Having lunched on missionary,
A voracious cassowary 1
Had composed himself for slumber,
He had just begun to snore—
When he saw a Parrot flutter
To the ground and heard him utter
His inevitable dictum
That “Your food will cost you more.

“Though I’m mostly somewhat chary”, 2
Said the courteous cassowary,
“Of attending to a stranger
Whom I’ve never seen before,
On the subject that you mention
I can give you my attention,
For I dote on fiscal questions
WhyYour food will cost you more.

“In the past my little Mary” 3
(Said the blushing cassowary)
“I have filled with men and hymn-books,
A cuisine which I adore.
May I ask your grounds for saying
That the bill I’ll soon be paying
Will be longer?” Sighed the Parrot,
Ah, your food will cost you more.

“Come now, hang it, I declare I”
(Said the outraged cassowary)
“Never met with such a person.
Fancy putting in your oar!
This debate you’d best abandon.
Why, you’ve not a leg to stand on!”
And the Parrot found no answer
But “Your food will cost you more.


Cassowaries are large flightless birds which are mainly confined to the tropical rainforests of New Guinea and neighbouring islands, and northern Queensland. There are three species, all in the genus Casuarius. Their diet consists largely of fruit, though they are also known to eat frogs, small birds, rats and mice, snails and insects; neither missionaries nor hymn books feature as a regular part of their diet. Cassowaries have a reputation, somewhat exaggerated, for attacking people, but confirmed reports of deaths are rare. Cassowaries in the wild are very reclusive and a missionary would be most unlikely even to encounter one, never mind be killed or eaten by it.


Three different rhymes with ‘cassowary’ are found in this poem, in the first, the second and third, and the fourth stanzas. Of these, only that in the first stanza conforms to the generally-accepted pronunciation.


See poem 06.

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