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The Pigeons’ Parliament; a Poem of the Year 1845. In Four Cantos, With Notes. To which is added, Thoughts on the Wairarapa and other Stanzas

Canto I

page break“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 1.

Canto I.

In eighteen forty-five, in June,
Some time about third quarter moon,
When days were short, and nights were long,
Occurred the subject of this song;
A subject in itself most strange,
But more, to hap’ on “Silvan Grange.”

Some authors say, and some will write,
That poets can with ease indite,
To all the springs of nature’s motions,
And clothe with words a dumb brute’s notions;
As easy as a lover can
Draw meanings from his ladies’ fan;
Or even read intelligence
In every private squint or glance;
Or knows what may be telegraphed
By winks, or when admired, or scoffed
In silence.—So from upper regions,
We’ll hear what’s said among the pigeons.

On such a night, as I have said,
When fam’ly all had gone to bed,
page 2“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 2. By blazing hearth I sat alone,
A musing o’er the day now gone;
I thought on what through day was done,
Which seem’d to close, when scarce begun,
With yet so much to do,—no guess,—
To clear away a wilderness,
And that with oft a scanty meal,
As now with sad times forced to deal.—
Next sprung the thought,—Why here I’ve come,
And left the comforts of sweet home?
Self exiled thus, to prove at least,
A dreary drudge-like slavish beast,
From friendship far, which fain would prove,
A balm to change one’s cares to love!
But Fancy, at my woes would smile,
And pleasingly my thoughts beguile,
With—“Why let fortune’s frowns thee foil?
Be manly! Love can lessen toil!
And sweeten all the cares of life;
And raise thee ’bove such scenes of strife,
Which would a worldling baffle sore,
And sink him in the mire the more:”—
’Tis truly pleasing to be pleased
With well meant doings; though oft teased
By stubborn fortune, and made sigh
At times by his severity.

Oblivion’s veil, next o’er the past
Hope drew with—“Such can’t always last!”—
Though future seemed a dreary maze,
With joys half seen through cloudy haze,
Yet still she’d promise, still would cheer
My soul, preplexed ’tween doubt and fear!—
Thus, oft ’midst cares fresh pleasures spring,
Destroying ev’ry baneful sting;
Dispelling gloomy fears the while,
Pleasing as rest is after toil!

Puss, having suppered on a rat,
Now at my feet pleased, purring sat;
As ’twere to bear me company
Thus musing lone;—When lo! on high,
page 3“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 3. At once was heard a startling sound
Of something strange, all round and round:
Puss took alarm, with pricked up ear,
Look’d round, astonished such to hear.
I wondered what could hap to-night,
Or if my ears were tuned aright;
But more and more the sound increased,
Alarming both to man and beast.
Puss snuff’d about and mewed aloud,
The cause thus asking as she could;
Yet, sure I was, ’twas not the wind;
And thunder was of different kind.
Nor yet the rain upon the roof,
Nor storm,—for that seemed far aloof,
By moonshine bright and azure sky
As lately seen, no change then nigh;
So, to the door, t’ expound the doubt,
I went, and cautiously peep’d out,
Like one afraid of some intruder,
Than friendship, who might be much ruder,
As through the place went many a story
Concerning ravages by maori;
But, looking up to my surprise,
A flight of pigeons veil’d the skies
Instead of clouds! They round and round
Flew numberless, with winging sound,
Which seemed the cause of that strange noise
Heard overhead, and gave surprise;—
But what a cooing!—Each seemed greeting,
His fellow welcomed to the meeting,
Like courtiers come to celebrate,
Some festival of highest rate.

Oh! what a shot for pigeon shooters!
A noble prize for bush free booters!
For only shoot, though in the dark,
No danger here to miss the mark:
Or e’en at random like blind Bill,
Who shot, and chanced his duck to kill!
But as for me, I’ve got no gun,
Besides I’m carless of such fun,
page 4“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 4. Though from such prejudice could stoop
T’ enjoy a dish of pigeon soup!”

Before my cottage, to the right, (I)
There stands a pine of mod’rate height;
Which long has stood the stormy blast;
Unlike the neighbouring rata, cast,
And tossing high its heels in air,
Like mountebank in crowded fair;
Its top by limbs supported strong,
From which great branches stretch along
Whose mazy trimmings high o’er head,
Above my cottage seemed to spread,
Like parasol, held o’er by one,
To sheild it from the noon day sun;
Well, round this pine’s great massy top,
Which scarce shew’d having ample scope,
The pigeons wheel’d their noisy flight,
Like juv’nile horsemanship outright;
But still their compass nearer drew,
As round and round their course they flew;
Till all a lodgement got complete,
And close together took their seat;
A mighty mass of feather’d life,
Without the sign of jar or strife!
Those, outside, seemed in case of harm,
To keep look out and give alarm.
Thus watch was set, all round, and high,
All eager danger to descry,
More so, than on the tented ground,
Where sentry oft asleep is found;
So that blest peace, may be possest
In safe enjoyment by the rest,
From night hawks hunting far or round,
Or wingless thunderers aground;
Thus every limb, and branch, and spray
Were loaded, almost to downweigh
Its lofty head!
“Oh! massy pine!

