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White Cockatoos 

by A B 'Banjo' Patterson

This cynical and yet realistic poem was written around 1933.

Cockatoos were shot in Australia even then.


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 extendiing,
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."

Who was The Banjo?

ANDREW BARTON PATERSON was born on February 17, 1864, at Narambla, New South Wales, not far from Orange. He was the son of a Scottish immigrant from Lanarkshire, who had arrived in Australia in the early 1850s.

His early life was spent near Yass in NSW, and this is where he became acquainted with the colourful bush characters that he wrote about so vividly in his later life.

*The poem is cited as it was written

Cockatoo Poem

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