In Defence of the Bush
Game On - A roast battle for the ages!!!
The Bulletin Debate; A 19th century Poetry Slam, between Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson, amongst others, about the virtues and vices of bush life in Australia in the years 1892 - 93.
Originally published in the Bulletin on the 23rd of July 1892, Banjo’s response was swift, directly addressing Mister Lawson in the opening line (latter changed to Mister Townsman when published in The Man From Snowy River and Other Verses in 1895).
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 Defense of the Bush, coming off as more of a personal attack on Lawson, calling him a swell and insinuating that it was Lawson’s character that made the bullock loony, rather than addressing the elements of Bush life that Lawson illustrates in Borderland.
A little context
- The Sydney Push were a Sydney Larrikin Gang in the 1870’s
- Rise up William Riley is a reference to the opening lines of a ballad from 1817 called Riley and Colinband.
- Donah is a women particularly a man’s sweetheart.
In Defence of the Bush
So you’re back from up the country, Mister Lawson, where you went,
And you’re cursing all the business in a bitter discontent;
Well, we grieve to disappoint you, and it makes us sad to hear
That it wasn’t cool and shady — and there wasn’t plenty beer,
And the loony bullock snorted when you first came into view —
Well, you know it’s not so often that he sees a swell like you;
And the roads were hot and dusty, and the plains were burnt and brown,
And no doubt you’re better suited drinking lemon-squash in town.
Yet, perchance, if you should journey down the very track you went
In a month or two at furthest, you would wonder what it meant,
Where the sunbaked earth was gasping like a creature in its pain
You would find the grasses waving like a field of summer grain,
And the miles of thirsty gutters, blocked with sand and choked with mud,
You would find them mighty rivers with a turbid, sweeping flood.
For the rain and drought and sunshine make no changes in the street,
In the sullen line of buildings and the ceaseless tramp of feet;
But the bush has moods and changes, as the seasons rise and fall,
And the men who know the bush-land — they are loyal through it all.
* * * * * *
But you found the bush was dismal and a land of no delight,
Did you chance to hear a chorus in the shearers’ huts at night?
Did they ‘rise up William Riley’ by the camp-fire’s cheery blaze?
Did they rise him as we rose him in the good old droving days?
And the women of the homesteads and the men you chanced to meet —
Were their faces sour and saddened like the ‘faces in the street,’
And the ‘shy selector children’ — were they better now or worse
Than the little city urchins who would greet you with a curse?
Is not such a life much better than the squalid street and square
Where the fallen women flaunt it in the fierce electric glare,
Where the sempstress plies her sewing till her eyes are sore and red
In a filthy, dirty attic toiling on for daily bread?
Did you hear no sweeter voices in the music of the bush
Than the roar of trams and ’buses, and the war-whoop of ‘the push?’
Did the magpies rouse your slumbers with their carol sweet and strange?
Did you hear the silver chiming of the bell-birds on the range?
But, perchance, the wild birds’ music by your senses was despised,
For you say you’ll stay in townships till the bush is civilised.
Would you make it a tea-garden, and on Sundays have a band
Where the ‘blokes’ might take their ‘donahs’, with a ‘public’ close at hand?
You had better stick to Sydney and make merry with the ‘push,’
For the bush will never suit you, and you’ll never suit the bush.
Sydney, N.S.W.: John Haynes and J.F. Archibald, 1880-1984
The Bulletin - Vol. 12 No. 649 (23 Jul 1892)
Created/Published - Sydney, N.S.W.: John Haynes and J.F. Archibald, 1880-1984
📜 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?