Andrew Barton Paterson ('Banjo')

Here you will find the Long Poem Investigating Flora of poet Andrew Barton Paterson ('Banjo')

Investigating Flora

'Twas in scientific circles 
That the great Professor Brown 
Had a world-wide reputation 
As a writer of renown. 
He had striven finer feelings 
In our natures to implant 
By his Treatise on the Morals 
Of the Red-eyed Bulldog Ant. 
He had hoisted an opponent 
Who had trodden unawares 
On his "Reasons for Bare Patches 
On the Female Native Bears". 
So they gave him an appointment 
As instructor to a band 
Of the most attractive females 
To be gathered in the land. 
'Twas a "Ladies' Science Circle" -- 
Just the latest social fad 
For the Nicest People only, 
And to make their rivals mad. 
They were fond of "science rambles" 
To the country from the town -- 
A parade of female beauty 
In the leadership of Brown. 
They would pick a place for luncheon 
And catch beetles on their rugs; 
The Professor called 'em "optera" -- 
They calld 'em "nasty bugs". 
Well, the thing was bound to perish 
For no lovely woman can 
Feel the slightest interest 
In a club without a Man -- 
The Professor hardly counted 
He was crazy as a loon, 
With a countenance suggestive 
Of an elderly baboon. 
But the breath of Fate blew on it 
With a sharp and sudden blast, 
And the "Ladies' Science Circle" 
Is a memory of the past. 

There were two-and-twenty members, 
Mostly young and mostly fair, 
Who had made a great excursion 
To a place called Dontknowwhere, 
At the crossing of Lost River, 
On the road to No Man's Land. 
There they met an old selector, 
With a stockwhip in his hand, 
And the sight of so much beauty 
Sent him slightly "off his nut"; 
So he asked them, smiling blandly, 
"Would they come down to the hut?" 
"I am come," said the Professor, 
In his thin and reedy voice, 
"To investigate your flora, 
Which I feel is very choice." 
The selector stared dumbfounded, 
Till at last he found his tongue: 
"To investigate my Flora! 
Oh, you howlin' Brigham Young! 
Why, you've two-and-twenty wimmen -- 
Reg'lar slap-up wimmen, too! 
And you're after little Flora! 
And a crawlin' thing like you! 
Oh, you Mormonite gorilla! 
Well, I've heard it from the first 
That you wizened little fellers 
Is a hundred times the worst! 

But a dried-up ape like you are, 
To be marchin' through the land 
With a pack of lovely wimmen -- 
Well, I cannot understand!" 
"You mistake," said the Professor, 
In a most indignant tone -- 
While the ladies shrieked and jabbered 
In a fashion of their own -- 
"You mistake about these ladies, 
I'm a lecturer of theirs; 
I am Brown, who wrote the Treatise 
On the Female Native Bears! 
When I said we wanted flora, 
What I meant was native flowers." 
"Well, you said you wanted Flora, 
And I'll swear you don't get ours! 
But here's Flora's self a-comin', 
And it's time for you to skip, 
Or I'll write a treatise on you, 
And I'll write it with the whip! 

Now I want no explanations; 
Just you hook it out of sight, 
Or you'll charm the poor girl some'ow!" 
The Professor looked in fright: 
She was six feet high and freckled, 
And her hair was turkey-red. 
The Professor gave a whimper, 
And threw down his bag and fled, 
And the Ladies' Science Circle, 
With a simultaneous rush, 
Travelled after its Professor, 
And went screaming through the bush! 

At the crossing of Lost River, 
On the road to No Man's Land, 
Where the grim and ghostly gumtrees 
Block the view on every hand, 
There they weep and wail and wander, 
Always seeking for the track, 
For the hapless old Professor 
Hasn't sense to guide 'em back; 
And they clutch at one another, 
And they yell and scream in fright 
As they see the gruesome creatures 
Of the grim Australian night; 
And they hear the mopoke's hooting, 
And the dingo's howl so dread, 
And the flying foxes jabber 
From the gum trees overhead; 
While the weird and wary wombats, 
In their subterranean caves, 
Are a-digging, always digging, 
At those wretched people's graves; 
And the pike-horned Queensland bullock, 
From his shelter in the scrub, 
Has his eye on the proceedings 
Of the Ladies' Science Club.