A giant’s strength is surely thine!
page 5“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 5. As much as Atlas, when of yore
This world he on his shoulders bore!
Oh! fail not to bear up thy load,
Of living flesh, come from abroad
To roost on thee! Let Yankees boast
Of tall pines, bending ‘neath a host
Of pigeons,—but still bear up thou!
And bend not!—If thou shouldest, I vow
You’ll render mine a grevious lot!
And crush to ruins my poor cot!
Aye, more than when the buckateer
Such havock made me t’other year! (2)
They seem determined here to fare,
My efforts mocking them to scare!
May no bad luck me vex this night,
Since still they wont be put to flight.”

Miss Porky, now look’d o’er her sty,
Like lady from her window high,
To know the matter of some brawl,
Or answer to her lovers call;—
So she made wonder as was due,
The question grunting, “What’s ado?”

“Hush!” pigeon cooed, down looking meek
“Our President’s about to speak;”
“What! speak?—about to speak?” said I,
“To hear in silence, I’ll comply?”

High on a twig above the rest,
The President with tufted crest,
Sat with all grace, as dignified,
Full of import and kingly pride;
Although in visage somewhat grave,
To whom the rest submission gave;
He rose, and first his wings outspread,
Bow’d! and them folded, and thus said;—
“My friends! and brethren of our race,
In you all confidence we place;
With pleasure too we duly own
Your prompt alligeance to our throne;
This morn we sent our heralds forth,
Through regions, east, west, south and north,
page 6“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 6. To bear our loves to you, all greeting!
And call you to this general meeting,
By light of moon; as we thought best,
When thundering troublers are at rest;
Though this hour seem unseasonable,
In eyes of all unreasonable,
Yet this is no conventicle,
For stirring subjects to rebel
Against their prince, as oft is done
In kingdoms t’other side the sun,
As we’re informed:—but as for this,
Tis no way against our law of peace!
So, glad we feel to meet you here,
Your joint discussions fain to hear,
Concerning what gives great vexation,—
Even this shooting agitation.
As each, and all of us must feel
An interest in the common weal,
As felt amongst those of other breed,
Who boast themselves for Adam’s seed;—
Our murderers!—no other name
Can we bestow them to their shame;—
So, let us try, if can be shewn
Just cause for all this rage,—or known
If aught can be, that may advance
Some scheme for our deliverance.

“Though by them we’re accounted meek,
And harmless, yet our lives they seek!
For what?—That we might form supplies
To make up pasties, stews, and pies,
As if they could no longer dine
On flesh of grov’ling brutes called swine!
“(Humph!” porky gave, but was unheeded,
For Preses in his speech proceeded.) (2)
Because they say, our flesh is sweet,
And reckon’d very dainty meat;
Extermination thus assail,
As now our numbers seem to fail;
Instead of which, we ought t’increase,
As we desturb not general peace,
page 7“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 7. Unlike the kakas’ noisy fits,—
Unlike the theivish paroquets, (4)
Which pleasure take in theft, and waste,
Destroying crops which labour cost
The toil worn bushman!—while we dine
Upon the berries of the pine,
Or other forest trees, whose fruits
We gather as the season suits:
While through free air we wing our way
Annoying not where mortals stay;
In all sweet peace we still rejoice;
Nor trouble with discordant voice.—
Thus, can we prove our harmlessness,
To which, our en’mies must confess!

“Now let’s enquire,—What is this man?—
His nature, and his doings, scan;—
Should he of ancestry still boast,—
Even there, much of his honour’s lost:
Besides, our race is somewhat more
Of age than his,—being made before.—
His father,—What was he?—A thief!
And of all sorrows author chief,
Though this earth’s Government and trust
Were to him given, yet in the dust
He trampled all authority,
In favour of his vanity;
When with unhallowed daring, he
Stole fruit from the forbidden tree!
Now, he’d with uncurb’d passions rule
Creation’s family as his tool!
He most ungovernable! still
The chief inventor of all ill;
And, though of Nature’s woes, the cause!
Would dare avenge her injured laws
On other tribes!—Oh! foul distrace!
And more to harm our peaceful race.

