Part 2 out of 2
Our fathers came of roving stock
That could not fixed abide:
And we have followed field and flock
Since e'er we learnt to ride;
By miner's camp and shearing shed,
In land of heat and drought,
We followed where our fortunes led,
With fortune always on ahead
And always further out.
The wind is in the barley-grass,
The wattles are in bloom;
The breezes greet us as they pass
With honey-sweet perfume;
The parakeets go screaming by
With flash of golden wing,
And from the swamp the wild-ducks cry
Their long-drawn note of revelry,
Rejoicing at the Spring.
So throw the weary pen aside
And let the papers rest,
For we must saddle up and ride
Towards the blue hill's breast;
And we must travel far and fast
Across their rugged maze,
To find the Spring of Youth at last,
And call back from the buried past
The old Australian ways.
When Clancy took the drover's track
In years of long ago,
He drifted to the outer back
Beyond the Overflow;
By rolling plain and rocky shelf,
With stockwhip in his hand,
He reached at last, oh lucky elf,
The Town of Come-and-help-yourself
In Rough-and-ready Land.
And if it be that you would know
The tracks he used to ride,
Then you must saddle up and go
Beyond the Queensland side --
Beyond the reach of rule or law,
To ride the long day through,
In Nature's homestead -- filled with awe
You then might see what Clancy saw
And know what Clancy knew.
The Ballad of the `Calliope'
By the far Samoan shore,
Where the league-long rollers pour
All the wash of the Pacific on the coral-guarded bay,
Riding lightly at their ease,
In the calm of tropic seas,
The three great nations' warships at their anchors proudly lay.
Riding lightly, head to wind,
With the coral reefs behind,
Three Germans and three Yankee ships were mirrored in the blue;
And on one ship unfurled
Was the flag that rules the world --
For on the old `Calliope' the flag of England flew.
When the gentle off-shore breeze,
That had scarcely stirred the trees,
Dropped down to utter stillness, and the glass began to fall,
Away across the main
Lowered the coming hurricane,
And far away to seaward hung the cloud wrack like a pall.
If the word had passed around,
`Let us move to safer ground;
Let us steam away to seaward' -- then this tale were not to tell!
But each Captain seemed to say
`If the others stay, I stay!'
And they lingered at their moorings till the shades of evening fell.
Then the cloud wrack neared them fast,
And there came a sudden blast,
And the hurricane came leaping down a thousand miles of main!
Like a lion on its prey,
Leapt the storm fiend on the bay,
And the vessels shook and shivered as their cables felt the strain.
As the surging seas came by,
That were running mountains high,
The vessels started dragging, drifting slowly to the lee;
And the darkness of the night
Hid the coral reefs from sight,
And the Captains dared not risk the chance to grope their way to sea.
In the dark they dared not shift!
They were forced to wait and drift;
All hands stood by uncertain would the anchors hold or no.
But the men on deck could see
If a chance of hope might be --
There was little chance of safety for the men who were below.
Through that long, long night of dread,
While the storm raged overhead,
They were waiting by their engines, with the furnace fires aroar.
So they waited, staunch and true,
Though they knew, and well they knew,
They must drown like rats imprisoned if the vessel touched the shore.
When the grey dawn broke at last,
And the long, long night was past,
While the hurricane redoubled, lest its prey should steal away,
On the rocks, all smashed and strewn,
Were the German vessels thrown,
While the Yankees, swamped and helpless, drifted shorewards down the bay.
Then at last spoke Captain Kane,
`All our anchors are in vain,
And the Germans and the Yankees they have drifted to the lee!
Cut the cables at the bow!
We must trust the engines now!
Give her steam, and let her have it, lads, we'll fight her out to sea!'
And the answer came with cheers
From the stalwart engineers,
From the grim and grimy firemen at the furnaces below;
And above the sullen roar
Of the breakers on the shore
Came the throbbing of the engines as they laboured to and fro.
If the strain should find a flaw,
Should a bolt or rivet draw,
Then -- God help them! for the vessel were a plaything in the tide!
With a face of honest cheer,
Quoth an English engineer,
`I will answer for the engines that were built on old Thames side!
`For the stays and stanchions taut,
For the rivets truly wrought,
For the valves that fit their faces as a glove should fit the hand.
Give her every ounce of power,
If we make a knot an hour
Then it's way enough to steer her and we'll drive her from the land.'
Like a foam flake tossed and thrown,
She could barely hold her own,
While the other ships all helplessly were drifting to the lee.
Through the smother and the rout
The `Calliope' steamed out --
And they cheered her from the Trenton that was foundering in the sea.
Aye! drifting shoreward there,
All helpless as they were,
Their vessel hurled upon the reefs as weed ashore is hurled.
Without a thought of fear
The Yankees raised a cheer --
A cheer that English-speaking folk should echo round the world.
Do They Know
Do they know? At the turn to the straight
Where the favourites fail,
And every atom of weight
Is telling its tale;
As some grim old stayer hard-pressed
Runs true to his breed,
And with head just in front of the rest
Fights on in the lead;
When the jockeys are out with the whips,
With a furlong to go;
And the backers grow white to the lips --
Do you think THEY don't know?
Do they know? As they come back to weigh
In a whirlwind of cheers,
Though the spurs have left marks of the fray,
Though the sweat on the ears
Gathers cold, and they sob with distress
As they roll up the track,
They know just as well their success
As the man on their back.
As they walk through a dense human lane,
That sways to and fro,
And cheers them again and again,
Do you think THEY don't know?
The Passing of Gundagai
`I'll introdooce a friend!' he said,
And if you've got a vacant pen
You'd better take him in the shed
And start him shearing straight ahead,
He's one of these here quiet men.
`He never strikes -- that ain't his game;
No matter what the others try
HE goes on shearing just the same.
I never rightly knew his name --
We always call him "Gundagai"!'
Our flashest shearer then had gone
To train a racehorse for a race,
And while his sporting fit was on
He couldn't be relied upon,
So `Gundagai' shore in his place.
Alas for man's veracity!
For reputations false and true!
This `Gundagai' turned out to be,
For strife and all-round villainy,
The very worst I ever knew!
He started racing Jack Devine,
And grumbled when I made him stop.
The pace he showed was extra fine,
But all those pure-bred ewes of mine
Were bleeding like a butcher's shop.
He cursed the sheep, he cursed the shed,
From roof to rafter, floor to shelf;
As for my mongrel ewes, he said,
I ought to get a razor blade
And shave the blooming things myself.
On Sundays he controlled a `school',
And played `two-up' the livelong day;
And many a young confiding fool
He shore of his financial wool;
And when he lost he would not pay.
He organised a shearers' race,
And `touched' me to provide the prize.
