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Title: Even the Birds of the Air
Author: Musette Morell
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Language: English
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Even the Birds of the Air

by

Musette Morell



from
Three Radio Plays by Musette Morell
Australasian Publishing Company
1948



Even the Birds of the Air
by
Musette Morell

*

CHARACTERS

MR. DOVE  } (suburban couple)
MRS. DOVE }
MRS. SPARROW  } (gossips)
MRS. STARLING }
SATIN BOWER BIRD (a worldling, a plutocrat)
CUCKOO (a female without reputation)
WINNIE WAGTAIL (a coquette)
WHITE HAWK (a poet)
MRS. BUSH-WREN (a lady of refinement)
KENNETH KOALA (a nationalist)
ALGIE ANT (a reformist)
also:
DOCTOR BAT, FREDDY FROG, PERCY PEE-WEE,
THE SECOND BOWER BIRD, AND COMPANY

*

The scene is an Australian garden—in the sun,
The birds in the air are having fun,
Whilst below them on the lawn, are Mr. and Mrs. Dove,
er—making love.

Rhythmic cooing of doves. After a while words emerge in same rhythm.

DOVES
Coota-coota coo! Coota-coota coo!

MR. DOVE
Wifie, I love you.

MRS. DOVE
Hub, I love you, too.

MR. DOVE
Wifie, I love you.

MRS. DOVE
Hub, I love you, too.

MRS STARLING
Aaahhh, them doves down there—
look, Mrs. Sparrow, a real lovely pair.
If at times I feels inclined
to doubt bird nature, I'll keep them doves in mind.

MRS. SPARROW
It does one good to see true affection,
when it comes to family life I reckon doves is perfection.
Satin Bower Bird laughs from branch above.

SATIN
Quiss-s-s.

MRS STARLING
Who was that chirped?

MRS. SPARROW
Satin Bower Bird, my dear,
that cynic mocks all homely things, I fear.

MRS. STARLING
I hates that Satin Bower Bird—he's coarse.

MRS. SPARROW
Coarse! I've heard him till his chirp grew hoarse,
ranting against respectabilitee.
Seems he's up agen all decencee.

MRS. STARLING
Well, there'll be little of that where he flies out—
The philandering gad-about!
Who's that with him now?

MRS. SPARROW
Miss Cuckoo
Let her try her egg trick in his bower,
then there'll be a cockle-doo.

MRS. STARLING
So you believe the twitter we heard t-other night?

MRS. SPARROW
Every bird believes it. She's a scandal—quite.

MRS. STARLING
They say, Mrs. Sparrow, they say
she laid it in the nest and flew away.

MRS. SPARROW
She did. And she's getting ready for another.
Look—don't stir!

MRS. STARLING
If she drops it in my nest, I'll make fluff of her?

MRS. SPARROW
Look at her feathers puffed out—all sort of fuzzy.

MRS. STARLING
And she used to be so slim—Oh, the shameless huzzy!

MRS. SPARROW
Look at her now, making up to Satin Bower,
trying to look like a springtime flower!

MRS. STARLING
Vain as a peacock! She spread her tail and curtsied then—
Oh, don't look at the abandoned hen!

MRS. SPARROW
No...Just the same, I'd like to know
what Satin's whispering to her, though.

CUCKOO
(Fading in) Oh, Satin, don't whisper in my ear.
It tickle-prickles and feels so queer.

SATIN
Quiss-s-s. Cuckoo,
what do you
think of love?

CUCKOO
On a suburban basis à la dove?
Horrible—revolting! The sort of pain
one would suffer only with softening of the brain.

SATIN
You have no feminine hankering, I see,
after respectabilitee.

CUCKOO
What is respectability but a cover?

SATIN
You're not suggesting Mrs. Dove has a lover?

CUCKOO
I was thinking of him.

SATIN
Dear me,
He'd scarcely have the energy.

CUCKOO
Oh—I—don't—know,
A little bird told me-

SATIN
What?

CUCKOO
O so-and-so!
Anyway, he's a male.

SATIN
And how!
Peek at him now.

(Doves heard again.)

Does he never tire
of amorous desire?
This over-frequent bowing,
this reiterant kow-towing,
this genuflection
without reflection,
this téte-à-têting
and—inevitable—mating!

CUCKOO
(Laughs) And. yet I've heard
he's a gay old bird.

SATIN
I hate their marital parade,
their exhibitionist facade
of dolorous doting,
of billing and cooing,
reiterated wooing
and pre-nuptial gloating!

CUCKOO
You've called it exhibitionist—window dressing—
Supposing it's just that?

SATIN
Quiss-s-s; now you've got me guessing...

CUCKOO
Well, look at her!

SATIN
H'm, she doesn't seem
to find him exactly love's young dream.

Mrs. Dove heard musing to the accompaniment of her spouse's cooing.

MRS. DOVE
Coota-coota cob!
Coota-coota coo!
Being the garden's show couple is a bore.
I'd rather be a—a poor
outcast birdie, than have a spouse
eternally bobbing round me like a mouse.

MR. DOVE
Wifie, I love you!

MRS. DOVE
(Irritably) Oh, hub, I love you, too,
Hub, I love you, too!...
(Sotto) I wish my marriage would go wollop;
I'd rather be a—
a trollop
like that brazen cuckoo,

His cooing grows imperative.

(Irritably) Oh, hubby, I love you.
Hubby, I love you.

Their cooing: fade under.

SATIN
Quiss-s-s! There's no mistaking her—er—gender.

