Sam Holt by Banjo Paterson

Social Mobility Aussie Style

This ironic narrative poem traces the dubious exploits and rapid ascent of Sam Holt, an opportunistic Australian frontiersman. His old friend, the speaker, recalls Sam’s shady bush escapades with humorous disbelief over his newfound wealth and status.

Paterson satirizes social mobility through Sam’s dubious history – cheating at cards, duffing cattle, borrowing money, brawling. Vivid outback details like cooking lizards evoke Sam’s rough-and-tumble origins.

The Old Bush Songs

by Banjo Patterson

The speaker’s skeptical tone implies Sam gained riches through luck and crafty “bluffs” more than merit. By exaggerating Sam’s rise from swagman to English aristocrat, Paterson pokes fun at pretension and pretense.

Undercutting the humor is a portrayal of systemic inequality, as honest workers remain trapped while Sam exploits loopholes to ascend the social ladder through deceit. The ending suggests karma may be delayed.

So while comic in tone, “Sam Holt” provides insightful social commentary on ambition, luck and morality in colonial Australia. Behind Sam’s silly ascent lies a NA Is Sam Holt an unscrupulous opportunist or a wily model of self-invention?


(Air: “Ben Bolt.”)

Oh! don’t you remember Black Alice, Sam Holt–
Black Alice, so dusky and dark,
The Warrego gin, with the straw through her nose,
And teeth like a Moreton Bay shark.

The terrible sheepwash tobacco she smoked
In the gunyah down there by the lake,
And the grubs that she roasted, and the lizards she stewed,
And the damper you taught her to bake.

Oh! don’t you remember the moon’s silver sheen,
And the Warrego sand-ridges white?
And don’t you remember those big bull-dog ants
We caught in our blankets at night?

Oh! don’t you remember the creepers, Sam Holt,
That scattered their fragrance around?
And don’t you remember that broken-down colt
You sold me, and swore he was sound?

And don’t you remember that fiver, Sam Holt,
You borrowed so frank and so free,
When the publican landed your fifty-pound cheque
At Tambo your very last spree?

Luck changes some natures, but yours, Sammy Holt,
Was a grand one as ever I see,
And I fancy I’ll whistle a good many tunes
Ere you think of that fiver or me.

Oh! don’t you remember the cattle you duffed,
And your luck at the Sandy Creek rush,
And the poker you played, and the bluffs that you bluffed,
And your habits of holding a flush?

And don’t you remember the pasting you got
By the boys down in Callaghan’s store,
When Tim Hooligan found a fifth ace in his hand,
And you holding his pile upon four?

You were not the cleanest potato, Sam Holt,
You had not the cleanest of fins.
But you made your pile on the Towers, Sam Holt,
And that covers the most of your sins.

They say you’ve ten thousand per annum, Sam Holt,
In England, a park and a drag;
Perhaps you forget you were six months ago
In Queensland a-humping your swag.

But who’d think to see you now dining in state
With a lord and the devil knows who,
You were flashing your dover, six short months ago,
In a lambing camp on the Barcoo.

When’s my time coming? Perhaps never, I think,
And it’s likely enough your old mate
Will be humping his drum on the Hughenden-road
To the end of the chapter of fate.

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