Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

March 10, 2008

Life and Death from Beijing: a Poetry Sequence by Luisetta Mudie and Dreamer Fei

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execution-by-yues-minjun.jpg
 

Editor’s note:

The title of this post derives from one of the most important memoirs of the last century, Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng, which came out in 1987.   She recounts in that book her imprisonment by the Red Guard during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Politically speaking, her work represents what many of us would know about China during that time period.

Shortly after that book’s publication, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 took place in Beijing, in which upwards of 3,000 protesters, were killed or injured on orders from the Chinese goverment.   These protesters, many of them students, were by and large calling for democracy.

Here we are, approximately two decades later again, and it is the year of the Beijing Olympic Games.   Before the world supports, boycotts, or protests these games, or decides which grounds they will do this on; as events surrounding these issues surface through the media, we in the West may want to take a look at the heart of China, via the heart of one Chinese man, a poet.   Media can blind us to a fact we well know, that a big part of China’s heart is in poetry, and we need this information.

Everything written below here is either written or translated by Luisetta Mudie, who begins with a letter to you, her reader.

–Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

 

 

 

~~~~~
 

 

luisetta-mudie.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Reader,

A journalist friend of mine who is also a poet recently went back to China after 18 years in the US.   He was on the Square the night of the Tiananmen massacre.   Below are some prose reflections on his trip, but also some poems of his and mine relating to Tiananmen, to China, and about his son, who holds his sense of the future.

the-goddess-of-democracy-in-tiananmen-square.jpgThe prose and the poems were written by him in Chinese and rendered by me in English.   There may be other poems written by me at the same time, or in answer to his poems, as we had an ongoing poetic dialogue.   Chronologically, the poem sequence came before the prose, and is the culmination of a three-year dialogue between us, in which the poet is trying to move beyond both the concrete horrors of his student past, and, crucially, the numinous might-have-beens which haunt his generation.

It took those of his generation far longer to give up their longing for the idealized figures common to passionate young souls than it did for most of us, because those figures were made godlike and ultimately untouchable by the massacre that followed their emergence on the Square.   This passion that should have carried them into human life was forced instead into a twilight world of denial and strange attraction by the deaths that night in Beijing, and the government’s largely successful attempts to rewrite history.

But if we have the inclination, a poetic bent towards shade as well as light, those too-good angelic figures will show their true nature, which is also daimonic, and lead us into realms proper to poetry.

He would rather use his pen-name, Dreamer Fei, to avoid being identified.

Warmly,

Luisetta Mudie
Radio Free Asia
RFA Unplugged
 

 