His packhorse showed surprising pace
And won hands down -- he was The Ace,
A well-known racehorse in disguise.
Next day the bruiser of the shed
Displayed an opal-tinted eye,
With large contusions on his head.
He smiled a sickly smile, and said
He'd `had a cut at "Gundagai"!'
But just as we were getting full
Of `Gundagai' and all his ways,
A telegram for `Henry Bull'
Arrived. Said he, `That's me -- all wool!
Let's see what this here message says.'
He opened it, his face grew white,
He dropped the shears and turned away.
It ran, `Your wife took bad last night;
Come home at once -- no time to write,
We fear she may not last the day.'
He got his cheque -- I didn't care
To dock him for my mangled ewes;
His store account -- we `called it square'.
Poor wretch! he had enough to bear,
Confronted by such dreadful news.
The shearers raised a little purse
To help a mate, as shearers will,
`To pay the doctor and the nurse,
And if there should be something worse --
To pay the undertaker's bill.'
They wrung his hand in sympathy,
He rode away without a word,
His head hung down in misery.
A wandering hawker passing by
Was told of what had just occurred.
`Well! that's a curious thing,' he said,
`I've known that feller all his life --
He's had the loan of this here shed!
I know his wife ain't nearly dead,
Because he HASN'T GOT A WIFE!'
. . . . .
You should have heard the whipcord crack
As angry shearers galloped by,
In vain they tried to fetch him back.
A little dust along the track
Was all they saw of `Gundagai'.
The Wargeilah Handicap
Wargeilah town is very small,
There's no cathedral nor a club,
In fact the township, all in all,
Is just one unpretentious pub;
And there, from all the stations round,
The local sportsmen can be found.
The sportsmen of Wargeilah side
Are very few but very fit:
There's scarcely any sport been tried
But what they held their own at it
In fact, to search their records o'er,
They held their own and something more.
'Twas round about Wargeilah town
An English new-chum did infest:
He used to wander up and down
In baggy English breeches drest --
His mental aspect seemed to be
Just stolid self-sufficiency.
The local sportsmen vainly sought
His tranquil calm to counteract,
By urging that he should be brought
Within the Noxious Creatures Act.
`Nay, harm him not,' said one more wise,
`He is a blessing in disguise!
`You see, he wants to buy a horse,
To ride, and hunt, and steeplechase,
And carry ladies, too, of course,
And pull a cart and win a race.
Good gracious! he must be a flat
To think he'll get a horse like that!
`But since he has so little sense
And such a lot of cash to burn,
We'll sell him some experience
By which alone a fool can learn.
Suppose we let him have The Trap
To win Wargeilah Handicap!'
And here, I must explain to you
That, round about Wargeilah run,
There lived a very aged screw
Whose days of brilliancy were done:
A grand old warrior in his prime --
But age will beat us all in time.
A trooper's horse in seasons past
He did his share to keep the peace,
But took to falling, and at last
Was cast for age from the Police.
A publican at Conroy's Gap
Then bought and christened him The Trap.
When grass was good, and horses dear,
He changed his owner now and then
At prices ranging somewhere near
The neighbourhood of two pound ten:
And manfully he earned his keep
By yarding cows and ration sheep.
They brought him in from off the grass
And fed and groomed the old horse up;
His coat began to shine like glass --
You'd think he'd win the Melbourne Cup.
And when they'd got him fat and flash
They asked the new-chum -- fifty -- cash!
And when he said the price was high,
Their indignation knew no bounds.
They said, `It's seldom you can buy
A horse like that for fifty pounds!
We'll refund twenty if The Trap
Should fail to win the handicap!'
The deed was done, the price was paid,
The new-chum put the horse in train:
The local sports were much afraid
That he would sad experience gain,
By racing with some shearer's hack,
Who'd beat him half-way round the track.
So, on this guileless English spark
They did most fervently impress
That he must keep the matter dark,
And not let any person guess
That he was purchasing The Trap
To win Wargeilah Handicap.
They spoke of `spielers from The Bland',
And `champions from the Castlereagh',
And gave the youth to understand
That all of these would stop away,
And spoil the race, if they should hear
That they had got The Trap to fear.
`Keep dark! They'll muster thick as flies
When once the news gets sent around
We're giving such a splendid prize --
A Snowdon horse worth fifty pound!
They'll come right in from Dandaloo,
And find -- that it's a gift to you!'
. . . . .
The race came on -- with no display,
Nor any calling of the card,
But round about the pub all day
A crowd of shearers, drinking hard,
And using language in a strain
'Twere flattery to call profane.
Our hero, dressed in silk attire --
Blue jacket and a scarlet cap --
With boots that shone like flames of fire,
Now did his canter on The Trap,
And walked him up and round about,
Until the other steeds came out.
He eyed them with a haughty look,
But saw a sight that caught his breath!
It was! Ah John! The Chinee cook!
In boots and breeches! Pale as death!
Tied with a rope, like any sack,
Upon a piebald pony's back!
The next, a colt -- all mud and burrs!
Half-broken, with a black boy up,
Who said, `You gim'me pair o' spurs,
I win the bloomin' Melbourne Cup!'
These two were to oppose The Trap
For the Wargeilah Handicap!
They're off! The colt whipped down his head,
And humped his back and gave a squeal,
And bucked into the drinking shed,
Revolving like a Cath'rine wheel!
Men ran like rats! The atmosphere
Was filled with oaths and pints of beer!
But up the course the bold Ah John
Beside The Trap raced neck and neck:
The boys had tied him firmly on,
Which ultimately proved his wreck,
The saddle turned, and, like a clown,
He rode some distance upside down.
His legs around the horse were tied,
His feet towards the heavens were spread,
He swung and bumped at every stride
And ploughed the ground up with his head!
And when they rescued him, The Trap
Had won Wargeilah Handicap!
And no enquiries we could make
Could tell by what false statements swayed
Ah John was led to undertake
A task so foreign to his trade!
He only smiled and said, `Hoo Ki!
I stop topside, I win all 'li!'
But never, in Wargeilah Town,
Was heard so eloquent a cheer
As when the President came down,
And toasted, in Colonial Beer,
`The finest rider on the course!
The winner of the Snowdon Horse!'
`You go and get your prize,' he said,
`He's with a wild mob, somewhere round
The mountains near The Watershed;
He's honestly worth fifty pound,
A noble horse, indeed, to win,
But none of US can run him in!
`We've chased him poor, we've chased him fat,
We've run him till our horses dropped,
But by such obstacles as that
A man like you will not be stopped,
You'll go and yard him any day,
So here's your health! Hooray! Hooray!'
. . . . .
The day wound up with booze and blow
And fights till all were well content,
But of the new-chum, all I know
Is shown by this advertisement --
`For Sale, the well-known racehorse Trap,
He won Wargeilah Handicap!'
