Banjo of the Overflow
A 19th century Poetry Slam - A roast battle for the ages!!!
The Bulletin Debate – An attempt to define Australia's national identity
“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?
Initially credited only as "K, The second parody in the series “Banjo of the Overflow” was written by Francis Kenna, an Australian poet, journalist, and Labor Member of the Legislative Assembly in Queensland. He also edited the "Brisbane Worker".
Banjo of the Overflow is set in the perspective of a jackaroo writing to Banjo asking for assistance but none was forthcoming – “I’m Busy, I’ll see what I can do”, the response; the equivalent of thoughts and prayers.
Kenna playfully points out the irony of a city-dweller writing poems about life in the country.
I had written him a letter which I had for want of better
Knowledge given to a partner by the name of "Greenhide Jack " --
He was shearing when I met him, and I thought perhaps I'd let him
Know that I was "stiff," and, maybe, he would send a trifle back.
My request was not requited, for an answer came indited
On a sheet of scented paper, in an ink of fancy blue;
And the envelope, I fancy, had an "Esquire" to the Clancy
And it simply read, "I'm busy; but I'll see what I can do!"
To the vision land I can go, and I often think of "Banjo" --
Of the boy I used to shepherd in the not so long ago,
He was not the bushman's kidney, and among the crowds of Sydney
He'll be more at home than mooning on the dreary Overflow.
He has clients now to fee him, and has friends to come and see him,
He can ride from morn to evening in the padded hansom cars,
And he sees the beauties blending where the throngs are never ending,
And at night the wond'rous women in the everlasting bars.
I am tired of reading prattle of the sweetly-lowing cattle
Stringing out across the open with the bushmen riding free;
I am sick at heart of roving up and down the country droving,
And of alternating damper with the salt-junk and the tea.
And from sleeping in the water on the droving trips I've caught a
Lively dose of rheumatism in my back and in my knee,
And in spite of verse it's certain that the sky's a leaky curtain --
It may suit the "Banjo" nicely, but it never suited me.
And the bush is very pretty when you view it from the city,
But it loses all its beauty when you face it "on the pad;"
And the wildernesses haunt you, and the plains extended daunt you,
Till at times you come to fancy that the life will drive you mad.
But I somehow often fancy that I'd rather not be Clancy,
That I'd like to be the "Banjo" where the people come and go,
When instead of framing curses I'd be writing charming verses --
Tho' I scarcely think he'd swap me, "Banjo, of the Overflow".
The Bulletin, 27 August 1892
📜 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?