Song Of The Squatter By Banjo Paterson

Unmasking Colonial Corruption Through Verse

This satirical ballad by Banjo Paterson provides insightful commentary on the systemic abuse of power by authorities in colonial Australia’s pastoral economy.

Adopting the aggrieved voice of a squatter, Paterson details injustices from corrupt officials exploiting their position to impose arbitrary fines, seize land, purchase confiscated assets at low prices, and display willful negligence.

The Old Bush Songs

by Banjo Patterson

The extensive cataloguing of duplicitous actions highlights deeply embedded exploitation enabled by unchecked power. References to pretense of lawfulness underscore the endemic misconduct.

While exaggerated for effect, the poem reflects very real grievances faced by rural producers at the whims of an unaccountable bureaucracy. Paterson gives a scathing critique of inequity through the squatter’s litany of abuses.

Ultimately, “Song of the Squatter” provides a compelling perspective on the conflicts between propertied classes and government in Australia’s frontiers. Paterson reveals disturbing realities veiled by idyllic myths of prosperous settlement. The satire offers potent social commentary.


[The subjoined is one of the “Songs of the Squatters,”
written by the Hon. Robert Lowe (afterwards Viscount
Sherbrooke), while resident in New South Wales.]

The Commissioner bet me a pony–I won;
So he cut off exactly two-thirds of my run;
For he said I was making a fortune too fast,
And profit gained slower the longer would last.

He remarked as devouring my mutton he sat,
That I suffered my sheep to grow sadly too fat;
That they wasted waste land, did prerogative brown,
And rebelliously nibbled the droits of the Crown;–

That the creek that divided my station in two
Showed that Nature designed that two fees should be due.
Mr. Riddle assured me ’twas paid but for show;
But he kept it and spent it; that’s all that I know.

The Commissioner fined me because I forgot
To return an old ewe that was ill of the rot,
And a poor wry-necked lamb that we kept for a pet;
And he said it was treason such things to forget.

The Commissioner pounded my cattle because
They had mumbled the scrub with their famishing jaws
On the part of the run he had taken away;
And he sold them by auction the costs to defray.

The Border Police they were out all the day
To look for some thieves who had ransacked my dray;
But the thieves they continued in quiet and peace,
For they’d robbed it themselves–had the Border Police!

When the white thieves had left me the black thieves
My shepherds they waddied, my cattle they speared;
But for fear of my licence I said not a word,
For I knew it was gone if the Government heard.

The Commissioner’s bosom with anger was filled
Against me because my poor shepherd was killed;
So he straight took away the last third of my run,
And got it transferred to the name of his son.

The son had from Cambridge been lately expelled,
And his licence for preaching most justly withheld!
But this is no cause, the Commissioner says,
Why he should not be fit for a licence to graze.

The cattle that had not been sold at the pound
He took with the run at five shillings all round;
And the sheep the blacks left me at sixpence a head–
“A very good price,” the Commissioner said.

The Governor told me I justly was served,
That Commissioners never from duty had swerved;
But that if I’d a fancy for any more land
For one pound an acre he’d plenty on hand.

I’m not very proud! I can dig in a bog,
Feed pigs or for firewood can split up a log,
Clean shoes, riddle cinders, or help to boil down–
Or whatever you please, but graze lands of the Crown.

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