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Full Online Book HomePoemsRhymes A La Mode - The Barbarous Bird-gods - A Savage Parabasis
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Rhymes A La Mode - The Barbarous Bird-gods - A Savage Parabasis Post by :jackass Category :Poems Author :Andrew Lang Date :February 2012 Read :3365

Click below to download : Rhymes A La Mode - The Barbarous Bird-gods - A Savage Parabasis (Format : PDF)

Rhymes A La Mode - The Barbarous Bird-gods - A Savage Parabasis

The Barbarous Bird-gods - A Savage Parabasis

In the Aves of Aristophanes, the Bird Chorus declare that they are
older than the Gods, and greater benefactors of men. This idea
recurs in almost all savage mythologies, and I have made the
savage Bird-gods state their own case.

The Birds sing:

We would have you to wit, that on eggs though we sit, and are
spiked on the spit, and are baked in the pan,
Birds are older by far than your ancestors are, and made love and
made war ere the making of Man!
For when all things were dark, not a glimmer nor spark, and the
world like a barque without rudder or sail
Floated on through the night, 'twas a Bird struck a light, 'twas a
flash from the bright feather'd Tonatiu's {3} tail!
Then the Hawk {4} with some dry wood flew up in the sky, and afar,
safe and high, the Hawk lit Sun and Moon,
And the Birds of the air they rejoiced everywhere, and they recked
not of care that should come on them soon.
For the Hawk, so they tell, was then known as Pundjel, {5} and a-
musing he fell at the close of the day;
Then he went on the quest, as we thought, of a nest, with some
bark of the best, and a clawful of clay. {6}
And with these did he frame two birds lacking a name, without
feathers (his game was a puzzle to all);
Next around them he fluttered a-dancing, and muttered; and,
lastly, he uttered a magical call:
Then the figures of clay, as they featherless lay, they leaped up,
who but they, and embracing they fell,
And THIS was the baking of Man, and his making; but now he's
forsaking his Father, Pundjel!
Now these creatures of mire, they kept whining for fire, and to
crown their desire who was found but the Wren?
To the high heaven he came, from the Sun stole he flame, and for
this has a name in the memory of men! {7}
And in India who for the Soma juice flew, and to men brought it
through without falter or fail?
Why the Hawk 'twas again, and great Indra to men would appear, now
and then, in the shape of a Quail,
While the Thlinkeet's delight is the Bird of the Night, the beak
and the bright ebon plumage of Yehl.{8}
And who for man's need brought the famed Suttung's mead? why 'tis
told in the creed of the Sagamen strong,
'Twas the Eagle god who brought the drink from the blue, and gave
mortals the brew that's the fountain of song. {9}
Next, who gave men their laws? and what reason or cause the young
brave overawes when in need of a squaw,
Till he thinks it a shame to wed one of his name, and his conduct
you blame if he thus breaks the law?
For you still hold it wrong if a lubra {10} belong to the self-
same kobong {11} that is Father of you,
To take HER as a bride to your ebony side; nay, you give her a
wide berth; quite right of you, too.
For her father, you know, is YOUR father, the Crow, and no
blessing but woe from the wedding would spring.
Well, these rules they were made in the wattle-gum shade, and were
strictly obeyed, when the Crow was the King. {12}
Thus on Earth's little ball to the Birds you owe all, yet your
gratitude's small for the favours they've done,
And their feathers you pill, and you eat them at will, yes, you
plunder and kill the bright birds one by one;
There's a price on their head, and the Dodo is dead, and the Moa
has fled from the sight of the sun!


{3} Tonatiu, the Thunder Bird; well known to the Dacotahs and

{4} The Hawk, in the myth of the Galinameros of Central
California, lit up the Sun.

{5} Pundjel, the Eagle Hawk, is the demiurge and "culture-hero"
of several Australian tribes.

{6} The Creation of Man is thus described by the Australians.

{7} In Andaman, Thlinkeet, Melanesian, and other myths, a Bird is
the Prometheus Purphoros; in Normandy this part is played by the

{8} Yehl: the Raven God of the Thlinkeets.

{9} Indra stole Soma as a Hawk and as a Quail. For Odin's feat
as a Bird, see Bragi's Telling in the Younger Edda.

{10} Pundjel, the Eagle Hawk, gave Australians their marriage

{11} Lubra, a woman; kobong, "totem;" or, to please Mr. Max
Muller, "otem."

{12} The Crow was the Hawk's rival.

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