The Kangaroo

Original Text: 
Barron Field, First Fruits of Australian Poetry (Sydney: Richard Edwards and Roderick Shaw, 1941): 9-11.
---- "mixtumque genus, prolesque biformis."
                 VIRG. Aen. vi.
2Thou Spirit of Australia,
3That redeems from utter failure,
4From perfect desolation,
5And warrants the creation
6Of this fifth part of the Earth,
8Not conceiv'd in the Beginning
9(For GOD bless'd His work at first,
10    And saw that it was good),
11But emerg'd at the first sinning,
12When the ground was therefore curst; --
13    And hence this barren wood!
14Kangaroo, Kangaroo!
15Tho' at first sight we should say,
16In thy nature that there may
17Contradiction be involv'd,
18Yet, like discord well resolv'd,
19It is quickly harmonized.
20Sphynx or mermaid realiz'd,
21Or centaur unfabulous,
23Or Pegasus poetical,
25But, what Nature would compile,
26Nature knows to reconcile;
27And Wisdom, ever at her side,
28Of all her children's justified.
29She had made the squirrel fragile;
30She had made the bounding hart;
31But a third so strong and agile
32Was beyond ev'n Nature's art;
33So she join'd the former two
34    In thee, Kangaroo!
35To describe thee, it is hard:
37Which beginneth camel-wise,
38But endeth of the panther size,
39Thy fore half, it would appear,
40Had belong'd to some "small deer,"
41Such as liveth in a tree;
42By thy hinder, thou should'st be
43A large animal of chace,
44Bounding o'er the forest's space; --
45Join'd by some divine mistake,
46None but Nature's hand can make --
47Nature, in her wisdom's play,
48On Creation's holiday.
49For howsoe'er anomalous,
50Thou yet art not incongruous,
51Repugnant or preposterous.
52Better-proportion'd animal,
53More graceful or ethereal,
54Was never follow'd by the hound,
55With fifty steps to thy one bound.
56Thou can'st not be amended: no;
57Be as thou art; thou best art so.
58When sooty swans are once more rare,
60Be still the glory of this land,
61Happiest Work of finest Hand!

Notes

1] mixtumque genus, prolesque biformis: Virgil's description of the minotaur. Back to Line
7] would: should (1823). Back to Line
22] The second edition of 1823 adds these two lines after line 22:
Or Labyrinthine Minotaur,
With which great Theseus did war,
Back to Line
24] hippogriff: mythical beast that is in part griffin, but with a horse's body and hind-quarters. Back to Line
36] camélopard: giraffe. Back to Line
59] duck-moles: duck-billed platypuses.
"The cygnus niger of Juvenal is no rara avis in Australia; and time has here given ample proof of the ornythorinchus paradoxus" (Field's note). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1819
Publication Notes: 
Second edition (1823)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2001.