“‘Ere Pakehas had settled here
From Maories we had nought to fear;
They on their own kind oft did feed,
Preferring theirs, of ours instead;
page 8“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 8. Because in this, they had less trouble,
While us to take, they were less able;
When quite without that missive thunder,
Which work us death, though erst our wonder! (5)
But sad experience now have changed
To fears such marvel! How deranged
Our minds have been through grief! not less
Than man, when brought to great distress,
Which he considers not his doin’,
Though verging on the brink of ruin!
Our hapless case, thus on us forced,
How can we but forbode the worst?
And now, since Maories sold the land
For such like traffic, what command
Of peace, can we expect? for they
Now look upon us as their prey!
As with infection touched, by those
New comers, adding to our foes!—
No pity! should such baneful fire,
E’er turn against them, with full ire,
Who put such weapons in their hands,
As barter for their ancient lands!

“Though doomed to till the ground for bread,
Wherewith he duly might be fed,
Man spurns the sentence, and makes bold,
On those he governs to lay hold,
And slaughters, though ’gainst mercy’s law
To gust his all devouring maw!
Though he o’er all did get dominion,
Was’t to destroy? ’Tis our opinion,
’Twas well to govern and protect
The harmless! He, to shew respect
To Nature’s laws! And good example
To others shew, that might them trample
In ravenous contempt! But still
He’s foremost in destructive skill
With lust rapacious to devour,
All under his usurping power.

“See! e’en the ox, that gives his strength
To till his ground, must fall at length
page 9“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 9. To his omnivorous maw a prey;
First fed, then kill’d!—a curious way
To render payment for work done!—
What race of monsters ’neath the sun,
Can be compared to this?—E’en dogs,
And, as reported, slimy frogs,
And other vermin make up dishes
To serve his varied lusts and wishes!
Thus, creatures of earth, sea, and air,
Or wild, or tame, or foul, or fair,
What might be Nature’s former plan,
Are eat by all devouring man!
So, how much more, forsooth can we
Contrive to escape such jeopardy?
But such a relish for our flesh,
Of late, has been excited fresh;
While the urgings of some longing wives
Their husbands send to seek our lives!
But what is worse, some evil doers
For us buy favours from their w——s!
To satisfy a sinful lust,
Oft fiercely raging to disgust.

“It may be true our flesh’ is sweet,
To epicurean taste.—Is’t meet,
On that account, with such delight,
We should be hunted morn and night,
O’er hill and dale?—Though doctors say,
(And to our bane, but why should they?)
Our flesh contains light nourishment,
Fit for recruiting convalescent,
E’en from the worst disease,—How strange
We must endure to death!—Revenge!
Can that be ours? since harmless, we
Have ever been, all must agree!
But how are we t’ endure such harms
Against us levied?—Use of arms
To us unnatural, to withstand
In self defence!—Oh! murderous band,
On our extermination bent,
Oh, were it ever with you Lent!
page 10“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 10. And you the observers of the fast
We might rejoice, nor be o’ercast
With doleful fears.—But strange the while
In hunting us with no small toil,
To time they shew but small respect,
And other great concerns neglect. (6)
See! labour urgent to be done,
Lies still unheeded, not begun,
In great extent!—Since fleeting time
Makes speed, neglects should be a crime,
Deserving punishment, on those
Who would infringe good Natures laws!
For if they will not sow their seed,
How will they fare in future need?—
Perhaps still hunt us to devour
Our last remains, in evil hour!

“Those precepts too, ‘Love one another,’
And ‘If smit on one cheek turn t’other,’
Seem made for us, though to them given
As candidates and heirs of Heaven!
But man, to these, pay no regard
As quite unworthy the reward!
Though found to be reputed civil,
He follows Nimrod, or the Divel;
Two mighty hunters of great skill,
And would surpass them with good will!
See! ’mongst themselves they disagree,
While love’s o’erruled by jealousy;
And treachery foul, and lawless power,
Stir each his neighbour to devour!
Since man, to brother man thus be,—
What expectations have must we?—
Were e’er such dispositions shewn
To either, in our race, or known?
Or to our author high above,
Have we shewn aught but duteous love?
Or have we evil deeds done?—strange
T’ our natures, as excite revenge
In breast of lordly man? But vain
Is every hope, we fear, to obtain
page 11“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 11. From their distructiveness relief
Or respite!—But, we must be brief;—
Let’s all consider since we’ve met
In council, (though it must regret
Give all to learn those sad tidings,)
If we can turn t’ advantage things
Which adverse seem;—Sure some can tell
What to his observation fell,
Either from bird, or beast, or man;—
That we might stumble on some plan
Which some deliverance might reveal,
Or guidance give t’ our common weal.”

