Banjo Paterson Treasury
pbk., 151pp., RRP $A19.95
I confess. I am an unabashed fan of Banjo Paterson. Since being introduced to his work as a newly arrived immigrant by being enthralled with the movie “The Man from Snowy River” (the only movie I have ever seen where the audience sat through the credits and then applauded), I have loved his work to the extent that when I sorted my CD collection recently, I found I had three sets of the works by Wallis and Matilda who have set many of the poems to music.
The first lines of so many are so familiar … “Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong…”; “I had written him a letter…””There was movement at the station…” “’Twas Mulga Bill from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze..” and each is featured in this treasury as well as a host of not-so-familiar poems, illustrated by cartoonist Oslo Davis. And, as his birthday approaches on February 17, perhaps it is time to revisit his legacy and explore the works he wrote that so encapsulated the people and places of a unique time in Australian history.
Because of my passion, many of my students found themselves exploring the works too, and more than one listed Paterson as their favourite poet. Apart from the beauty of the language, the stories they tell and the insight into the life of the times, I found the poems made perfect introductions for a whole range of lessons whether it was Year 3 putting their own illustrations to “Waltzing Matilda” and “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle”, using “The Man from Snowy River” as the catalyst for an investigation into the situation of brumbies in Australia’s high country, or stirring up a debate amongst teacher education students at the Australian Catholic University by asking if the little fellow in “A Bush Christening” was any less christened than one who had gone through a formal church ceremony!
And that’s without even looking at their literary construction and all that stuff, although there is the opportunity for older students to consider why it is that his writing persists today so that while there have been many worthwhile and notable poets in the last century, it is his work that resonates so widely still.
Paterson’s works are part of the Australian heritage and psyche and this collection in its paperback or ebook format is perfect in size and price to keep with you at all times so you can delve into them for pure pleasure or you can share them with the next generation who need to know these words.
Original Review October 24, 2013
Updated February 2023