‘Carnival of the Animals’, by Michael Leunig

When human beings began to walk
Upon hind legs and learned to talk
And say, “We are no longer creatures …”
They covered up their natural features
And set about becoming clever –
Enough to ruin the earth forever.
And as sophistication grew
The world became a human zoo.
Where human types in many cages,
Sang their songs on little stages
Staring sadly through the bars
Towards the distant moon and stars.
So lend your ears and come with me
Into this weird menagerie.

Presidents and Prime Ministers are magnificent creatures;
They’re magnificent at making speeches.
Which tell us of our national glory
The stirring and redeeming story
That we are good and the others bad
That we are happy – the others sad
Then having said these wondrous things
Our leaders stand like queens and kings
So noble, truthful, just and wise.
That tears of gladness fill our eyes.
Until, upon election day
We vote and have them flushed away.

Now let’s imagine if we can
A fanfare for the common man:
Bright and bold and lyrical –
Perhaps that’s too satirical –
If we pause to contemplate
The common person’s current state
Considering the simple facts
Of how the modern person acts:
Running here, running there,
Agitation and despair,
Incurably Titanic –
The common man is manic.
The modern world in disarray.
It might be time to sit and pray
And let Camille Sain-Saens express
An anthem for this crazy mess:
For nothing could be truer.
Than this fanfare for the insecure.

The tourist runs away from home
And all the roads that lead to Rome
Are packed with speeding human ants
Wearing lightweight tourist pants
Catching buses, catching trains
Catching colds in aeroplanes
Hurtling to everywhere;
Through the streets and through the air
Faster faster, more and more.
Through another hotel door
Photograph it, see it all
See another Chinese wall
One more continental shelf.
Tourist you should see yourself.

The old, old man is a weary beast;
He pulled the plough, he pulled the cart
Through the famine and the feast;
It broke his back, it broke his heart
But it did not break the magic spell
That gave him wings to drift and fly
With music that he loved so well
To sweethearts floating in the sky.

6. ME
The me slowly emerges
And when it does it’s splendid;
Delightful inner urges
All beautifully extended.
The me just simply must
Unto itself be true
And absolutely thrust
Its life into the blue.
The me is full and rounded
And ripe and sweet and free.
It’s great to be surrounded
By a lovely peaceful me.


Don’t fret too much for the Departed.
Even though they leave you broken hearted.
Have no fear
They WILL reappear
When you’re alone and unprepared
They will just turn up. Do not be scared.
Be still. Do not turn away;
There is something wise they have come to say
To you and to you alone;
Some plain and simple thing already known
They will touch you and say,
“It’s alright, everything will be OK”
Or something just like that, short and clear.
Then casually they will turn and softly disappear
Leaving you elated and in perfect peace
The meaning of life and death will then increase
And your love for the departed one will grow.
There is so much more you will get to know
About love that is unassailable.
So long as you make yourself available.

Jerks know all the lurks
Jerks get all the perks.
Nothing really irks
Like the murkiness of jerks.
Jerks know all your quirks
Jerks do all the smirks
Nothing really works
Like the murkiness of jerks.

The eccentric is a mysterious creature
Peculiar behaviour is its notable feature
Lost and alone in a world of conformity
Where oddness is seen as a dreadful deformity.
Yet, of all the creatures, the true non-conformist
Is often the brightest, the boldest and warmest.

The beloved brings intoxication – for a while.
Then some time later the beloved brings – a smile.
And later on the beloved brings a few concerns.
And later on the beloved brings a rash that burns.
And later on the beloved brings a sleepless night.
And then the beloved brings a dreadful fright.
And so the beloved brings us to our senses.
And that is where the greatest love commences.

Megalomaniacs want control
Because they do not trust the soul.
In every living situation
A megalomaniac seeks domination.
Megalomaniacs want their way
To make a better world they say;
To fix the breakages and cracks
Of other megalomaniacs.

The human child at a tender age
Is often placed into a cage
Where it is trained to join the cult
Of acting like a nice adult.
The nice adult then goes all sad
And starts to act a little mad
Until it turns completely wild
And liberates its inner child.
Childhood must be had when young
Something like when spring has sprung
Let the birds and angels sing
Childhood is the time of spring.

The strange naked lady is wonderfully plump–
So soft, so large and complete.
Magnificent bosom and fabulous rump
Just gliding along through the street.
Slowly and gracefully – light as a cloud
A faraway look in her eye
Humming a sweet little song to the crowd
And holding a rose to the sky
But why is she naked and where are her clothes
And what is her medical history?
She’s simply the lady that nobody knows:
A divine and miraculous mystery.

And so we come to the grand parade
Where all the sounds of joy are made
As we finally open every cage
And let the humans out to rage
And dance along with hands on hips;
To roll their heads and pout their lips;
Characters bright and characters shady;
The prime Minister shall dance with the Naked Lady,
The sad old man will be reconciled
With the beautiful truth of his inner child,
And sweet Palestinians with sweet Israelis
Will blow fanfares of peace on their ukuleles.
Then the humans creatures shall finally see.
That where there is love – THEY ARE FREE.

– Michael Leunig, Carnival of the Animals (Sydney: Macmillan, 2000), np.


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