Thus closed the President his speech,
Of half hour’s length!—a goodly stretch
For Pigeons!—when, with wings abroad
As when he rose, he gently bow’d
To audience full, and so sat down
Like majesty upon his throne.
When all impress’d with gen’ral cause,
Stood up, and coo’d him great applause!

His loving mate, close by his side
Felt much elate, in female pride;
As when, my Lord had something done,
Which heart of Lady-love had won;
Proud of his deeds, and choice she made,
Him flattering, much she feels repaid;
So fondly she carroo’d his praise,
With open bill’s distinguished grace,
And wings half ope, bespeaking bliss,
As felt in loves saluting kiss!
Meanwhile, the assembled harmless throng
Consulting were themselves among,
With tittering much, as if they weigh’d
Most duly, all that had been said;
When she, some matter would discuss,
In private ear addressed him thus:—

“My dearest love, as true thou art,
And holds the first place in my heart,
My happiness must be admitted,
At seeing how thou hast acquitted
page 12“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 12. Thy self, and didst not overreach
Thy audience, with thy tedious speech;
Though to the facts brought forth, most true
Attention certainly was due.
But what the most affects my mind,
Is what was said of woman kind;—
For, can’t be true, that they should long
To feed upon our darling young?
Have they ne’er young ones of their own,
Whom harm they can’t see come upon?
Whom they in warm affection nourish,
And feel it pleasure them to cherish?
If such they have, can’t be that they
Permit their appetites to sway
O’er reason, of which much they boast,
As if all consciousness were lost?—
I wonder if their ruling Queen,
In all her majesty serene,
Can of such passions be possessed,
Like those of subjects, unrepressed,
Perhaps, she’s of superior mould,
As brass inferior is to gold?
Though in their form she bears controul,
She yet may have a seraph’s soul!
Akin to our known innocence!
So, as to rise in our defence,
If she our woeful case but knew,
And thus our enemies subdue!”

“My dearest love!” said he, carrooing—
Her sorrows with a kiss subduing,
“Our case, indeed’s replete with woe,
While dangers much we undergo,
Yet what I’ve hinted towards woman,
Is nothing but what’s true and common;
For wives that can their husbands rule,
Will make them to their lusts a tool,”—

When painters would a picture draw,
Whereon, perchance, appears some flaw,
page 13“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 13. To mar its beauty, they’ll devise
To hide defects, some artifice:
Such as some posture, when the spot
With finger placed upon’t, may not
Be seen; or if with tasteful care,
It may be hid with ringlets fair,
Which, though appearing as to fall
With graceful flow, yet covering all
Unseemliness, and adding quite
Fresh beauties, to the piece despite
All else considered; or an eye
By nature formed to look awry,
Which might a pleasing picture spoil,
Then, be it drawn three parts profile
(By which means one may well suppose,
That squinter would be hid by nose!)
As looking at some object where
The organ’s turned:—’Tis thus, with care,
A poet should, if possible,
Where no advantages can tell,
To hide defects, in what he hears,
Nor let his muse jar in the ears
Of delicacy, (though oft meet,
Truths to declare, bitter or sweet,
As such occur)—nor yet take part,
With babblers in his sacred art,
Transforming blessings to a curse,
As, good to bad, from that to worse;
For President had got too rough,
In saying more than quite enough,
About the frailties of the sex,
He should have tried the least to vex;
He, being piqued, much at the thought
Of evils on his interest brought
By wanton ones! and to descry
Much leniency and charity
To them display’d by his dear mate,—
Judging, she should support his hate
Condemning, which, made him enlarge,
Expounding the grounds of the charge
page 14“Pigeons’ Parliament”: Page 14. Brought forth.—But which we here suppress
To spare aught of uncomeliness.

“Aye! brave is he that can defy
Such overbearing tyranny!”—

“Carroo!” said Lady President,—
Him interrupting, as he went
On almost fired into oration;—
“I can’t my love with approbation
Hear all you’ve said! because, how wide
You wander as your self beside!
Since me, you rank in the same gender,
I must retaliation render,
How much according to the tenor
Of your address, were you complainer
Of your as lustful masc’line sex?
Who ev’ry day our feelings vex,
With the sad loss of some dear friend!
As, of our race, they’d make an end;
Whose glory, and how base ’tis still,
Seems resting in, how much they’ll kill!”

[end of canto first.]