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And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the Billabong
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?". . .

Few Australian Bush Poets are as well known as A.B. (Andrew Barton) "Banjo" Paterson (1864-1941), author of the famed “The Man from Snowy River” and “Waltzing Matilda.”  Beloved by Australians (he is featured on the $10 bill) his bush ballads celebrate the beauty of the outback and the courage and spirit of its inhabitants. Paterson grew up in the Australian bush and immortalized its people and places in poems.  Paterson wrote poems, novels, memoirs, commentary, and other prose.

 

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Poems

The Man From Snowy River
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around...

In the Droving Days
"Only a pound," said the auctioneer...

Clancy of the Overflow
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better...

An Answer to Various Bards
Well, I've waited mighty patient while they all came rolling in...

Santa Claus in the Bush
It chanced out back at the Christmas time...

Santa Claus
Halt! Who goes there...

Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve
You never heard tell of the story?...

A Dog's Mistake
He had drifted in among us as a straw drifts with the tide...

The Geebung Polo Club
It was somewhere up the country in a land of rock and scrub...

Mulga Bill's Bicycle
'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze...

The Man from Ironbark
It was the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town...


Featured in "The Big Roundup," an anthology of the best of CowboyPoetry.com.

 

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Links and Books 

There are excellent sites devoted to A. B. "Banjo" Paterson, including:

Warren L. Ham's University of Queensland site includes biographical information about the beloved Australian poet, much of his poetry, and links to other Banjo Paterson sites. 

The Man From Snowy River and other Verses; the complete text

 

More  links and books below......


The Man from Snowy River

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from Old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses -- he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up --
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand,
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony -- three parts thoroughbred at least --
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry -- just the sort that won't say die --
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, "That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop -- lad, you'd better stop away,
Those hills are far too rough for such as you."
So he waited sad and wistful -- only Clancy stood his friend --
"I think we ought to let him come," he said;
"I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred."

"He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."

So he went -- they found the horses by the big mimosa clump --
They raced away towards the mountain's brow,
And the old man gave his orders, "Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills."

So Clancy rode to wheel them -- he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way,
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side."

When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull,
It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat --
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill,
And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reedbeds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word to-day,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

1890

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In the Droving Days

"Only a pound," said the auctioneer,
"Only a pound; and I'm standing here
Selling this animal, gain or loss.
Only a pound for the drover's horse;
One of the sort that was never afraid,
One of the boys of the Old Brigade;
Thoroughly honest and game, I'll swear,
Only a little the worse for wear;
Plenty as bad to be seen in town,
Give me a bid and I'll knock him down;
Sold as he stands, and without recourse,
Give me a bid for the drover's horse."
Loitering there in an aimless way
Somehow I noticed the poor old grey,
Weary and battered and screwed, of course,
Yet when I noticed the old grey horse,
The rough bush saddle, and single rein
Of the bridle laid on his tangled mane,
Straightway the crowd and the auctioneer
Seemed on a sudden to disappear,
Melted away in a kind of haze,
For my heart went back to the droving days.

Back to the road, and I crossed again
Over the miles of the saltbush plain --
The shining plain that is said to be
The dried-up bed of an inland sea,
Where the air so dry and so clear and bright
Refracts the sun with a wondrous light,
And out in the dim horizon makes
The deep blue gleam of the phantom lakes.

At dawn of day we would feel the breeze
That stirred the boughs of the sleeping trees,
And brought a breath of the fragrance rare
That comes and goes in that scented air;
For the trees and grass and the shrubs contain
A dry sweet scent on the saltbush plain.
For those that love it and understand,
The saltbush plain is a wonderland.
A wondrous country, where Nature's ways
Were revealed to me in the droving days.

We saw the fleet wild horses pass,
And the kangaroos through the Mitchell grass,
The emu ran with her frightened brood
All unmolested and unpursued.
But there rose a shout and a wild hubbub
When the dingo raced for his native scrub,
And he paid right dear for his stolen meals
With the drover's dogs at his wretched heels.
For we ran him down at a rattling pace,
While the packhorse joined in the stirring chase.
And a wild halloo at the kill we'd raise --
We were light of heart in the droving days.