CUCKOO
Don't let her hear you or you will offend-er.
She likes to think she has a boyish figure.

SATIN
Quiss-s-s! Parts of her couldn't be much bigger...
As for him—you've heard some tittle-tat, Cuckoo?

CUCKOO
Yes.

SATIN
How does he appeal to you?

CUCKOO
(Laughs) He's a wowser with an alderman strut.

SATIN
And you don't suffer wowsers?

CUCKOO
Anything but!
(Sings) When good birds woo,
I'd hate to do
What they define as "slipping",
for—oh! the stew,
the great to-do,
the bitter rue
that would follow on the clipping,
And I'd be cautioned that 'twere bad
to give to others what they have had.
A fig for this
poor lover's kiss!

SATIN
(Warmly). And do all males come
under that heading, my sugar plum?

CUCKOO
No.
(Sings) When bad birds woo
and bravely sue,
then, heigh-ho! to
a game of gay endeavour.
Sweet sport for two
no vows are due,
for love is, true,
a thing of feeling ever.
O the prodigal lover's a generous power,
for he's used to spending his life in an hour.
My heart for this
great lover's kiss.

SATIN
(Speaks ardently) Quiss-s-s! Your heart for this
great lover's kiss!

CUCKOO
No, Satin, don't be overbold.
(Sighs) The only hen your heart will hold
is she enshrined in mysteree,
that subtle, haunting-taunting she,
that long-sought, most elusive one,
the ever desired because—unwon.

SATIN
Quiss-s-s! You are unwon, Cuckoo.
Therefore you must be the one—you!
Com, kiss me—
do!

CUCKOO
Ah!!!!! (Fade in sound of wings.)
Wait, look who's on the wing!

SATIN
Who?

CUCKOO
The one who calls the tune to which you sing!

MRS. SPARROW
(Fading in) Quick, Mrs. Starling, Satin's giving the glad eye.

MRS. STARLING
To that Cuckoo?

MRS. SPARROW
Not now. See who's flying by,
when she's near there's only one bird in the sky!

MRS. STARLING
Young Winnie Wagtail!

MRS. SPARROW
I hear say
she uses that tail to wag the males her way.
(Wings and chattering chirp of Winnie Wagtail.)

CUCKOO
Here's your latest glamoron; so I'll skip, old dear.
(Flies out.)

SATIN
Ah, Winnie, sweet chatterbox, at last you're here!

WAGTAIL
Good chirp, Satin, have you finished your concert yet?

SATIN
We ran it late to-day, waiting for you, my pet.

WAGTAIL
I went grubbing with Percy Pee-wee and it kept me late.

SATIN
Kurr-r! So young Pee-wee now controls my fate?

WAGTAIL
Is that him whistling over there?

SATIN
(Quickly) Er—come, let us take the air! (Wings.)
It's a lovely day for a fly.
Are we going too high?
Er—don't stir another wing. Perch—do.
You simply must get a bird's-eye view
of those turtle-doves below,
the eternal domestic show!

WAGTAIL
(Looking) Oh!

SATIN
Oh—er—dear me,
you'd think they'd seek a little privacee.
Love should not be a public matter.
They really are exhibitionists...She's fatter
than I thought....H'm, 'tis true.

WAGTAIL
I didn't know you thought about her.

SATIN
When with you
I cannot think—I feel...I do.

WAGTAIL
I do not understand. Tweet-tweet!

SATIN
You understand me very well, my sweet.

WAGTAIL
Too well to take you seriously, I'd say.

SATIN
But nothing is more serious than play.

WAGTAIL
Then let's play tipped you last.

SATIN
Come back—you flit too fast.

WAGTAIL
Hop!...Hop!...Hop-hop-hop!

SATIN
Stop!...Stop!...Stop-stop-stop!
Gurrr! You lead me a pretty dance,
tittuping along the branch. (They perch.)

WAGTAIL
Satin, I see you're in love
with Mrs. Dove...(Giggles.)

SATIN
Don't twit me, please,
mischievous teaze!

WAGTAIL
And, as you're in love, I hope you won't weep
at the latest twitter-cheep.

SATIN
What is it?

WAGTAIL
They say she's sweet on Mr. Owl.

SATIN
That barn-door fowl!

WAGTAIL
As for Mr. Dove—er—he has an eye for a tail!

SATIN
Seems he has—
he's ogling you!

WAGTAIL
(Giggles) Yes, look—the bad old male!

MRS. DOVE
If you could remove your gaze from Wagtail for a minute
I've a knotty seed here, you might look in it.

MR. DOVE
I—I just happened to glance above,
I wasn't admiring her, my love.
But she has a giddy upright tail!

MRS. DOVE
A flag she waves at every male!

MR. DOVE
Was she waving it?

MRS. DOVE
Not at you.

MR. DOVE
Of course not. (Sighs) Coota-coota coo.
But now you mention it, she has a fine—er—line.

MRS. DOVE
If you can call skinny fine.

MR. DOVE
I—I mean she looks a delicate wee thing.

MRS. DOVE
She is—in her morals; but her wing
is strong enough to be flighty.
She's a high flyer. Nightly
she cherrups with Oswald Owl and Bertrand Bat—
What do you think of that?

MR. DOVE
Er—most reprehensible, no doubt.
But how do you know?

MRS. DOVE
Oh—things leak out!
But this seed, this seed, give it a tweak.

MR. DOVE
Alright, alright, don't snap of my beak.

