Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Birthday, Banjo

Today Andrew Barton Paterson, known as Banjo to his readers, was born in Narrambla, New South Wales, 1864. I expect most Americans only know "The Man from Snowy River", and that from the movie, but he also wrote the words to "Waltzing Matilda". For a time this prolific poet was one of the most popular in the English-speaking world. And look - the Australians even put him on their money! Many of his works are here, and here's a nice one to go on with:

Australian Scenery

The Mountains
A land of sombre, silent hills, where mountain cattle go
By twisted tracks, on sidelings deep, where giant gum trees grow
And the wind replies, in the river oaks, to the song of the stream below.
A land where the hills keep watch and ward, silent and wide awake
As those who sit by a dead campfire, and wait for the dawn to break,
Or those who watched by the Holy Cross for the dead Redeemer's sake.

A land where silence lies so deep that sound itself is dead
And a gaunt grey bird, like a homeless soul, drifts, noiseless, overhead
And the world's great story is left untold, and the message is left unsaid.

The Plains
A land as far as the eye can see, where the waving grasses grow
Or the plains are blackened and burnt and bare, where the false mirages go
Like shifting symbols of hope deferred — land where you never know.
Land of plenty or land of want, where the grey Companions dance,
Feast or famine, or hope or fear, and in all things land of chance,
Where Nature pampers or Nature slays, in her ruthless, red, romance.

And we catch a sound of a fairy's song, as the wind goes whipping by,
Or a scent like incense drifts along from the herbage ripe and dry
— Or the dust storms dance on their ballroom floor, where the bones of the cattle lie.

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