Aotearoa: Songbirds

Song Of The Tui.


Suppose, sweet eyes, you went into a distant country
Where these young islands are nothing but a word;
Suppose you never came back again by Terawhiti:
Would you remember and be faithful to your bird?

And when they boasted there of thrushes, larks and linnets,
Would you hold up a stubborn little hand,
And say: “Not so! I know a sweeter singer
Than any bird that cries across your land!”

Would you, remembering, tell them of the Tui?
Wild, wild and blinding in its wildest note.
They – they never heard him, swinging on a flax–flower,
Mad with the honey and the noon in his throat.

They say that in the old days stately rangatiras
Slit his tongue, and made him speak instead of sing;
We would rather see him shining and gold–dusted,
From a morning kowhai flinging wide the spring.

So, my little sweet eyes, if you go a–sailing
Out beyond Pencarrow, and come not again,
Hold unto the southlands in the pure October,
When the Tui’s sweetness ripples through the rain.

— Eileen Duggan

2 Comments

  • Hi there, I am an amateur book artist and love your tui picture and the poem. I wondered if it is royalty free-is it ok to use in a book I’m making? It might go in an exhibition and might be purchased.
    cheers
    Andrea

    • Tash McGill says:

      Hi there,

      The image & poem are both previously published – you would have to search for who to contact for rights to the poem and/or permission, same with the bird, but I would suggest the Alexander Turnbull Library as a good starting point.

What do you think?