19 Dec 2011

Wallis and Matilda and Banjo

I was struggling to free myself from the Sandman's clutches yesterday morning in time to get ready for church. I was struggling because...well, never you mind, but I was. Anyhow, I was lying there listening to the bedside radio when suddenly the following song started playing.

Suddenly I was wide awake. This song - a real blast from my past - is the wonderful Banjo Paterson poem, Clancy of the Overflow set to music, and I just had to know who sang it. The announcer kept me in suspense for another three songs until the end of the set, but then finally reminded me that the band was named Wallis and Matilda. Which you may scornfully already know I guess, but I'd forgotten in my haze of early-morningness.

I couldn't wait to leap up to google to discover whether the band had set any other Paterson poems to music, which it turns out they have. Dozens of them. Oh joy!

It strikes me that these will be a fantastic adjunct to our poetry studies, and I hope they might help some of you too. (Please listen to Paterson's words carefully. Many of his poems contain blasphemy and other profanity that make them unacceptable for my family. You may also be concerned by the drinking and gambling contained in some.)

We only have to think of all the songs we know word perfectly to to realise that setting text to music facilitates memorisation. Unfortunately, it also appears that the melody and text are learned as a unit, which makes learning Scripture to music slightly less than desirable, unless you always want to sing your verses to remember them. Try reciting the National Anthem without the tune, and see if you have trouble preventing yourself at least rehearsing by singing it silently first, to see what I mean. (Shameful admission: I remember the books of the Old Testament by singing them under my breath. Shhh.)

To me this linkage of melody and lyrics to not nearly so important with poetry. I really don't mind if I need to sing to words of Clancy of the Overflow in order to remember them, really I don't. I also don't mind if Jemimah does. And so, as she goes around singing snatches of Clancy today merely from me playing the song a couple of times yesterday while learning about the band and another couple of times just now whilst writing this post, I feel really quite excited about the possibilities.

I now have a couple of Wallis and Matilda albums on my wish list. I reckon they'll be great.

Here's another tune to get you interested:

(Please don't be angry at me for the questionable theology contained therein.)

As an aside, during my wanders on the Wallis and Matilda site, I also learned about this reply to Clancy of the Overflow written by the real Clancy, Thomas Gerald Clancy in 1897:

Clancy's Reply

Neath the star-spangled dome
Of my Austral home,
When watching by the camp fire's ruddy glow,
Oft in the flickering blaze
Is presented to my gaze
The sun-drenched kindly faces
Of the men of Overflow.

Now, though years have passed forever
Since I used, with best endeavour
Clip the fleeces of the jumbucks
Down the Lachlan years ago,
Still in memory linger traces
Of many cheerful faces,
And the well-remembered visage
Of the Bulletin's "Banjo".

Tired of life upon the stations,
With their wretched, scanty rations,
I took a sudden notion
That a droving I would go;
Then a roving fancy took me,
Which has never since forsook me,
And decided me to travel,
And leave the Overflow.

So with maiden ewes from Tubbo,
I passed en route to Dubbo,
And across the Lig'num country
'where the Barwon waters flow;
Thence onward o'er the Narran,
By scrubby belts of Yarran,
To where the landscape changes
And the cotton bushes grow.

And my path I've often wended
Over drought-scourged plains extended,
where phantom lakes and forests
Forever come and go;
And the stock in hundreds dying,
Along the road are lying,
To count among the 'pleasures"
That townsfolk never know.

Over arid plains extended
My route has often tended,
Droving cattle to the Darling,
Or along the Warrego;
Oft with nightly rest impeded,
when the cattle had stampeded,
Save I sworn that droving pleasures
For the future I'd forego.

So of drinking liquid mire
I eventually did tire,
And gave droving up forever
As a life that was too slow.
Now, gold digging, in a measure,
Affords much greater pleasure
To your obedient servant,
"Clancy of the Overflow".
I did not know this before, and I think it is really cool. Do you?


  1. Fantastic find Jeanne - we've just had a terrific time discovering The Man From Snowy River and dd13 is busy memorising it. Thanks so much for this post - it will bring great enjoyment here! :)

  2. You just never know when you will discover a gem, do you? Or where the discovery will take you.

    Thanks for this post, it may come in very handy at our place too! :)


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