Paterson’s Sober Portrait of Outback Deprivation
In this short lyric poem, Paterson paints a sobering portrait of the isolation and deprivation of living in the remote Australian bush.
The speaker discourages a friend or lover from joining them in the wilderness, emphasizing the harsh realities that romantic notions overlook.
The Old Bush Songs
by Banjo Patterson
Vivid images reveal the ascetic existence – cooking over woodfires, living in makeshift bark huts, encountering more wildlife than humans. The refrain “Dwell not with me” underscores the inhospitable conditions.
By noting what the listener will mourn like tender vines and home comforts, Paterson evocatively conveys the sacrifices of dwelling in the outback. Deprivation of community and culture for pioneer life exacts a toll.
While the bush holds appeal, Paterson gives an unvarnished glimpse of its demands. The short lines and repetitive refrain create a melancholy, ominous tone warning against idealizing the landscape.
So in contrast to idyllic depictions, “Dwell Not With Me” offers sobering advice on the realities of isolation in Australia’s interior. Paterson brings insight into the privations and loneliness obscured by romantic myths of the bush.
DWELL NOT WITH ME
Dwell, not with me,
For you’ll never see
More than a ‘possum or a kangaroo,
And now and then a cockatoo.
Oh, would you wish,
Without a dish,
Your scanty meal from a piece of bark,
And a wood fire to illume the dark.
‘Tis there you’d mourn,
‘Tis there you’d mourn
The sweet woodbine
That round your lattice now doth twine.
Fond friends, don’t grieve
For scenes like these,
Or smart from bugs, mosquitoes, fleas.
Dwell not with me.