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Rewriting Australia feature

Banjo Paterson: The Man From Snowy River

John Tranter: Snowy

THERE WAS movement at the station, for the word had passed around

Drinks, I’d had a few, Snowy said; I shouted a round

That the colt from old Regret had got away,

for the blokes I knew. We argued: is there a way

And had joined the wild bush horses — he was worth a thousand pound,

to expunge the influence of Ezra Pound

So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.

from modern literature? Tempers fray

All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far

when thinkers argue over rhyme, far

Had mustered at the homestead overnight,

be it from me to drink too much tonight.

For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,

They say inspiration is insight, when they are

And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

deluded and drunk with delight.

THERE WAS Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,

Another brimming cup

The old man with his hair as white as snow;

of brew, another snort of snow

But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up —

and it’s time for the thinkers and tinkers to get up

He would go wherever horse and man could go.

and leave the fellowship and go

And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,

from the gathering hand in hand

No better horseman ever held the reins;

not caring if it shines or rains.

For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand,

They grumble and mumble, but at last they stand

He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

dutifully in line, and they catch their planes

AND ONE was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,

and fly home to where the unyielding beast

He was something like a racehorse undersized,

of work pins them to a blackboard. Some are undersized

With a touch of Timor pony — three parts thoroughbred at least —

and disgusting, some gargantuan, some others at least

And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.

adequate physically and their tiny talents prized

He was hard and tough and wiry — just the sort that won’t say die —

by students, their meanderings inscribed in the purple dye

There was courage in his quick impatient tread;

from an indelible pencil. Listen — in the hallway, the tread

And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,

of fame. Blood vessels at the back of the eye

And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

or the whack marks on the back of the head —

BUT STILL so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,

it’s all a pattern. No, you can stay

And the old man said, “That horse will never do

after the farewell party, please do

For a long and tiring gallop — lad, you’d better stop away,

what you do do best, please go away

Those hills are far too rough for such as you. ”

to where you

So he waited sad and wistful — only Clancy stood his friend —

have a special friend

“I think we ought to let him come, ” he said;

Snowy said,

“I warrant he’ll be with us when he’s wanted at the end,

to where learning comes to an end

For both his horse and he are mountain bred. ”

and theory and example are interbred.

“HE HAILS from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,

There’s always another side

Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,

to every question, for example, Is he rough

Where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,

trade? Is rough trade within his stride?

The man that holds his own is good enough.

Taking the rough with the smooth, that’s enough

And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,

to send a fellow to the mental home

Where the river runs those giant hills between;

where he may yet learn to distinguish between

I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,

the shadow and the substance. Since I first commenced to roam,

But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen. ”

Snowy opined, I ain’t seen

SO HE WENT — they found the horses by the big mimosa clump —

nothing to match that clump

They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,

of women, and the quizzical curve to that one’s eyebrow —

And the old man gave his orders, “Boys, go at them from the jump,

or a garment as dazzling as that pink jump

No use to try for fancy riding now.

suit your girl friend is now

And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.

not entirely wearing. Are you feeling all right?

Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,

Life’s full of bumps and spills

For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,

but they say ‘out of sight,

If once they gain the shelter of those hills. ”

out of mind’, and behind the nearby hills

SO CLANCY rode to wheel them — he was racing on the wing

who knows what bird with limping wing

Where the best and boldest riders take their place,

warbles, and haunts that special place.

And he raced his stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring

What’s that you’re wearing? Is it a wedding ring?

With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.

And then on the pool’s surface I seem to see her face

Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,

dissolving and reforming under the wind’s lash

But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,

as the ripples distort the view —

And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,

Dash dot, dash dash dash

And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

cried the bird, then away it flew —

THEN fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black

the sunset like a coal fire, black

Resounded to the thunder of their tread,

and red. From behind the rocks the tread

And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back

of purple thunder rolling out and churning back

From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.

into the valleys made the air thick and horrid overhead.

And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way,

Take each new idea slowly, that’s the way,

Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;

dream obliquely and cast your net wide

And the old man muttered fiercely, “We may bid the mob good day,

on the stream of thought, and say good-day

No man can hold them down the other side. ”

to the drinkers and thinkers who fall by the wayside.

WHEN they reached the mountain’s summit, even Clancy took a pull,

Your motto — pull

It well might make the boldest hold their breath,

over, take a deep breath,

The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full

make sure the tank’s full

Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.

and laugh at death.

But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,

That’s how to get ahead.

And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,

Be of good cheer.

And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,

Never waste time talking in bed

While the others stood and watched in very fear.

and learn to smile at fear.

HE sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,

He measured the book from side to side — ’twas three feet

He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,

long, and two feet wide. Getting into his stride

And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat —

he flung himself into the pilot’s seat

It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.

and love took him for a ride.

Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,

He left the ground

Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;

and up he went;

And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,

frightful the sound

At the bottom of that terrible descent.

of his swift descent.

HE WAS right among the horses as they climbed the further hill,

And once more behind the low neighbouring hill

And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,

the bird warbles for a while, then is mute,

Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,

then speaks again, and the evening is finally still.

As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.

Why do you exhaust yourself in this forlorn pursuit

Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met

of knowledge? Wise men, and many, you have met,

In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals

and noted what their weary eye reveals:

On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,

that wisdom is the ticket, yet

With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

an agitated madness dogs the heels

AND he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.

of those who seek it in the foam

He followed like a bloodhound on their track,

and blather of intellectual strife. Track

Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,

wisdom to its lair, its distant home,

And alone and unassisted brought them back.

you’ll find the journey leads you back

But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,

to where you started from. Hark to the trot

He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;

of distant steeds, the jingle of the spur —

But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,

fame tests your temper, whether it’s cool or hot,

For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

whether you’re a brave lad or a cur.

AND down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise

You’re broke? Snowy asks. You could do with a raise.

Their torn and rugged battlements on high,

You say you’re feeling low? You lack the high

Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze

that mad ambition gives. Cold? You need the blaze

At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,

of love to warm you up. See the sky?

And where around the Overflow the reedbeds sweep and sway

Why is it always blue? Why do the dancers sway

To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,

to the dizzying music? They swing wide,

The man from Snowy River is a household word to-day,

he said, from the narrow track of today

And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

for the sake of the song, my boy, the reward of the ride.

 — Banjo Paterson’s ‘The Man From Snowy River’ was first published in The Bulletin, 26 April 1890.
 — John Tranter’s ‘Snowy’ was first published in Poetry Review (UK), Autumn 1996.
 — Dash dot, dash dash dash: Morse code for the word “No”.

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