Banjo Paterson is far and away the best known of Australian poets - and not just for his ubiquitous masterpiece "Waltzing Matilda". His poems of the Australian bush capture the 'feel' of country (at least from my perspective) vividly - the wide open spaces, the sweep of the sky reaching down to the horizon, the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars are what I mostly associate with the Australia of song and story.
Clancy of the Overflow is a rather straightforward contrast between the two Australias of open space and city. All brought out in Paterson's wonderfully flowing verse, with its long, pattering lines and internal rhymes, drawing the reader in not so much by the imagery as by the sheer sound of it. Indeed, I would not be too surprised if 'Clancy' has been set to music; like much of Paterson's poetry, it has a wonderfully musical quality to it. Strangely enough, the internym "Banjo" does not stem from any connection to music; the story, quoted from the biography referred to below, runs as follows: By the time Paterson came to submit his first verses (in 1885) to the Bulletin, he had been admitted to the Roll of Solicitors. Paterson claimed, afraid to use his own name "lest the editor, identifying one with the author of the pamphlet, would dump my contribution, unread, into the waste-paper basket...", adopted the pen-name of "The Banjo" after a "so-called racehorse" his family had owned - and the legend was born.
The other noteworthy element in the poem is Clancy himself, a typically larger-than-life character of the sort that Australian - and, indeed, frontier - tradition abounds with. (Another example worth mentioning here is Paterson's own 'Man from Snowy River'). The contrast between the life of the drover and that of the townsman is summed up beauifully in the wonderfully dry last line - " But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of The Overflow."
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