Any Other Time
All of us play our very best game --
Any other time.
Golf or billiards, it's all the same --
Any other time.
Lose a match and you always say,
`Just my luck! I was `off' to-day!
I could have beaten him quite half-way --
Any other time!'
After a fiver you ought to go --
Any other time.
Every man that you ask says `Oh,
Any OTHER time.
Lend you a fiver! I'd lend you two,
But I'm overdrawn and my bills are due,
Wish you'd ask me -- now, mind you do --
Any other time!'
Fellows will ask you out to dine --
Any other time.
`Not to-night, for we're twenty-nine --
Any other time.
Not to-morrow, for cook's on strike,
Not next day, I'll be out on the bike --
Just drop in whenever you like --
Any other time!'
Seasick passengers like the sea --
Any other time.
`Something . . I ate . . disagreed . . with me!
Any other time
Ocean-trav'lling is . . simply bliss,
Must be my . . liver . . has gone amiss . .
Why, I would . . laugh . . at a sea . . like this --
Any other time.'
. . . . .
Most of us mean to be better men --
Any other time:
Regular upright characters then --
Any other time.
Yet somehow as the years go by
Still we gamble and drink and lie,
When it comes to the last we'll want to die --
Any other time!
The Last Trump
`You led the trump,' the old man said
With fury in his eye,
`And yet you hope my girl to wed!
Young man! your hopes of love are fled,
'Twere better she should die!
`My sweet young daughter sitting there,
So innocent and plump!
You don't suppose that she would care
To wed an outlawed man who'd dare
To lead the thirteenth trump!
`If you had drawn their leading spade
It meant a certain win!
But no! By Pembroke's mighty shade
The thirteenth trump you went and played
And let their diamonds in!
`My girl! Return at my command
His presents in a lump!
Return his ring! For understand
No man is fit to hold your hand
Who leads a thirteenth trump!
`But hold! Give every man his due
And every dog his day.
Speak up and say what made you do
This dreadful thing -- that is, if you
Have anything to say!'
He spoke. `I meant at first,' said he,
`To give their spades a bump:
Or lead the hearts, but then you see
I thought against us there might be,
Perhaps, a fourteenth trump!'
. . . . .
They buried him at dawn of day
Beside a ruined stump:
And there he sleeps the hours away
And waits for Gabriel to play
The last -- the fourteenth -- trump.
Tar and Feathers
Oh! the circus swooped down
On the Narrabri town,
For the Narrabri populace moneyed are;
And the showman he smiled
At the folk he beguiled
To come all the distance from Gunnedah.
But a juvenile smart,
Who objected to `part',
Went in `on the nod', and to do it he
Crawled in through a crack
In the tent at the back,
For the boy had no slight ingenuity.
And says he with a grin,
`That's the way to get in;
But I reckon I'd better be quiet or
They'll spiflicate me,'
And he chuckled, for he
Had the loan of the circus proprietor.
But the showman astute
On that wily galoot
Soon dropped, and you'll say that he leathered him --
Not he; with a grim
Sort of humorous whim,
He took him and tarred him and feathered him.
Says he, `You can go
Round the world with a show,
And knock every Injun and Arab wry;
With your name and your trade,
On the posters displayed,
The feathered what-is-it from Narrabri.'
Next day for his freak,
By a Narrabri beak,
He was jawed with a deal of verbosity;
For his only appeal
Was `professional zeal' --
He wanted another monstrosity.
Said his worship, `Begob!
You are fined forty bob,
And six shillin's costs to the clurk!' he says.
And the Narrabri joy,
Half bird and half boy,
Has a `down' on himself and on circuses.
It's grand to be a squatter
And sit upon a post,
And watch your little ewes and lambs
A-giving up the ghost.
It's grand to be a `cockie'
With wife and kids to keep,
And find an all-wise Providence
Has mustered all your sheep.
It's grand to be a Western man,
With shovel in your hand,
To dig your little homestead out
From underneath the sand.
It's grand to be a shearer,
Along the Darling side,
And pluck the wool from stinking sheep
That some days since have died.
It's grand to be a rabbit
And breed till all is blue,
And then to die in heaps because
There's nothing left to chew.
It's grand to be a Minister
And travel like a swell,
And tell the Central District folk
To go to -- Inverell.
It's grand to be a Socialist
And lead the bold array
That marches to prosperity
At seven bob a day.
It's grand to be an unemployed
And lie in the Domain,
And wake up every second day
And go to sleep again.
It's grand to borrow English tin
To pay for wharves and Rocks,
And then to find it isn't in
The little money-box.
It's grand to be a democrat
And toady to the mob,
For fear that if you told the truth
They'd hunt you from your job.
It's grand to be a lot of things
In this fair Southern land,
But if the Lord would send us rain,
That would, indeed, be grand!
Out of Sight
They held a polo meeting at a little country town,
And all the local sportsmen came to win themselves renown.
There came two strangers with a horse, and I am much afraid
They both belonged to what is called `the take-you-down brigade'.
They said their horse could jump like fun, and asked an amateur
To ride him in the steeplechase, and told him they were sure,
The last time round, he'd sail away with such a swallow's flight
The rest would never see him go -- he'd finish out of sight.
So out he went; and, when folk saw the amateur was up,
Some local genius called the race `the dude-in-danger cup'.
The horse was known as `Who's Afraid', by Panic from `The Fright'.
But still his owners told the jock he'd finish out of sight.
And so he did; for `Who's Afraid', without the least pretence,
Disposed of him by rushing through the very second fence;
And when they ran the last time round the prophecy was right --
For he was in the ambulance, and safely `out of sight'.
The Road to Old Man's Town
The fields of youth are filled with flowers,
The wine of youth is strong:
What need have we to count the hours?
The summer days are long.
But soon we find to our dismay
That we are drifting down
The barren slopes that fall away
Towards the foothills grim and grey
That lead to Old Man's Town.
And marching with us on the track
Full many friends we find:
We see them looking sadly back
For those that dropped behind.
But God forbid a fate so dread --
ALONE to travel down
The dreary road we all must tread,
With faltering steps and whitening head,
The road to Old Man's Town!
The Old Timer's Steeplechase
The sheep were shorn and the wool went down
At the time of our local racing:
And I'd earned a spell -- I was burnt and brown --
So I rolled my swag for a trip to town
And a look at the steeplechasing.
'Twas rough and ready -- an uncleared course
As rough as the blacks had found it;
With barbed-wire fences, topped with gorse,
And a water-jump that would drown a horse,
And the steeple three times round it.
There was never a fence the tracks to guard, --
Some straggling posts defined 'em:
And the day was hot, and the drinking hard,
Till none of the stewards could see a yard
Before nor yet behind 'em!
