Poetry Wars

In Issue #53 of the Bobby Dazzler Newsletter (see https://www.dropbox.com/s/mvr2phchtpbw5ko/BDN53.pdf) I wrote about the Poetry Wars, or to be more explicit, the poetic feud between Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson back in the 1890s. I returned briefly to the same subject in the most recent Newsletter, and, in explaining my love for the Outback, wrote:

I suppose I’m coming down on the side of Banjo Paterson in the protracted debate he had with Henry Lawson about the relative merits of city and country life. Paterson, the city-dwelling solicitor and admirer of life in the bush, told us in “Clancy of the Overflow” that “the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know” and “I sometimes rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy”. But Lawson, also a city dweller but sceptical about the pleasures of life in the bush, wrote in “The City Bushman”:

   Did you ever guard the cattle when the night was inky black,
   And it rained, and icy water trickled gently down your back,
   Till your saddle-weary backbone fell a-aching to the roots
   And you almost felt the croaking of the bull-frog in your boots –
   Sit and shiver in the saddle, curse the restless stock and cough
   Till a squatter’s irate dummy cantered up to warn you off?
   Did you fight the drought and pleuro when the ‘seasons’ were asleep,
   Felling sheoaks all the morning for a flock of starving sheep,
   Drinking mud instead of water – climbing trees and lopping boughs
   For the broken-hearted bullocks and the dry and dusty cows?

and adds this remark directed specifically at Paterson:

   Would you like to change with Clancy – go a-droving? tell us true,
   For we rather think that Clancy would be glad to change with you.

I’m sure that many of the readers of this post find themselves taking sides in this debate. Here’s your chance to tell whether you agree with Paterson or with Lawson – or maybe you think they both make good points. Add a comment and tell us your opinion.


About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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3 Responses to Poetry Wars

  1. Mandy says:

    For all the perceived hardships of the bush, I’m still siding with Paterson.

  2. I think both have a point — and yet I, too, am siding with Paterson. At the time Lawson and Paterson were jousting, cities weren’t all that glorious, either — coal smoke and horse droppings and disease and gangs. So both outback and city had difficulties, though perhaps one ate more diversely in the cities. All that said, I think there is definitely a personality type that suits wilder places. I know people who couldn’t even tolerate a short visit to a truly remote area (and might not survive a hotel room that didn’t have a flat-screen TV), while I can’t live without regular bouts of remoteness — and I can only tolerate cities in small doses. So I’d say both poets are right, but they’re right for different people.

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