The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #113151   Message #2405285
Posted By: GUEST,DWR
04-Aug-08 - 07:45 PM
Thread Name: Songs about Horses
Subject: Lyr Add: IN THE DROVING DAYS (Banjo Paterson)
Andrew Barton Patterson's book, The Man From Snowy River, was published in 1917. One of the many wonderful poems in the book was In The Droving Days. I first heard this on a PBS special about his poetry many years ago. Sadly, my VHS copy of that show has long since disappeared, but I still remembered the poem when I started reading this thread.

So here's Banjo's original followed by what I think is a loose but respectful adaptation by Troy Cassar-Daley from his 1999 album Big River.

By Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson
From The Man From Snowy River And Other Verses 1917

Only a pound,' said the auctioneer,
'Only a pound; and I'm standing here
Selling this animal, gain or loss.
Only a pound for the drover's horse;
One of the sort that was never afraid,
One of the boys of the Old Brigade;
Thoroughly honest and game, I'll swear,
Only a little the worse for wear;
Plenty as bad to be seen in town,
Give me a bid and I'll knock him down;
Sold as he stands, and without recourse,
Give me a bid for the drover's horse.'

Loitering there in an aimless way
Somehow I noticed the poor old grey,
Weary and battered and screwed, of course,
Yet when I noticed the old grey horse,
The rough bush saddle, and single rein
Of the bridle laid on his tangled mane,
Straightway the crowd and the auctioneer
Seemed on a sudden to disappear,
Melted away in a kind of haze,
For my heart went back to the droving days.

Back to the road, and I crossed again
Over the miles of the saltbush plain --
The shining plain that is said to be
The dried-up bed of an inland sea,
Where the air so dry and so clear and bright
Refracts the sun with a wondrous light,
And out in the dim horizon makes
The deep blue gleam of the phantom lakes.

At dawn of day we would feel the breeze
That stirred the boughs of the sleeping trees,
And brought a breath of the fragrance rare
That comes and goes in that scented air;
For the trees and grass and the shrubs contain
A dry sweet scent on the saltbush plain.
For those that love it and understand,
The saltbush plain is a wonderland.
A wondrous country, where Nature's ways
Were revealed to me in the droving days.

We saw the fleet wild horses pass,
And the kangaroos through the Mitchell grass,
The emu ran with her frightened brood
All unmolested and unpursued.
But there rose a shout and a wild hubbub
When the dingo raced for his native scrub,
And he paid right dear for his stolen meals
With the drover's dogs at his wretched heels.
For we ran him down at a rattling pace,
While the packhorse joined in the stirring chase.
And a wild halloo at the kill we'd raise --
We were light of heart in the droving days.

'Twas a drover's horse, and my hand again
Made a move to close on a fancied rein.
For I felt the swing and the easy stride
Of the grand old horse that I used to ride
In drought or plenty, in good or ill,
That same old steed was my comrade still;
The old grey horse with his honest ways
Was a mate to me in the droving days.

When we kept our watch in the cold and damp,
If the cattle broke from the sleeping camp,
Over the flats and across the plain,
With my head bent down on his waving mane,
Through the boughs above and the stumps below
On the darkest night I could let him go
At a racing speed; he would choose his course,
And my life was safe with the old grey horse.
But man and horse had a favourite job,
When an outlaw broke from a station mob,
With a right good will was the stockwhip plied,
As the old horse raced at the straggler's side,
And the greenhide whip such a weal would raise,
We could use the whip in the droving days.

'Only a pound!' and was this the end --
Only a pound for the drover's friend.
The drover's friend that had seen his day,
And now was worthless, and cast away
With a broken knee and a broken heart
To be flogged and starved in a hawker's cart.
Well, I made a bid for a sense of shame
And the memories dear of the good old game.

'Thank you? Guinea! and cheap at that!
Against you there in the curly hat!
Only a guinea, and one more chance,
Down he goes if there's no advance,

Third, and the last time, one! two! three!'
And the old grey horse was knocked down to me.
And now he's wandering, fat and sleek,
On the lucerne flats by the Homestead Creek;
I dare not ride him for fear he'd fall,
But he does a journey to beat them all,
For though he scarcely a trot can raise,
He can take me back to the droving days.

The place name in the first sentence of Cassar-Daley's song is a complete mystery to me. I tried various C and K variants of what sounded like Kanambo to me, but I got no results. Closest I could come with the choices I made was Koniambo which is in New Caledonia, off to the east of Australia and that's a bit of a stretch, geographically. After conferring with Arkie on other possible names, we came up with Colamba, Columba, Calambo ~~ well, you get the picture. Perhaps one of our Australian friends can set us right on this. Arkie also helped decipher some of the more difficult passages in Cassar-Daley's text.

By the way, lucerne flats refer to fields of fine quality hay.

The Droving Days
Troy Cassar-Daley
From Big River 1999

I was out at Colamba on a business trip
Tired, hungry and dry in the lip
I went past a sale yard and spotted a mate
I pulled in to see him just for old time's sake

Well, he was after a yearling that he hoped could run
In all the bush races for money and fun
Well, I was only there for a yarn, of course
But I found myself staring at an old drover's horse

He had a rough bush saddle and a single rein
Laid across his tangled mane
He brought up the memories that no-one could raise
As he took me back to the droving days

Well, my mind wandered off for most of the day
And I finally heard the auctioneer say
"Well, give me ten dollars and he's in the bag
Only ten dollars for this worthless nag"

Well, I put in my bid for a sense of shame
But God only knows why I felt his pain
He had a busted knee and a broken pride
So I'll take him home for his final ride

In a rough bush saddle and a single rein
Laid across his tangled mane
He brought up the memories that no-one could raise
As he took me back to the droving days

Well, now he's wondering, fast asleep wandering, fat and sleek
Of On a lucerne flat at Half Way Creek
And though he scarcely a trot can raise
He still takes me back to the droving days.

In a rough bush saddle and a single rein
Laid across his tangled mane
He brought up the memories that no-one could raise
As he takes me back to the droving days

As he takes me back to the droving days