The Poetry Corner

Why The Jackass Laughs

By Banjo Paterson (Andrew Barton)

The Boastful Crow and the Laughing Jack Were telling tales of the outer back: "I've just been travelling far and wide, At the back of Bourke and the Queensland side; There isn't a bird in the bush can go As far as me," said the old black crow. "There isn't a bird in the bush can fly A course as straight or a course as high. Higher than human eyesight goes There's sometimes clouds, but there's always crows, Drifting along for a scent of blood Or a smell of smoke or a sign of flood. For never a bird or a beast has been With a sight as strong or a scent as keen. At fires and floods I'm the first about, For then the lizards and mice run out: And I make my swoop, and that's all they know, I'm a whale on mice," said the Boastful Crow. The Bee-birds over the homestead flew And told each other the long day through "The cold has come, we must take the track." "Now, I'll make you a bet," said the Laughing Jack, "Of a hundred mice, that you dare not go With the little Bee-birds, by Boastful Crow." Said the Boastful Crow, "I could take my ease And fly with little green birds like these. If they went flat out and they did their best I could have a smoke and could take a rest." And he asked of the Bee-birds circling round: "Now, where do you spike-tails think you're bound?" "We leave tonight, and out present plan is to go straight on till we reach Japan. "Every year, on the self-same day, We call our children and start away, Twittering, travelling day and night, Over the ocean we take our flight; And we rest a day on some lonely isles Or we beg a ride for a hundred miles On a steamer's deck,* and away we go: We hope you'll come with us, Mister Crow." But the old black crow was extremely sad. Said he: "I reckon you're raving mad To talk of travelling night and day, And how in the world do you find your way?" And the Bee-birds answered him, "If you please, That's one of our own great mysteries". Now these things chanced in the long ago And explain the fact, which no doubt you know, That every jackass high and low Will always laugh when he sees a crow.