Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Man From Snowy River

This is pretty much a response to something the Ingsoc posted. He posted some famous dudes poem about a nightingale. Now, since I have never seen a nightingale, so I cannot really respond to it. However I decided to use this as a response. Just reading it sends shivers down my spine. That has to be attributed to the wondrous A.B "Banjo" Patterson. Who wrote some truly amazing stuff about the Aussie outback in colonial times, but who was actually a city lawyer.

I think it has special meaning for me. Mostly because I am, at heart, a simple country girl. I grew up a horse crazed kid. And absolutely loved reading Elyne Mitchell. In fact, I have bought the entire Silver Brumby series as an adult. And I still read them occasionally. I have also been to the Victorian Alps, which are breathtaking. Though they are nowhere near as impressive as the Australian high country, where the story is set, but I'll give you a brief picture.

It would be in summer. Hot and dry. The sun would be glaringly hot and seeming to leech the colour out of the surroundings. The ground is grey-yellow. The rocky outcrops are grey-brown, and areas of trees and/or low scrub are grey-green and brown. The sun even leaches the blackness. Shadows are grey. Flowers dot the trees and sometimes the grass. They are immune to the suns lecherous ways, and stand out, pinpoints of colour against the greyed backdrop.

Its damn hot. There is nowhere to hide from the sun. Your brow is peppered with sweat and the band of your hat is damp with sweat, sticking to your forehead. A gentle breeze sweeps across your face.And it feels better than any air con that you've ever experinced. Its dry. Breathing in heats your nostrils. The flies buzz around your eyes and your horse shifts slightly underneath you.

Its slightly dusty. You can smell the dust, feel slight grittyness on your skin and your lips. In with that smell is the Australian bush tang. The combination of dried grass, horse sweat and leather, cattle dung, the freshness of eucalyptus all mix together. You breathe deeply. As much as most people dislike the smell, it is safe to you. Right now, in this moment, you are here. Somehow, there is an underlying scent. Almost like smoke. Although there hasn't been a fire here for a few years. Its as though the bush remembers the violation of the fires, and the new life that sprang up is tainted by the smell which gave it life.

The horse shifts again. You can hear its hoof scrape over the rock. You pause to listen for just a moment. It is peaceful. Noisily quiet. There are no cars, no phones, no music. All you can hear are crickets chirping, birds calling, the snuff as your horse breathes out. Occasionally you'll hear the screech of a cockatoo as it calls to its mates. Or the low, drawn out bellow of a cow. There is no constant noise.

But the view... the view is what gets you. Standing on the side of a hill, you look up. Stretching above and behind you, you can see a forrested dome. It appears to be quite dense, but its not really. Off to the left it sweeps up. Down to the right and in front of you it begins to thin out. You can see clots of brown rocks as it descends. Down in the gully it is densely wooded. You don't see it, but there is a creek burbling its way along the bottom. It is cool down there, dark and refreshing after this dry heat.

Immediately after the gully the slope begins again. Its really quite steep. The trees are mottled in their distribution. Parts look dense, parts are dense, and there are a few bare patches. You see the occasional flash of red-brown and white as a cow moves through the trees and disappears. This rise continues up,and up, and up. Far above where you are. It meets a ridge, which you know from experience, meets another, though you cannot see it. There are other inclines that join the same ridge. You cannot see sky, or water, or any distance between them. All you see is the mottled shades of grey, as they curve around and interlock, and the creeks runs wild and dark between them. It is a wild land, never to be tamed. The best you can do is adjust to it, and ride through the different 'scapes as they present themselves to you.

With this in mind I bid you to read on.


The Man from Snowy River, A.B "Banjo" Patterson

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.


Thomas said...

Hello from Seattle.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

That’s magnificent! I feel I have been there. I feel as if I really want… but I think I’m perhaps too old for a trip down under.

Anonymous said...

I love that you put this on your blog. This is one of my favourite's as well. I get all tingly and proud of my country each reading.

I loved the film too. I thought Sigrid Thorton was the luckiest, and most beautiful woman in the world.


Love that, always have. One of my favourites is The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.

Steph said...

Great post Phishy. We need more recognition for our Aussie poets.

MissE said...

I always use this poem with students as a brilliant example of using rhythm to create images.

Great choice, phishez

Josh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh said...

Hey Phish,

Beautiful. I too love your lead into this great poem.

I have a friend who can deliver the whole poem from memory and with style. It can bring a room to silence.

Wonderful stuff.

Professor said...

I love it and am adding to my reading list and sharing the poemw tih my kids... Snowy River movies are some of their favs, believe it or now!

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

The outback must have ben a forbidding place then, one of the least known places on Earth, more of a fontier land than The US frontier in many ways at this time.

It's interesting, but he reminds me a little of Kipling.

Scorpy said...

You should read the 'Geebung Polo Club'by is a great read and one of my favourites from when I was a kid :)

Keshi said...

Good one girl!!


phishez_rule said...

Tomas - waves

Nick - You're never too old to visit my country.

Betty - Its very Australian isn't it?

Uber - I've never heard of that one

Steph - Thanks

MissE - I barely recognise it rhymes. It seems to flow so well.

Josh - I've loved it since I was a kid. Mum had a vinyl of reading of his works. And a HUGE book too. I know the first few lines, and can read it with passion.

Prof - check out some of his other works too. Clancy of the overflow is another biggie.

Ingsoc - Forbidding? I guess so. Its beautiful and harsh.

Scorpy - I think I have read it at some point. Mum used to have his collected works and I read most of them as a kid.

Keshi - thanks.

fingers said...

Ther's hope for you yet, Phishez.
It's an utterly magnificent poem, the quintessential Australian poem, a man's poem..
And yet it still moistens the chicks' saddlebags...

phishez_rule said...

Fingers - I'm not interested in moistening chickies saddlebags. Or chickies anythings. Unless they're my own