|Spirit of the Plains, 1897, Sydney Long, Australia.|
An Australian bush nymph leads her dancing birds through the gum treed plains of the Australian bush, in a freize-like painting by Australian artist Sydney Long [1871-1955]. For many years, this popular work has fascinated visitors to the Queensland Art Gallery. Notice the elaborate treble clef formation of the procession, beautifully based on a European, Art Nouveau, sensibility.
The dancing birds, however, are brolgas, Australian native birds, and the official bird emblem of our state of Queensland. The brolga is a member of the crane family, and a common wetland bird species in tropical and south-eastern Australia. Best known for the intricate mating dances, their performance begins with a bird picking up some grass and tossing it into the air, then catching it, jumping a metre into the air with outstretched wings, with much strutting, calling and bobbing of the head. Sometimes they dance singly, or in pairs, and sometimes a whole group will dance together.
While I have occasionally seen brolgas in swampland, I have never seen them dance. I'm sure it is quite spectacular...
So why did I think of brolgas today?
Many readers have commented on my Christmas decor, with wintry scenes of snowmen, while outside we are in the middle of a hot Summer.
And I thought it time to introduce another Australian Christmas carol:
The Carol of the Birds.
The first line is 'Out on the plains the brolgas are dancing, lifting their feet like war-horses dancing'...
This carol is sung many different ways, faster and slower, with orchestral or organ accompaniment, but I chose this version because of the pictures.
You will see lots of Australian native birds, including my old friends, the lorikeets.
The word 'Orana' means Welcome!