But the bell was rung and the nags were out,
Excepting an old outsider
Whose trainer started an awful rout,
For his boy had gone on a drinking bout
And left him without a rider.
`Is there not one man in the crowd,' he cried,
`In the whole of the crowd so clever,
Is there not one man that will take a ride
On the old white horse from the Northern side
That was bred on the Mooki River?'
'Twas an old white horse that they called The Cow,
And a cow would look well beside him;
But I was pluckier then than now
(And I wanted excitement anyhow),
So at last I agreed to ride him.
And the trainer said, `Well, he's dreadful slow,
And he hasn't a chance whatever;
But I'm stony broke, so it's time to show
A trick or two that the trainers know
Who train by the Mooki River.
`The first time round at the further side,
With the trees and the scrub about you,
Just pull behind them and run out wide
And then dodge into the scrub and hide,
And let them go round without you.
`At the third time round, for the final spin
With the pace, and the dust to blind 'em,
They'll never notice if you chip in
For the last half-mile -- you'll be sure to win,
And they'll think you raced behind 'em.
`At the water-jump you may have to swim --
He hasn't a hope to clear it --
Unless he skims like the swallows skim
At full speed over, but not for him!
He'll never go next or near it.
`But don't you worry -- just plunge across,
For he swims like a well-trained setter.
Then hide away in the scrub and gorse
The rest will be far ahead of course --
The further ahead the better.
`You must rush the jumps in the last half-round
For fear that he might refuse 'em;
He'll try to baulk with you, I'll be bound,
Take whip and spurs on the mean old hound,
And don't be afraid to use 'em.
`At the final round, when the field are slow
And you are quite fresh to meet 'em,
Sit down, and hustle him all you know
With the whip and spurs, and he'll have to go --
Remember, you've GOT to beat 'em!'
. . . . .
The flag went down and we seemed to fly,
And we made the timbers shiver
Of the first big fence, as the stand flashed by,
And I caught the ring of the trainer's cry:
`Go on! For the Mooki River!'
I jammed him in with a well-packed crush,
And recklessly -- out for slaughter --
Like a living wave over fence and brush
We swept and swung with a flying rush,
Till we came to the dreaded water.
Ha, ha! I laugh at it now to think
Of the way I contrived to work it.
Shut in amongst them, before you'd wink,
He found himself on the water's brink,
With never a chance to shirk it!
The thought of the horror he felt, beguiles
The heart of this grizzled rover!
He gave a snort you could hear for miles,
And a spring would have cleared the Channel Isles
And carried me safely over!
Then we neared the scrub, and I pulled him back
In the shade where the gum-leaves quiver:
And I waited there in the shadows black
While the rest of the horses, round the track,
Went on like a rushing river!
At the second round, as the field swept by,
I saw that the pace was telling;
But on they thundered, and by-and-bye
As they passed the stand I could hear the cry
Of the folk in the distance, yelling!
Then the last time round! And the hoofbeats rang!
And I said, `Well, it's now or never!'
And out on the heels of the throng I sprang,
And the spurs bit deep and the whipcord sang
As I rode! For the Mooki River!
We raced for home in a cloud of dust
And the curses rose in chorus.
'Twas flog, and hustle, and jump you must!
And The Cow ran well -- but to my disgust
There was one got home before us.
'Twas a big black horse, that I had not seen
In the part of the race I'd ridden;
And his coat was cool and his rider clean,
And I thought that perhaps I had not been
The only one that had hidden.
. . . . .
And the trainer came with a visage blue
With rage, when the race concluded:
Said he, `I thought you'd have pulled us through,
But the man on the black horse planted too,
AND NEARER TO HOME THAN YOU DID!'
Alas to think that those times so gay
Have vanished and passed for ever!
You don't believe in the yarn you say?
Why, man! 'Twas a matter of every day
When we raced on the Mooki River!
In the Stable
What! You don't like him; well, maybe -- we all have our fancies, of course:
Brumby to look at you reckon? Well, no: he's a thoroughbred horse;
Sired by a son of old Panic -- look at his ears and his head --
Lop-eared and Roman-nosed, ain't he? -- well, that's how the Panics are bred.
Gluttonous, ugly and lazy, rough as a tip-cart to ride,
Yet if you offered a sovereign apiece for the hairs on his hide
That wouldn't buy him, nor twice that; while I've a pound to the good,
This here old stager stays by me and lives like a thoroughbred should:
Hunt him away from his bedding, and sit yourself down by the wall,
Till you hear how the old fellow saved me from Gilbert, O'Maley and Hall.
. . . . .
Gilbert and Hall and O'Maley, back in the bushranging days,
Made themselves kings of the district -- ruled it in old-fashioned ways --
Robbing the coach and the escort, stealing our horses at night,
Calling sometimes at the homesteads and giving the women a fright:
Came to the station one morning -- and why they did this no one knows --
Took a brood mare from the paddock -- wanting some fun, I suppose --
Fastened a bucket beneath her, hung by a strap round her flank,
Then turned her loose in the timber back of the seven-mile tank.
Go! She went mad! She went tearing
and screaming with fear through the trees,
While the curst bucket beneath her was banging her flanks and her knees.
Bucking and racing and screaming she ran to the back of the run,
Killed herself there in a gully; by God, but they paid for their fun!
Paid for it dear, for the black-boys found tracks, and the bucket, and all,
And I swore that I'd live to get even with Gilbert, O'Maley and Hall.
Day after day then I chased them -- 'course they had friends on the sly,
Friends who were willing to sell them to those who were willing to buy.
Early one morning we found them in camp at the Cockatoo Farm
One of us shot at O'Maley and wounded him under the arm:
Ran them for miles in the ranges, till Hall, with his horse fairly beat,
Took to the rocks and we lost him -- the others made good their retreat.
It was war to the knife then, I tell you, and once, on the door of my shed,
They nailed up a notice that offered a hundred reward for my head!
Then we heard they were gone from the district;
they stuck up a coach in the West,
And I rode by myself in the paddocks, taking a bit of a rest,
Riding this colt as a youngster -- awkward, half-broken and shy,
He wheeled round one day on a sudden; I looked, but I couldn't see why,
But I soon found out why, for before me, the hillside rose up like a wall,
And there on the top with their rifles were Gilbert, O'Maley and Hall!
'Twas a good three-mile run to the homestead --
bad going, with plenty of trees --
So I gathered the youngster together, and gripped at his ribs with my knees.
'Twas a mighty poor chance to escape them! It puts a man's nerve to the test
On a half-broken colt to be hunted by the best mounted men in the West.
But the half-broken colt was a racehorse! He lay down to work with a will,
Flashed through the scrub like a clean-skin --
by Heavens we FLEW down the hill!
