Recently I received a letter from a good friend in Australia thanking me for coming over and speaking at the Fishers for Fish Habitat forum. One of the gifts he included with his letter was a poem by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson. He noted the poem “talks in a language we all understand.”
Little did he know that the poem was one that was very near and dear to my heart. It had hung in my cubicle in Senator Rudman’s office when i worked on Capitol Hill during my early days in Washington. All to often looked at the poem and the words of Banjo Paterson and longed to go “a-droving”, “for the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.”
The poem talked in a language well understood then and after 30 years it continues to talk in the same language.
These days I am fortunte and can emulate Clancy by substituting fishing for droving with similar results, “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,”
Here is the poem for you to enjoy.
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’.
–A.B. “Banjo” Paterson