In my comments about the riding trip, both here on the blog and in my book, I mention “The Man from Snowy River.” This may not have a huge amount of significance for readers outside Australia, so I thought a little additional information might be helpful.
First it was a poem written in the late 1800s by A.B. “Banjo” Paterson, among Australia’s most famous poets. You may have heard one of his works without realizing it, as he wrote the poem “Waltzing Matilda,” which, once set to music, became internationally famous. In Australia, “The Man from Snowy River” is the poem every kid grows up learning—sort of like Americans learning “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” back when the TV show was still on and every kid wanted a raccoon-skin cap. He was “the man.” Paterson’s poem recounts the astonishing, death-defying ride of a mountain horseman, an event Paterson witnessed during one of the many times he escaped his law office for the bush. The identity of the rider, however, was never confirmed.
In 1982, a lovely movie titled “The Man from Snowy River” was released. It creates a fictional back-story for the real events of the climactic ride that is the topic of the poem. Lines from the poem, and from other Paterson poems, are sprinkled through the movie, and, because he would have to have been there to see the events, poet Banjo Paterson (though introduced by his proper name, Andrew) is one of the characters—he is the solicitor (lawyer) who delivers “the colt from old Regret” to its new owner and stays on as a guest.
The character Clancy, who appears in the poem, was introduced in an earlier poem entitled “Clancy of the Overflow.” One line from this poem—”he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains unended”—is alluded to in the movie. In the movie, the character is played by Jack Thompson, himself something of an icon in the history of Australian film-making.
The film is lovely and lyrical, and the chase, the one that recreates the events of the poem, is fabulously exciting. The thing that made that rider from Snowy River (a mountainous area of Victoria not terribly far from where we rode) memorable was “that terrible descent”—a seemingly impossible ride down a steep mountainside. It would be hard to imagine recreating successfully, and yet the film did. Almost as remarkable as the ride is the stunning photography.
Here is an excerpt from the film that focuses on the final events in the poem, particularly the remarkable downhill ride (which the actor actually did in real life — no stunt double): Jim’s Ride.
For those interested in the original poem, it follows. An interesting note is that, as with the events in the poem, so too in the movie, all the crack riders from the area were gathered together. There were a few actors and a couple of stunt men among them in the film, but the majority of riders in the final chase were mountain men from the area where the filming took place. If you watch the titles, you’ll see that whole families showed up to participate.
Here, then, is Andrew Barton Paterson’s classic poem.
“The Man from Snowy River”
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses — he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight. Continue reading →