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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 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 stockhorse past them, and he made the ranges ring With 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 sway, Were 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 timbers 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 stringybarks 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 in 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 reed beds sweep and sway To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide, The man from Snowy River is a household word today, And the stockmen tell the story of his ride. Banjo Paterson • next poem »• Paterson was a law clerk with a Sydney-based firm headed by Herbert Salwey, and was admitted as a solicitor in 1886. In the years he practised as a solicitor, he also started writing. From 1885, he began submitting and having poetry published in The Bulletin, a literary journal with a nationalist focus. His earliest work was a poem criticising the British war in the Sudan, which also had Australian participation. Over the next decade, the influential journal provided an important platform for Paterson’s work, which appeared under the pseudonym of “The Banjo”, the name of his favourite horse. As one of its most popular writers through the 1890s, he formed friendships with other significant writers in Australian literature, such as E.J. Brady, Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, Will H. Ogilvie, and Henry Lawson. In particular, Paterson became engaged in a friendly rivalry of verse with Lawson about the allure of bush life. • Journalism• • Studio portrait by Falk Studios The Gladesville cottage Rockend, where Paterson lived in the 1870s and 1880s• Paterson became a war correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age during the Second Boer War, sailing for South Africa in October 1899. His graphic accounts of the relief of Kimberley, surrender of Bloemfontein (the first correspondent to ride in) and the capture of Pretoria attracted the attention of the press in Britain. He also was a correspondent during the Boxer Rebellion, where he met George “Chinese” Morrison and later wrote about his meeting. He was editor of the Sydney Evening News (1904–06) and of the Town and Country Journal (1907–08). • Hiatus and military service• In 1908 after a trip to the United Kingdom he decided to abandon journalism and writing and moved with his family to a 16,000-hectare (40,000-acre) property near Yass. • In World War I, Paterson failed to become a correspondent covering the fighting in Flanders, but did become an ambulance driver with the Australian Voluntary Hospital, Wimereux, France. He returned to Australia early in 1915 and, as an honorary vet, travelled on three voyages with horses to Africa, China and Egypt. He was commissioned in the 2nd Remount Unit, Australian Imperial Force on 18 October 1915, serving initially in France where he was wounded and reported missing in July 1916 and latterly as commanding officer of the unit based in Cairo, Egypt. He was repatriated to Australia and discharged from the army having risen to the rank of major in April 1919. His wife had joined the Red Cross and worked in an ambulance unit near her husband. • Later life• • John Longstaff’s portrait of Banjo Paterson, winner of the 1935 Archibald Prize• Just as he returned to Australia, the third collection of his poetry, Saltbush Bill JP, was published and he continued to publish verse, short stories and essays while continuing to write for the weekly Truth. Paterson also wrote on rugby league football in the 1920s for the Sydney Sportsman. • Personal life• Paterson with his wife Alice and daughter Grace, photographed by Lionel Lindsay• On 8 April 1903 he married Alice Emily Walker, of Tenterfield Station, in St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, in Tenterfield, New South Wales. Their first home was in Queen Street, Woollahra. The Patersons had two children, Grace (born in 1904) and Hugh (born in 1906). • Paterson had been previously engaged to Sarah Riley for eight years, but this was abruptly called off in 1895 following a visit to her at Dagworth Station in Queensland where she was visiting the Macpherson family. It was here that Paterson met his fiancée’s best friend from school days, Christina Macpherson, who composed the music for which he then wrote the lyrics of the famous “Waltzing Matilda”. However, following this collaboration Paterson was suddenly asked to leave the property, leading historians to conclude that he was a womanizer and had engaged in a scandalous romantic liaison with Macpherson. • Paterson died of a heart attack in Sydney on 5 February 1941 aged 76. Paterson’s grave, along with that of his wife, is in the Northern Suburbs Memorial Gardens and Crematorium, Sydney. • Works• • Cover to Paterson’s seminal 1905 collection of bush ballads, entitled Old Bush Songs• The publication of The Man from Snowy River and five other ballads in The Bulletin made ‘The Banjo’ a household name. In 1895, Angus & Robertson published these poems as a collection of Australian verse. The book sold 5000 copies in the first four months of publication. • In 1895, Paterson headed north to Dagworth station near Winton, Queensland. Travelling with fiancée, Sarah Riley, they met with her old school friend, Christina Macpherson, who had recently attended a race at Warrnambool in Victoria. She had heard a band playing a tune there, which became stuck in her head and replayed it for Paterson on the autoharp. The melody also resonated with him and propelled him to write “Waltzing Matilda” While there has been much debate about what inspired the words, the song became one of his most widely known and sung ballads. • In addition, he wrote the lyrics for songs with piano scores, such as The Daylight is Dying and Last Week. These were also published by Angus & Robertson between the years 1895 to 1899. In 1905, the same publishers released Old Bush Songs, a collection of bush ballads Paterson had been assembling since 1895. • Although for most of his adult life, Paterson lived and worked in Sydney, his poems mostly presented a highly romantic view of the bush and the iconic figure of the bushman. Influenced by the work of another Australian poet John Farrell, his representation of the bushman as a tough, independent and heroic underdog became the ideal qualities underpinning the national character. His work is often compared to the prose of Henry Lawson, particularly the seminal work, “The Drover’s Wife”, which presented a considerably less romantic view of the harshness of rural existence of the late 19th century. • Paterson authored two novels; An Outback Marriage (1906) and The Shearer’s Colt (1936), wrote many short stories; Three Elephant Power and Other Stories (1917), and wrote a book based on his experiences as a war reporter, Happy Dispatches (1934). He also wrote a book for children, The Animals Noah Forgot (1933) • Contemporary recordings of many of Paterson’s well known poems have been released by Jack Thompson, who played Clancy in the 1982 film adaptation of “The Man from Snowy River”. While having no connection to the movie, an Australian television series of the same name was broadcast in the 1990s. • Media reports in August 2008 stated that a previously unknown poem had been found in a war diary written during the Boer War. • Legacy• • Bridge named after Banjo Paterson near Illalong• Banjo Paterson’s image appears on the $10 note, along with an illustration inspired by “The Man From Snowy River” and, as part of the copy-protection microprint, the text of the poem itself. • In 1981 he was honoured on a postage stamp issued by Australia Post. • A. B. Paterson College, at Arundel on the Gold Coast, Australia, is named after Paterson. • The A. B. “Banjo” Paterson Library at Sydney Grammar School was named after Paterson. • The Festival of Arts in Orange, New South Wales, presents a biennial Banjo Paterson Award for poetry and one-act plays and there is also an annual National Book Council Banjo Award. Orange also has an annual Banjo Paterson Poetry Festival. • A privately owned 47-year-old Wooden Diesel vessel from Carrum, Victoria, was christened with the name Banjo Paterson and coincidentally, runs regularly up and down the Patterson River. • In 1983 a rendition of “Waltzing Matilda” by country-and-western singer Slim Dusty was the first song broadcast by astronauts to Earth. • He topped the list of The Greatest of All – Our 50 Top Australians published in The Australian on 27 June 2013. • Bibliography6 Shares
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