MRS. DOVE
The seed is on the ground; not in the air.

MR. DOVE
I wasn't looking at her, I swear.

MRS. DOVE
Well, the flock are looking at us, admiring, I presume,
the garden's happiest couple. H'm, we're in the boom.
See, they're all looking at us;
we're creating quite a fuss.

MR. DOVE
Quick, then, bill and coo—bill and coo.
Wifie, I love you!

MRS. DOVE
Hub, I love you, too!

MR. DOVE
Wifie, I love you!

BOTH
Coota-coota coo!

(Rapturous cooings to the delight of the gossips.)

MRS. SPARROW
See him prepare that seed for her, Mrs. Starling?

MRS. STARLING
He's a real gentlebird if ever there's one—a fair darling.
Wish my old bird was like him, that I do.
Just listen!

MR. DOVE
Wifie, I love you!
Wifie, I love you!

MRS. STARLING
And bowing, too!

MRS. SPARROW
She's a lucky hen to have a bird like him.
Such a fine figure, too...stout, but trim.

MR. DOVE
Wifie, I love you!

MRS. DOVE
(Panting) Hub, I love you, too!

MR. DOVE
Don't languish, love, give kiss for kiss.
See, we've quite an audience to our bliss.

Accelerated cooings.

MRS. DOVE
(Exhausted) Only one hope sustains me now.
Some day he'll be too fat to bow!
Coota-coota coo!

MRS. STARLING
Look, Mrs. Sparrow—mounting the air—
that Winnie Wagtail and Satin Bower—they're a giddy pair.

Wings. Wagtail whistles coquettishly.

SATIN
Winnie, seven wing-flaps from this spot
is my faery grot.
Will you fly into my bower?

WAGTAIL
Said the spider to the fly.

SATIN
I'll show you jewels, a flower—

WAGTAIL
I'm not coming in.

SATIN
But why?

WAGTAIL
Ask the wise old owl. Ask any hen—
sparrow, ground-lark, tit or wren—
they'll tell you and with interest, too.

SATIN
What's a poor bachelor to do?
We're friends, platonic friends—what's wrong with that?

WAGTAIL
The same old chitter-chat!
I wonder if even the sparrow in his course
cajoles his lady with "platonic" love
till, twittering of twin-souls, his chirp grows hoarse
(the while she simpers meekly like a dove!)
then suddenly reverts and clubs her flat,
springing the cave-bird stuff
upon his fat,
and affrighted—

SATIN
yet delighted
piece of fluff! (They laugh.)
Come in for sip of dew and a little twitter—

WAGTAIL
No, no, I must flutter-flitter.

SATIN
Winnie, you missed our concert to-day.
To-morrow?

WAGTAIL
To-morrow I'll be there—I mean what I say.
But now it grows late. See, the moon comes peeping.

SATIN
She's early, the sun isn't even sleeping.
Anyway, what's a moon for but to light us to the darkest spot?
Come to my bower?

WAGTAIL
Cheep!

SATIN
Just for an hour?

WAGTAIL
Cheep!
Certainly not.

SATIN
Alas, you trust poor me
no more than the lily trusts the bee!
What are you staring at, sweet flower?

WAGTAIL
I'm looking at White Hawk.

SATIN
That poet—
he pesters you, I know it.

WAGTAIL
How high he soars!...
Mounting—mounting—mounting till at last he pours
his golden dream like rain upon the earth.

SATIN
Pahl What are dreams worth?
He's but a beggar—

WAGTAIL
A beggar with a wealth of lovely words!
(Buzzing of mosquitoes. Cicadas.)
Oh, here come the night-flying herds.
Now, I must hurry away.

SATIN
But not to bed. You know what gossips say?
When the last day bird's asleep, Winnie Wagtail's still at play.

WAGTAIL
Pooh! I may pass a few words with Professor Owl—

SATIN
What have you to say to that fat fowl?

WAGTAIL
And Doctor Bat—

SATIN
He's nearly bald as well as fat!

WAGTAIL
Here is my tree...No, Satin, you mustn't perch.

SATIN
Don't leave me in the lurch.

WAGTAIL
There are many more birds in the bush for you!

SATIN
Hush!
A bird in the nest is worth two in the bush!
Sweet pretty creature, let me in!

WAGTAIL
Not by the feathers of my chinny-chin-chin! (She hides in tree.)
Adieu, my swain!

SATIN
Foiled again!
(Sings)
Well, as for me, la tiddle-ee-dee,  I'll gather my rosebuds while I may,
No matter how old puritans may storm!
For I promise to continue in my dissipated way
In spite of all temptation to re-for-or-orm,
In spite of all temptation to reform.

(Fade in chattering in the dustbowl. Winnie Wagtail heard in distance.)

MRS. SPARROW
Well, good-chirp, Mrs. Starling, I'm going to bed.

MRS. STARLING
Good-chirp, Mrs. Sparrow. H'm, just what you said.
There's that Winnie Wagtail—she's up half the night.

MRS. SPARROW
And up to no good...see her give that horse a fright?

MRS. STARLING
And didja see her pull a hair
outa that bull over there?

MRS. SPARROW
Satin had better guard his handsome tail.
She's a caution to any male!
(They cackle with laughter.)
But these high-flyers get their fall.

MRS. STARLING
Yes, look at Cuckoo.

MRS. SPARROW
She escapes it all.
We hens nest and brood and breed, but she
takes no responsibilitee.

