Thursday, August 13, 2020

Poetry Spot: The Man Who Was Away

Time for another Banjo Paterson poem, one of his lesser known ones which folk musos Wallis and Matilda have put to music.

The Poet:

Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson (1864 – 1941) was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. Paterson wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales, where he spent much of his childhood. Paterson's more notable poems include "Clancy of the Overflow" (1889), "The Man from Snowy River" (1890) and "Waltzing Matilda" (1895), regarded widely as Australia's unofficial national anthem.

Paterson was a law clerk with a Sydney-based firm and was admitted as a solicitor in 1886. In the years he practised as a solicitor, he also started writing. From 1885, he began submitting and having poetry published in The Bulletin, a literary journal with a nationalist focus. Over the next decade, Paterson published works in The Bulletin under the pseudonym of "The Banjo", the name of his favourite horse.

The Poem:

The Man Who Was Away

-        Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson

The widow sought the lawyer's room with children three in tow,
She told the lawyer man her tale in tones of deepest woe.
She said, "My husband took to drink for pains in his inside,
And never drew a sober breath from then until he died.

"He never drew a sober breath, he died without a will,
And I must sell the bit of land the childer's mouth to fill.
There's some is grown and gone away, but some is childer yet,
And times is very bad indeed -- a livin's hard to get.

"There's Min and Sis and little Chris, they stops at home with me,
And Sal has married Greenhide Bill that breaks for Bidgeree.
And Fred is drovin' Conroy's sheep along the Castlereagh
And Charley's shearin' down the Bland, and Peter is away."

The lawyer wrote the details down in ink of legal blue --
"There's Minnie, Susan, Christopher, they stop at home with you;
There's Sarah, Frederick and Charles, I'll write to them today,
But what about the other son -- the one who is away?

"You'll have to furnish his consent to sell the bit of land."
The widow shuffled in her seat, "Oh, don't you understand?
I thought a lawyer ought to know -- I don't know what to say --
You'll have to do without him, boss, for Peter is away."

But here the little boy spoke up -- said he, "We thought you knew;
He's done six months in Goulburn gaol -- he's got six more to do."
Thus in one comprehensive flash he made it clear as day,
The mystery of Peter's life -- the man who was away.

The Bulletin, 15 December 1894

The song:

Here is the link for the Wallis & Matilda version of the poem, set to music:

Wallis and Matilda is an Australian folk group that for over 30 years has been musically interpreting the works of Banjo Paterson.

Some bonus Wallis and Matilda:

Clancy of the Overflow:

The Man form Snowy River:

I must say that the Wallis and Matilda interpretation of The Man from Snowy River is not my fave, I prefer the Slim Dusty version.  Here is the link:

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