Over a twenty-foot gully he swept with the spring of a deer
And they fired as we jumped, but they missed me --
a bullet sang close to my ear --
And the jump gained us ground, for they shirked it:
but I saw as we raced through the gap
That the rails at the homestead were fastened --
I was caught like a rat in a trap.
Fenced with barbed wire was the paddock --
barbed wire that would cut like a knife --
How was a youngster to clear it that never had jumped in his life?
Bang went a rifle behind me -- the colt gave a spring, he was hit;
Straight at the sliprails I rode him -- I felt him take hold of the bit;
Never a foot to the right or the left did he swerve in his stride,
Awkward and frightened, but honest, the sort it's a pleasure to ride!
Straight at the rails, where they'd fastened
barbed wire on the top of the post,
Rose like a stag and went over, with hardly a scratch at the most;
Into the homestead I darted, and snatched down my gun from the wall,
And I tell you I made them step lively, Gilbert, O'Maley and Hall!
Yes! There's the mark of the bullet -- he's got it inside of him yet
Mixed up somehow with his victuals, but bless you he don't seem to fret!
Gluttonous, ugly, and lazy -- eats any thing he can bite;
Now, let us shut up the stable, and bid the old fellow good-night:
Ah! We can't breed 'em, the sort that were bred when we old 'uns were young.
Yes, I was saying, these bushrangers, none of 'em lived to be hung,
Gilbert was shot by the troopers, Hall was betrayed by his friend,
Campbell disposed of O'Maley, bringing the lot to an end.
But you can talk about riding -- I've ridden a lot in the past --
Wait till there's rifles behind you, you'll know what it means to go fast!
I've steeplechased, raced, and `run horses',
but I think the most dashing of all
Was the ride when the old fellow saved me from Gilbert, O'Maley and Hall!
"He Giveth His Beloved Sleep"
The long day passes with its load of sorrow:
In slumber deep
I lay me down to rest until to-morrow --
Thank God for sleep.
Thank God for all respite from weary toiling,
From cares that creep
Across our lives like evil shadows, spoiling
God's kindly sleep.
We plough and sow, and, as the hours grow later,
We strive to reap,
And build our barns, and hope to build them greater
Before we sleep.
We toil and strain and strive with one another
In hopes to heap
Some greater share of profit than our brother
Before we sleep.
What will it profit that with tears or laughter
Our watch we keep?
Beyond it all there lies the Great Hereafter!
Thank God for sleep!
For, at the last, beseeching Christ to save us,
We turn with deep
Heart-felt thanksgiving unto God, who gave us
The Gift of Sleep.
'Twas Driver Smith of Battery A was anxious to see a fight;
He thought of the Transvaal all the day, he thought of it all the night --
`Well, if the battery's left behind, I'll go to the war,' says he,
`I'll go a-driving an ambulance in the ranks of the A.M.C.
`I'm fairly sick of these here parades, it's want of a change that kills
A-charging the Randwick Rifle Range and aiming at Surry Hills.
And I think if I go with the ambulance I'm certain to find a show,
For they have to send the Medical men wherever the troops can go.
`Wherever the rifle bullets flash and the Maxims raise a din,
It's there you'll find the Medical men a-raking the wounded in --
A-raking 'em in like human flies -- and a driver smart like me
Will find some scope for his extra skill in the ranks of the A.M.C.'
So Driver Smith he went to the war a-cracking his driver's whip,
From ambulance to collecting base they showed him his regular trip.
And he said to the boys that were marching past, as he gave his whip a crack,
`You'll walk yourselves to the fight,' says he --
`Lord spare me, I'll drive you back.'
Now, the fight went on in the Transvaal hills for the half of a day or more,
And Driver Smith he worked his trip -- all aboard for the seat of war!
He took his load from the stretcher men and hurried 'em homeward fast
Till he heard a sound that he knew full well -- a battery rolling past.
He heard the clink of the leading chains and the roll of the guns behind --
He heard the crack of the drivers' whips,
and he says to 'em, `Strike me blind,
I'll miss me trip with this ambulance, although I don't care to shirk,
But I'll take the car off the line to-day and follow the guns at work.'
Then up the Battery Colonel came a-cursing 'em black in the face.
`Sit down and shift 'em, you drivers there, and gallop 'em into place.'
So off the Battery rolled and swung, a-going a merry dance,
And holding his own with the leading gun goes Smith with his ambulance.
They opened fire on the mountain side, a-peppering by and large,
When over the hill above their flank the Boers came down at the charge;
They rushed the guns with a daring rush, a-volleying left and right,
And Driver Smith with his ambulance moved up to the edge of the fight.
The gunners stuck to their guns like men, and fought like the wild cats fight,
For a Battery man don't leave his gun with ever a hope in sight;
But the bullets sang and the Mausers cracked and the Battery men gave way,
Till Driver Smith with his ambulance drove into the thick of the fray.
He saw the head of the Transvaal troop a-thundering to and fro,
A hard old face with a monkey beard -- a face that he seemed to know;
`Now, who's that leader,' said Driver Smith, `I've seen him before to-day.
Why, bless my heart, but it's Kruger's self,'
and he jumped for him straight away.
He collared old Kruger round the waist and hustled him into the van.
It wasn't according to stretcher drill for raising a wounded man;
But he forced him in and said, `All aboard, we're off for a little ride,
And you'll have the car to yourself,' says he, `I reckon we're full inside.'
He wheeled his team on the mountain side and set 'em a merry pace,
A-galloping over the rocks and stones, and a lot of the Boers gave chase;
But Driver Smith had a fairish start, and he said to the Boers, `Good-day,
You have Buckley's chance for to catch a man that was trained in Battery A.'
He drove his team to the hospital and said to the P.M.O.,
`Beg pardon, sir, but I missed a trip, mistaking the way to go;
And Kruger came to the ambulance and asked could we spare a bed,
So I fetched him here, and we'll take him home to show for a bob a head.'
So the word went round to the English troops to say they need fight no more,
For Driver Smith with his ambulance had ended the blooming war:
And in London now at the music halls he's starring it every night,
And drawing a hundred pounds a week to tell how he won the fight.
There's Another Blessed Horse Fell Down
When you're lying in your hammock, sleeping soft and sleeping sound,
Without a care or trouble on your mind,
And there's nothing to disturb you but the engines going round,
And you're dreaming of the girl you left behind;
In the middle of your joys you'll be wakened by a noise,
And a clatter on the deck above your crown,
And you'll hear the corporal shout as he turns the picket out,
`There's another blessed horse fell down.'
You can see 'em in the morning, when you're cleaning out the stall,
A-leaning on the railings nearly dead,
And you reckon by the evening they'll be pretty sure to fall,
And you curse them as you tumble into bed.