MRS. STARLING
Did I tell you I saw the wretched hen
over by the nest of Mrs. Wren?

MRS. SPARROW
And Mrs. Wren sitting, too. H'm, she may hatch
more than she bargains for.

MRS. STARLING
Seems no bird's a match
for that Cuckoo bit or that Winnie Wagtail. Sue,
if we don't go to roost we'll be thought night-birds, too.

MRS. SPARROW
Oh, just a minute.
I got this tit-bit from Mrs. Linnett.
Have you heard the latest for jigging up the population?

MRS. STARLING
No.

MRS. SPARROW
Artificial insemination!
Yes, if you please;
it's being practised by the bees.

(They screech with laughter.)

MRS. STARLING
Well, after that tittle, I'm going to sleep.
Good-chirp!

MRS. SPARROW
(Fading) Good-cheep!

Wagtail heard calling as she flies in

BAT
Good evening, Winnie, you're up late!

WAGTAIL
Good-chirp, Doctor Bat, here's a feather for your pate! (Laughs.)

BAT
(Sotto) Bless my leathery scalp, this wagtail tit
is the most exasperating chit. (Coughs.)

WAGTAIL
How is your cold?

BAT
As of old, as of old!

WAGTAIL
And your dyspepsia?
I maintain a balanced diet.

WAGTAIL
So that's why you can hang upside down? I must try it!

(Laughs and flies out.
Bat stutters and mutters. Fade in Frog croaking.)

WAGTAIL
(Flying in) Well, Freddy Frog, what can you see?

FROG
I see a wagtail who should be asleep in her tree.

WAGTAIL
I mean can you see Ma Dove at her rendezvous?

FROG
(Looking) Er, y-yes; here she comes hopping—she's late on it, too.

WAGTAIL
How is their affair progressing?

FROG
They quarrel nightly—

WAGTAIL
Ha-ha!

FROG
O quite politely,
but it's most depressing.

WAGTAIL
Come and spy on them and have some fun?

FROG
Nuthin' doing, sticky-beak, it can't be done.

WAGTAIL
You old Stick-in-the-mud, you!...
I know. what I'll do! (Flies out.

Owl heard.)

WAGTAIL
Hi, Professor Owl, good-chirp to you!
Haven't you a too-wit, too-woo?

OWL
I'm not an Englishowl, that hoots "too-wit!"
I'm an Australian, so I bark, and if you don't like it—

WAGTAIL
Oh, yes, I like to hear owls bay...
it helps to keep prowling doves away! (Laughs and flies off.)

(Owl stammers and yammers.)

WAGTAIL
(Flying in) Freddy Frog, is she jealous when in love?

FROG
Who?

WAGTAIL
Ma Dove.

FROG
Well, she's a hen, she's a hen!

WAGTAIL
Good-chirp! I am going back to Owl agen.

(Her wings fade out...in again.)

(Sweetly) Good-chirp, Professor Owl.

OWL
(Curtly) Not roosting yet?

WAGTAIL
(Dissembling tears) Don't peck at me!

OWL
(Melting) Why—my pretty. pet!
I'd no idea I hurt you so.

WAGTAIL
Didn't you know?

OWL
Know what?

WAGTAIL
That I—

OWL
I?

WAGTAIL
That I—

OWL
You?

WAGTAIL
Like you a—a lot?

OWL
Why—why—why bless my feather,
we must—we must—get together.

WAGTAIL
But I'm so afraid of that old dove-cat.
Here she comes waddling,
muttering and twaddling—

MRS. DOVE
(Hopping in) Such—such impudent back chat!
Why, you little chit-
You—you fluffy bit?

WAGTAIL
I'm no fluffier than you were in your day,
and would be even now had you your way. 

MRS. DOVE
You nasty little flirt-
You—you speck of dirt!

WAGTAIL
I've heard a too-wit, too-woo
about you, too.

MRS. DOVE
How dare—

WAGTAIL
I don't care!
As for that bouncing mouse
you call your spouse—
keep him at home—
he's too old to be permitted to roam.

(Laughs and flies off.)

MRS. DOVE
Good—good gracious!
did you hear that audacious—

OWL
The chit is young—

MRS. DOVE
H'm; she's bewitched you, I see.

OWL
What, me?!!!!

MRS. DOVE
Can you deny
she was here with you on the sly?
No doubt she thinks you are mad about her.

OWL
Well, she'll find I can do without her.
Illusions are the jewels of life, and youth
has gems of rainbow hew for decking truth.
But time will teach her that all my love
is given to you, dear Dora Dove.

MRS. DOVE
Coota coo, what was she doing,
billing and cooing as I came by?

OWL
Fie!—fie!
must you nag every night?

MRS. DOVE
What about you trying to be polite?

OWL
Very well...Good evening, Dora, it's nice to see you awake.

MRS. DOVE
What's this, for heaven's sake!

OWL
Come, don't let us quarrel, Dora Dove,
remember our first evening—your coos of love—

MRS. DOVE
And then you closed one eye,
gave a bored sigh,
and bang! you were asleep—such fun!

OWL
That's because day had begun.

MRS. DOVE
Night is the time to sleep.

OWL
For common or garden birds. I keep
no such conventional habits.

MRS. DOVE
Rats! Rabbits!
You sleep, you pedantic rat,
because you're made like that.

OWL
What would I wake for—
to hear you snore?

MRS. DOVE
Well, when day is closing
it's time for dozing.
I'm going home to sleep.

OWL
Oh, my sweet,
what fate has forged us heart to heart
when sun and moon keep us apart?

