Lorikeets by Peter Skrzynecki is though a poem about a small bird of the lory family, chiefly found in New Guinea, it actually describes the conditions under which he and his family were compelled to migrate to Australia, leaving his own country, after Second World War (1939 – 1945). Where the poet talks about the activities of the bird, such as their way of invasion on poet’s tree, and laying them waste, he also sheds light on the natural instinct of Lorikeets that come from the rainforests, invade his trees, and destroy them to satisfy their appetite. The poet says they come in groups (flocks), with a screeching sound, and vanish above in the sky without any knowledge about their further whereabouts.
Thus, the theme of the poem Lorikeets is immigration, but the poem also shows the poet’s love toward nature the way he has described the beauty of Lorikeets and provides us the best description of their beauty. Through the theme of migration, he brings to light the conditions under which he and his family had to leave their home country, and what kind of hardships his family had to go through during this voyage.
In the first stanza of the poem Lorikeets by Peter Skrzynecki, the poet (who is a speaker here) tells, each morning, there is a flock of Lorikeets, coming from the rainforests (a lush-green dense forest, enriched with biodiversity, and typically found in tropical areas with consistently heavy rainfall), and attack our trees. The distribution of lorikeets is primarily over the north-east in Australia. They mainly make their habitats to the forests of all types (open forests, heathlands, rainforest, sclerophyll forest) inland or coastal, to any urban areas, which is awash with suitable trees.
The ‘screeching flocks’ is imagery that the poet uses to describe both; first the ways these lorikeets come, and the second may be the invaders of war who compelled the poet and his family to leave their country. Here literally the meaning of flock is the group of lorikeets that come screeching or with a loud cry into his trees, and leave them waste having fed on them.
The noteworthy point is that the lorikeets have most of their food from trees, and they spend lots of their time feeding on them. Some of the favorite foods of these birds include flowers, nectar, pollen, blossoms primarily from (Myrtaceae, Eucalyptus, Proteacea, Xanthoroaceae, Melaleuca, Banksia, and Callistemon), fruits and berries. They are truly a pest to commercial and suburban fruit tree growers.
In the second stanza, the poet tells that each morning they (lorikeets) come to perch upon the poet’s tree, and bring summer with them on their green-and-gold wings. By ‘bringing summer on green-and-gold wings’, the poet says that whenever they come, the weather becomes a little hot with their chirping and screeching sound, and their wings shine like gold, due to the sunlight.
Moreover, their tails are colored like rainbows, the only blend of seven beautiful colors. The beauty of lorikeets is really worth seeing at this time. Here the meaning of ‘crimson breast’ is the adult male lorikeets, which have a crimson breast and maroon back.
The poet says that these words are arboreal, meaning they like trees, and are very active, noisy and sociable (gregarious). Most often they are found in the company of other birds, but during hot seasons, they take an afternoon break from feeding, meaning they either go somewhere else, or use that time in entertaining themselves.
In the third stanza, the poet says that the lorikeets are nomads, meaning they love traveling from places in search of their foods. Using the word nomads for lorikeets, the poet also suggests his own life experiences when he and his family too became nomads, and kept roaming here and there in search of jobs. The poet and his family had become migrants after the Second World War when they had no permanent home.
Similarly, these birds come somewhere from the north rainforests in search of foods and lay waste the orchards and crops-camphor laurels, Silky oaks, black bean trees with their brush-tipped tongue. Using their specially designed tongue with a brush-like end the nectarivorous (nectar-eating) lorikeets are able to reach right into flowers to get to pollen and nectar.
Stanzas Four and Five
In stanza four and five, the poet says that when they have taken out the nectar (honey) from the blossoms, they leave the ground darkened with torn leaves, empty buds, and branches. The meaning of imagery “darkened with torn leaves” may mean the darkening of the ground under a tree with dead leaves, which become darkened after breaking from the trees. And when they are ravaged all these, they leave the place by midday and fly to the place which is not known to anyone, meaning there is no knowledge about their whereabouts. They come like screeching flocks, but leave the place like a stormy cloud. And it is very difficult to tell whether they have gone to the south or north.
Here the use of simile in the first stanza of the poem like ‘screeching flock’ and ‘storm cloud’ suggests that these birds come with an extremely piercing sound and go with stormy cloud. In fact, to me, both these images are negative for beautiful birds like lorikeets.
Or the poet might have used these similes to show the swiftness and activeness of these birds. Moreover, by the bird Midday, the poet suggests that these birds have a very fixed time to leave. As in the second stanza, the poet says that these birds come each morning and leave the trees by midday, meaning they are very smart and active birds.
Stanzas Six and Seven
Following the fourth and fifth stanza, the poet, through the above two stanzas, says that these birds are well-known to make wheel-like circles while flying in the sky. In the wheeled circles, they fly above the valley forests and skim the river like driven snow. “Or skimmed the river like driven snow”, the use of simile ‘driven snow’ is said to have its origin from the late 1500s, though driven, which implies ‘carried away by the wind into drifts,” was sometimes avoided.
But this phrase is very rarely heard in today’s poetry. ‘Driven snow’ literally means the snow that has blown into drifts and is still clean and untrodden. Shakespeare used snow in his writing as a symbol for whiteness and purity in several plays. The poet says that they fly above in the sky over the green mirror (forest) sometimes back and sometimes forth. The green mirror neither shows its color, nor forecasts about the hail or mountain fires.
In the seventh stanza of the poem, the poet compares the forest to a green mirror, which looks completely green from above. And this factually true when the forest is viewed from above, it is all green, cannot even tell you about the forests of hail or mountain fires.
Of hail or mountain fires
Written in a strange, piercing tongue
One every tree and morning dream they had ravaged.
Thus, the poem Lorikeets about Peter Skrzynecki is the best description of those birds that keep traveling from place to place in search of food. The poet compares the life of immigrants to the life of these birds, and says these birds best reflect the theme of his poem, as he (poet) too had to be under migration after the Second World War. He, too with his parents, had to migrate from his own country to Australia to earn their livelihood.
Moreover, the poem also introduces its audience with a uniquely-designed bird, which is as beautiful as nature. It has beauty of all seven colors, but is really a headache for those who grow orchards and crops-camphor laurels, Silky oaks, black bean trees, in and around their living places.
In all, this poem has drawn out the best picture of naturally beautiful birds and their nomadic nature. These nomadic-natured birds are quite like the immigrants who too wander here and there in search of work and foods, as the poet and his parents had to go through.
About Peter Skrzynecki
Born on 6 April, 1945 in Ihmert, near Dortmund, Westphalia, in northern Germany, Peter Skrzynecki immigrated to Australia in 1949 with his parents, Fellks and Kornella, shortly before the end of World War II. Peter came to Australia as a refugee from “the sorrow/Of northern wars” (“Crossing the Red Sea”). This voyage had been the ground for several of his poems in the 1975 collection, Immigrant Chronicle, which is dedicated to Brian Couch (Skrzynecki’s final year English teacher) and Tony Carnet (a gifted student in his class, and a year ahead of him at school). It is to be noted that Shrzynecki started writing poetry as an undergraduate at the University of Sydney in 1964.
Writing from the first-hand experience, Skrzynecki describes various aspects of the history and immigrants, coming to Australia, in the period after the Second World War (1939 – 1945). The representation of the Skrzynecki family in the poems in Immigrant Chronicle is both specific to them and, to a large extent, to migrants in general. Some of the experiences the poet can recall relating to his early childhood, so a certain amount of ‘poetic licence’ can be expected in these evocations of distant memories.