'Twas a drover's horse, and my hand again
Made a move to close on a fancied rein.
For I felt the swing and the easy stride
Of the grand old horse that I used to ride
In drought or plenty, in good or ill,
That same old steed was my comrade still;
The old grey horse with his honest ways
Was a mate to me in the droving days.

When we kept our watch in the cold and damp,
If the cattle broke from the sleeping camp,
Over the flats and across the plain,
With my head bent down on his waving mane,
Through the boughs above and the stumps below
On the darkest night I could let him go
At a racing speed; he would choose his course,
And my life was safe with the old grey horse.
But man and horse had a favourite job,
When an outlaw broke from a station mob,
With a right good will was the stockwhip plied,
As the old horse raced at the straggler's side,
And the greenhide whip such a weal would raise,
We could use the whip in the droving days.

"Only a pound!" and was this the end --
Only a pound for the drover's friend.
The drover's friend that had seen his day,
And now was worthless, and cast away
With a broken knee and a broken heart
To be flogged and starved in a hawker's cart.
Well, I made a bid for a sense of shame
And the memories dear of the good old game.

"Thank you? Guinea! and cheap at that!
Against you there in the curly hat!
Only a guinea, and one more chance,
Down he goes if there's no advance,
Third, and the last time, one! two! three!"
And the old grey horse was knocked down to me.
And now he's wandering, fat and sleek,
On the lucerne flats by the Homestead Creek;
I dare not ride him for fear he'd fall,
But he does a journey to beat them all,
For though he scarcely a trot can raise,
He can take me back to the droving days.

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Clancy of the Overflow

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
   Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago;
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
   Just on spec, addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow."

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected
   (And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar);
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
   "Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."


In my wild erratic fancy, visions come to me of Clancy
  Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
   For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
   In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
   And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
   Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
  Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
   Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street;
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
   Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
   As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
   For townsfolk have no time to grow; they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
   Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal --
   But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of The Overflow.

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An Answer to Various Bards

Well, I've waited mighty patient while they all came rolling in,
Mister Lawson, Mister Dyson, and the others of their kin,
With their dreadful, dismal stories of the Overlander's camp,
How his fire is always smoky, and his boots are always damp;
And they paint it so terrific it would fill one's soul with gloom --
But you know they're fond of writing about "corpses" and "the tomb".
So, before they curse the bushland, they should let their fancy range,
And take something for their livers, and be cheerful for a change.
Now, for instance, Mr Lawson -- well, of course, we almost cried
At the sorrowful description how his "little 'Arvie" died,
And we lachrymosed in silence when "His Father's mate" was slain;
Then he went and killed the father, and we had to weep again.
Ben Duggan and Jack Denver, too, he caused them to expire,
After which he cooked the gander of Jack Dunn, of Nevertire;
And, no doubt, the bush is wretched if you judge it by the groan
Of the sad and soulful poet with a graveyard of his own.

And he spoke in terms prophetic of a revolution's heat,
When the world should hear the clamour of those people in the street;
But the shearer chaps who start it -- why, he rounds on them the blame,
And he calls 'em "agitators who are living on the game".
Bur I "over-write" the bushmen! Well, I own without a doubt
That I always see the hero in the "man from furthest out".
I could never contemplate him through an atmosphere of gloom,
And a bushman never struck me as a subject for "the tomb".

If it ain't all "golden sunshine" where the "wattle branches wave",
Well, it ain't all damp and dismal, and it ain't all "lonely grave".
And, of course, there's no denying that the bushman's life is rough,
But a man can easy stand it if he's built of sterling stuff;
Though it's seldom that the drover gets a bed of eiderdown,
Yet the man who's born a bushman, he gets mighty sick of town,
For he's jotting down the figures, and he's adding up the bills
While his heart is simply aching for a sight of Southern hills.

