Floating Life 4/06 ~ 11/07

an archive

Friday Australian poem #16: Banjo Paterson “Fur and Feathers”

Having been serious on this blog — even deep and meaningful — in a few posts this week I offer this in a spirit of fun, and can almost guarantee you won’t have read it before! I found it in the whitewolf collection, and if you click the author name below you can see what he says about A B Paterson, one of the two best-known 1890s bush balladeers — though both of them lasted into the 20th century, Paterson rather longer than Henry Lawson…


The Animals Noah Forgot

Fur and Feathers

Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson


THE EMUS formed a football team
Up Walgett way;
Their dark-brown sweaters were a dream
But kangaroos would sit and scream
To watch them play.

“Now, butterfingers,” they would call,
And such-like names;
The emus couldn’t hold the ball
—They had no hands—but hands aren’t all
In football games.

A match against the kangaroos
They played one day.
The kangaroos were forced to choose
Some wallabies and wallaroos
That played in grey.

The rules that in the west prevail
Would shock the town;
For when a kangaroo set sail
An emu jumped upon his tail
And fetched him down.

A whistler duck as referee
Was not admired.
He whistled so incessantly
The teams rebelled, and up a tree
He soon retired.

The old marsupial captain said,
“It’s do or die! ”
So down the ground like fire he fled
And leaped above an emu’s head
And scored a try.

Then shouting, “Keep it on the toes!”
The emus came.
Fierce as the flooded Bogan flows
They laid their foemen out in rows
And saved the game.

On native pear and Darling pea
They dined that night:
But one man was an absentee:
The whistler duck—their referee—
Had taken flight.

The Bogan, of course, is a river…

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Written by Neil

November 23, 2007 at 12:27 am

2 Responses

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  1. I love it. It’s fascinating to try to imagine what the game would have looked like. If you go to really early footage of Australian rules football, you can see that place-kicking had a major role. Here in Michigan I’ve been a tutor in a sociology of sports course, and twice now I’ve given lectures on the Australian forms of football, using as sources Geoffrey Blainey’s A Game of Our Own and Sean Fagan’s Rugby Rebellion. I imagine that what Patterson described might have looked a lot like what is sometimes called “ur-football,” the violent, inchoate game from which all football is descended.

    The election result has renewed my faith in opinion polling as a science. Among other things.

    David Smith

    November 25, 2007 at 3:50 pm

  2. You should also post “The Geebung Polo Club,” http://www.middlemiss.org/lit/authors/patersonab/poetry/geebung.html, which further suggests that Patterson saw human sports as bloody contests that would have looked like animals trying to do things for which they have no natural aptitude but a lot of lethal potential.

    David Smith

    November 25, 2007 at 3:55 pm

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