An Idyll of Dandaloo
On Western plains, where shade is not,
’Neath summer skies of cloudless blue,
Where all is dry and all is hot,
There stands the town of Dandaloo —
A township where life’s total sum
Is sleep, diversified with rum.
It’s grass-grown streets with dust are deep;
’Twere vain endeavour to express
The dreamless silence of its sleep,
Its wide, expansive drunkenness.
The yearly races mostly drew
A lively crowd at Dandaloo.
There came a sportsman from the East,
The eastern land where sportsmen blow,
And brought with him a speedy beast —
A speedy beast as horses go.
He came afar in hope to ‘do’
The little town of Dandaloo.
Now this was weak of him, I wot —
Exceeding weak, it seemed to me —
For we in Dandaloo were not
The Jugginses we seemed to be;
In fact, we rather thought we knew
Our book by heart in Dandaloo.
We held a meeting at the bar,
And met the question fair and square —
‘We’ve stumped the country near and far
‘To raise the cash for races here;
‘We’ve got a hundred pounds or two —
‘Not half so bad for Dandaloo.
‘And now, it seems we have to be
‘Cleaned out by this here Sydney bloke,
‘With his imported horse; and he
‘Will scoop the pool and leave us broke.
‘Shall we sit still, and make no fuss
‘While this chap climbs all over us?’
* * * * *
The races came to Dandaloo,
And all the cornstalks from the West
On ev’ry kind of moke and screw
Come forth in all their glory drest.
The stranger’s horse, as hard as nails,
Look’d fit to run for New South Wales.
He won the race by half a length —
Quite half a length, it seemed to me —
But Dandaloo, with all its strength,
Roared out ‘Dead heat!’ most fervently;
And, after hesitation meet,
The judge’s verdict was ‘Dead heat!’
And many men there were could tell
What gave the verdict extra force:
The stewards — and the judge as well —
They all had backed the second horse.
For things like this they sometimes do
In larger towns than Dandaloo.
They ran it off, the stranger won,
Hands down, by near a hundred yards.
He smiled to think his troubles done;
But Dandaloo held all the cards.
They went to scale and — cruel fate —
His jockey turned out under weight.
Perhaps they’d tampered with the scale!
I cannot tell. I only know
It weighed him out all right. I fail
To paint that Sydney sportsman’s woe.
He said the stewards were a crew
Of low-lived thieves in Dandaloo.
He lifted up his voice, irate,
And swore till all the air was blue;
So then we rose to vindicate
The dignity of Dandaloo.
‘Look here,’ said we, ‘you must not poke
Such oaths at us poor country folk.’
We rode him softly on a rail,
We shied at him, in careless glee,
Some large tomatoes, rank and stale,
And eggs of great antiquity —
Their wild, unholy fragrance flew
About the town of Dandaloo.
He left the town at break of day,
He led his race-horse through the streets,
And now he tells the tale, they say,
To every racing man he meets.
And Sydney sportsmen all eschew
The atmosphere of Dandaloo.
Andrew Barton Paterson. The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1896 [January 1896 reprinting of the October 1895 edition], pages 38-42
Previously published in: The Bulletin, 21 December 1889
cornstalks = native-born Australians, especially those native-born in New South Wales (of British-European descent); comes from the notion that men in Australia grew up tall and thin
It’s = in this poem, Paterson uses the old form of “it’s” as a possessive with an apostrophe, whereas the modern usage no longer includes an apostrophe (using it only for “it’s” as a contraction of “it is”)
Jugginses = plural of “Juggins”, someone who is easily fooled (another version is that of “Muggins”)