Then he hears a wool-team passing with a rumble and a lurch,
And, although the work is pressing, yet it brings him off his perch,
For it stirs him like a message from his station friends afar
And he seems to sniff the ranges in the scent of wool and tar;
And it takes him back in fancy, half in laughter, half in tears,
to a sound of other voices and a thought of other years,
When the woolshed rang with bustle from the dawning of the day,
And the shear-blades were a-clicking to the cry of "Wool away!"

Then his face was somewhat browner, and his frame was firmer set --
And he feels his flabby muscles with a feeling of regret.
But the wool-team slowly passes, and his eyes go slowly back
To the dusty little table and the papers in the rack,
And his thoughts go to the terrace where his sickly children squall,
And he thinks there's something healthy in the bush-life after all.
But we'll go no more a-droving in the wind or in the sun,
For out fathers' hearts have failed us, and the droving days are done.

There's a nasty dash of danger where the long-horned bullock wheels,
And we like to live in comfort and to get our reg'lar meals.
For to hang around the township suits us better, you'll agree,
And a job at washing bottles is the job for such as we.
Let us herd into the cities, let us crush and crowd and push
Till we lose the love of roving, and we learn to hate the bush;
And we'll turn our aspirations to a city life and beer,
And we'll slip across to England -- it's a nicer place than here;

For there's not much risk of hardship where all comforts are in store,
And the theatres are in plenty, and the pubs are more and more.
But that ends it, Mr Lawson, and it's time to say good-bye,
So we must agree to differ in all friendship, you and I.
Yes, we'll work our own salvation with the stoutest hearts we may,
And if fortune only favours we will take the road some day,
And go droving down the river 'neath the sunshine and the stars,
And then return to Sydney and vermilionize the bars.

1892

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Santa Claus in the Bush

It chanced out back at the Christmas time,
When the wheat was ripe and tall,
A stranger rode to the farmer's gate—
A sturdy man and a small.
"Rin doon, rin doon, my little son Jack,
And bid the stranger stay;
And we'll hae a crack for Auld Lang Syne,
For the morn is Christmas Day."

"Nay noo, nay noo," said the dour guidwife,
"But ye should let him be;
He's maybe only a drover chap
Frae the land o' the Darling Pea.

"Wi' a drover's tales, and a drover's thirst
To swiggle the hail nicht through;
Or he's maybe a life assurance carle
To talk ye black and blue,"

"Guidwife, he's never a drover chap,
For their swags are neat and thin;
And he's never a life assurance carle,
Wi' the brick-dust burnt in his skin.

"Guidwife, guidwife, be nae sae dour,
For the wheat stands ripe and tall,
And we shore a seven-pound fleece this year,
Ewes and weaners and all.

"There is grass tae spare, and the stock are fat.
Where they whiles are gaunt and thin,
And we owe a tithe to the travelling poor,
So we maun ask him in.

"Ye can set him a chair tae the table side,
And gi' him a bite tae eat;
An omelette made of a new-laid egg,
Or a tasty bit of meat."

"But the native cats have taen the fowls,
They havena left a leg;
And he'll get nae omelette at a'
Till the emu lays an egg!"

"Rin doon, rin doon, my little son Jack,
To whaur the emus bide,
Ye shall find the auld hen on the nest,
While the auld cock sits beside.

"But speak them fair, and speak them saft,
Lest they kick ye a fearsome jolt.
Ye can gi' them a feed of thae half-inch nails
Or a rusty carriage bolt."

So little son Jack ran blithely down
With the rusty nails in hand,
Till he came where the emus fluffed and scratched
By their nest in the open sand.

And there he has gathered the new-laid egg—
'Twould feed three men or four—
And the emus came for the half-inch nails
Right up to the settler's door.

"A waste o' food," said the dour guidwife,
As she took the egg, with a frown,
"But he gets nae meat, unless ye rin
A paddy-melon down."

"Gang oot, gang oot, my little son Jack,
Wi' your twa-three doggies sma';
Gin ye come nae back wi' a paddy-melon,
Then come nae back at a'."