~~~~~
 

 
boydragonpapercut.jpg
 

~~~~~
 

by Dreamer Fei
 

The Road Home
 

The giant Boeing 747 whistles through the thick dark cloud and white smog above the city, and touches down in a drastic way, reminding me that I am home again, after 18 hours of flight and 18 years of nostalgia.

It is about an hour’s drive from the airport to my parents’ apartment.   My cousin wanted to pick me up at the airport and show off his new Toyota Camry, but I declined.   I want to relax on the long journey home to adjust to the reverse culture shock of re-entry.   I have been warned about it by many overseas Chinese.   I get a cab; it costs 10 bucks.   I doze off as it snakes through the city traffic.

I was born and grew up in China.   Even after 18 years in America, I still eat Chinese food at least once a day.   Reading Chinese books is one of my favorite pastimes.   China is remote for me, yet it has continued to haunt my dreams.

tiananmen-square-1989-379x278.jpgI was a college student in 1989 and an eyewitness to the shootings and killings that night along Changan Avenue.   I was almost shot when I tried to persuade the soldiers not to fire on us.   I fled the country shortly after the tragedy.   But the tear gas, tanks, and crushed bodies permeated my dreams.   In one scene, I try to hold a fellow student crushed by a tank, and realize his two legs are gone, with only blood gushing from his body.   Such scenes are rewound and played again, night after night.   No time for healing after such an event.

It has been 18 years since I set foot in my hometown.   The cab brakes a bit and I wake up.   We are on the freeway.   Surprisingly, it has 12 lanes and is as good as any interstate in the U.S., if not better.   It is even more surprising that, along the freeway, you can see signs for W-Mart, Cosco, McDonalds, KFC, and Domino’s Pizza as well as Starbucks Coffee and IKEA, not to mention a Mobil gas station every 10 miles.

Am I in China? Did I take the right flight? In the days that follow, there are even more surprises in store.
 

Day one:   Environment Day

The drum beats.   Firecrackers plus the loudspeakers are deafening.   In the unsettled dust and smoke caused by the fireworks, hundreds of retired women dance cheerfully.   The government is holding Environment Day celebrations in a local park.   Government officials take turns giving the usual long speeches, talking about how environment protection is vitally important.   Everyone is a bit bored until, at the end of the ceremony, environmental officials and local primary school students release several hundred doves into the air, in a “back to the wild” gesture.

These doves fly high in the foggy sky for about 10 minutes before landing next to a huge pigeon coop to get their food on a cart in a corner of the same park.   The cart is owned by a farmer who makes a living by hiring out his doves for exactly this sort of stunt around the area.

It would be unfair to say that local governments don’t take environmental issues seriously.   In some areas, protecting the environment is more than a public show or a ceremony, because officials could lose their jobs if an environmental disaster happens.   A big chemical group in my hometown, funded by the government, planned to spend three billion yuan (around US$40 million) to tackle air pollution problems by reducing chemical waste and planting trees.   The river in my hometown—a mid-size city—used to be dirty and filled with industrial waste and dead animals.   In my memory, the color of the river was the same black as Chinese calligrapher’s ink.

But now, the river glitters on a sunny day (not that you get very many of them) and there are many weeping willows along the banks.   Several public parks have been built along the river as well; you can even see water lilies in one while standing under the traditional Chinese pavilions.   Along the newly built main avenue in the south side of the city, there are lawns with green grass, where huge plastic elephants and giraffes stand.

The locals say these projects are all done for the sake of face and to show off to top officials and tourists.   But hey, trees and grass are good, a glittering river is better than a dark one, and the “face” of the city really looks better than before.
 

Day Two:   Where is my old neighborhood?

One of the things that surprises me the most, is that I get lost when trying to find my own home, even though my folks still live in the same neighborhood I grew up in.   Now, most of the shabby old shacks that the poorer residents used to live in have been demolished, and the area is filled with high-rise buildings and commercial complexes.   Many of my old neighbors live in two-, three- or even four-bedroomed apartments with hardwood floors and all the modern utilities like refrigerators and washing machines.   These were luxuries for most Chinese 20 years ago.

“Life is good!” my old classmate tells me.   He now works at a law firm and bought a big condo two years ago.   He couldn’t afford the half a million yuan (U.S.$60,000) condo on his own, but his parents and his wife’s parents helped with the downpayment.   “Property prices are skyrocketing now.   If we hadn’t bought it, pretty soon we wouldn’t have been able to afford it at all.   And without that condo, my wife wouldn’t marry me,” he jokes.   I can feel his confidence about his future, though; he makes around 5,000 RMB (US$600) per month now.   “The monthly mortgage payment will remain the same, but our income will grow steadily,” he says.

But not everyone is as lucky and confident as my old classmate.   One day, as I am buying a pot of tall bamboos for my father in a farmer’s market, the old saleswoman asks me why I am buying it.   I tell her that my parents have moved into a new apartment and need some plants there.   She says she envies them.   She tells me that she used to have an old-style house in the downtown area where everybody knew everybody.   Now she has moved to the outskirts of the city.   “I miss the old neighborhood.   Sometimes I go back to see the old neighbors who live in the high-rise buildings and chat with them.”   Tears start from her eyes.   I ask why she doesn’t return.   She says the compensation she received when her old home was demolished for development wasn’t enough to afford a place there.   I don’t know what to say to her.

This city used to have many state-owned enterprises (SOEs), but since the early 90s, most SOEs have gone bankrupt, and thousands of workers have lost their jobs, many forced into early retirement.   The city is clearly divided into haves and have-nots, and in recent years, the gap between them has widened.   When you go to a luxury store, you can see Burberry shirts and golf clubs at prices higher than in London or New York.   Mercedes and BMWs prowl the streets, but in the farmer’s market, customers are haggling over a penny.   There are restaurants where you can spend US$100 per person for a seafood buffet, but you can also have a feast for only US$1 in a roadside vendor’s stand.
 

Day three:   Is social harmony possible?

In front of the gates of the city government, hundreds of tricycle taxis stage a quiet demonstration; they have signs on their tricycles saying “Legalize the tricycle!” “we want to survive!” “We want to pay taxes!”.   Since the systemic reforms and privatisation of the SOEs, strikes and demonstrations like this have been happening quite often in this city.   Some unemployed workers have managed to get some compensation due to the attention paid to the strikes and demonstrations, but it is barely enough to get them by, meaning they won’t be starving, but not enough to support their family, or pay for their kids to go to school, or for medical expenses like the occasional hospital visit.   Thus, some of the unemployed workers have made new jobs for themselves by using tricycles to taxi people around the city.   This has found favor with other people on a low income, especially the elderly, because they are cheaper than the bus and more convenient.   But now the cab drivers have had their noses put out of joint, and have complained to the police.   Others complain that the city’s 3,000 tricyle rickshaws are blocking traffic in the downtown area.   The police are always fining them, but they carry on with their business afterwards.

“They shouldn’t be legalized.   Shame on the city for letting them loose!” said the driver of one cab I rode in.

“We should be legalized.   We need to eat! It is better than stealing!” a tricycle-man told me while I took a ride with him.

I found out later that this saga has already dragged on for more than a year.   “The city government has a dilemma,” an old classmate who works for the municipality told me.   “If we legalize the tricycles, then more tricyclers will come out to make money, and we will get more complaints from taxi drivers, and traffic will be worse; but at the same time, we are under pressure to find those unemployed workers jobs.   If we ban all the tricycles, they will come to us for jobs.   Now what we do, we keep our eyes half open on this issue, which means we do nothing at this point, we only contain the amount of tricycles.”

One sunny afternoon, I take a walk into a riverside park.   I see the big rally going on.   Hundreds of old men and women all wearing Mao suits are listening to an old man’s speech.   He says:   “Our representatives went to Beijing to petition and they handed over the paperwork.   Now they are back; let us welcome them!” People burst into applause, welcoming the petitioners home as heroes.   Later I found out that the man giving the speech was a former Party secretary at a big factory who led the workers and cadres to complain about corruption on the part of the factory manager and asked for more compensation.   It seems to me that they are able to take a swipe at social injustice, including Communist Party officials without fear.

This is a surprise for me.   As a young student, I always admired Hyde Park in London where people can voice whatever opinions they want, and here they are having a public rally on such a sensitive issue; in China!   Even though the mass media are tightly controlled, people really do have some personal freedom now.   They can talk about politics and even say “President Hu Jintao sucks” in a restaurant, teahouse or even in the office.   Nobody holds you responsible or reports you to the police for that, because people just don’t care much about politics any more.
 

Day four:   The way back

My cousin insists on driving me to airport.   He says:   “You are impressed by too many good things.   I will show you something on the way back.”   We take a detour instead of the highway.

The road is dusty and bumpy, and the buildings and factories are the old ones I recognize from 20 years ago.   They are exactly the same, which is a shock.   I just can’t piece the two pictures together.

Now I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of China.   I don’t know where it is heading.   China is changing drastically, and it’s impossible to say whether for the better or the worse.
 

 

