The Poetry Corner

White Cockatoos

By Banjo Paterson (Andrew Barton)

Now the autumn maize is growing, Now the corn-cob fills, Where the Little River flowing Winds among the hills. Over mountain peaks outlying Clear against the blue Comes a scout in silence flying, One white cockatoo. Back he goes to where the meeting Waits among the trees. Says, "The corn is fit for eating; Hurry, if you please." Skirmishers, their line extending, Shout the joyful news; Down they drop like snow descending, Clouds of cockatoos. At their husking competition Hear them screech and yell. On a gum tree's high position Sits a sentinel. Soon the boss goes boundary riding; But the wise old bird, Mute among the branches hiding, Never says a word. Then you hear the strident squalling: "Here's the boss's son, Through the garden bushes crawling, Crawling with a gun. May the shiny cactus bristles Fill his soul with woe; May his knees get full of thistles. Brothers, let us go." Old Black Harry sees them going, Sketches Nature's plan: "That one cocky too much knowing, All same Chinaman. One eye shut and one eye winkin', Never shut the two; Chinaman go dead, me thinkin', Jump up cockatoo."