Banjo Patterson's birthday
Banjo Patterson is an Australian poet who wrote some of the most famous Australian bush ballads, like The Man From Snowy River, on which a movie of the same title was based.
I've always enjoyed bush ballads. Although I grew up in Sydney, my family always called me 'the throwback' —claiming I was a throwback from three generations earlier when my mother's mother's family lived on property in southern New South Wales (NSW).
When I went to university, we did a lot of field trips into various country locations in NSW and these were my first real forays into the country as my family stayed within a two hour driving range from Sydney.
One of the university staff members was the proverbial tall, dark and handsome and most of the girls had a big crush on him. I played basketball most lunchtimes just so I could go up against him, maybe even brush up against him when defending (pathetic, I know). But it was on the trips away when I really fell for this guy—he could turn his hand to anything. A flat tyre, he was the one flat on his stomach positioning the jack, jacking up the bus. There’s nothing finer than a sexy, capable man.
One night around a campfire, we were all doing silly skits and showing off, and having a sing-a-long, and just before the night ended (we had curfews due to early starts) he said he'd like to recite a poem. My initial reaction was not good, at that age super hot guy and poetry didn't go together in my head.
Insects chirping and chatting, campfire flaring orange and shooting bright sparks like fireflies into the air as the wood settled and burned, his soft, husky voice drifted across the night: "I had written him a letter..."
Oh, my stomach clenched and flipped over. My gaze was riveted on his face, across the campfire, as his eyes drifted closed and his lips moved gently, bringing my favourite poem to life...it's a moment I'll never forget.
And here's my favourite poem. Hope you can imagine the scene.
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 hath 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 wond'rous 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'.