~~~~~
 

 
chinesewritingzhonggong.jpg
 

~~~~~
 

 

Poem Sequence

 

 

June 4, 2006

by Dreamer Fei
 

Tomorrow we will rise like the sun
 

Your images have floated outside my window
in I don’t know how many dreams,
suspended in endless youth.

Hand in hand, you stand, staring.
I push open the window, call softly:
Are you hungry? Cold?
Eyes look back like dark tunnels,
unknowing. The mouths make no sound.

They follow me, these eyes,

as shade follows shadow—
without name.
 

I know I should find your graves;

pay my respects to your families.
My son bounces along beside me,

fists full of yellow flowers—

but I don’t know where to find them.

You seem to ask how I could have fallen so,
from the night we drank, smoked, and sang the same song,

hand-in-hand on the Square.
 

It is the years that have fallen, I reply,
garlanded in mourning flowers, now rotting.

Wait for me, I say, follow me!
We’ll go see the world
or maybe our families will intermarry.

You kept me company for years

until one day on the June grass
you sat down and said:
Tomorrow we will rise like the sun
and scatter warmth on the green earth.

Don’t forget to bring your child.

Bring the future

and we’ll set off together
on the long road home.
 

 

~~~~~

 

June 4, 2004

by Luisetta Mudie

for the survivors of Tiananmen Square
 

The Price of the Asking
 

First love: the quavering call
to the cosmos,
the soul in ashes shudders in desire,
yet still imprisoned
by grammar.

Fresh loves succeed, first love gone by.
It’s you, of course, and you too—
love as the answer!

Fresh loves mature, no longer enough.
We ask again, work, drink, smoke,
take the veils of flesh, or words.

And all the time the forgotten soul
is waiting, knowing that the first love
is always, always
a question

for which the price of the asking
is life’s deepest response,

the price of the answer
the soul’s great work,

the price of the loving
a self given up to the whole story.
 

 

fandian.jpg
 

~~~~~

 

February 13, 2005

by Dreamer Fei

to Christopher, at one year old
 

Midnight Sun
 

Nestled in the crook of my arm, you sleep,
Fingers hooked around my shirt-button.
I carry you like a stringed instrument,
whose milky chords permeate the night.

Since you were born, I have held
The light of your arriving cry that night
When your first ray of life broke through
Big snows and winter dark, guiding

My soul-ship in its wandering ways,
A song thrummed from a well-earthed string.
So many days and nights lie before you,
My son! Ready to ensnare your heart

As you grow through wind and storm,
A far cry from tonight’s soft moonlight. Here,
Now, I am mindful of your spring fragility:
That I will be gone before you fully bloom.

What dream will sustain you, or what path
Your feet will take, I cannot know.
Soon, all that time will be as tonight, when I
Stand at the doorway, watch you on the way

to your heart’s home.
 

 

~~~~~

 

July 2004

by Luisetta Mudie
 

I have followed you
 

delawarebeach.jpgTo a small island near the courtyards
of the Huangpu Military Academy
where the river sleeps its long siesta

Mud-sluggish down past Tiger’s Gate,
bathing the estuary in oblivion—memories
of shame and gunfire are left for humans

To where a northern township lies
battered in a sea of bitter dust, the earth
and its people tortured by history

Along the sand of a Delaware beach,
voice crackling across microwaves—the cry
of lonely ghosts swept away by the wind

Out on the dark wings of memory to a night
that changed the world’s dream forever,
leaving us to pick up lost echoes of love

With the hot closeness of words in the throat,
words fought for, bought and paid for, picked
up by the roadside and between train carriages

Into poems as unanswerable as the weather
at the rain-soaked borders of sea-country,
poems that promise the storm but can never hold it

And there I saw you first, still see you, happy
on a boat in yellow, fish held high in the sea-sway,
your brave and careful eyes asking one question. When?
 

 

~~~~~

 

2005

by Dreamer Fei
 

How I wish
 

I could rock you to sleep
like carrying a baby, telling stories
under unknown stars

I could guide and protect you
wipe away tears
bring back a smile

Or one Saturday at the piano
I could just hear you
then read you my poems
with the sun streaming through the window

We could stand, hands idly linking
in the front garden, watching the children
Or later, in the back, watch the sun sleep
and the night fall, and come gently to each
other in the flesh

We could explore the whole world then
sail the impossible blue

Later still, when the deadline is near,
we could say together in fragile voices
that we are not sure if there’s a paradise ahead of us
but didn’t we just live one on earth?

Strangely, it’s already enough, my love
with the present to share and a future out there
We have the dream fulfilled and beyond the dream’s scope
poetry, imagination and a growing passion

Now I know that a bittersweet teardrop
can serve to moisten a dry old heart

Dissolve me; make a better man
 

 

~~~~~

 

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~~~~~

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September 3, 2006

The Top 20 Greatest Banjo Paterson Poems of All Time

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Below are the Top 20 poems by Australian poet Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (Barty to his friends, by the way), who lived from 1864 into 1941. They are arranged from number 20 down to number 1, placed in order by my preference after reading the 222 Paterson poems found on the web. The poems are ordered this way, for one so that a reader being introduced to his poetry, will read his excellent work, and want to read more as the poems get ever better.

Paterson is a rather fun poet in his approach to his subject matter and language. Yet, he does not shy away from serious and the most grim subjects. They seem to be the main ingredient of what made him a writer. On the other hand, he apparently poured a cup of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow into his recipe, and has what New Englanders may find as a Robert Frost flavor, in the way he introduces the reader to his environment, but also by his rhyming and some meter–and note the unspoken end of his 1902 “The Road to Gundagai” (#4 below) as the road he will travel. Yet, he may be more similar to another New England writer, Jack Kerouac, in that both clearly saw a road less travelled to communicate, both had a restlessness and fearlessness against the status quo, and an urgency to drive both culture and society.

After the top poem, comes the song lyric Waltzing Matilda (Carrying a Swag), with its own webography. Who cannot love that song. Be sure to click into the links, including a couple renditions of the song.

As you read through the 20 poems, when a title to one is hyperlinked, it is because I found a discussion, essay, or other relevant work online that relates to Paterson’s poem.

Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson links:

Wikipedia: Banjo Paterson

The University of Queensland, Australia: The Works of Banjo Paterson

Middlemiss: Australian Authors: A. B. (“Banjo”) Paterson (1864-1941)

Project Gutenberg: Paterson, A. B. (Andrew Barton), 1864-1941

Whitewolf: Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

Australian Dictionary of Biography: Paterson, Andrew Barton (Banjo) (1864-1941)

Google search A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

Blog search A.B. “Banjo” Paterson
   

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The Top 20 Greatest Banjo Paterson Poems of All Time

   

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#20

   

from The Bulletin, April 8, 1893
   

        Behind the Scenes
   

The actor struts his little hour,
Between the limelight and the band;
The public feel the actor’s power,
Yet nothing do they understand

Of all the touches here and there
That make or mar the actor’s part,
They never see, beneath the glare,
The artist striving after art.

To them it seems a labour slight
Where nought of study intervenes;
You see it in another light
When once you’ve been behind the scenes.

For though the actor at his best
Is, like a poet, born not made,
He still must study with a zest
And practise hard to learn his trade.

So, whether on the actor’s form
The stately robes of Hamlet sit,
Or as Macbeth he rave and storm,
Or plays burlesque to please the pit,

‘Tis each and all a work of art,
That constant care and practice means–
The actor who creates a part
Has done his work behind the scenes.
   

_______

   

#19

   

from Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        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.
   

_______

   

#18

   

from The Australasian Pastoralists’ Review, September 15, 1896,
&
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        With the Cattle
   

The drought is down on field and flock,
    The river-bed is dry;
And we must shift the starving stock
    Before the cattle die.
We muster up with weary hearts
    At breaking of the day,
And turn our heads to foreign parts,
    To take the stock away.
            And it’s hunt ’em up and dog ’em,
            And it’s get the whip and flog ’em,
For it’s weary work is droving when they’re dying every day;
            By stock-routes bare and eaten,
            On dusty roads and beaten,
With half a chance to save their lives we take the stock away.

We cannot use the whip for shame
    On beasts that crawl along;
We have to drop the weak and lame,
    And try to save the strong;
The wrath of God is on the track,
    The drought fiend holds his sway,
With blows and cries and stockwhip crack
    We take the stock away.
            As they fall we leave them lying,
            With the crows to watch them dying,
Grim sextons of the Overland that fasten on their prey;
            By the fiery dust-storm drifting,
            And the mocking mirage shifting,
In heat and drought and hopeless pain we take the stock away.

In dull despair the days go by
    With never hope of change,
But every stage we draw more nigh
    Towards the mountain range;
And some may live to climb the pass,
    And reach the great plateau,
And revel in the mountain grass,
    By streamlets fed with snow.
            As the mountain wind is blowing
            It starts the cattle lowing,
And calling to each other down the dusty long array;
            And there speaks a grizzled drover:
            ‘Well, thank God, the worst is over,
The creatures smell the mountain grass that’s twenty miles away.’

They press towards the mountain grass,
    They look with eager eyes
Along the rugged stony pass,
    That slopes towards the skies;
Their feet may bleed from rocks and stones,
    But though the blood-drop starts,
They struggle on with stifled groans,
    For hope is in their hearts.
            And the cattle that are leading,
            Though their feet are worn and bleeding,
Are breaking to a kind of run–pull up, and let them go!
            For the mountain wind is blowing,
            And the mountain grass is growing,
They settle down by running streams ice-cold with melted snow.

              .            .            .            .            .

The days are done of heat and drought
    Upon the stricken plain;
The wind has shifted right about,
    And brought the welcome rain;
The river runs with sullen roar,
    All flecked with yellow foam,
And we must take the road once more,
    To bring the cattle home.
            And it’s ‘Lads! we’ll raise a chorus,
            There’s a pleasant trip before us.’
And the horses bound beneath us as we start them down the track;
            And the drovers canter, singing,
            Through the sweet green grasses springing,
Towards the far-off mountain-land, to bring the cattle back.

Are these the beasts we brought away
    That move so lively now?
They scatter off like flying spray
    Across the mountain’s brow;
And dashing down the rugged range
    We hear the stockwhip crack,
Good faith, it is a welcome change
    To bring such cattle back.
            And it’s ‘Steady down the lead there!’
            And it’s ‘Let ’em stop and feed there!’
For they’re wild as mountain eagles and their sides are all afoam;
            But they’re settling down already,
            And they’ll travel nice and steady,
With cheery call and jest and song we fetch the cattle home.

We have to watch them close at night
    For fear they’ll make a rush,
And break away in headlong flight
    Across the open bush;
And by the camp-fire’s cheery blaze,
    With mellow voice and strong,
We hear the lonely watchman raise
    The Overlander’s song:
            ‘Oh! it’s when we’re done with roving,
            With the camping and the droving,
It’s homeward down the Bland we’ll go, and never more we’ll roam;’
            While the stars shine out above us,
            Like the eyes of those who love us–
The eyes of those who watch and wait to greet the cattle home.

The plains are all awave with grass,
    The skies are deepest blue;
And leisurely the cattle pass
    And feed the long day through;
But when we sight the station gate,
    We make the stockwhips crack,
A welcome sound to those who wait
    To greet the cattle back:
            And through the twilight falling
            We hear their voices calling,
As the cattle splash across the ford and churn it into foam;
            And the children run to meet us,
            And our wives and sweethearts greet us,
Their heroes from the Overland who brought the cattle home.
   

_______

   

#17

   

from The Bulletin, May 19, 1900
&
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        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.’
   

_______

   

#16

   

from The Bulletin, January 26, 1895
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Johnson’s Antidote
   

Down along the Snakebite River, where the overlanders camp,
Where the serpents are in millions, all of the most deadly stamp;
Where the station-cook in terror, nearly every time he bakes,
Mixes up among the doughboys half-a-dozen poison-snakes:
Where the wily free-selector walks in armour-plated pants,
And defies the stings of scorpions, and the bites of bull-dog ants:
Where the adder and the viper tear each other by the throat,
There it was that William Johnson sought his snake-bite antidote.