So little son Jack he raced and he ran,
And he was bare o' the feet,
And soon he captured a paddy-melon,
Was gorged with the stolen wheat.

"Sit doon, sit doon, my bonny wee man,
To the best that the hoose can do—
An omelette made of the emu egg
And a paddy-melon stew."

"'Tis well, 'tis well," said the bonny wee man;
"I have eaten the wide world's meat,
And the food that is given with right good-will
Is the sweetest food to eat.

"But the night draws on to the Christmas Day
And I must rise and go,
For I have a mighty way to ride
To the land of the Esquimaux.

"And it's there I must load my sledges up,
With the reindeers four-in-hand,
That go to the North, South, East, and West,
To every Christian land."

"Tae the Esquimaux," said the dour guidwife,
"Ye suit my husband well!"
For when he gets up on his journey horse
He's a bit of a liar himsel'."

Then out with a laugh went the bonny wee man
To his old horse grazing nigh,
And away like a meteor flash they went
Far off to the Northern sky.

When the children woke on the Christmas morn
They chattered with might and main—
For a sword and gun had little son Jack,
And a braw new doll had Jane,
And a packet o' screws had the twa emus;
But the dour guidwife gat nane.

1906

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Santa Claus

"Halt! Who goes there?" the sentry's call
Rose on the midnight air
Above the noises of the camp,
The roll of wheels, the horses' tramp.
The challenge echoed over all --
"Halt! Who goes there?"
A quaint old figure clothed in white,
He bore a staff of pine,
And ivy-wreath was on his head.
"Advance, O friend," the sentry said,
"Advance, for this is Christmas Night,
And give the countersign."

"No sign or countersign have I.
Through many lands I roam
The whole world over far and wide.
To exiles all at Christmastide
From those who love them tenderly
I bring a thought of home.

"From English brook and Scottish burn,
From cold Canadian snows,
From those far lands ye hold most dear
I bring you all a greeting here,
A frond of a New Zealand fern,
A bloom of English rose.

"From faithful wife and loving lass
I bring a wish divine,
For Christmas blessings on your head."
"I wish you well," the sentry said,
"But here, alas! you may not pass
Without the countersign."

He vanished -- and the sentry's tramp
Re-echoed down the line.
It was not till the morning light
The soldiers knew that in the night
Old Santa Claus had come to camp
Without the countersign.


1900

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Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve

You never heard tell of the story?
    Well, now, I can hardly believe!
Never heard of the honour and glory
    Of Pardon, the son of Reprieve?
But maybe you're only a Johnnie
    And don't know a horse from a hoe?
Well, well, don't get angry, my sonny,
    But, really, a young un should know.

They bred him out back on the "Never,"
    His mother was Mameluke breed.
To the front--and then stay there--was ever
    The root of the Mameluke creed.
He seemed to inherit their wiry
    Strong frames--and their pluck to receive--
As hard as a flint and as fiery
    Was Pardon, the son of Reprieve.

We ran him at many a meeting
    At crossing and gully and town,
And nothing could give him a beating--
    At least when our money was down.
For weight wouldn't stop him, nor distance,
    Nor odds, though the others were fast,
He'd race with a dogged persistence,
    And wear them all down at the last.

At the Turon the Yattendon filly
    Led by lengths at the mile-and-a-half,
And we all began to look silly,
    While her crowd were starting to laugh;
But the old horse came faster and faster,
    His pluck told its tale, and his strength,
He gained on her, caught her, and passed her,
    And won it, hands-down, by a length.

And then we swooped down on Menindie
    To run for the President's Cup;
Oh! that's a sweet township--a shindy
    To them is board, lodging, and sup.
Eye-openers they are, and their system
    Is never to suffer defeat;
It's "win, tie, or wrangle"--to best 'em
    You must lose 'em, or else it's "dead heat."

