Weekly Friday recital of Murray Hartin poems by Alan Jones on 2GB. Tribute poem to Banjo Paterson


I have never battled drought on the stations farther out,
Never turned my hand to droving when there’s little feed about,
I can’t say I’ve danced a swag across a lonely mountain pass
Nor sparred it with a squatter just to get my sheep some grass,
I wouldn’t make a stockman’s stirrup so it’s prob’ly well disguised
That I’ve seen it all before - through another poet’s eyes.

I first learned to love this land through the words penned by his hand,
First learned of legend characters like Clancy and The Man,
I Dead-Man-Creeked with Mulga Bill, helped baptise young Magee
And the Geebung boys would never think of playing without me,
I was there to cheer home Pardon, heard a lovesick mother’s cries,
Wept with raw emotion through another poet’s eyes.

I read of war and Federation and a heartfelt obligation
To lend a guiding hand to the shaping of a nation,
Fighting for what’s right through the power of the pen,
I only hope in the hereafter The Banjo rides again,
For the “footprints in the lava” that he left in days gone by
Lit the fire - and kept it burning - in another poet’s eyes.

© Murray Hartin

“In all museums throughout the world one may see plaster casts of footprints of weird animals, footprints preserved for posterity, not because the animals were particularly good of their sort, but because they had the luck to walk on the lava while it was cooling. There is just a faint hope that something of the same sort may happen to us.” – extremely modest Banjo Paterson quote about Lawson and himself writing in a new land.

Hence the "footprints in the lava" line in the poem.

I first heard this quote at the unveiling of a bust of A.B. at Banjo Paterson Cottage Restaurant in Gladesville many years ago.

I can’t remember the name of the sculptor but he quoted the passage in his speech.

I then delivered the poem after a wonderful address by John Howard.

There is no way I would have stumbled into this career without the influence of Banjo.

He is obviously one of my heroes and came along after Dr Seuss and A.A. Milne.

My Dad, Kev, loved horse racing  – he had over 100 winners with horses he owned (mainly country but did win a few provincials) – and he used to read me Pardon, The Son of Reprieve.

Longer than The Man From Snowy River but an absolute cracker.

From that moment I was hooked. All of the classics. Loved the Saltbush Bill yarns in particular.

I wouldn’t read Lawson because I thought Banjo didn’t like him (check out Banjo's poem "In Defence of the Bush") but then found out they were mates.

They had a running battle in The Bulletin and they were paid by the line and apparently Lawson said to Paterson something like "the longer we keep this gpig the more money we'll make".

Find your Paterson book and read a couple of the old favourites like Clancy of The Overflow or Google the Saltbush Bill yarns and enjoy the mental images he creates and the wonderful turns of phrase. Check out a few classic Lawson as well (Glass At The Bar) and while you're at it check out some Will Ogilvie.

I'm also a big fan of C.J. Dennis and can’t believe he doesn’t get more recognition. 

If you can find the Introduction poem to C.J.'s book The Moods of Ginger Mick it's well worth the read. (Here's a taste).

"They never rung no joy-bells when 'e made 'is first de-boo;

But 'e got free edjication, w'ich they fondly shoved 'im thro';

Then turned 'im loose in Spadger's Lane to 'ang around the street

An' 'elp the cop to re-erlize the 'ardness uv 'is beat.

 Then 'e quickly dropped 'is aitches, so as not to be mistook

Fer an edjicated person, 'oo 'is cobbers reckoned crook;

But 'e 'ad a trick wiv figgers that ud make a clerk look sick;

So 'e pencilled fer a bookie; an' 'e 'awked a bit, did Mick."


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