Johnson was a free-selector, and his brain went rather queer,
For the constant sight of serpents filled him with a deadly fear;
So he tramped his free-selection, morning, afternoon, and night,
Seeking for some great specific that would cure the serpent’s bite.
Till King Billy, of the Mooki, chieftain of the flour-bag head,
Told him, ‘Spos’n snake bite pfeller, pfeller mostly drop down dead;
Spos’n snake bite old goanna, then you watch a while you see,
Old goanna cure himself with eating little pfeller tree.’
‘That’s the cure,’ said William Johnson, ‘point me out this plant sublime,’
But King Billy, feeling lazy, said he’d go another time.
Thus it came to pass that Johnson, having got the tale by rote,
Followed every stray goanna, seeking for the antidote.

              .            .            .            .            .

Loafing once beside the river, while he thought his heart would break,
There he saw a big goanna fighting with a tiger-snake,
In and out they rolled and wriggled, bit each other, heart and soul,
Till the valiant old goanna swallowed his opponent whole.
Breathless, Johnson sat and watched him, saw him struggle up the bank,
Saw him nibbling at the branches of some bushes, green and rank;
Saw him, happy and contented, lick his lips, as off he crept,
While the bulging in his stomach showed where his opponent slept.
Then a cheer of exultation burst aloud from Johnson’s throat;
‘Luck at last,’ said he, ‘I’ve struck it! ’tis the famous antidote.’

‘Here it is, the Grand Elixir, greatest blessing ever known,
Twenty thousand men in India die each year of snakes alone.
Think of all the foreign nations, negro, chow, and blackamoor,
Saved from sudden expiration, by my wondrous snakebite cure.
It will bring me fame and fortune!      In the happy days to be,
Men of every clime and nation will be round to gaze on me–
Scientific men in thousands, men of mark and men of note,
Rushing down the Mooki River, after Johnson’s antidote.
It will cure Delirium Tremens, when the patient’s eyeballs stare
At imaginary spiders, snakes which really are not there.
When he thinks he sees them wriggle, when he thinks he sees them bloat,
It will cure him just to think of Johnson’s Snakebite Antidote.’

Then he rushed to the museum, found a scientific man–
‘Trot me out a deadly serpent, just the deadliest you can;
I intend to let him bite me, all the risk I will endure,
Just to prove the sterling value of my wondrous snakebite cure.
Even though an adder bit me, back to life again I’d float;
Snakes are out of date, I tell you, since I’ve found the antidote.’

Said the scientific person, ‘If you really want to die,
Go ahead–but, if you’re doubtful, let your sheep-dog have a try.
Get a pair of dogs and try it, let the snake give both a nip;
Give your dog the snakebite mixture, let the other fellow rip;
If he dies and yours survives him, then it proves the thing is good.
Will you fetch your dog and try it?’      Johnson rather thought he would.
So he went and fetched his canine, hauled him forward by the throat.
‘Stump, old man,’ says he, ‘we’ll show them we’ve the genwine antidote.’

Both the dogs were duly loaded with the poison-gland’s contents;
Johnson gave his dog the mixture, then sat down to wait events.
‘Mark,’ he said, ‘in twenty minutes Stump’ll be a-rushing round,
While the other wretched creature lies a corpse upon the ground.’
But, alas for William Johnson! ere they’d watched a half-hour’s spell
Stumpy was as dead as mutton, t’other dog was live and well.
And the scientific person hurried off with utmost speed,
Tested Johnson’s drug and found it was a deadly poison-weed;
Half a tumbler killed an emu, half a spoonful killed a goat,
All the snakes on earth were harmless to that awful antidote.

              .            .            .            .            .

Down along the Mooki River, on the overlanders’ camp,
Where the serpents are in millions, all of the most deadly stamp,
Wanders, daily, William Johnson, down among those poisonous hordes,
Shooting every stray goanna, calls them ‘black and yaller frauds’.
And King Billy, of the Mooki, cadging for the cast-off coat,
Somehow seems to dodge the subject of the snake-bite antidote.
   

_______

   

#15

   

from The Sydney Mail, December 24, 1900
&
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        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,
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.
   

_______

   

#14

   

from The Bulletin, September 21, 1889
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        How M’Ginnis Went Missing
   

Let us cease our idle chatter,
    Let the tears bedew our cheek,
For a man from Tallangatta
    Has been missing for a week.

Where the roaring flooded Murray
    Covered all the lower land,
There he started in a hurry,
    With a bottle in his hand.

And his fate is hid for ever,
    But the public seem to think
That he slumbered by the river,
    ‘Neath the influence of drink.

And they scarcely seem to wonder
    That the river, wide and deep,
Never woke him with its thunder,
    Never stirred him in his sleep.

As the crashing logs came sweeping,
    And their tumult filled the air,
Then M’Ginnis murmured, sleeping,
    ”Tis a wake in ould Kildare.’

So the river rose and found him
    Sleeping softly by the stream,
And the cruel waters drowned him
    Ere he wakened from his dream.

And the blossom-tufted wattle,
    Blooming brightly on the lea,
Saw M’Ginnis and the bottle
    Going drifting out to sea.

_______

   


   

#13

   

The N.S.W. Bookstall Co. Souvenir, 1901,
& from
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        Song of the Federation
   

As the nations sat together, grimly waiting–
    The fierce old nations battle-scarred–
Grown grey in their lusting and their hating,
    Ever armed and ever ready keeping guard,
Through the tumult of their warlike preparation
    And the half-stilled clamour of the drums
Came a voice crying, ‘Lo! a new-made nation,
    To her place in the sisterhood she comes!’

And she came–she was beautiful as morning,
    With the bloom of the roses in her mouth,
Like a young queen lavishly adorning
    Her charms with the splendours of the South.
And the fierce old nations, looking on her,
    Said, ‘Nay, surely she were quickly overthrown,
Hath she strength for the burden laid upon her,
    Hath she power to protect and guard her own?