Oh, you'll hear it pretty soon, `Pass the word for Denny Moon,
There's a horse here throwing handsprings like a clown;
And it's `Shove the others back or he'll cripple half the pack,
There's another blessed horse fell down.'
And when the war is over and the fighting all is done,
And you're all at home with medals on your chest,
And you've learnt to sleep so soundly that the firing of a gun
At your bedside wouldn't rob you of your rest;
As you lie in slumber deep, if your wife walks in her sleep,
And tumbles down the stairs and breaks her crown,
Oh, it won't awaken you, for you'll say, `It's nothing new,
It's another blessed horse fell down.'
On the Trek
Oh, the weary, weary journey on the trek, day after day,
With sun above and silent veldt below;
And our hearts keep turning homeward to the youngsters far away,
And the homestead where the climbing roses grow.
Shall we see the flats grow golden with the ripening of the grain?
Shall we hear the parrots calling on the bough?
Ah! the weary months of marching ere we hear them call again,
For we're going on a long job now.
In the drowsy days on escort, riding slowly half asleep,
With the endless line of waggons stretching back,
While the khaki soldiers travel like a mob of travelling sheep,
Plodding silent on the never-ending track,
While the constant snap and sniping of the foe you never see
Makes you wonder will your turn come -- when and how?
As the Mauser ball hums past you like a vicious kind of bee --
Oh! we're going on a long job now.
When the dash and the excitement and the novelty are dead,
And you've seen a load of wounded once or twice,
Or you've watched your old mate dying -- with the vultures overhead,
Well, you wonder if the war is worth the price.
And down along Monaro now they're starting out to shear,
I can picture the excitement and the row;
But they'll miss me on the Lachlan when they call the roll this year,
For we're going on a long job now.
The Last Parade
With never a sound of trumpet,
With never a flag displayed,
The last of the old campaigners
Lined up for the last parade.
Weary they were and battered,
Shoeless, and knocked about;
From under their ragged forelocks
Their hungry eyes looked out.
And they watched as the old commander
Read out, to the cheering men,
The Nation's thanks and the orders
To carry them home again.
And the last of the old campaigners,
Sinewy, lean, and spare --
He spoke for his hungry comrades:
`Have we not done our share?
`Starving and tired and thirsty
We limped on the blazing plain;
And after a long night's picket
You saddled us up again.
`We froze on the wind-swept kopjes
When the frost lay snowy-white.
Never a halt in the daytime,
Never a rest at night!
`We knew when the rifles rattled
From the hillside bare and brown,
And over our weary shoulders
We felt warm blood run down,
`As we turned for the stretching gallop,
Crushed to the earth with weight;
But we carried our riders through it --
Carried them p'raps too late.
`Steel! We were steel to stand it --
We that have lasted through,
We that are old campaigners
Pitiful, poor, and few.
`Over the sea you brought us,
Over the leagues of foam:
Now we have served you fairly
Will you not take us home?
`Home to the Hunter River,
To the flats where the lucerne grows;
Home where the Murrumbidgee
Runs white with the melted snows.
`This is a small thing surely!
Will not you give command
That the last of the old campaigners
Go back to their native land?'
. . . . .
They looked at the grim commander,
But never a sign he made.
`Dismiss!' and the old campaigners
Moved off from their last parade.
With French to Kimberley
The Boers were down on Kimberley with siege and Maxim gun;
The Boers were down on Kimberley, their numbers ten to one!
Faint were the hopes the British had to make the struggle good,
Defenceless in an open plain the Diamond City stood.
They built them forts from bags of sand, they fought from roof and wall,
They flashed a message to the south `Help! or the town must fall!'
And down our ranks the order ran to march at dawn of day,
For French was off to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.
He made no march along the line; he made no front attack
Upon those Magersfontein heights that drove the Scotchmen back;
But eastward over pathless plains by open veldt and vley,
Across the front of Cronje's force his troopers held their way.
The springbuck, feeding on the flats where Modder River runs,
Were startled by his horses' hoofs, the rumble of his guns.
The Dutchman's spies that watched his march from every rocky wall
Rode back in haste: `He marches east! He threatens Jacobsdal!'
Then north he wheeled as wheels the hawk and showed to their dismay,
That French was off to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.
His column was five thousand strong -- all mounted men -- and guns:
There met, beneath the world-wide flag, the world-wide Empire's sons;
They came to prove to all the earth that kinship conquers space,
And those who fight the British Isles must fight the British race!
From far New Zealand's flax and fern, from cold Canadian snows,
From Queensland plains, where hot as fire the summer sunshine glows;
And in the front the Lancers rode that New South Wales had sent:
With easy stride across the plain their long, lean Walers went.
Unknown, untried, those squadrons were, but proudly out they drew
Beside the English regiments that fought at Waterloo.
From every coast, from every clime, they met in proud array,
To go with French to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.
He crossed the Reit and fought his way towards the Modder bank.
The foemen closed behind his march, and hung upon the flank.
The long, dry grass was all ablaze, and fierce the veldt fire runs;
He fought them through a wall of flame that blazed around the guns!
Then limbered up and drove at speed, though horses fell and died;
We might not halt for man nor beast on that wild, daring ride.
Black with the smoke and parched with thirst, we pressed the livelong day
Our headlong march to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.
We reached the drift at fall of night, and camped across the ford.
Next day from all the hills around the Dutchman's cannons roared.
A narrow pass between the hills, with guns on either side;
The boldest man might well turn pale before that pass he tried,
For if the first attack should fail then every hope was gone:
But French looked once, and only once, and then he said, `Push on!'
The gunners plied their guns amain; the hail of shrapnel flew;
With rifle fire and lancer charge their squadrons back we threw;
And through the pass between the hills we swept in furious fray,
And French was through to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.
Ay, French was through to Kimberley! And ere the day was done
We saw the Diamond City stand, lit by the evening sun:
Above the town the heliograph hung like an eye of flame:
Around the town the foemen camped -- they knew not that we came;
But soon they saw us, rank on rank; they heard our squadrons' tread;
In panic fear they left their tents, in hopeless rout they fled;
And French rode into Kimberley; the people cheered amain,
The women came with tear-stained eyes to touch his bridle rein,
The starving children lined the streets to raise a feeble cheer,
The bells rang out a joyous peal to say `Relief is here!'
Ay! we that saw that stirring march are proud that we can say
We went with French to Kimberley to drive the Boers away.
Men fight all shapes and sizes as the racing horses run,
And no man knows his courage till he stands before a gun.
At mixed-up fighting, hand to hand, and clawing men about
They reckon Fuzzy-wuzzy is the hottest fighter out.