We strolled down the township and found 'em
    At drinking and gaming and play;
If sorrows they had, why they drowned 'em,
    And betting was soon under way.
Their horses were good 'uns and fit 'uns,
    There was plenty of cash in the town;
They backed their own horses like Britons,
    And, Lord! how we rattled it down!

With gladness we thought of the morrow,
    We counted our wagers with glee,
A simile homely to borrow--
    "There was plenty of milk in our tea."
You see we were green; and we never
    Had even a thought of foul play,
Though we well might have known that the clever
    Division would "put us away."

Experience docet, they tell us,
    At least so I've frequently heard,
But, "dosing" or "stuffing," those fellows
    Were up to each move on the board:
They got to his stall--it is sinful
    To think what such villains would do--
And they gave him a regular skinful
    Of barley--green barley--to chew.

He munched it all night, and we found him
    Next morning as full as a hog--
The girths wouldn't nearly meet round him;
    He looked like an overfed frog.
We saw we were done like a dinner--
    The odds were a thousand to one
Against Pardon turning up winner,
    'Twas cruel to ask him to run.

We got to the course with our troubles,
    A crestfallen couple were we;
And we heard the "books" calling the doubles--
    A roar like the surf of the sea;
And over the tumult and louder
    Rang "Any price Pardon, I lay!"
Says Jimmy, "The children of Judah
    Are out on the warpath to-day."

Three miles in three heats:--Ah, my sonny,
    The horses in those days were stout,
They had to run well to win money;
    I don't see such horses about.
Your six-furlong vermin that scamper
    Half-a-mile with their feather-weight up;
They wouldn't earn much of their damper
    In a race like the President's Cup.

The first heat was soon set a-going;
    The Dancer went off to the front;
The Don on his quarters was showing,
    With Pardon right out of the hunt.
He rolled and he weltered and wallowed--
    You'd kick your hat faster, I'll bet;
They finished all bunched, and he followed
    All lathered and dripping with sweat.

But troubles came thicker upon us,
    For while we were rubbing him dry
The stewards came over to warn us:
    "We hear you are running a bye!
If Pardon don't spiel like tarnation
    And win the next heat--if he can--
He'll earn a disqualification;
    Just think over that, now, my man!"

Our money all gone and our credit,
    Our horse couldn't gallop a yard;
And then people thought that we did it!
    It really was terribly hard.
We were objects of mirth and derision
    To folk in the lawn and the stand,
And the yells of the clever division
    Of "Any price Pardon!" were grand.

We still had a chance for the money,
    Two heats still remained to be run;
If both fell to us--why, my sonny,
    The clever division were done.
And Pardon was better, we reckoned,
    His sickness was passing away,
So he went to the post for the second
    And principal heat of the day.

They're off and away with a rattle,
    Like dogs from the leashes let slip,
And right at the back of the battle
    He followed them under the whip.
They gained ten good lengths on him quickly
    He dropped right away from the pack;
I tell you it made me feel sickly
    To see the blue jacket fall back.

Our very last hope had departed--
    We thought the old fellow was done,
When all of a sudden he started
    To go like a shot from a gun.
His chances seemed slight to embolden
    Our hearts; but, with teeth firmly set,
We thought, "Now or never! The old un
    May reckon with some of 'em yet."

Then loud rose the war-cry for Pardon;
    He swept like the wind down the dip,
And over the rise by the garden,
    The jockey was done with the whip.
The field was at sixes and sevens--
    The pace at the first had been fast--
And hope seemed to drop from the heavens,
    For Pardon was coming at last.

And how he did come! It was splendid;
    He gained on them yards every bound,
Stretching out like a greyhound extended,
    His girth laid right down on the ground.
A shimmer of silk in the cedars
    As into the running they wheeled,
And out flashed the whips on the leaders,
    For Pardon had collared the field.

Then right through the ruck he was sailing--
    I knew that the battle was won--
The son of Haphazard was failing,
    The Yattendon filly was done;
He cut down The Don and The Dancer,
    He raced clean away from the mare-
He's in front! Catch him now if you can, sir!
    And up went my hat in the air!