Then she spoke, and her voice was clear and ringing
    In the ears of the nations old and gray,
Saying, ‘Hark, and ye shall hear my children singing
    Their war-song in countries far away.
They are strangers to the tumult of the battle,
    They are few but their hearts are very strong,
‘Twas but yesterday they called unto the cattle,
    But they now sing Australia’s marching song.’
   

                        Song of the Australians in Action

              For the honour of Australia, our mother,
                Side by side with our kin from over sea,
              We have fought and we have tested one another,
                And enrolled among the brotherhood are we.

              There was never post of danger but we sought it
                In the fighting, through the fire, and through the flood.
              There was never prize so costly but we bought it,
                Though we paid for its purchase with our blood.

              Was there any road too rough for us to travel?
                Was there any path too far for us to tread?
              You can track us by the blood drops on the gravel
                On the roads that we milestoned with our dead!

              And for you, oh our young and anxious mother,
                O’er your great gains keeping watch and ward,
              Neither fearing nor despising any other,
                We will hold your possessions with the sword.

                            .            .            .            .            .

Then they passed to the place of world-long sleeping,
    The grey-clad figures with their dead,
To the sound of their women softly weeping
    And the Dead March moaning at their head:
And the Nations, as the grim procession ended,
    Whispered, ‘Child!      But ye have seen the price we pay,
From War may we ever be defended,
    Kneel ye down, new-made Sister–Let us Pray!’
   

_______

   

#12

   

from The Sydney Mail, February 26, 1887
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Over the Range
   

Little bush maiden, wondering-eyed,
    Playing alone in the creek-bed dry,
In the small green flat on every side
    Walled in by the Moonbi ranges high;
Tell us the tale of your lonely life,
    ‘Mid the great grey forests that know no change.
‘I never have left my home,’ she said,
    ‘I have never been over the Moonbi Range.

‘Father and mother are both long dead,
    And I live with granny in yon wee place.’
‘Where are your father and mother?’ we said.
    She puzzled awhile with thoughtful face,
Then a light came into the shy brown eye,
    And she smiled, for she thought the question strange
On a thing so certain–‘When people die
    They go to the country over the range.’

‘And what is this country like, my lass?’
    ‘There are blossoming trees and pretty flowers,
And shining creeks where the golden grass
    Is fresh and sweet from the summer showers.
They never need work, nor want, nor weep;
    No troubles can come their hearts to estrange.
Some summer night I shall fall asleep,
    And wake in the country over the range.’

Child, you are wise in your simple trust,
    For the wisest man knows no more than you
Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust:
    Our views by a range are bounded too;
But we know that God hath this gift in store,
    That when we come to the final change,
We shall meet with our loved ones gone before
    To the beautiful country over the range.
   

_______

   


   

#11

   

from The Animals Noah Forgot, 1933
   

        Old Man Platypus
   

Far from the trouble and toil of town,
Where the reed beds sweep and shiver,
Look at a fragment of velvet brown–
Old Man Platypus drifting down,
Drifting along the river.

And he plays and dives in the river bends
In a style that is most elusive;
With few relations and fewer friends,
For Old Man Platypus descends
From a family most exclusive.

He shares his burrow beneath the bank
With his wife and his son and daughter
At the roots of the reeds and the grasses rank;
And the bubbles show where our hero sank
To its entrance under water.

Safe in their burrow below the falls
They live in a world of wonder,
Where no one visits and no one calls,
They sleep like little brown billiard balls
With their beaks tucked neatly under.

And he talks in a deep unfriendly growl
As he goes on his journey lonely;
For he’s no relation to fish nor fowl,
Nor to bird nor beast, nor to horned owl;
In fact, he’s the one and only!
   

_______

   


   

#10

   

Open letter to the troops, 1915
   

        “We’re All Australians Now”
   

Australia takes her pen in hand
To write a line to you,
To let you fellows understand
How proud we are of you.

From shearing shed and cattle run,
From Broome to Hobson’s Bay,
Each native-born Australian son
Stands straighter up today.

The man who used to “hump his drum”,
On far-out Queensland runs
Is fighting side by side with some
Tasmanian farmer’s sons.

The fisher-boys dropped sail and oar
To grimly stand the test,
Along that storm-swept Turkish shore,
With miners from the west.

The old state jealousies of yore
Are dead as Pharaoh’s sow,
We’re not State children any more–
We’re all Australians now!

Our six-starred flag that used to fly
Half-shyly to the breeze,
Unknown where older nations ply
Their trade on foreign seas,

Flies out to meet the morning blue
With Vict’ry at the prow;
For that’s the flag the Sydney flew,
The wide seas know it now!

The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.

The honoured graves beneath the crest
Of Gaba Tepe hill
May hold our bravest and our best,
But we have brave men still.

With all our petty quarrels done,
Dissensions overthrown,
We have, through what you boys have done,
A history of our own.

Our old world diff’rences are dead,
Like weeds beneath the plough,
For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred,
They’re all Australians now!

So now we’ll toast the Third Brigade
That led Australia’s van,
For never shall their glory fade
In minds Australian.

Fight on, fight on, unflinchingly,
Till right and justice reign.
Fight on, fight on, till Victory
Shall send you home again.

And with Australia’s flag shall fly
A spray of wattle-bough
To symbolise our unity–
We’re all Australians now.
   

_______

   

#9

   

from The Lone Hand, August 1, 1914
&
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses, 1917
   

        Sunrise on the Coast
   

Grey dawn on the sand-hills–the night wind has drifted
    All night from the rollers a scent of the sea;
With the dawn the grey fog his battalions has lifted,
    At the call of the morning they scatter and flee.

Like mariners calling the roll of their number
    The sea-fowl put out to the infinite deep.
And far over-head–sinking softly to slumber–
    Worn out by their watching, the stars fall asleep.

To eastward, where resteth the dome of the skies on
    The sea-line, stirs softly the curtain of night;
And far from behind the enshrouded horizon
    Comes the voice of a God saying “Let there be light.”

