Poem of the week: Brumby’s Run by Banjo Paterson

Brumby’s Run

Brumby is the Aboriginal* phrase for a wild horse. At a current trial a New South Wales supreme court docket choose, listening to of Brumby horses, requested: “Who is Brumby, and where is his Run?”

It lies past the Western Pines
Towards the sinking solar,
And not a survey mark defines
The bounds of “Brumby’s Run”.

On odds and ends of mountain land,
On tracks of vary and rock
Where nobody else could make a stand,
Old Brumby rears his inventory.

A wild, unhandled lot they’re
Of each form and breed.
They enterprise out ’neath moon and star
Along the flats to feed;

But when the daybreak makes pink the sky
And steals alongside the plain,
The Brumby horses flip and fly
Towards the hills once more.

The traveller by the mountain-track
May hear their hoof-beats cross,
And catch a glimpse of brown and black
Dim shadows on the grass.

The keen stockhorse pricks his ears
And lifts his head on excessive
In wild pleasure when he hears
The Brumby mob go by.

Old Brumby asks no worth or payment
O’er all his extensive domains:
The man who yards his inventory is free
To hold them for his pains.

So, off to scour the mountain-side
With keen eyes aglow,
To strongholds the place the wild mobs disguise
The gully-rakers go.

A rush of horses by way of the bushes,
A crimson shirt making play;
A sound of stockwhips on the breeze,
They vanish far-off!

Ah, me! earlier than our day is completed
We lengthy with bitter ache
To experience as soon as extra on Brumby’s Run
And yard his mob once more.

The Australian author and solicitor Andrew Barton Paterson (1864-1941), usually identified merely as Banjo Paterson, is usually described as a bush poet. Of Scottish descent on his father’s facet, he was born close to Orange in New South Wales. Financial misfortunes pressured the household to maneuver to Illalong Station, and Andrew, when sufficiently old to experience a pony, went to the bush college in Binalong. He later attended Sydney grammar college.

Paterson started publishing in 1889, in the Bulletin. His status as a poet and journalist was rapidly established. His ardour for horsemanship and horse-racing is mirrored in the pen-name he selected: “The Banjo” was the title of his favorite thoroughbred.

His poems and ballads are metrically conventional, exactly crafted, and enriched by the idioms and vocabulary of the outback settlers. Despite some stereotypical characterisation, his narratives, whether or not comedian, sentimental or heroic, brim with the power of his lived expertise of the bush.

In the title of this week’s poem, “Run” is a noun, and denotes the space or observe frequented by animals – however, of course, there’s no lacking the affiliation with domestication: the “run” can also be a yard for livestock. The horses Paterson is describing usually are not really wild, though unbranded: they’re more likely to have belonged to settlers, and, escaped or deserted, survived to breed new semi-feral generations. Paterson’s epigraph explains the attainable origin of the phrase brumby. By personification, signalled by the capital B, Paterson raises Brumby’s standing, turns him right into a heroic character who can also be imagined as the stockman’s neighbour (no pun meant). The second stanza brilliantly locates him on his unaccommodating territory, and likewise teases us together with his identification: “On odds and ends of mountain land, / On tracks of range and rock / Where no one else can make a stand, / Old Brumby rears his stock.”

There is little anthropomorphism in any other case in the poem. Its descriptive strokes are appropriately mild. The elusive hoof-beats are registered in the alternating tetrameter/trimeter rhythms: when the horses are seen they’re considerably solely “a glimpse of black and brown”. In the first stanza, the horses’ “run” is unmarked by human settlement and exploitation, however there’s a suggestion of decline; regardless of its endless-seeming attain, the terrain appears to be vanishing into the sundown.

It appears that the speaker and his keen horse are “gully rakers” with a thirst for chasing down and stealing from “the Brumby mob”. The envoi has a nostalgic tone, and is frank about the nature of the loss: “Ah, me! before our day is done / We long with bitter pain / To ride once more on Brumby’s Run / And yard his mob again.” The horses are admired, and even honoured, however their chief perform is to be hunted, potential livestock whose seize gives some thrilling sport.

Brumby’s Run can be read here with other poems by Paterson.

* This introduction is Paterson’s wording. The particular etymology of ‘brumby’ is unclear; it has most frequently been attributed to the Bidjara language.

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