Clancy Of The Overflow
A poem by 'Banjo' Paterson
ANDREW BARTON 'BANJO' PATERSON was born in
Narrambla, NSW, on February 17, 1864. Banjo grew up in the Yass region in
southern NSW, but he left the area at age 10 to finish his schooling in
Sydney. In his twenties he found work as a lawyer, then as a journalist. It was around this time he also started publishing
poems under the pseudonym 'the Banjo' in the Bulletin and Sydney Mail. His
work is often compared to that of Henry Lawson, who wrote about the Australian
outback around the same period, but with less romanticism. "One of things that
appealed to Paterson's urban readers was the vision of the bush and bushman
that he presented. The bush was rough and adventurous, but not as
bleak as Lawson's vision," says David. "He presents an image of Australia as
pastoral, adventurous...and free of difficult questions about the way this
country displaced its indigenous population."
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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