The Agony of Defeat
Banjo Paterson’s comic poem ‘How the Favourite Beat Us’ uses humor and irony to recount a hapless punter’s botched attempt to fix a race. Through the man’s woeful story, Paterson satirizes human folly and moral compromises made for greed.
We are drawn into the narrator’s tale as he describes his past glory as a professional gambler, contrasted with his current misery. His ruin stemmed from arrogantly plotting to stop his own horse from winning after it became heavily favored.
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses
by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson
Paterson masterfully builds up the suspense as the punter puts his plan in action through secret signals to the jockey. However, hilariously, a well-timed mosquito spoils the scheme, causing the oblivious jockey to mistake his swat for the planned signal to win.
The man’s stunned incredulity at his horse winning despite his machinations is humorously depicted. His immediate accusation that the jockey deliberately ignored his orders underscores his refusal to accept his own actions caused his downfall.
Through comedy, Paterson reveals human tendencies to deflect blame and avoid introspection. By using an unreliable narrator, he satirizes the justifications people make for unprincipled conduct. Paterson reminds readers that dishonesty often brings its own punishment.
How the Favourite Beat Us
Aye,’ said the boozer,I tell you it’s true, sir,
I once was a punter with plenty of pelf,
But gone is my glory, I’ll tell you the story
How I stiffened my horse and got stiffened myself.
`’Twas a mare called the Cracker, I came down to back her,
But found she was favourite all of a rush,
The folk just did pour on to lay six to four on,
And several bookies were killed in the crush.
`It seems old Tomato was stiff, though a starter;
They reckoned him fit for the Caulfield to keep.
The Bloke and the Donah were scratched by their owner,
He only was offered three-fourths of the sweep.
`We knew Salamander was slow as a gander,
The mare could have beat him the length of the straight,
And old Manumission was out of condition,
And most of the others were running off weight.
No doubt someoneblew it’, for everyone knew it,
The bets were all gone, and I muttered in spite
`If I can’t get a copper, by Jingo, I’ll stop her,
Let the public fall in, it will serve the brutes right.’
I said to the jockey, Now, listen, my cocky,
You watch as you’re cantering down by the stand,
I’ll wait where that toff is and give you the office,
You’re only to win if I lift up my hand.’
I then tried to back her –What price is the Cracker?’
`Our books are all full, sir,’ each bookie did swear;
My mind, then, I made up, my fortune I played up
I bet every shilling against my own mare.
`I strolled to the gateway, the mare in the straightway
Was shifting and dancing, and pawing the ground,
The boy saw me enter and wheeled for his canter,
When a darned great mosquito came buzzing around.
`They breed ’em at Hexham, it’s risky to vex ’em,
They suck a man dry at a sitting, no doubt,
But just as the mare passed, he fluttered my hair past,
I lifted my hand, and I flattened him out.
`I was stunned when they started, the mare simply darted
Away to the front when the flag was let fall,
For none there could match her, and none tried to catch her —
She finished a furlong in front of them all.
You bet that I went for the boy, whom I sent for The moment he weighed and came out of the stand — Who paid you to win it? Come, own up this minute.’
Lord love yer,’ said he,why you lifted your hand.’
‘Twas true, by St. Peter, that cursedmuskeeter’
Had broke me so broke that I hadn’t a brown,
And you’ll find the best course is when dealing with horses
To win when you’re able, and KEEP YOUR HANDS DOWN.