The Libel [poem by John O’Brien]

[Editor: This poem by John O’Brien was published in Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921.]

The Libel

“The flowers have no scent, and the birds have no song,”
We read in the lesson before us,
While carols enchanted came floating along,
And lifted our hearts in the chorus.

“The landscape is sombre, and dreary, and gray,
No colour its mantle adorning”;
O’er carpets spread far in a golden array
We tramped it to school in the morning.

“The flowers have no scent,” but the wattle we brought
From hill-sides and glens where we found it
Was filling the room with its glory, we thought,
And wafting its sweetness around it.

And fragrant the greeting the eucalypts threw
From branches of amber and sorrel;
While hard by the door a pittosporum grew —
We called it “The Japanese Laurel.”

“The birds have no song,” so they told us at school;
But sweet in our souls was the ringing
Of notes soft and clear from the edge of the pool,
Where dainty gay thrushes were singing.

The magpie, the spink,* and the pretty blue wren,
The butcher-bird up in his eyrie,
The trills! Oh, I wish I could hear you again,
My dear little Chocolate Wiree!

To the ears of a stranger our birds may lack song,
Our flowers have no scent for the alien;
But we, who have rambled the gullies along
Bedecked in soft colours Australian,

We laugh them to scorn as we read the old phrase —
We’ve laughed, since, at many another —
And bless in our hearts in a chorus of praise
The face of our happy young mother.

*No apology is needed for using this name to replace White-shouldered Caterpillar-eater.



Published in:
John O’Brien. Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1921

Editor’s notes:
pittosporum = flowering plants, of the botanical family Pittosporaceae
spink = a small European songbird, also known as a chaffinch

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