Then loud from the lawn and the garden
    Rose offers of "Ten to one on!"
"Who'll bet on the field? I back Pardon!"
    No use; all the money was gone.
He came for the third heat light-hearted,
    A-jumping and dancing about;
The others were done ere they started
    Crestfallen, and tired, and worn out.

He won it, and ran it much faster
    Than even the first, I believe;
Oh, he was the daddy, the master,
    Was Pardon, the son of Reprieve.
He showed 'em the method to travel--
    The boy sat as still as a stone--
They never could see him for gravel;
    He came in hard-held, and alone.

    .   .   .   .    .   .  .   .   .   .   .   .

But he's old--and his eyes are grown hollow;
    Like me, with my thatch of the snow;
When he dies, then I hope I may follow,
    And go where the racehorses go.
I don't want no harping nor singing-
    Such things with my style don't agree;
Where the hoofs of the horses are ringing
    There's music sufficient for me.

And surely the thoroughbred horses
    Will rise up again and begin
Fresh races on far-away courses,
    And p'raps they might let me slip in.
It would look rather well the race-card on
    'Mongst Cherubs and Seraphs and things,
"Angel Harrison's black gelding Pardon,
    Blue halo, white body and wings."

And if they have racing hereafter,
    (And who is to say they will not?)
When the cheers and the shouting and laughter
    Proclaim that the battle grows hot;
As they come down the racecourse a-steering,
    He'll rush to the front, I believe;
And you'll hear the great multitude cheering
    For Pardon, the son of Reprieve.

1888

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A Dog's Mistake

            He had drifted in among us as a straw drifts with the tide,
            He was just a wand'ring mongrel from the weary world outside;
            He was not aristocratic, being mostly ribs and hair,
            With a hint of spaniel parents and a touch of native bear.

            He was very poor and humble and content with what he got,
            So we fed him bones and biscuits, till he heartened up a lot;
            Then he growled and grew aggressive, treating orders with disdain,
            Till at last he bit the butcher, which would argue want of brain.

            Now the butcher, noble fellow, was a sport beyond belief,
            And instead of bringing actions he brought half a shin of beef,
            Which he handed on to Fido, who received it as a right
            And removed it to the garden, where he buried it at night.

            'Twas the means of his undoing, for my wife, who'd stood his friend,
            To adopt a slang expression, "went in off the deepest end,"
            For among the pinks and pansies, the gloxinias and the gorse
            He had made an excavation like a graveyard for a horse.

            Then we held a consultation which decided on his fate:
            'Twas in anger more than sorrow that we led him to the gate,
            And we handed him the beef-bone as provision for the day,
            Then we opened wide the portal and we told him, "On your way."    

     1933

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The Geebung Polo Club

It was somewhere up the country in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives of the rugged mountainside,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn't ride;
But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash—
They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:
And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong,
Though their coats were quite unpolished, and their manes and tails were long.
And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub:
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.


It was somewhere down the country, in a city's smoke and steam,
That a polo club existed, called the Cuff and Collar Team.
As a social institution 'twas a marvelous success,
For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress.
They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek,
For their cultivated owners only rode 'em once a week.
So they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
And they took their valets with them—just to give their boots a rub
Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.


Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator's leg was broken— just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar captain, when he tumbled off to die,
Was the last surviving player—so the game was called a tie.


Then the captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground,
Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around;
There was no one to oppose him—all the rest were in a trance,
So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance,
For he meant to make an effort to get victory to his side;
So he struck at goal—and missed it—then he tumbled off and died.


By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There's a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a crude inscription saying, "Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here."
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies' feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub—
He's been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.

1893
 

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Mulga Bill's Bicycle

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"

"See here, young man," said Mulga Bill, "from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, there's none can ride like me.
I'm good all round at everything as everybody knows,
Although I'm not the one to talk—I hate a man that blows.

But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.
There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,
But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:
I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight."

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above Dead Man's Creek, beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But 'ere he'd gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver steak,
It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man's Creek.

