Tag Archives: manhood

Banjo Paterson Replies #atozchallenge.

No sooner than I’d finished my letter to Australian poet, Banjo Paterson, I received a reply. Moreover, it wasn’t some lame: “Out of Office Autoreply” either. He actually wrote to me.

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your philosophical letter. It’s been such a long time since anyone has asked me for advice or even been in touch. Your letter really made my day.

While you asked me what it means to be a man, what I say holds true for both boys and girls, men and women.So, I’m addressing what it means to be a man, a woman…a person.

I understand that the Man From Snowy River has been held up as the ideal Aussie bloke but that was never my intent. So, I guess I should warn you, in case you ever decide to get something published, that once it’s out there, your work gains a life all of its own. You can’t control what happens to it or how the public might interpret it. It’s very much like watching your children grow up and move out in the world. They do what they like and you’re just a by-stander.

Anyway, getting back to your letter, this is the very first thing which came to mind…

There is no prescription. No “one size fits all”.

Tell your children: “You are who you are”. We each need to spread own wings to follow our dreams, wherever they take us.

They need to pick up the pen and write their own stories. Don’t  let someone else do it for them, even if that means losing a friend and walking alone for awhile. It’s not worth giving away your soul, your very self. The price is too high.

However, as their Mum or Dad, you’re also quite a guiding light. As individuals, we don’t always see ourselves all that clearly and a bit of a reality check is a good thing…especially when we sell ourselves short and don’t see ourselves in all our technicolour beauty.

Keep venturing beyond what they know, exploring all sorts of nooks and crannies instead of simply staying between the lines.  One of the very first things children learn at school, is to stay between the lines. Conform to the rules and only colour in between the lines. Be contained. Don’t venture out or break the rules and restraints which confine you. Rather, stay put and do as you’re told.

Why is this so important and has anyone ever truly learned anything sitting down? I learned so much out on the horse’s back.

Being an individual is important. After all, nobody has the same fingerprint. We are our own unique self.

At the same time, there is a commonality among us. Something which unifies people. Makes us human. Goes beyond our DNA. Somehow, while we’re all individuals, we are also Human. As the saying goes: “The geese go barefoot everywhere.”

So I guess that leaves us with quite a conundrum. We each have our own unique fingerprint and yet we are one and the same. How is this so?

Unfortunately, dying hasn’t made solving these conundrums any easier.

So, on that note, I would like to wish you all the best for your remaining travels. However, I should warn you that I’ve met a few of these dead poets at poetry readings and cafes up here. Quite a few are rather intense. They’ve been keeping me rather busy but somehow a good horse ride through the bush calms them down…the magic of horses!

On that note, I’d best be off. Monday’s poet is trying to push me off my perch!

Best wishes,

Banjo

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That was quite a reply with so much food for thought. I guess that what he’s saying is that there isn’t some ideal prototype which we should be striving to become. That, as tempting as it might appear to walk inside someone else’s shoes and even become them, that we need to resist. Be ourselves and follow our own path…even when it heads cross-country, seemingly disappearing in the bush. That’s the fun of going bush-bashing! Exploring the great unknown!

What I am struggling to understand is how we can be unique individuals and yet one human race. Is it like all the difference pixels coming together to form a picture? There’s that diversity and yet when it comes together there is unity.

Anyway, as Banjo said, all of this is a conundrum.

One of those great questions which only generates more questions.

What are your thoughts? Any ideas? Look forward to hearing from you!

xx Rowena

 

Banjo Paterson…Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge.

G’day Banjo,

Of course, I couldn’t possibly write my series of Letters to Dead Poets without including you.  Walzing Matilda has long been Australia’s unofficial national anthem and The Man From Snowy River is an iconic Australian poem illustrating values of mateship and community which have made this nation strong.

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Back when  was 10 years old in primary school, we all strived to remember the lines of: The Man From Snowy River, which has since been made into a film. I remember going over and over those lines almost hearing the sound of pounding hoofs in the metre:

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.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,

The old man with his hair as white as snow;

But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up –

He would go wherever horse and man could go.

And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,

No better horseman ever held the reins,

For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand –

He learned to ride while droving on the plains.

That was as far as all my memorising ended up…the end of verse 2.

So, after that rather lengthy introduction, I suppose I should get on to the reason for my letter. Why am I bothering to contact you from the 21st Century, when you’ve been resting in peace for so long?

Well, I have one simple question:

What does it mean to be a man?

After all, for so many years the Man from Snowy River was consciously or unconsciously held up as the ideal Aussie bloke…especially after the movie was released. With his rugged, bushman’s physique, he was Australia’s answer to the American cowboy.While this image wasn’t exactly accurate with most of our population living in urban areas, it was consciously or unconsciously reinforced by strength of the Australian Lighthorse units during World War I.

Somewhere a long the way, the legend was born.

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Since you created this iconic Aussie bloke, that’s why I asked you what it means to  be a man. Not for me but for my son. I know things have changed quite significantly but surely some of the fundamentals are still the same? I’m hoping for some man-to-man advice please. Well, make that man-to-man-via-his-Mum advice.

As I mentioned in my first letter to AA Milne, our son recently turned 12 and started high school. While this is hard enough, he is also about to enter the swirling vortex of pubescence. While I could well have asked Milne the same question, I forgot.

So, what are your thoughts? What does it mean to be a man beyond time and place? Is there something at the core? Or, are there so many themes and variations, that there are no underlying truths? No “Essence of Man” which I could simply put in a bottle and sell?

I wonder…

Yet, as much as I’m getting into this whole writing letters to dead poets idea, I do have my concerns. Thinking about how much things have changed, your advice could well be out of date. Your Man from Snowy River would be stonkered by how much things have changed. He wouldn’t even know what a computer was, let alone how to send an email or connect up with people all around the world via the Internet. He might know how to ride a horse but what good is that, trying to get through the main streets of Sydney now? He’d end up underneath a bus. That is, if a bicycle courier didn’t get him first.

Yet, at the same time, there must be qualities, characteristics, actions which transcend time and are part of the human condition and that’s what I’m searching for.

While I was thinking about all of this, I suddenly realised how little I know about you. You are such a household name throughout Australia and yet I barely know anything about you at all. You’re a bit like that person who’s always been living just down the road that you keep seeing yet, you don’t really know. You just think you do. So, I really should have done my research before we engaged in such lengthy conversation. I know nothing about you the man. You’re a name without a face lost in the misty passages of time.

Isn’t that the same with most writers, poets, artists? We admire their work without knowing the first thing about them. Without finding out whether they’re an inspiration after all?

Perhaps, we need to pick our role models more carefully.

Anyway, the sun has now well and truly set on what was an exceptionally warm Autumn day and I need to return to the land of the living.

I don’t know if there is any way you could possibly reach me at all but I’d love to hear from you!

Yours sincerely,

Rowena

 Notes

Banjo Paterson was born 17 February 1864 at “Narrambla”, near Orange,
New South Wales, Australia and died of a heart attack on 5 February 1941 (aged 76)
Sydney, Australia.

He is best known for his quintessential poems: The Man From Snowy River, Waltzing Matilda and Clancy off the Overflow which you can read Here.

 

Letters to Dead Poets for the A-Z Challenge So Far:

Inspired By A Living Poet: Flying With A Living Poet.

Letter from A Dead Poet: Don’t Sit By My Grave and Weep!

A- Letter to AA Milne