But Fuzzy gives himself away -- his style is out of date,
He charges like a driven grouse that rushes on its fate;
You've nothing in the world to do but pump him full of lead:
But when you're fighting Johnny Boer you have to use your head;
He don't believe in front attacks or charging at the run,
He fights you from a kopje with his little Maxim gun.
For when the Lord He made the earth, it seems uncommon clear,
He gave the job of Africa to some good engineer,
Who started building fortresses on fashions of his own --
Lunettes, redoubts, and counterscarps all made of rock and stone.
The Boer needs only bring a gun, for ready to his hand
He finds these heaven-built fortresses all scattered through the land;
And there he sits and winks his eye and wheels his gun about,
And we must charge across the plain to hunt the beggar out.
It ain't a game that grows on us, there's lots of better fun
Than charging at old Johnny with his little Maxim gun.
On rocks a goat could scarcely climb, steep as the walls of Troy,
He wheels a four-point-seven about as easy as a toy;
With bullocks yoked and drag-ropes manned, he lifts her up the rocks
And shifts her every now and then, as cunning as a fox.
At night you mark her right ahead, you see her clean and clear,
Next day at dawn -- `What, ho! she bumps' -- from somewhere in the rear.
Or else the keenest-eyed patrol will miss him with the glass --
He's lying hidden in the rocks to let the leaders pass;
But when the main guard comes along he opens up the fun,
There's lots of ammunition for the little Maxim gun.
But after all the job is sure, although the job is slow,
We have to see the business through, the Boer has got to go.
With Nordenfeldt and lyddite shell it's certain, soon or late,
We'll hunt him from his kopjes and across the Orange State;
And then across those open flats you'll see the beggar run,
And we'll be running after with OUR little Maxim gun.
What Have the Cavalry Done
What have the cavalry done?
Cantered and trotted about,
Routin' the enemy out,
Causin' the beggars to run!
And we tramped along in the blazin' heat,
Over the veldt on our weary feet.
Tramp, tramp, tramp
Under the blazin' sun,
With never the sight of a bloomin' Boer,
'Cause they'd hunted 'em long before --
That's what the cavalry done!
What have the gunners done
Battlin' every day,
Battlin' any way.
Boers outranged 'em, but what cared they?
`Shoot and be damned,' said the R.H.A.!
See! when the fight grows hot,
Under the rifles or not,
Always the order runs,
`Fetch up the bloomin' guns!'
And you'd see them great gun-horses spring
To the `action front' -- and around they'd swing.
Find the range with some queer machine
`At four thousand with fuse fourteen.
Ready! Fire number one!'
Handled the battery neat and quick!
Stick to it, too! How DID they stick!
Never a gunner was seen to run!
Never a gunner would leave his gun!
Not though his mates dropped all around!
Always a gunner would stand his ground.
Take the army -- the infantry,
Mounted rifles, and cavalry,
Twice the numbers I'd give away,
And I'd fight the lot with the R.H.A.,
For they showed us how a corps SHOULD be run,
That's what the gunners done!
Right in the Front of the Army
`Where 'ave you been this week or more,
'Aven't seen you about the war?
Thought perhaps you was at the rear
Guarding the waggons.' `What, us? No fear!
Where have we been? Why, bless my heart,
Where have we been since the bloomin' start?
Right in the front of the army,
Battling day and night!
Right in the front of the army,
Teaching 'em how to fight!'
Every separate man you see,
Sapper, gunner, and C.I.V.,
Every one of 'em seems to be
Right in the front of the army!
Most of the troops to the camp had gone,
When we met with a cow-gun toiling on;
And we said to the boys, as they walked her past,
`Well, thank goodness, you're here at last!'
`Here at last! Why, what d'yer mean?
Ain't we just where we've always been?
Right in the front of the army,
Battling day and night!
Right in the front of the army,
Teaching 'em how to fight!'
Correspondents and vets. in force,
Mounted foot and dismounted horse,
All of them were, as a matter of course,
Right in the front of the army.
Old Lord Roberts will have to mind
If ever the enemy get behind;
For they'll smash him up with a rear attack,
Because his army has got no back!
Think of the horrors that might befall
An army without any rear at all!
Right in the front of the army,
Battling day and night!
Right in the front of the army,
Teaching 'em how to fight!
Swede attaches and German counts,
Yeomen (known as De Wet's remounts),
All of them were by their own accounts
Right in the front of the army!
'Twas in the days of front attack,
This glorious truth we'd yet to learn it --
That every `front' had got a back,
And French was just the man to turn it.
A wounded soldier on the ground
Was lying hid behind a hummock;
He proved the good old proverb sound --
An army travels on its stomach.
He lay as flat as any fish,
His nose had worn a little furrow;
He only had one frantic wish,
That like an antbear he could burrow.
The bullets whistled into space,
The pom-pom gun kept up its braying,
The four-point-seven supplied the bass --
You'd think the devil's band was playing.
A valiant comrade crawling near
Observed his most supine behaviour,
And crept towards him, `Hey! what cheer?
Buck up,' said he, `I've come to save yer.
`You get up on my shoulders, mate,
And if we live beyond the firing,
I'll get the V.C. sure as fate,
Because our blokes is all retiring.
`It's fifty pounds a year,' says he,
`I'll stand you lots of beer and whisky.'
`No,' says the wounded man, `not me,
I'll not be saved, it's far too risky.
`I'm fairly safe behind this mound,
I've worn a hole that seems to fit me;
But if you lift me off the ground,
It's fifty pounds to one they'll hit me.'
So back towards the firing line
Our friend crept slowly to the rear oh!
Remarking `What a selfish swine!
He might have let me be a hero.'
I ain't a timid man at all, I'm just as brave as most,
I'll take my chance in open fight and die beside my post;
But riding round the 'ole day long as target for a Krupp,
A-drawing fire from Koppies -- well, I'm fair fed up.
It's wonderful how few get hit, it's luck that pulls us through;
Their rifle fire's no class at all, it misses me and you;
But when they sprinkle shells around like water from a cup
From that there blooming pom-pom gun -- well, I'm fed up.
We never get a chance to charge, to do a thrust and cut,
I'll have to chuck the Cavalry and join the Mounted Fut.
But after all -- What's Mounted Fut? I saw them t'other day,
They occupied a Koppie when the Boers had run away.
The Cavalry went riding on and seen a score of fights,
But there they kept them Mounted Fut three solid days and nights --
Three solid starving days and nights with scarce a bite or sup,
Well! after that on Mounted Fut I'm fair fed up.
And tramping with the Footies ain't as easy as it looks,
They scarcely ever see a Boer except in picture books.
They do a march of twenty mile that leaves 'em nearly dead,
And then they find the bloomin' Boers is twenty miles ahead.
Each Footy is as full of fight as any bulldog pup,
But walking forty miles to fight -- well, I'm fed up!
