Paterson’s Satire on Grand Immigration Schemes
This satirical ballad mocks the grandiose claims made by immigration agents about Australia’s promises of prosperity. Adopting the voice of a disenchanted settler, Paterson aims his wit at the exaggerated hype used to lure new arrivals.
He pokes fun at the flowery picture of abundance painted by promoters like Mr. Jordan, countering it with droll references to monotonous diets of mutton and damper. Paterson jokes that snakes and flies are also omitted from their rosy portraits.
The Old Bush Songs
by Banjo Patterson
Through humorous hyperbole about dying of thirst on barren plains, Paterson reveals the stark challenges of carving out a new life in the remote colonies. He implies only convicts bound to stay could survive such inhospitable conditions.
The flippant warning that free settlers would simply “vegetate a little while and then lie down and die” mocks the grand dreams peddled to migrants. Paterson satirizes the gulf between promotional fiction and reality.
While exaggerated for comic effect, “Immigration” insightfully punctures the myth-making used to lure new settlers. Paterson sheds an amusing yet sobering light on the hardscrabble truth awaiting wide-eyed newcomers to Australia’s shores.
[Mr. Jordan was sent to England by the Queensland
Government in 1858, 1859, and 1860 to lecture on the advantages
of immigration, and told the most extraordinary tales
about the place.]
(Air: “Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.”)
Now Jordan’s land of promise is the burden of my song.
Perhaps you’ve heard him lecture, and blow about it strong;
To hear him talk you’d think it was a heaven upon earth,
But listen and I’ll tell you now the plain unvarnished truth.
Here mutton, beef, and damper are all you’ll get to eat,
From Monday morn till Sunday night, all through the
And should the flour bag run short, then mutton, beef, and
Will be your lot, and whether or not, ’twill have to do,
Here snakes and all vile reptiles crawl around you as you
But these you never hear about in Mr. Jordan’s talk;
Mosquitoes, too, and sandflies, they will tease you all the
And until you get quite colonised you’ll be a pretty sight.
Here are boundless plains where it seldom rains, and you’ll
maybe die of thirst;
But should you so dispose your bones, you’ll scarcely be the
For there’s many a strong and stalwart man come out to
make his pile,
Who never leaves the fatal shore of this thrice accursed isle.
To sum it up in few short words, the place is only fit
For those who were sent out here, for from this they cannot
But any other men who come a living here to try,
Will vegetate a little while and then lie down and die.