And lo, there is light!      Evanescent and tender,
    It glows ruby-red where ’twas now ashen-grey;
And purple and scarlet and gold in its splendour–
    Behold, ’tis that marvel, the birth of a day!
   

_______

   

#8

   

from The Kia-Ora Cooee, May 1918
   

        Moving On
   

In this war we’re always moving,
Moving on;
When we make a friend another friend has gone;
Should a woman’s kindly face
Make us welcome for a space,
Then it’s boot and saddle, boys, we’re
Moving on.

In the hospitals they’re moving,
Moving on;
They’re here today, tomorrow they are gone;
When the bravest and the best
Of the boys you know “go west”,
Then you’re choking down your tears and
Moving on.
   

_______

   

#7

   

from The Bulletin, 26 February 1887
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

‘Richard Bennison, a jockey, aged 14, while riding William Tell in his training, was thrown and killed. The horse is luckily uninjured.’
        –Melbourne Wire.

   

        Only a Jockey
   

Out in the grey cheerless chill of the morning light,
    Out on the track where the night shades still lurk;
Ere the first gleam of the sungod’s returning light,
    Round come the race-horses early at work.

Reefing and pulling and racing so readily,
    Close sit the jockey-boys holding them hard,
‘Steady the stallion there–canter him steadily,
    Don’t let him gallop so much as a yard.’

Fiercely he fights while the others run wide of him,
    Reefs at the bit that would hold him in thrall,
Plunges and bucks till the boy that’s astride of him
    Goes to the ground with a terrible fall.

‘Stop him there!      Block him there!      Drive him in carefully,
    Lead him about till he’s quiet and cool.
Sound as a bell! though he’s blown himself fearfully,
    Now let us pick up this poor little fool.

‘Stunned?      Oh, by Jove, I’m afraid it’s a case with him;
    Ride for the doctor! keep bathing his head!
Send for a cart to go down to our place with him’–
    No use!      One long sigh and the little chap’s dead.

Only a jockey-boy, foul-mouthed and bad you see,
    Ignorant, heathenish, gone to his rest.
Parson or Presbyter, Pharisee, Sadducee,
    What did you do for him?–bad was the best.

Negroes and foreigners, all have a claim on you;
    Yearly you send your well-advertised hoard,
But the poor jockey-boy–shame on you, shame on you,
    ‘Feed ye, my little ones’–what said the Lord?

Him ye held less than the outer barbarian,
    Left him to die in his ignorant sin;
Have you no principles, humanitarian?
    Have you no precept–‘go gather them in?’

              .            .            .            .            .

Knew he God’s name?      In his brutal profanity,
    That name was an oath–out of many but one–
What did he get from our famed Christianity?
    Where has his soul–if he had any–gone?

Fourteen years old, and what was he taught of it?
    What did he know of God’s infinite grace?
Draw the dark curtain of shame o’er the thought of it,
    Draw the shroud over the jockey-boy’s face.

_______

   


   

#6

   

from The Bulletin, January 13, 1894
&
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses, 1917
   

Brumby is the Aboriginal word for a wild horse.      At a recent trial a N.S.W. Supreme Court Judge, hearing of Brumby horses, asked: “Who is Brumby, and where is his Run?”
   

        Brumby’s Run
   

It lies beyond the Western Pines
    Towards the sinking sun,
And not a survey mark defines
    The bounds of “Brumby’s Run”.

On odds and ends of mountain land,
    On tracks of range and rock
Where no one else can make a stand,
    Old Brumby rears his stock.

A wild, unhandled lot they are
    Of every shape and breed.
They venture out ‘neath moon and star
    Along the flats to feed;

But when the dawn makes pink the sky
    And steals along the plain,
The Brumby horses turn and fly
    Towards the hills again.

The traveller by the mountain-track
    May hear their hoof-beats pass,
And catch a glimpse of brown and black
    Dim shadows on the grass.

The eager stockhorse pricks his ears
    And lifts his head on high
In wild excitement when he hears
    The Brumby mob go by.

Old Brumby asks no price or fee
    O’er all his wide domains:
The man who yards his stock is free
    To keep them for his pains.

So, off to scour the mountain-side
    With eager eyes aglow,
To strongholds where the wild mobs hide
    The gully-rakers go.

A rush of horses through the trees,
    A red shirt making play;
A sound of stockwhips on the breeze,
    They vanish far away!

              .            .            .            .            .

Ah, me! before our day is done
    We long with bitter pain
To ride once more on Brumby’s Run
    And yard his mob again.
   

_______

   


   

#5

   

from The Sydney Mail, July 22, 1893
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Black Swans
   

As I lie at rest on a patch of clover
In the Western Park when the day is done,
I watch as the wild black swans fly over
With their phalanx turned to the sinking sun;
And I hear the clang of their leader crying
To a lagging mate in the rearward flying,
And they fade away in the darkness dying,
Where the stars are mustering one by one.

Oh! ye wild black swans, ’twere a world of wonder
For a while to join in your westward flight,
With the stars above and the dim earth under,
Through the cooling air of the glorious night.
As we swept along on our pinions winging,
We should catch the chime of a church-bell ringing,
Or the distant note of a torrent singing,
Or the far-off flash of a station light.

From the northern lakes with the reeds and rushes,
Where the hills are clothed with a purple haze,
Where the bell-birds chime and the songs of thrushes
Make music sweet in the jungle maze,
They will hold their course to the westward ever,
Till they reach the banks of the old grey river,
Where the waters wash, and the reed-beds quiver
In the burning heat of the summer days.

Oh! ye strange wild birds, will ye bear a greeting
To the folk that live in that western land?
Then for every sweep of your pinions beating,
Ye shall bear a wish to the sunburnt band,
To the stalwart men who are stoutly fighting
With the heat and drought and the dust-storm smiting,
Yet whose life somehow has a strange inviting,
When once to the work they have put their hand.

