A Voice from the Town
Banjo thought the debate was done and dusted, but just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.
And so the Great Debate comes to a close.
A Voice from the Town appeared two years after "The Poets of the Tomb" by Henry Lawson, and brought the debate to a close.
An author's note stated that it had been written in response to the 1871 poem "A Voice from the Bush", written by Mowbray Morris.
Upon returning home after many a year away. Banjo is asking himself, is the grass greener? If he had his time again, would he think and act differently?
A Voice from the Town expresses the regrets of an old man contemplating the choices made in his youth. Is the Bush somewhere to hide from your troubles in the city? It seems that at every turn Patterson is reminded of some questionable choice from his past, the streets littered with regret. The whispers behind his back, A has been, an imposter. He had it all, his youth, and squandered it.
Yielding that those who go bush may have been driven there by the sorrows of the city.
People go on with their lives irrespective of whether you’re around to observe it. Now of an age invisible to younger generations, Patterson wishes they didn’t have to forgo the same growing pains, the next generation doomed to make the same mistakes as the generation before.
Conceding the sacrifices of separation made by the drover and his wife
A piece of his soul and heart missing conceding that any women wouldn’t be interested in his weathered face and old body.
He still feels as though he has a lot to offer the right partner and wider society, yet laments that "For the key to the door of enjoyment is youth — and I’ve thrown it away".
Nihil admirari is a Latin phrase. It means "to be surprised by nothing", or in the imperative, "Let nothing astonish you".
A Voice from the Town
A sequel to ‘A Voice from the Bush’
I thought, in the days of the droving,
Of steps I might hope to retrace,
To be done with the bush and the roving
And settle once more in my place.
With a heart that was well nigh to breaking,
In the long, lonely rides on the plain,
I thought of the pleasure of taking
The hand of a lady again.
I am back into civilization,
Once more in the stir and the strife,
But the old joys have lost their sensation —
The light has gone out of my life;
The men of my time they have married,
Made fortunes or gone to the wall;
Too long from the scene I have tarried,
And somehow, I’m out of it all.
For I go to the balls and the races
A lonely companionless elf,
And the ladies bestow all their graces
On others less grey than myself;
While the talk goes around I’m a dumb one
’Midst youngsters that chatter and prate,
And they call me ‘The Man who was Someone
Way back in the year Sixty-eight.’
And I look, sour and old, at the dancers
That swing to the strains of the band,
And the ladies all give me the Lancers,
No waltzes — I quite understand.
For matrons intent upon matching
Their daughters with infinite push,
Would scarce think him worthy the catching,
The broken-down man from the bush.
New partners have come and new faces,
And I, of the bygone brigade,
Sharply feel that oblivion my place is —
I must lie with the rest in the shade.
And the youngsters, fresh-featured and pleasant,
They live as we lived — fairly fast;
But I doubt if the men of the present
Are as good as the men of the past.
Of excitement and praise they are chary,
There is nothing much good upon earth;
Their watchword is nil admirari,
They are bored from the days of their birth.
Where the life that we led was a revel
They ‘wince and relent and refrain’ —
I could show them the road — to the devil,
Were I only a youngster again.
I could show them the road where the stumps are,
The pleasures that end in remorse,
And the game where the Devil’s three trumps are
The woman, the card, and the horse.
Shall the blind lead the blind — shall the sower
Of wind read the storm as of yore?
Though they get to their goal somewhat slower,
They march where we hurried before.
For the world never learns — just as we did
They gallantly go to their fate,
Unheeded all warnings, unheeded
The maxims of elders sedate.
As the husbandman, patiently toiling,
Draws a harvest each year from the soil,
So the fools grow afresh for the spoiling,
And a new crop of thieves for the spoil.
But a truce to this dull moralizing,
Let them drink while the drops are of gold.
I have tasted the dregs — ’twere surprising
Were the new wine to me like the old;
And I weary for lack of employment
In idleness day after day,
For the key to the door of enjoyment
Is Youth — and I’ve thrown it away.
📜 Episode 1: A Roast Battle for the Ages
In this episode, we delve deep into the background of the battle, meet the players and start to understand the circumstances under which it came about. Witness the clash of ideas, the powerful prose, and the cultural impact of these two literary powerhouses.
📜 Episode 2: The Opening Salvo – Borderland By Henry Lawson
A shot across the bows, Borderland displays a contempt and disdain for romanticising life on the land, pointing to the stark realities faced by those that venture inland, far flung from the luxuries of city life, Lawson leaving no doubts as to the persuasion which he prefers.
📜 Episode 3: Game On – In Defense of the Bush
Playfully scornful, cheekily referencing Lawson’s poem’s Faces in the Street, and the Bastards From the Bush. Patterson outright calls Lawson nothing more than a whinger in, In Defence of the Bush.
📜 Episode 4 – The Drovers in Reply ; The Fact of the Matter by Edward Dyson
It wasn’t long before other notable voices started chiming to the Bulletin debate, offering their own two cents, and truth be known, leaping to Lawson’s defence.
📜 Episode 5 – Rebuking Banjo ; The City Bushman by Henry Lawson
The Gloves are off! Lawson insists that Banjo doesn’t know what he is talking about, having never, literally rather than figuratively, walked a mile in ‘their’ shoes.
📜 Episode 6 - Another Contender Enters the Race ; The Overflow of Clancy by HHCC
A parody none the less, the first of two that play on Patterson’s iconic character Clancy of the Overflow. The Overflow of Clancy reads like a first-hand eye-witness account from a contemporary who had ‘dealt’ with Patterson first hand.
📜 Episode 7 - A Pile On ; Banjo of the Overflow by Francis Kenna
“And the bush is very pretty, when you view it from the city” - Would Banjo really swap his city lawyer life for that of Clancy’s?
📜 Episode 8 - Banjo's Retort ; In Answer to Various Bards by Banjo Patterson
After 4 fellow poets attack Banjo across the pages of the Bulletin, it’s easy to see that he may have felt as though he was being attacked on all fronts. it was becoming more of a pile on, so Banjo felt inclined to set the record straight.
📜 Episode 9 - Lawson's Lament ; The Poets of the Tomb by Henry Lawson
By now the debate had devolved into a slinging match. Lawson acquiesces that Banjo’s declaration of optimism is the best outlook in life in this playful lament, embracing and playing on this caricature of doom and gloom with The Poets of the Tomb his last contribution to the Bulletin Debate.
📜 Episode 10 - The Last Word ; A Voice From the Town by Banjo Patterson
Banjo thought the debate was done and dusted, but just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in. Upon returning home after many a year away. Banjo is asking himself, is the grass greener? If he had his time again, would he think and act differently?