A Bush Lawyer
By Banjo Paterson
When Ironbark the turtle came to Anthony’s lagoon
The hills were hid behind a mist of equinoctal rain,
The ripple of the rivulets was like a cheerful tune
And wild companions waltzed among the grass as tall as grain.
But Ironbark the turtle cared no whit for all of these;
The ripple of the rivulets, the rustle of the trees
Were only apple sauce to him, or just a piece of cheese.
Now, Dan-di-dan the water rat was exquisitely dressed,
For not a seal in Bass’s Straits had half as fine a coat,
And every day he combed and brushed his golden-yellow vest,
A contrast with the white cravat he wore beneath his throat.
And Dan-di-dan the water rat could move with ease and grace,
So Ironbark appeared to him a creature out of place,
With iron-plated overcoat and dirty little face.
A crawfish at the point of death came drifting down the drains.
Said he, “I’m scalded to the heart with bathing near the bore.”
The turtle and the water rat disputed his remains,
For crawfish meat all day they’d eat, and then they’d ask for more.
Said Dan-di-dan, “The prize is mine, for I was fishing here
Before you tumbled down the bank and landed on your ear.”
“I wouldn’t care,” the turtle said, “if you’d have fished a year.”
So Baggy-beak the Pelican was asked to arbitrate;
The scales of justice seemed to hang beneath his noble beak.
He said, “I’ll take possession of the subject of debate”;
He stowed the fish inside his pouch and then began to speak.
“The case is far from clear,” he said, “and justices of note” —
But here he snapped his beak and flapped his piebald overcoat —
“Oh dear,” he said, “that wretched fish has slithered down my throat.”
“But still,” he said, “the point involved requires a full debate.
I’ll have to get the lawyer birds and fix a special day.
Ad interim I rule that costs come out of the estate.”
And Baggy-beak the Pelican got up and flew away.
So both the pair who went to law were feeling very small.
Said they, “We might have halved the fish and saved a nasty brawl;
For half a crawfish isn’t much, but more than none at all.”