September 28, 2018
This Dennis Glover poem, ‘The Magpies‘ (c. late 1930s, I suppose) is often quoted for the clever onomatopoeia: Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle, quoth the magpie.
I do not find it charming but rather malevolent, as were Glover’s drunken moods. It reminds me of the Tom Petty song ‘Into the Great Wide Open’ music video featuring Johnny Depp with Faye Dunaway and that chick from Burn Notice/The Tudors.
Eddie/Depp builds a life from the ground up, meets the girl, learns the guitar, works hard, ‘made a record and it *went* in the charts, etc. Then he neglects his woman and turns a cold shoulder on Dunaway, his agent. Hurt and vanity, decline and fall.
In this New Zealand poem it’s the same, but we have Tom and Elizabeth as Settlers going through hard times. Bootstrapping, trying to make a go of it with their crops and homestead. Make their basic colonial beds out of bracken, but maintaining the bank loan exacts a heavy toll. ‘Blood on the scarecrow blood on the plow,’…Elizabeth dies, Tom loses his mind.
And, throughout, those bloody quardle oodle tree-raptors watch on like speculating vultures feasting on the carrion of human misery!
Yes, Glover was a miserable bugger. Also wrote one called ‘Captain Sinclair’ which is basically ‘The Magpies’ without magpies in it. That is, another matter-of-fact family tragedy (in Lyttleton this time) but absent the ardle wardle tapping at the chamber door of our misery.
Into The Great Wide Open
Image ref. Aussie bird fo the year; abc.net.au