The major public outlet for Banjo Paterson in the 1880s was the newly established Bulletin magazine, published weekly in Sydney. The Bulletin was then a racist and right wing publication but it had two redeeming qualities: it supported trade unionism and it sought out quality Australian writing. When Paterson wrote The Man from Snowy River in 1890, its publication in The Bulletin ensured this poem would reflect and inspire the heart of the nation.
The terrible descent after the colt
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 learnt to ride while droving on the plains.
And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast;
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony—three parts thoroughbred at least
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry—just the sort that won't say die
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.
A bush hut that could provide shelter for the horsemen, if necessary
Most Australians have at least visited the Snowy River with its headwaters in the Snowy Mountains, beautifully described by Mike Down Under blog. Being in the Great Dividing Range in Victoria near the New South Wales border, it can be a very cold place in winter. And while the location of the ride in the poem is left unspecified, a number of towns claim to be the original site, including Corryong.
Paterson became a war correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age during the Second Boer War, leaving for South Africa in late 1899. He was one of the first war correspondents to write from the actual war zone, sending off graphic accounts of the surrender of Bloemfontein and the capture of Pretoria. When WW1 started in 1914, he became an ambulance driver with the Australian Voluntary Hospital in France.
One of the great films made here when Australia had an impressive film industry was The Man from Snowy River, made in 1920. This silent black and white film was closely based on the Banjo Paterson poem. Today he is honoured in films and plays, as described by Exploded Views blog, but is best known by being the face of the Australian ten dollar note.
Paterson on the ten dollar note