MRS. DOVE
You can meditate that question when alone—
after I have flown. (Flies off.)

OWL
She's gone. Ah, the moon blinks
at the arising sun. Time for forty winks. (Snores.)
Cock crows.

(Music suggesting break of day. Ecstatic twitter of birds.)

WHITE HAWK
(Calling softly) Winnie, I am here at your tree. Are you there?

WAGTAIL
White Hawk, my poet!

HAWK
Let us mount the air!

WAGTAIL
Yes. (Their wings.)
I was just waking.

HAWK
See, day is breaking. (Busy practice notes of birds.)
The birds are tuning up—every one!—
to whistle their joy of the golden sun.

Birds trill in chorus.

BIRDS
(Singing) Whistle and trill, carol and sing
to welcome the joy the sun will bring!

(The whole bush is singing as they mount the air.)

HAWK
The flowers raise their little heads to you,
shaking off their coverlet of dew.
Spinebill hovers on the air to sip
golden honey from red-salvia's lip
or, poising on a flower, trills to feel
the stalk sway tipsy 'neath his heel.
The bees come humming...drumming...
The cicadas start their daily thrumming.

WAGTAIL

The early birds are hunting worms to eat.
All the garden's at breaky. Just for a treat
I'd like a fat moth—

HAWK
Food!—here is our spirit's food.

WAGTAIL
Tweet!
what lovely thoughts you think. But do you always feed
on beauty? Is that all you need?
Of course thoughts can be very sweet,
but do you find such food sustains you long?

HAWK
(Rapturously) Listen! Listen to the Morning's song!...
You hear?

WAGTAIL
Tweet!
It's nice enough to eat! (Chuckles.)

HAWK
Laugh! I love to hear your low
sweet piccolo.

WAGTAIL
My piccolo? (Cascades of laughter.)

HAWK
Ah, best of all about this elf,
the gift of laughing at herself!

WAGTAIL
(Demurely) I sometimes have been known to laugh
at others.
Yes, and even chaff! (They laugh.)

HAWK
I love you, lovely!

WAGTAIL.
Cheep!—don't come too near!
You are fickle...so I hear.

HAWK
Fickle?—I seek—seek the ideal—
(low) and find it outraged in the real.

WAGTAIL
Does this ideal lure you far?

HAWK
Yes...only to teach me what shadows are
and hurl me back on self again.
O Vain, Vain
to seek heaven within a flower-vase
and, finding only earthly honey there,
the very fact of heaven forswear—
thus reasoning from Effect to Cause.
(She gives a bored whistle.)
Surely love's not like a light
that feeds upon itself and dies?
No, no, I hold 'tis set as tight
as stars that ever fire the skies.
Do there not flame those inevitable mates
who call to each across the fates,
dimming with immortal fire
the casual heat of mere desire?
Do there—(breaks off.)
Come, I'll take you to a drier height
where the air is burnt to light...
(Exultant) Higher...higher!...We'll mount the dizziest peak
that bird has strength to seek.

WAGTAIL
(Panting) I've—never—been—up—in—the—stratosphere.

HAWK
It's fresh—exhilarating—clear!...
This is where I come to really breathe!
To dream!
Here in the unused air. (Breathes deeply.)
Inhale its silver stream!...
But one becomes solitary up here—so far.
One cannot mate thought with a star
and remain content with the dust below.
The rarer air sets one apart.
Only you, merry chit, soul-of-my-heart,
have the adventurous spirit to share
the richness of this freer air.

WAGTAIL
Rich? Satin says you're a pauper.

HAWK
What if I am?
Can I be poor when I own the world? His wealth is a sham.
There are diamonds in this air, jewels in this sparkling sea.

WAGTAIL
(Coy) He's very much in love with me.

HAWK
Love? His kind thinks he can buy
all the treasure of the earth. Well, let him try.
(Compellingly) You cannot be bought. That magic in you—
that spirit that makes your singing and your flying true—
was put there by life! Cheat it and it dies, withers, dries up!
The nectar in the blossom-cup
awaits the bee,
as you-wait—for—me.
Though I cannot offer you his lordly prize,
I shall surround you with scented butterflies—
those flying flowers!
to perfume and honey all your hours.

WAGTAIL
Stop!—I cannot fly so high!

HAWK
Don't look forlorn
like a butterfly who's bruised her wing upon a thorn.
O my loveliest need, my singing sweet,
here is a feast of love—let us eat!

WAGTAIL
Are you proposing marriage?

HAWK
What was that you said?
I speak of love and you hurl that word to strike me dead.
Great trees! is there no poetry in all the world? O Woe!

WAGTAIL
(Sulkily) Well, Satin Bower Bird wants to marry me.

HAWK
(Violently) Then go!
Go—fly below! (She gives a terrified cheep and drops.)
(Shouting) And remember all the wealth of his bower
can never purchase you one burning hour...
(Low) Where have I banished her?—
O my soul!—
to stifle with groundlings in that sparrow's dustbowl,
to suffocate in pedestrian air.
(Breaking) She so gay—so fair!
(Calls) Winnie—Winnie—

(His wings and voice fade as he follows. Soon we hear her frightened cries.)

WAGTAIL
Don't follow me.

HAWK
(Fading in) You alight upon a stalk
like a flower.

WAGTAIL
You mustn't perch, White Hawk.

HAWK
Don't flutter, sweetling. Let us talk.
Nest, under the shadow of my wing—
wee trembling thing!

