“Goliath Beetle” (1767) by Sydney Parkinson; gouache on vellum, 32×25.5cm National Library of Australia picture collection.
Sydney Parkinson (1745 – 26 January 1771) was a Scottish Quaker, botanical illustrator and natural history artist. He was employed by Joseph Banks to travel with him on Captain James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific in 1768, on the HMS Endeavour. During this voyage, Parkinson made nearly a thousand drawings of plants and animals collected by Banks and Daniel Solander. Parkinson contracted dysentery at Princes’ Island off the western end of Java and died at sea on the way to Cape Town. You may also like this rhyming verse by Leon Gellert.
When Christmas comes the Christmas heat’ll
Bring once more the Christmas beetle,
The first inflammatory breeze’ll
Set him buzzing like a diesel.
Hear him open up his throttle
As he hums above the wattle!
Hear him zoom and snarl and rattle
Like a fighter-plane in battle!
Watch him dive to sink and settle –
Folding up his wings of meta –
Cutting off the engine’s sound
As quietly he comes to ground.
Then watch some sparrows, frail and lowly,
Strike him swiftly, rend him wholly.
Just one of the merry critters to be found in Oz around Christmas-time. In fact, as I was hanging the washing out today in the 35 degree heat, one managed to lodge itself between me and my sundress, which caused a moment’s merry dance. I trust no one could see me!
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