobwebs drift and disappear,
And every drugged days is a dream;—
Watch till a crimson kirtle’s spied
In sunlit grass or shadow cool.
Here comes our bevy, straggling wide,
Like little children out from school.
C. J. Dennis, The Singing Garden, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1935, pages 41-42
bevies = plural of bevy: a group of people (especially regarding young women, e.g. “a bevy of beauties”); a group or flock of birds; a group of things
bevy = a group of people (especially regarding young women, e.g. “a bevy of beauties”); a group or flock of birds; a group of things
ere = before (from the Middle English “er”, itself from the Old English “aer”, meaning early or soon)
faring = food and drink
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)
kirtle = a long dress, gown, or outer petticoat, worn by women (especially in the Middle Ages, but also in later times); a knee-length tunic or coat, worn by men (especially in the Middle Ages)
tarry = to stay longer than intended