WAGTAIL
No—no—good-bye.
I'll be late for Satin's concert; I must fly!

(He calls, but music takes her out...
Brings her in still on the wing.)

WAGTAIL
A hurried snack. An insect or two—
Snip!—snap!—tweak!
With my beak—
Ah, now I am through.
(Fade in Mrs. Wren, sobbing.)
What can be the matter with that old hen?
(Calls) What's twitting you, Mrs. Bush-Wren?

MRS. WREN
Oh, a terrible thing has happened. Oh, my—
what shall I do?

WAGTAIL
Tell me, don't cry.
(After a sob or two, Mrs. Wren sings.)

MRS. WREN
(Sings) I sat on a stranger-bird's egg. That's so.
Because of course I never knew;
and now I am sad and could weep, for oh,
I hatched out a giant cuckoo.
A gi-ant cuckoo who fast grew and grew
and gobbled and squabbled all day
and never once chirped, but made loud to-do
and screeched in a most vulgar way,
"Cuckoo!"
and screeched in a most vulgar way.

I sat on a stranger-bird's egg.
That's so,
because of course I never knew;
and now I am sad and could weep, for oh,
I hatched out a gi-ant cuckoo!
(She ceases singing and sobs.)

WAGTAIL
(Chuckles) So Cuckoo's been up to her tricks agen?
How did it happen, Mrs. Bush-Wren?

MRS. WREN
I wasn't cunning like Mrs. Ground-Tit, she has a clever thatch!
She covers the stranger egg in her nest with grass, so it cannot hatch.
And I wasn't cunning like Mrs. Tom-Tit; she gives that cuckoo best,
with never a twitter, she can outwit her, by building a two-storied nest.

WAGTAIL
Then if Cuckoo lays in the lower room, Mrs. Tom moves above, none the worser?

MRS. WREN
Yes; or if Cuckoo lays in the upper room, Mrs. Tom does vice versa.

MR. DOVE
(Cooing in) Why so crestfallen and down in the beak, Mrs. Wren?
It might be best
if you built a new nest
and set about hatching agen.

MRS. WREN
O it's you, Mr. Dove; I'm so ashamed. For, oh,
I detest anything vulgar.

MR. DOVE
Coo-coo, I know.

MRS. WREN
I can't imagine what you must think of me ever—
a respectable bird like you. I'll never get over this, never!
(Hops out, weeping.)

WAGTAIL
(Over-sweet) Good-chirp, Mr. Dove!

MR. DOVE
(Startled) Er—er—who's that? Winnie, love!
Er—I didn't see you, there, above.

WAGTAIL
I'll fly down!

MR. DOVE
I—I've been hoping to meet you-
to—to—er—er—to greet you!
(Bursting) I adore you!
Er—er—I don't bore you?

WAGTAIL
What a thing to say.

MR. DOVE
Then why are you tittuping away?

WAGTAIL
I'm late for Satin's concert.

MR. DOVE
Wait—wait—stay!

WAGTAIL
Well?

MR. DOVE
Er—you're not insulted by my rapture?

WAGTAIL
To insult us is the first step in our capture.

MR. DOVE
Then—then—you're not annoyed?

WAGTAIL
I'm not annoyed—ask Freud.
(His cooings become imperative.)
Oh, oh, don't become clamorous.
You're—you're so amorous.

MR. DOVE
We are birds of a feather,
we should flock together!

WAGTAIL
Remember you have a wife.

MR. DOVE
The best in all the garden, but—she leads me such a life.

WAGTAIL
And she doesn't understand you.

MR. DOVE
(Amazed) True,
but—how—is—it—you—knew?

WAGTAIL
(Roguishly) Yes, how
did I now?
Perhaps I heard it from Cuckoo.

MR. DOVE
Oh!

WAGTAIL
Of course, I'm sure Mrs. Dove is a female of much worth.
But isn't she just a little fat about the girth?
Oh!—cheep-cheep! cheep-cheep!—that annoys?

MR. DOVE
No—er—but it suggests my own—er—avoirdupois.

WAGTAIL
Oh, but a male should be—er—er—solid—
of course not stolid—
but, well—er-nicely weighty.

MR. DOVE
Er—er—you understate me.

WAGTAIL
You're not over-inflated.

MR. DOVE
Still, as has been often stated,
I'm copiously corpulent, I fear,

WAGTAIL
Know what I think?

MR. DOVE
No.

WAGTAIL
Let me whisper in your ear.
(Whispers) Mr.—Dove-
I think you're made for—love!
(Laughs. His ecstatic cooings cease abruptly, for:)

MR. DOVE
Why, by my beak and claws! I am alone—
my bird has flown!

MRS. DOVE
(Hopping in) Did I hear that Wagtail bit?

MR. DOVE
Don't abuse her—she's just a chit.

MRS. DOVE
She's no fledgling—her brother Willy
is the very same age and he's no chick.

MR. DOVE
Silly!—
any brother of hers is her senior by a season.

MRS. DOVE
But he's her twin.

MR. DOVE
He's older.

MRS. DOVE
There's reason.

MR. DOVE
(Violently) Hold your cheep, cackling hen, get into the house.

MRS. DOVE
(Low) And to think this bird was once as tame as a mouse.
(She coos naggingly.)

MR. DOVE
Oh, alright, alright—what a life!
Anything—anything for a quiet wife!

(Fade in Wagtail flying. Pee-wee screeches.)

PEE-WEE
Good-chirp, Winnie, are you coming grubbing with me?