It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dead Man's Creek.

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, "I've had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I've rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,
But this was the most awful ride that I've encountered yet.
I'll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it's shaken all my nerve
To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.
It's safe at rest in Dead Man's Creek—we'll leave it lying still;
A horse's back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill."

The Sydney Mail, July 25, 1896

Arizona historian, writer, musician, and reciter Greg Scott suggested that we add "Mulga Bill's Bicycle" to complement other classic "bicycle" poems including The Gol-Darned Wheel and Broncho vs. Bicycle. 

The poem appeared in The Sydney Mail in 1896. In a reference here from a 2005 article, it is stated that "The poem was written when there was great interest in the relatively new sport of cycling. The novel by H. G. Wells on cycling, The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll was published in the same year as this poem."

Greg comments, "
I've got to say the best venue I've found myself in for reciting the poem, and for singing 'The Goldarn Wheel,' was the
Transportation Hall at the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Arizona. They have an 'ordinary' (the high wheeled bike of 'Gol Darn Wheel' fame) and a 'safety' (like Mulga Bill's bike) on display. No wombats cowering or wallaroos scrambling, but back in the day they had bicycle races between Prescott and Phoenix."

John Wallace "Captain Jack" Crawford (1847-1917) wrote about the "goldarn wheel" in his windy poem, Broncho vs. Bicycle, from his 1910 book, Whar' the Hand o' God is Seen and other poems. The poem is included in John A. Lomax' 1919 book, Songs of the Cattle Trail and Cow Camp, where the author is cited as "anonymous."

The author of a better-known poem about the bicycle, The Gol-Darned Wheel, remains anonymous. The poem was included in Jack Thorp's 1921 book, The Songs of the Cowboys. At the Western Folklife Center site, you can hear the late Sunny Hancock's recitation of "The Gol-Darned Wheel," from a recording made at the Western Folklife Center's first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985. Glenn Ohrlin has recorded the song, and in his book, The Hell Bound Train, he calls it "a fine example of the 'funny' cowboy song." He writes, "In Texas Cowboys, Dane Coolidge tells of getting cowboy Jess Fears to write 'The Gol-Darned Wheel' down for him in Arizona in 1909. Coolidge wrote further, 'This was hot stuff and the boys all wanted a copy of it. They were like housewives exchanging recipes, only a cowboy hates to write.'"
 

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The Man from Ironbark

It was the man from Ironbark who struck the Sydney town,
He wandered over street and park, he wandered up and down.
He loitered here he loitered there, till he was like to drop,
Until at last in sheer despair he sought a barber's shop.
"Ere! shave my beard and whiskers off, I'll be a man of mark,
I'll go and do the Sydney toff up home in Ironbark."
The barber man was small and flash, as barbers mostly are,
He wore a strike-your-fancy sash he smoked a huge cigar;
He was a humorist of note and keen at repartee,
He laid the odds and kept a "tote", whatever that may be,
And when he saw our friend arrive, he whispered, "Here's a lark!
Just watch me catch him all alive, this man from Ironbark."

There were some gilded youths that sat along the barber's wall.
Their eyes were dull, their heads were flat, they had no brains at all;
To them the barber passed the wink his dexter eyelid shut,
"I'll make this bloomin' yokel think his bloomin' throat is cut."
And as he soaped and rubbed it in he made a rude remark:
"I s'pose the flats is pretty green up there in Ironbark."

A grunt was all reply he got; he shaved the bushman's chin,
Then made the water boiling hot and dipped the razor in.
He raised his hand, his brow grew black, he paused awhile to gloat,
Then slashed the red-hot razor-back across his victim's throat;
Upon the newly-shaven skin it made a livid mark
No doubt, it fairly took him in — the man from Ironbark.

He fetched a wild up-country yell might wake the dead to hear,
And though his throat, he knew full well, was cut from ear to ear,
He struggled gamely to his feet, and faced the murd'rous foe:
"You've done for me! you dog, I'm beat! One hit before I go!
I only wish I had a knife, you blessed murdering shark!
But you'll remember all your life the man from Ironbark."

