One of my favourite poets (my only favourite poet?) is A. B. “Banjo” Paterson, famous for writing Waltzing Matilda* and The Man from Snowy River (which, in a glorious moment of teenage nerdity, I once memorised, all 1052 words of it). He also wrote Clancy of the Overflow, one of the original laments for a country life.
The original version is:
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’.
A few weeks ago, The Book Accumulator passed this wonderful parody/homage on to me, which was written by Joe Wolfe, an Australian physicist turned comic poet. I trust I’m not breaking any copyright by posting this in full as he reads it out in the radio segment I’ve linked to above.
I had written him a text
Which I’d sent, hoping the next
Time he came in mobile coverage
He’d have time to say hello.
But I’d heard he’d lost his iPhone,
So I emailed him from my smart phone,
Just addressed, on spec, as follows:
And the answer redirected
Wasn’t quite what I’d expected
And it wasn’t from the shearing mate
Who’d answered once before.
His ISP provider wrote it
And verbatim I will quote it:
‘This account has been suspended:
You won’t hear from him any more.’
In my wild erratic fancy
Visions come to me of Clancy:
Out of reach of mobile coverage
Where the Western rivers flow.
Instead of tapping on the small screen,
He’d be camping by the tall green
River gums, a pleasure
That the town folk never know.
Well, the bush has friends to meet him
But the rest of us can’t greet him:
Out there, even Telstra’s network
Doesn’t give you any bars.
He can’t blog the vision splendid
Of the sunlit plains extended
Or tweet the wondrous glory
Of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting at the keyboard,
I’m too stressed out to be bored
As I answer all the emails
By the deadlines they contain.
While my screen fills with promotions
For lotions and strange potions
And announcements of the million-dollar Prizes I can claim.
But the looming deadlines haunt me
And their harassing senders taunt me
That they need response this evening
For tomorrow is too late!
But their texts, too quickly ended,
Often can’t be comprehended
For their writers have no time to think
They have no time to wait.
And I sometimes rather fancy
That I’d like to trade with Clancy:
Just set up an email bouncer
Saying ‘Sorry, had to go.’
While he faced an inbox jamming
Up with deadlines and with spamming
As he signed off every message:
Given my recent job decision, this resonates!
* Waltzing Matilda totally works as a lullaby, just as well as or better than Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and Away in a Manger, and the Australian national anthem (OK, my bedtime repertoire is limited to “songs to which I know all the lyrics”). However, Bookmark is not as keen as I would like her to be about going to sleep, and singing about a suicidal sheep-thief may not be assisting that?