WAGTAIL
I went grubbing with you, Percy Pee-wee.

PEE-WEE
And wasn't it nice?

WAGTAIL
Very. But I never do things twice. (Laughs.)
Besides, I'm on my way
to hear the Bower birds sing and play.

(Pee-wee screeches disconsolate.)

PEE-WEE
But I'm hungry and I want you to eat with me.

WAGTAIL
You are interested in nothing but gastronomee.
You shouldn't eat—you should feed on poetree.
(He screeches.)
Go, join the sparrows on the nasturtium leaves, Pee-wee,
and get your ration of Vitamin C—
it may help you with love's alphabet.
(Laughs and flies off.)

PEE-WEE
I'll get that Wagtail yet!
(Shouts) Horoo, Winnie, horoo!

WINNIE
(Off) See you at the Bower-Bird's shivoo.

(Music to introduce concert. Fade in Bowers' tuning up.)

SATIN
Welcome and welcome all you good bowers;
now to enjoy the best of the hours,
singing and dancing,
flinging and prancing
merrily, cheerily here amidst flowers.

(Song)

SATIN
For we are the singers sublime

ALL
sublime!

SATIN
We're noted for rhythm and time

ALL
and time

SATIN
When we trill "Tweet-tweet!"
 they all say it's sweet,
and twitter and titter in rhyme

ALL
in rhyme.

ALL
For we are the singers sublime
sublime!

We're noted for rhythm and time
and time

When we trill "Tweet-tweet!"
they all say it's sweet,
and twitter and titter
and titter and twitter
in rhyme
in rhyme!

(Excited twitter of birds. Winnie Wagtail flies in.)

A BIRD
Hurray, hurray, the concert's going to begin.

SATIN
Wait, till I welcome little Win!
 Where will you perch, sweet one?

WAGTAIL
On this wattle spray—where I can see the fun!

ALL
Let us play—let us play!

SATIN
Quizz-z. Yes.

ALL
Hurray!

(Music and bird calls as they sing and play.)

WAGTAIL
O Satin, we all clap our feathers and cry encore!

SATIN
(Panting in) O—please—no—more.
I must wet my whistle. Quiss-ss! Come, pet,
sip a drop of dew from a vi-o-let.
(Sipping) Ah, dew sipped at dawn has a fine bouquet!

WAGTAIL
You must be wing-weary.

SATIN
Yes! If I may
I'll rest, sweet chitterling, on your wattle spray.

WAGTAIL
Oh, Satin, no!
Let me go!...
Let's talk about your bower—it's so swish,
so truly grand—so fine—so rich!

SATIN
That's more than some of our audience is. I didn't know
we were to be honoured by an ant's attendance at our show.

WAGTAIL
Don't worry. Look, Kenneth Koala's coming our way
to hold one of his meetings.

KOALA
(Fading in) Er—er—hear what I say.

WAGTAIL
He's started already.

KOALA
(In) We must be practical. Be—be—steady,
patriotic, or we—we'll—lose.

SATIN
He's on his usual booze.

WAGTAIL
(Laughs) On a eucalyptus shiccker.

SATIN
Though I'm all for nationalism and eucalyptus liquor.
But who are you looking at, my love?

WAGTAIL
A grey dove in a green tree. No, it's not Mr. Dove—
(wistful) it's White Hawk.

SATIN
S-sshh! hear Koala talk.

KOALA
Listen to me.
(Sings) There shall be only one tree—
the gum tree, the gum tree!
We should climb only one tree,
the gum tree will do me. (Half-hearted applause.)
There should be only one leaf—
the gum leaf, the gum leaf!—
We should eat only one leaf,
all others cause us grief.
So down with all but gum trees—
but gum trees, but gum trees.
Hack down the trees from overseas,
hack down the—hic!

HAWK
Wait! O please!
Must love of one, breed hate of other trees?
only hate must suppress; love knows how to appease.
This is not patriotism but bigotree.

KOALA
(Weeping) Here's Hawk who would fly rough-winged over me.

HAWK
No, no; your tree is fine—let us develop it.
That's only common sense. But, think a bit,
if all creatures thought like you, there'd be torn feather
and no hope of ever bringing them together.
There's only one garden: forget green boundaries—
and let's respect each other and each other's trees.

(Hearty twitters.)

SATIN
Quick, we must fly across to that bounder Ant—he's going to sing.
Come, Winnie, take to wing!
(Music takes them out.)
(Flying in) Hi, Ant, look here!

WAGTAIL
S-s-sh! Let him sing, Satin dear.

ANT
Well, here's me song, mates.

A VOICE
Hear-rear!

ANT
Ahem! (Sings)
The reason that the ant's a pal
is coz his life is communal.
though breeding ants may loaf around—
like royalty upon the mound—
there's one ant who is not a shirker,
me, the ubiquitous small worker!

SATIN
I, like all pro-le-ta-ri-an,
do all the work. But, unlike man,
I am no slave of meagre rights
dictated to by parasites.
No!
The worker ant is overlord.
He's Boss, Dictator to the horde.
But, not an ego-centric mite,
to work for others is delight;
so if I find a dab of dew,
a speck of apple core or two,
I don't consider it my treat
and eat;
I haul it home to the social nest—
for profit shared is always best.
Yes, profit shared is always best.
Applauding twitters.

WAGTAIL
He's got big ideas for such a little fellow.

SATIN
Pah! he's yellow. 
He thinks he's on a pretty perk
and that he's free,
but—seems to me—
he ever does is work.