He lifted up his hairy paw, with one tremendous clout
He landed on the barber's jaw, and knocked the barber out.
He set to work with nail and tooth, he made the place a wreck;
He grabbed the nearest gilded youth, and tried to break his neck.
And all the while his throat he held to save his vital spark,
And "Murder! Bloody murder!" yelled the man from Ironbark.

A peeler man who heard the din came in to see the show;
He tried to run the bushman in, but he refused to go.
And when at last the barber spoke, and said "'Twas all in fun'
T’was just a little harmless joke, a trifle overdone."
"A joke!" he cried, "By George, that's fine; a lively sort of lark;
I'd like to catch that murdering swine some night in Ironbark."

And now while round the shearing floor the list'ning shearers gape,
He tells the story o'er and o'er, and brags of his escape.
"Them barber chaps what keeps a tote, By George, I've had enough,
One tried to cut my bloomin' throat, but thank the Lord it's tough."
And whether he's believed or no, there's one thing to remark,
That flowing beards are all the go way up in Ironbark.

 

"The Man from Ironbark" first appeared in the Sydney's The Bulletin in December, 1892. According to Wikipedia, "Ironbark was the earlier name for Stuart Town, a town in the Central West region of New South Wales."

 


More Links and Books

 

  Friend of the BAR-D, journalist, and photographer Jeri Dobrowski brought our attention to an August, 2004  National Geographic feature on A. B. "Banjo" Paterson. The article includes video, audio, photographs, links and more.

Australian Artist Dorothy Gauvin has created three beautiful books:  "two illustrated books of Banjo Paterson's Bush poems and stories, and one dedicated to Waltzing Matilda. Also, an adventure novel based on the events leading to Waltzing Matilda. (I was born just 30 minutes from where the song was written.) While not strictly a cowboy tale, the book has a large portion set on a western cattle run (ranch) run by two brothers from California."  Read more about each of these books below and read all the details here at her site, GiftsDownUnder.com.

 

  Banjo Paterson's Australians In the introduction to this book, the artist wrote about the pioneers who built a nation: "The qualities and values of these people formed the mould from which our national identity is cast. That ability to improvise from what's at hand; the laconic humour in which heroic deeds become 'all in a day's work;' the ingrained loyalty of 'never let your mates down;' above all, the willingness to 'have a go' - they are the foundations of the Australian character."

Along with wonderfully evocative poems like 'The Man from Snowy River' and 'The Old Australian Ways,' the book contains hilarious stories like 'The Merino Sheep' and 'Thirsty Island.' Illustrations include several of the artist's best-known paintings.

Read more and find order details here.

  Banjo Paterson's People  Of the paintings in this book, Gauvin says: 'Wherever possible, I've tried for something a little different in interpreting these famous poems.'

Some examples show she succeeded. In the cover painting - about The Melbourne Cup, famed as 'the race that stops a nation' - she painted the bookies instead of the horses and jockeys. In her illustration for the ironic Riders in the Stand, she shows that the race has been run; without a suggestion of a horse in the picture.

Read more and find order details here.

  The Painted Swagman This book was a 'labour of love,'  taking seven years in its research and making. The final painting in the book - Australian Spirit - is an endeavour to sum up the artist's love for the land, its people, and its future. The dedication says it all: "This book is dedicated, in gratitude and admiration, to our early pioneers of all origins and to our modern pioneers who continue to Advance Australia."

A unique feature is the first-ever inclusion of black&white reproductions of the artist's drawings for each painting. They reveal the artist's technique and the changes made as the work progressed.

Read more and find order details here.

 

Click for Amazon  Amazon carries a softcover (click image) and hardcover edition of The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses, with over 125 poems from the author of "Waltzing Matilda."

Disks with text in a series called Australian Poetry includes A. B. Paterson's The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses, Three Elephant Power and Other Stories, Rio Grande's Last Race and Other Verses, and Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses.   

 



 

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