A.B. (Banjo, to most of us) Paterson
Within the next few weeks I will be reviewing the Australian Classic Library’s re-release of Paterson’s The man from Snowy River and other verses, so this post is just a teaser. It was inspired by a column in The ABC Weekly (of 22 February 1941). Paterson died on 5 February 1941 – and less than three weeks later Australian novelist and critic, Vance Palmer, wrote a short item on Paterson’s impact on him:
I very well remember the excitement that filled me when, as a boy, I came across his new book, “The Man From Snowy River”, and I know that others around me shared the excitement. Here was the life we had known, suddenly given meaning, significance, a fresh interest. … It was as if a word had been uttered that was to awaken a dumb country, giving it a language of its own, and spreading a sense of fellowship between one man and another.
They were different times then – The man from Snowy River was first published in 1890, when Vance Palmer was 5 years old. We now have a language of our own, and we are a far more urbanised society than the one Paterson wrote about, and yet, I too have a soft spot for Paterson. Like Palmer, my love for Paterson also started when I was a child – when my father would read Paterson’s ballads to us. And in fact, I shared this Paterson-love only recently in an exchange with American blogger, Waltzing Australia, after she quoted “The Man From Snowy River” poem in full on her blog. We traded some favourite poems and lines, but I have to give her the award for the best response when she quoted these lines from his poem, “An Answer to Various Bards”, in which he responds to poets such as Henry Lawson with “their dreadful, dismal stories”:
If it ain’t all “golden sunshine” where the “wattle branches wave.”
Well, it ain’t all damp and dismal, and it ain’t all “lonely grave.”
And, of course, there’s no denying that the bushman’s life is rough,
But a man can easy stand it if he’s built of sterling stuff…
Yes, I can take a lot of Banjo – and so I greatly look forward to reading the recent re-release with its new introductory comments. Watch this spot!