Jack and BanjoJuly 11, 2014

On July 16, 1914, Jack Riley was looking at the elevated terrains of Corryong, which he became attached to. He was ill, and his mates thought of bringing him to his favourite place, on a stretcher, to uplift him. He passed away hours later.

Riley was a stockman, a job he relished, as it put him in the mountain area. Some of Australia's highest peaks are found there. A wild existence he led, which kept him out of touch with anyone. This made Banjo Paterson a lucky bloke, as he was one of the few who got the chance to befriend this hermit fellow. "The Man from Snowy River", one of Paterson's acclaimed poems, was all about Riley. The young author, who was born on Orange, New South Wales, wasn't envious of him. Many of his likes ended up famous, like Henry "Breaker" Harbord Morant, but Riley was something else. He was at home with the grassy plains and snow-capped mountains, and for Paterson, it was an enlightening moment.

It was the 1880s, when the colonies were part of the British Empire. Paterson was one of the many who were doing some soul searching. They were searching for their own identity, and Paterson found his muse in Riley. So he breathed life into the mountains and verdant fields in Corryong, his poem ending up as an epic of sort.

"He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill,

And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,

Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,

As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.

Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met

In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals

On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,

With the man from Snowy River at their heels."

It was clear that Paterson was being romantic about the Outback, that rural landscape occupying much of Australia. He lived all his life in the city, so the poet wondered if there was more. In Riley, he figured out that this was what being Aussie was all about. He was right. (The red kangaroo, a staple in the countryside, is featured in the Coat of arms of Australia.) His peers, notably C.J. Dennis and Henry Lawson, weren't less significant, but Paterson's depiction of Corrying, which was more provincial back then, was right on. (The poet wouldn't be surprised if he is alive right now and found out that the town is a tourist destination.)

Paterson achieved more success with his other works, after the publication of his other notable poems, "Waltzing Matilda" and "Clancy of the Overflow". He would be compared to Rudyard Kipling, whose works were set in exotic lands in the East. The Aussie would stil write about the rustic landscape, the cries of brumbees haunting him. Not part of the picture, but not far away from the scene, was the figure of the hermit stockman.

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