THE WORKS OF ‘BANJO’ PATERSON
Wordsworth Poetry Library Wordsworth Editions
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Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson was a famous Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, particularly about the outback and the characters he met along the way. He is most notable for writing the poem "Waltzing Matilda” which has become, albeit with altered wording, Australia’s most famous song. This excellent Wordsworth edition brings together three ‘Banjo’ collections – “The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses”; “Rio Grande and Other Verses”; "Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses" (including "Waltzing Matilda"). He died, aged 76, in 1941.
His epic ballads are here with their heroes and rogues, the brave, the pitiful, the chancers, the winners and losers, and the blood, sweat and tears of working men. The wild Australian terrain features strongly thoughout the book and from descriptions you can feel the heat and almost choke on the dust. There is so much to enjoy and I will highlight just a few examples to illustrate his different moods.
“Only A Jockey” tells the story of a fourteen year old, thrown from his horse and killed while training. It is noted that a newspaper said: “The horse is luckily uninjured”. Paterson unleashes a poem filled with anger and disgust that the boy was less important than the animal. It is very powerful: “Draw the dark curtain of shame o’er the thought of it/draw the shroud over the jockey-boy’s face.” Desperately sad.
“Mulga Bill’s Bicycle” is a very funny tale of a man who decides to abandon his horse in favour of a bicycle. He soon comes a cropper on “that two-wheeled outlaw” and decides, after an accident, that “a horse’s back is good enough.” Hilarious.
“Sunrise On The Coast” carries a lovely description of early morning: “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!” Beautiful.
This is poetry as pure entertainment to be read out loud, to stir emotions and imaginations. If you know ‘Banjo’ Paterson’s work, this is a great opportunity to rekindle your interest. If you don’t know him, you are in for a treat……but only if you buy the book.