The Magpies

When Tom and Elizabeth took the farm
The bracken made their bed
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Tom's hand was strong to the plough
and Elizabeth's lips were red
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Year in year out they worked
while the pines grew overhead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

But all the beautiful crops soon went
to the mortgage man instead
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

Elizabeth is dead now (it's long ago)
Old Tom's gone light in the head
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies said

The farms still there. Mortgage corporations
couldn't give it away
and Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle
The magpies say.


Dennis Glover
Artists are people who make us see the world differently. Altho' Glover may not have been the greatest poet of all time he was an entirely real one, but he has always been easy to underestimate because his versification is so domestic and so easy on the ear that one doesn't notice how skilful it is. Ars celare artem. Once you know this poem, whenever you hear a New Zealand magpie call, you will hear it as Glover tells us to hear it: magpies say ``Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle''- they really do. Ask any New Zealander. The fact that is actually quite a good wee poem about what the Great Depression did to farming is a pleasant bonus that is in danger of being overlooked.

Janet Paul once told me that I was better company than Glover because he was drunk all the time. I treasure this compliment: to judge by the poetry he wrote Glover must have been very good company indeed. (memo to self: stay off bottle!)


Click here for next week's poem
Click here for last week's poem

Return to Thomas Forster's home page