Poetry at 30,000 feet
Flying out of Alice Springs on a nearly empty flight, and cabin crew Mark suddenly decides (after an enthusiastic discussion of Joy Division) to treat us to an unexpected rendition of Banjo Paterson’s 1890 poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’. Paterson, of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ fame, was a Bush Poet, and this piece, about the pursuit of a prize-winning racehorse that has run off with a bunch of wild horses, is credited with redefining colonial Australia’s emerging sense of itself. These days, Paterson’s image adorns the Australian $10 note, as does (somewhat incredibly) the full text of the poem in micro-print. Mark introduced his brilliant performance with both field notes and a bank note, and then recited the whole thing with verve, pace and without falter, before wandering back up the empty aisle with his drinks trolley. You couldn’t make it up.
Here’s a snippet –
“When they reached the mountain’s summit, even Clancy took a pull, / It well might make the boldest hold their breath, / the wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full / Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.”
I’ve seen those wombat holes, and I’m here to tell you, a girl could easily turn an ankle…