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Banjo Paterson, Bush Poet

Updated on June 24, 2014

Banjo, the Bush Balladeer

Banjo Paterson, the well-loved Australian poet, is known chiefly for his 'Waltzing Matilda'. It's our unofficial anthem.

He vividly captured the 'feel' of the Bush, the

vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,

And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars

and for city-bound Australians, even those with no childhood memories of camping under the ti-tree or curled up in a sleeping bag beneath a mighty Murray Red Gum, Banjo evokes a deep nostalgia for a way of life that is now, forever, in the past.

Wallis and Matilda

The Man from Snowy River

Magnificent video of Banjo's poem, complete with stunning views and the round up of wild brumbies by the superb horsemen of the Snowy River

The Man from Snowy River DVD

Man from Snowy River, The Blu-ray
Man from Snowy River, The Blu-ray

The rural grazing life in the Snowy Mountains has hardly changed since Banjo Paterson traveled the high country and wrote his famous "Man from Snowy River" poem. His poetry is an authentic voice of a frontier society in which song and campfire recitation were much appreciated entertainment.


Under the Shade of a Coolabah


Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong

Under the shade of a coolabah tree,

And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled

"You'll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me."

Alun Hoggett

The Melody of Waltzing Matilda

Popular belief has Banjo writing the lyrics in 1895 at the Macpherson family Station in Queensland.

Christina Macpherson adapted the tune from one which she heard, she said, played by a band at the Warrnambool Races. What she heard was almost certainly the Scottish song 'Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea".

But is it an Irish Melody?

There are many who say the melody is Irish. Perhaps it's an old tune called 'Go to the Devil and Shake Yourself'. Indeed if the music is played, not as a march, but as a jig in 6/8 time, it's unmistakeably Irish.

Go To The Devil And Shake Yourself

From the album, Celtic Dreamer

Have a listen. Can you hear Waltzing Matilda?

The Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton - In the heart of Queensland

The Waltzing Matilda Centre, Winton, in the heart of Queensland, is a permanent memorial to Banjo's work.

Up until a decade or so back, Winton was known chiefly as the little town placed under martial law during the Great Shearers' Strike in the 1890s. An estimated 500 shearers had camped just south of town in a show of workers' solidarity.

"The Man from Snowy River" (1895), has sold more copies than any other book of Australian poetry

The Passing of Banjo

Banjo died in 1941, just short of his 77th birthday, leaving a valuable heritage of enduring myths.

His vivid images, written with an obvious love of the bush, still have today a real sense of the townsman's longing.

And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,

Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,

While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal --

But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of The Overflow.

How about you?

What do you think of the Banjo?

See results

Share your thoughts on Banjo...

Leave a Rhyme for the Banjo

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    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      4 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks for sharing. I had never heard of him.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      In Grade 6 I had to memorize Clancy of the Overflow. I still recall a few stanzas and it is my favourite poem.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      5 years ago

      Banjo wrote Waltzing Matilda? I never knew that!!!. I did know that he wrote the ballad - Man from Snowy River. The movie based on the ballad has just come out on Netflix Canada - 30 years after its first release!! One of the best Aussie Movies ever made - IMO.

    • puerdycat lm profile image

      puerdycat lm 

      7 years ago

      This is a treat! Love the tradition of the drovers.

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 

      8 years ago

      Excellent lens. I never knew the Aussies had a poet but I really enjoyed this. Be careful of the Irish, if they get an inkling that Waltzing Matilda is in any way connected to them, they will claim it as theirs, all rights reserved. You have been warned.

    • cdcraftee profile image

      Christine Larsen 

      8 years ago from South Australia

      Lovely work, Susanna! 'Banjo' waltzed away with my heart many years ago....and I am always happy to see someone celebrating our Aussie talents - especially those who express the unique character of the bush and its people. Have spent some amazing years in the country...have many personal memories, and now planning some lenses.


    • sittonbull profile image


      10 years ago

      I must've seen, "The Man from Snowy River" 5 or 6 times and don't tire of it. I've also read some of Banjo before as I had a business associate "down under" who was a Patterson aficionado. Needless to say, I like people of his ilk! You have an interesting and prolific lensography and I will be back! Thank you so much for your help in the Squidu forum. Favored, fanned and 5*s of course

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      10 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I'd never heard of Banjo Paterson but his poems are fun, I really enjoyed them. 5*


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