So after all I think that when I leave the Cavalry
I'll either join the ambulance or else the A.S.C.;
They've always tucker in the plate and coffee in the cup,
But Bully Beef and Biscuits -- well! I'm fair fed up!
There's a soldier that's been doing of his share
In the fighting up and down and round about.
He's continually marching here and there
And he's fighting, morning in and morning out.
The Boer, you see, he generally runs;
But sometimes when he hides behind a rock,
And we can't make no impression with the guns,
Oh, then you'll hear the order, `Send for Jock!'
Yes, it's Jock -- Scotch Jock.
He's the fellow that can give or take a knock.
For he's hairy and he's hard,
And his feet are by the yard,
And his face is like the face what's on a clock.
But when the bullets fly you will mostly hear the cry --
`Send for Jock!'
The Cavalry have gun and sword and lance,
Before they choose their weapon, why, they're dead.
The Mounted Fut are hampered in advance
By holding of their helmets on their head.
And when the Boer has dug himself a trench
And placed his Maxim gun behind a rock,
These mounted heroes -- pets of Johnny French --
They have to sit and wait and send for Jock!
Yes, the Jocks -- Scotch Jocks,
With their music that'd terrify an ox!
When the bullets kick the sand
You can hear the sharp command --
`Forty-Second! At the double! Charge the rocks!'
And the charge is like a flood
When they've warmed the Highland blood
Of the Jocks!
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,
An ivy-wreath was on his head.
`Advance, oh friend,' the sentry said,
Advance, for this is Christmas night,
And give the countersign.'
`No sign nor 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.
[End of Rio Grande's Last Race and Other Verses.]
[From a section of Advertisements, 1909.]
THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER,
AND OTHER VERSES.
By A. B. Paterson.
* "The immediate success of this book of bush ballads is without parallel
in Colonial literary annals, nor can any living English or American poet
boast so wide a public, always excepting Mr. Rudyard Kipling."
* "These lines have the true lyrical cry in them.
Eloquent and ardent verses."
* "Swinging, rattling ballads of ready humour, ready pathos,
and crowding adventure. . . . Stirring and entertaining ballads
about great rides, in which the lines gallop like the very hoofs
of the horses."
* "At his best he compares not unfavourably with the author
of `Barrack-Room Ballads'."
* Mr. A. Patchett Martin (London): "In my opinion,
it is the absolutely un-English, thoroughly Australian style and character
of these new bush bards which has given them such immediate popularity,
such wide vogue, among all classes of the rising native generation."
* "Australia has produced in Mr. A. B. Paterson a national poet
whose bush ballads are as distinctively characteristic of the country
as Burns's poetry is characteristic of Scotland."
* "A book like this . . . is worth a dozen of the aspiring,
idealistic sort, since it has a deal of rough laughter
and a dash of real tears in its composition."
* "These ballads . . . are full of such go that the mere reading of them
make the blood tingle. . . . But there are other things
in Mr. Paterson's book besides mere racing and chasing,
and each piece bears the mark of special local knowledge, feeling, and colour.
The poet has also a note of pathos, which is always wholesome."
* "He gallops along with a by no means doubtful music,
shouting his vigorous songs as he rides in pursuit of wild bush horses,
constraining us to listen and applaud by dint of his manly tones
and capital subjects . . . We turn to Mr. Paterson's roaring muse
with instantaneous gratitude."
RIO GRANDE'S LAST RACE, AND OTHER VERSES.
By A. B. Paterson.
* "There is no mistaking the vigour of Mr. Paterson's verse;
there is no difficulty in feeling the strong human interest
which moves in it."
* "Every way worthy of the man who ranks with the first of Australian poets."
* "At once naturalistic and imaginative, and racy without being slangy,
the poems have always a strong human interest of every-day life
to keep them going. They make a book which should give an equal pleasure
to simple and to fastidious readers."
* "Now and again a deeper theme, like an echo from the older,
more experienced land, leads him to more serious singing, and proves that
real poetry is, after all, universal. It is a hearty book."
* "Mr. Paterson has powerful and varied sympathies,
coupled with a genuine lyrical impulse, and some skill,
which makes his attempts always attractive and usually successful."
* "These are all entertaining, their rough and ready wit
and virility of expression making them highly acceptable,
while the dash of satire gives point to the humour."
* "He catches the bush in its most joyous moments, and writes of it
with the simple charm of an unaffected lover."
* "Will be welcome to that too select class at home who follow
the Australian endeavour to utter a fresh and genuine poetic voice."
* "Mr. Paterson now proves beyond question that Australia has produced
at least one singer who can voice in truest poetry the aspirations
and experiences peculiar to the Commonwealth, and who is to be ranked
with the foremost living poets of the motherland."
* "Fine, swinging, stirring stuff, that sings as it goes along.
The subjects are capital, and some of the refrains haunt one.
There is always room for a book of unpretentious, vigorous verse
of this sort."
* "These ballads make bright and easy reading; one takes up the book,
and, delighted at the rhythm, turns page after page,
finding entertainment upon each."
Andrew Barton Paterson was born at Narambla, in New South Wales,
on 17 February 1864, but grew up at Buckenbah and Illalong.
He became a lawyer but devoted much of his time to writing,
and gained popularity especially for his poetry and ballads.
His best known poems are The Man from Snowy River (1892)
on which a motion picture was loosely based, and Waltzing Matilda (1895)
which slowly became an Australian symbol and national song.
The poems he wrote for a Sydney newspaper led him into reporting,
and he went to South Africa to cover the Boer War. Always a fair man,
he had his doubts about the war and was a little too vocal about it
for the tastes of some of his readers. During the First World War
he served in Egypt as a Major in a Remount Unit, training horses
for the war. This fit one of his main interests in life -- horses --
a preoccupation which is very evident in his poems,
and even in his choice of pseudonym -- "The Banjo" was a race-horse.
The works for which Paterson is famous were mostly written
before the First World War, and are collected in three books of poems,
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (1895), Rio Grande's Last Race
and Other Verses (1902), and Saltbush Bill, J.P. and Other Verses (1917).
His prose works include An Outback Marriage (1906), and Three Elephant Power
and Other Stories (1917), the latter of which is a collection of tall tales
and serious (but often humourous) reporting. In fact, above all else
it is perhaps Paterson's sense of humour that sets him apart
from such balladists as Rudyard Kipling and Robert Service.
It should also be noted that Paterson was writing his ballads
before either of these became well-known, and there was little, if any,
influence from either side. More likely, Paterson was influenced
by the Scottish tradition of poetry (Paterson was of Scottish descent)
which had been popularized in Australia by Adam Lindsay Gordon and others.
Banjo Paterson died of a heart attack on 5 February, 1941.
A. Light, 1995.