Tasmanian Magpies


Ethiopia! They used to say,
Fluting at dawn through pure, clear rills of sound,
The magpies of that earlier day,
Ethiopia! Ethiopia! From all around.
Dulcimer of no Abyssinian maid
Was ever so plangent or so doucely played.
Ethiopia, Ethiopia!
Echoes went through me of Mount Abora.

Another country, another age! I still
Hear them at early morning in the trees;
The same pure grace notes, the same exquisite trill,
The lilt, the liquid ease,
But not the enchantment of that warbled name;
The magpie dialect here is not the same;
The magic syllables have gone
That brought me full awake and roused the sun.

Lost Ethiopia. Is that loss in me?
Monaro magpies bursting into song
Soar through new cadences, fresh jubilee;
But in an unknown tongue
Rejoice. Can it perhaps be true
That I have lost those languages I knew
In boyhood, when each bird,
Stone, cloud and every tree that grew
Spoke and I had by heart all that I heard?

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