Facing it yet!      Oh, my friend stout-hearted,
What does it matter for rain or shine,
For the hopes deferred and the gain departed?
Nothing could conquer that heart of thine.
And thy health and strength are beyond confessing
As the only joys that are worth possessing.
May the days to come be as rich in blessing
As the days we spent in the auld lang syne.

I would fain go back to the old grey river,
To the old bush days when our hearts were light,
But, alas! those days they have fled for ever,
They are like the swans that have swept from sight.
And I know full well that the strangers’ faces
Would meet us now in our dearest places;
For our day is dead and has left no traces
But the thoughts that live in my mind to-night.

There are folk long dead, and our hearts would sicken–
We would grieve for them with a bitter pain,
If the past could live and the dead could quicken,
We then might turn to that life again.
But on lonely nights we would hear them calling,
We should hear their steps on the pathways falling,
We should loathe the life with a hate appalling
In our lonely rides by the ridge and plain.

              .            .            .            .            .

In the silent park is a scent of clover,
And the distant roar of the town is dead,
And I hear once more as the swans fly over
Their far-off clamour from overhead.
They are flying west, by their instinct guided,
And for man likewise is his fate decided,
And griefs apportioned and joys divided
By a mighty power with a purpose dread.
   

_______

   

#4

   

from Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        The Road to Gundagai
   

The mountain road goes up and down,
From Gundagai to Tumut Town.

And branching off there runs a track,
Across the foothills grim and black,

Across the plains and ranges grey
To Sydney city far away.

              .            .            .            .            .

It came by chance one day that I
From Tumut rode to Gundagai.

And reached about the evening tide
The crossing where the roads divide;

And, waiting at the crossing place,
I saw a maiden fair of face,

With eyes of deepest violet blue,
And cheeks to match the rose in hue–

The fairest maids Australia knows
Are bred among the mountain snows.

Then, fearing I might go astray,
I asked if she could show the way.

Her voice might well a man bewitch–
Its tones so supple, deep, and rich.

‘The tracks are clear,’ she made reply,
‘And this goes down to Sydney town,
And that one goes to Gundagai.’

Then slowly, looking coyly back,
She went along the Sydney track.

And I for one was well content
To go the road the lady went;

But round the turn a swain she met–
The kiss she gave him haunts me yet!

              .            .            .            .            .

I turned and travelled with a sigh
The lonely road to Gundagai.
   

_______

   

#3

   

from The Sydney Mail, March 19, 1887
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Lost
   

‘He ought to be home,’ said the old man, ‘without there’s something amiss.
He only went to the Two-mile–he ought to be back by this.
He would ride the Reckless filly, he would have his wilful way;
And, here, he’s not back at sundown–and what will his mother say?

‘He was always his mother’s idol, since ever his father died;
And there isn’t a horse on the station that he isn’t game to ride.
But that Reckless mare is vicious, and if once she gets away
He hasn’t got strength to hold her–and what will his mother say?’

The old man walked to the sliprail, and peered up the dark’ning track,
And looked and longed for the rider that would never more come back;
And the mother came and clutched him, with sudden, spasmodic fright:
‘What has become of my Willie?–why isn’t he home to-night?’

Away in the gloomy ranges, at the foot of an ironbark,
The bonnie, winsome laddie was lying stiff and stark;
For the Reckless mare had smashed him against a leaning limb,
And his comely face was battered, and his merry eyes were dim.

And the thoroughbred chestnut filly, the saddle beneath her flanks,
Was away like fire through the ranges to join the wild mob’s ranks;
And a broken-hearted woman and an old man worn and grey
Were searching all night in the ranges till the sunrise brought the day.

And the mother kept feebly calling, with a hope that would not die,
‘Willie! where are you, Willie?’      But how can the dead reply;
And hope died out with the daylight, and the darkness brought despair,
God pity the stricken mother, and answer the widow’s prayer!

Though far and wide they sought him, they found not where he fell;
For the ranges held him precious, and guarded their treasure well.
The wattle blooms above him, and the blue bells blow close by,
And the brown bees buzz the secret, and the wild birds sing reply.

But the mother pined and faded, and cried, and took no rest,
And rode each day to the ranges on her hopeless, weary quest.
Seeking her loved one ever, she faded and pined away,
But with strength of her great affection she still sought every day.

‘I know that sooner or later I shall find my boy,’ she said.
But she came not home one evening, and they found her lying dead,
And stamped on the poor pale features, as the spirit homeward pass’d,
Was an angel smile of gladness–she had found the boy at last.
   

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#2

   

from The Bulletin, December 21, 1889
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        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’.
   

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#1

   

from The Bulletin, April 26, 1890,
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        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.
   

   


   

   


   

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____________

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A song as an addendum

(Be sure to explore the links that follow)
   


   


   

Published as sheet music in 1903
& from
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses, 1917
   

        Waltzing Matilda (Carrying a Swag)
   

Oh! there once was a swagman camped in the Billabong,
    Under the shade of a Coolabah tree;
And he sang as he looked at his old billy boiling,
    “Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”

            Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, my darling,
              Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
            Waltzing Matilda and leading a water-bag–
              Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Down came a jumbuck to drink at the water-hole,
    Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him in glee;
And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
    “You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me!”

Down came the Squatter a-riding his thorough-bred;
    Down came Policemen–one, two, and three.
“Whose is the jumbuck you’ve got in the tucker-bag?
    You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”

But the swagman, he up and he jumped in the water-hole,
    Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree;
And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the Billabong,
    “Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?”

   

   

Christine MacPherson transcription

   

Waltzing Matilda links:

        National Library of Australia: Waltzing Matilda–the original manuscript

        National Library of Australia: Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me?

        Roger Clarke’s Waltzing Matilda Home-Page

        John Williamson’s rendition of the original song (ra)

        panopticist: Best “Waltzing Matilda” Ever

        Join Rolf Harris’ rendition (mp3)

        National Geographic: Australia’s Bard
   

another John Williamson rendition

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(Click for wallpaper-sized photo)

   

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