Clancy of the Overflow

I had written him a letter which I had for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan years ago
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him
Just “on spec” addressed as follows: “Clancy, of the Overflow”

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected
(And I think the same was written with a thumbnail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it and verbatim I will quote it
“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving as we don’t know where he are”

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving down the Cooper where the western drovers go
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know

And the bush hath friends to greet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet

And the hurrying people daunt me and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy of the Overflow

A B Paterson – The Bulletin 21 December 1889