Australian verse [a review of Banjo Paterson’s “Old Bush Songs”, 28 February 1906]

[Editor: A review of Old Bush Songs, edited by Andrew Barton (“Banjo”) Paterson. Published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 28 February 1906.]

Australian verse

Mr. A. B. Paterson has done a service to Australia in getting together the “Old Bush Songs,” just published by Messrs. Angus and Robertson, Sydney. These are known throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, and, although the great majority of them possess no literary merit, yet they have been the means of passing many a weary hour. Mr. A. B. Paterson found that the task of compilation was no easy one.

“Most of the songs,” he says, “even in the few years they have been extant, have developed three or four different readings, and not only have the ballads been altered; but many of them have been forgotten altogether. Only one very imperfect song has come to hand dealing directly with the convict days; but there must have been many ballads composed and sung by the prisoners — ballads in which the horrors of Port Arthur in Tasmania, the grim, grey prison of Norfolk Island, the curse of official tyranny, and the humour of the rum traffic, had their share.”

But not only the convict songs, but others of more recent date, have been forgotten, and Mr. Paterson instances one about Dunn, Gilbert, and Ben Hall,” of which he says, “Persistent inquiry has failed to reveal one man who can remember more than a few fragments of it.”

The following songs are included in the volume under notice:— “Two Aboriginal Songs,” “Paddy Malone in Australia.” “The Old Bullock Dray,” “Paddy’s Letter” (1867), “The Old Bark Hut,” “The Old Survey,” “Dwell Not With Me,” “The Beautiful Land of Australia,” “On the Road to Gundagai,” “Another Fall of Rain,” “Bold Jack Donahoo,” “The Wild Colonial Boy,” “John Gilbert,” “Immigration,” “The Squatter’s Man,” “The Stringy-Bark Cockatoo” “The Eumerella Shore,” “Jimmy Sago, Jackaroo,” “The Plains of Riverina,” “The Sheep-Washer’s Lament,” “The Broken-down Squatter,” “The Free Selector,’ “A National Song for Australia Felix,” “Sunny New South Wales,” “Bringing Home the Cows,” “The Dying Stockman,” “My Mate Bill,” “Sam Holt,” “The Bushman,” “Hawking,” “Colonial Experience,” “The Stockmen of Australia,” “It’s Only a Way He’s Got,” “The Loafers’ Club,” “The Old Keg of Rum,” “The Murrumbidgee Shearer,” “The Swagman,” “The Stockman,” “The Maranoa Drovers,” “River Bend,” “Song of the Squatter,” “Wallabi Joe,” “The Squatters of the Olden Time,” “The Stockman’s Last Bed,” “Mustering Song,” “The Australian Stockman,” “The Shepherd,” “The Overlander,” “A Thousand Miles Away,” “The Freehold of the Plain,” “The Wallaby Brigade,” “My Religion,” “Bourke’s Dream,” “Billy Barlow in Australia.”

The most recent addition to the long list of Australian verse writers who have achieved the honour of appearing in book form is Mr. Thos. E. Spencer, whose volume reaches us from the publishers, the N.S W. Bookstall Company. Mr. Spencer’s best known poem — and it is very well known, indeed — “How M’Dougall Topped the Score,” has pride of place, and is followed by “The Prerogative of Piper’s Flat,” which was given as an encore to “McDougall” at the public reception to Victor Trumper in Sydney Town Hall, December 19, 1903. “A Nicht wi’ Burns in Yackandandle” is capitally done, and among other interesting poems are “The Song of the Sundowner,” “A Bush-bred Youngster,” “God Defend the Commonwealth,” “I Ask My Heart Do I Love Thee,” and “Mount Kembla.”

The Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), Wednesday 28 February 1906, page 58

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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