Clancy of The Overflow [poem by Banjo Paterson]

[Editor: This poem by “Banjo” Paterson was published in The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, 1895; previously published in The Bulletin, 21 December 1889.]

Clancy of The Overflow

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 hath 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 wond’rous 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.’

Andrew Barton Paterson. The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1896 [January 1896 reprinting of the October 1895 edition], pages 20-22

Previously published in: The Bulletin, 21 December 1889

Editor’s notes:
’buses = omnibuses; long enclosed vehicles, used for public transport; unlike modern buses, these were horse-drawn contraptions

The Overflow = the name of a rural station; “The Overflow” was referred to in several of Banjo Paterson’s poems (“Clancy of The Overflow”, “The Man From Snowy River”, “Old Australian Ways”, “The Silent Shearer” and “The Travelling Post Office”); Paterson, in an annotation to a letter from Angus & Robertson (18 January 1913, in the George Robertson papers at the Mitchell Library) wrote: “‘Overflow’ is not intended to refer to any particular run. It is just used as a typical name”; however, it is believed by some to refer to a station named “The Overflow” situated about 32 kilometers (20 miles) to the south-east of the town of Nymagee in New South Wales

tramways = vehicles, used for public transport, running on light rail tracks set into the streets; unlike modern trams, these were horse-drawn

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