Childhood memories: #3

Is there a poem that brings back childhood memories?  The poem below would have to be one of mine, thanks to my brother Nick who use to read it out loud.  If you haven't read Mulga Bill's Bicycle, it is best read aloud as Banjo was so clever with words and the story is very funny.  For those non-Australians, sing out if you come across a word that isn't familiar, there are a few in this poem.

Mulga Bill's Bicycle
by Banjo Patterson

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;
He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;
He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;
He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;
And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,
The grinning shop assistant said, `Excuse me, can you ride?'

`See, here, young man,' said Mulga Bill, `from Walgett to the sea,
From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, 
there's none can ride like me.
I'm good all round at everything, as everybody knows,
Although I'm not the one to talk -- I HATE a man that blows.
But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;
Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wild cat can it fight.
There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,
There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, 
on axle, hoof, or wheel,
But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths
and straps are tight:
I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern
right straight away at sight.'

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,
That perched above the Dead Man's Creek, 
beside the mountain road.
He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,
But ere he'd gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.
It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver streak,
It whistled down the awful slope, 
towards the Dead Man's Creek.
It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:
The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,
The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,
As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.
It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,
It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;
And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek
It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dead Man's Creek.

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:
He said, `I've had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;
I've rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five pound bet,
But this was the most awful ride that I've encountered yet.
I'll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; it's shaken all my nerve
To feel it whistle through the air and 
plunge and buck and swerve.
It's safe at rest in Dead Man's Creek, we'll leave it lying still;
A horse's back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill.'
* * *


  1. This is one of my favourite poems from the early Australian poets. I had a wonderful 5th and 6th grade teacher who use to read these aloud to us. (And explain as he went along) He taught me to appreciate this kind of 'bush' poetry and now I write my own!

    (PS My favourite of all has to be "A Bush Christening" .... or maybe "The Man from Ironbark." Now I can't decide.)

  2. Mum-me: "The Man from Ironbark" and "The Man from Snowy River" would have to be my other favourites. He had such a way with words, he took you on his journeys.

    Here are some links for those who want to read more of Banjo's wonderful "bush poems" and a bit about his life.

    List of other poems by Banjo Patterson:

    More about Banjo Patterson:

  3. Nice! Have a wonderful day Jo!

  4. I can remember listening to it the first time awestruck in the library at primary school. I remember poor old Bill's face so pale after the accident!

  5. I couldn't stop picturing him hurtling through the scrub like the blokes you see on Australia's Funniest Home Videos!! Great Banjo poem, Jo!
    My favourite was Cargoes by John Masefield. I loved the rhythm and exotic sounding places..
    "Quinquireme of Ninevah from distant Ophir,
    rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine
    with a cargoe of ivory, and apes and peacocks
    sandalwood, cedarwood and sweet white wine..."
    Still love it :-)

  6. I've never read this poem before; my father-in-law will love it - I must email it to him!! :) I dont' really have a favourite poem... I mostly read Christian poetry and don't know a lot of other ones. :)

  7. Oh Jo! My Banjo poem was A Bush Christening! Real Laugh Out Loud stuff!


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