WAGTAIL
He never chases after joy?

SATIN
Joy was not made for the hoi polloi.

WAGTAIL
I mean—

No; spring never finds him a brave suitor,
sex with him is mostly neuter.
That's why work with him's a passion—
his hobby's work, not mashin!

They laugh. There is a sudden stir.

WAGTAIL
There's Hawk with Ant. What's all the twitter about?

SATIN
That ant's holding a stump meeting—I ought to put him out.

ANT
I've been asked to give a speech, mates.

BIRDS
Hurray, hurray!

SATIN
Gurr-r-r, his class have altogether too much to say.

ANT
(Spruiking) We ants control the earth, bit by bit.
As to the past—we'll liquidate it.

HAWK
And the present? It, I presume,
is to be postponed to the future, that bloom
of promise which never flowers—that mirage bloom!

ANT
Don't you worry, Poet, you'll be alright, mate.
We'll need you to sing for the worker state,
to celebrate.

HAWK
And will you dictate my singing, too?

ANT
We'll tell you what to sing about. Too true!
Can't afford to run risks.

HAWK
Security
is Poet's greatest enemy.

ANT
I say,
You're with us, aren't you—eh?
You must like our programme—Poets do.

HAWK
Poets never like what is.

ANT
(Easily) That goes for you,
but—

SATIN
Here, Ant, clear off from there!

ANT
Now it's Satin talking!...Get back into the air.
I'm in the soil,
it's mine by right of toil—
it's where I belong.

SATIN
Gurr.r.r-r-r-r!

ANT
I tell you, Poet, we'll like your song
and you'll like our world, I'll guarantee.

SATIN
What twitter is this? Move on and speedilee!
You insects think you can exploit the earth.

ANT
Bunk!
look to your bower, it's stuffed with medieval junk.

SATIN
Be off! This is my propertee.

ANT
Yeah—you stole it from me.

SATIN
Be off, or I'll stamp you into the dirt.

ANT
Stamp, plutocrat, but mind you don't get hurt.

SATIN
Silence!

HAWK
Stay!
Let him speak—he's a right to his say.

SATIN
Quiss-s-s! Well—er—he can go ahead, I guess.

HAWK
It's time be cleaned up your embowered mess...
where the beauty of the world will sell itself for fashion,
(painfully) and is afraid of nothing...but sincerity and passion.

ANT
Ha, Poet, we understand each other, you see.

HAWK
As for you, Ant. Hear me:
Keep on, keep on the way you've told;
build the new world on the old.
(Passionately) But—remember—if you dare
attempt to circumscribe the air
so that I cannot fly, so that I cannot sing—
I'll crash your system, smash it—with my wing!
No one must stifle me.
The spirit must be free—free!
to rise and sing...
(Loud wings as he shoots aloft with exultant power)
to rise and sing!
(Music takes him high...
higher...
fades him right out.)

WAGTAIL
OOOO!...He's lost above the layers of air!...
What does he do up there? (Music brings him lower.)
Ah, look, he's coming into view,
dropping like a stone out of the blue...
Now he floats—without stirring a wing—
(involuntarily) wonderful thing!

SATIN
What is he to you?

WAGTAIL
(Demurely) He wants to marry me, that's all.

SATIN
That would be a squall.
And how would you live sans L. S. D.?

WAGTAIL
Owe it all on old T.P.

(Twitters and stir of birds as Satin's guests depart.)

SATIN
The groundlings have gone, and—at last—you are in my bower.

WAGTAIL
But not in your power.

SATIN
Has love no rights?

WAGTAIL
you do not love me.

SATIN
Great sun above me!
What else do you make of all the words I've said?

WAGTAIL
Well—cheep-cheep!—You've never asked me to...wed.

SATIN
(Gulping) Well, Winnie, if you won't give in—
I'll have to—you win—
marry me!

WAGTAIL
(Chirrups) This is so sudden!

SATIN
Speak!

WAGTAIL
Well...I'll be your short wife, and a merry one...
in a week!

SATIN
Ah! (Kiss)....
By the way, I heard a twitter or two about—er—
Douglas Dove and you.

WAGTAIL
Oh, that! (Laughs.)
He's so abominably fat.

SATIN
H'm; middle age does spread.

WAGTAIL
I'd rather be dead!
(Doves heard cooing.)
(Coy) Besides, you know he's married.

SATIN
H'm, and happy. See, he doesn't look harried.

WAGTAIL
I've heard they live a devoted life—

(Demurely) I hope I make you as good a wife.

Seeing they are observed, Suburbia's model couple go into their act.

BOTH
Coota-coota coo!

MR. DOVE
Wifie, I love you!

MRS. DOVE
Spouse, I love you, too!

MR. DOVE
Wifie, I love you!

MRS. DOVE
Spouse, I love you, too!

MR. DOVE
Ditto.

MRS. DOVE
Ditto.

MR. DOVE
Etcetera.

MRS. DOVE
Etcetera.

MR. DOVE
And so on and so on.

MRS. DOVE
round and round

BOTH
the daily round of dove,

MR. DOVE
with its billing and cooing,

MRS. DOVE
its standardised wooing,

MR. DOVE
its bowing,

MRS. DOVE
kow-towing

MR. DOVE
and most respectable,

MRS. DOVE
highly respectable

BOTH
LOVE!

Music repeats the rhythm pattern of last few lines
to finish off with a skirl or two.

THE END


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