Banjo’s An Ode to Serendipity
In ‘Come-by-Chance,’ Banjo Paterson pays a whimsical tribute to the role of chance in life’s joyful moments. Through a fanciful story of searching for an elusive town called ‘Come-by-Chance’, Paterson reflects on the unpredictable nature of happiness.
The speaker initially discovers the mysterious town name while idly reading a postal guidebook. Enchanted by the idea of a place left entirely to chance, he decides to journey there and settle in this random, carefree spot.
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses
by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson
Paterson’s lyrical descriptions romanticize ‘Come-by-Chance’ as an imaginary wonderland free from modern pressures and worries. He conveys the appeal of leaving practical concerns behind to live spontaneously.
However, the speaker realizes this magical place likely does not exist on any map. Paterson suggests ‘Come-by-Chance’ is not a physical location but rather a metaphor for life’s pleasant surprises that ‘come unstriven for and free’.
In the lovely concluding verses, Paterson philosophizes that we labor in vain to control our fate – happiness is a gift randomly bestowed by Fortune’s fickle hand. The poem serves as an ode to the human capacity for joy and the role of serendipity in cherished memories.
With dreamy idealism, ‘Come-by-Chance’ celebrates the surprising moments of grace that punctuate life’s routines. Paterson’s accomplishments as a poet include instilling everyday experiences with a touch of magic.
As I pondered very weary o’er a volume long and dreary —
For the plot was void of interest — ’twas the Postal Guide, in fact,
There I learnt the true location, distance, size, and population
Of each township, town, and village in the radius of the Act.
And I learnt that Puckawidgee stands beside the Murrumbidgee,
And that Booleroi and Bumble get their letters twice a year,
Also that the post inspector, when he visited Collector,
Closed the office up instanter, and re-opened Dungalear.
But my languid mood forsook me, when I found a name that took me,
Quite by chance I came across it — `Come-by-Chance’ was what I read;
No location was assigned it, not a thing to help one find it,
Just an N which stood for northward, and the rest was all unsaid.
I shall leave my home, and forthward wander stoutly to the northward
Till I come by chance across it, and I’ll straightway settle down,
For there can’t be any hurry, nor the slightest cause for worry
Where the telegraph don’t reach you nor the railways run to town.
And one’s letters and exchanges come by chance across the ranges,
Where a wiry young Australian leads a pack-horse once a week,
And the good news grows by keeping, and you’re spared the pain of weeping
Over bad news when the mailman drops the letters in the creek.
But I fear, and more’s the pity, that there’s really no such city,
For there’s not a man can find it of the shrewdest folk I know,
`Come-by-chance’, be sure it never means a land of fierce endeavour,
It is just the careless country where the dreamers only go.
. . . . .
Though we work and toil and hustle in our life of haste and bustle,
All that makes our life worth living comes unstriven for and free;
Man may weary and importune, but the fickle goddess Fortune
Deals him out his pain or pleasure, careless what his worth may be.
All the happy times entrancing, days of sport and nights of dancing,
Moonlit rides and stolen kisses, pouting lips and loving glance:
When you think of these be certain you have looked behind the curtain,
You have had the luck to linger just a while in `Come-by-chance’.