CLANCY OF THE OVERFLOW
by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson (1864-1941)
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago;
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just on spec, addressed as follows, “Clancy, of The Overflow.”
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar);
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”
In my wild erratic fancy, visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving “down the Cooper” where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street;
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow; they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal—
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of the Overflow.
… Banjo Paterson
On Monday, we posted Baxter Black’s poem, “Trying to Climb Into Banjo Paterson’s Brain.” Baxter often cites “Clancy of the Overflow” as his favorite Paterson poem.
As mentioned in the post, “Few Australian Bush Poets are as well known as Banjo Paterson, author of the famed ‘The Man from Snowy River’ and ‘Waltzing Matilda.’ Beloved by Australians (he is featured on the $10 bill) his bush ballads celebrate the beauty of the outback and the courage and spirit of its inhabitants. Paterson grew up in the Australian bush and immortalized its people and places in poems, novels, memoirs, commentary, and other prose. He is much admired and his works are often recited by cowboy poets.
Find more of Banjo Paterson’s poetry and more about him at CowboyPoetry.com.
This c. 1915 photo, from the Australian War Memorial, is titled, “Egypt. Captain Andrew Barton ‘Banjo” Paterson (right) of 2nd Remounts, Australian Imperial Force, Inspects a Sulking Horse.” See more about it here.
This poem and photograph are in the public domain.