Comic Exaggeration of Great Calamity
Banjo Paterson’s humorous ballad ‘The Great Calamity’ pokes fun at Scottish cultural stereotypes through the escalating misfortune of two whiskey-loving Highlanders. Paterson utilizes irony and hyperbole to humorously scrutinize values and friendship.
We are introduced to the jovial pair toasting their homeland and whiskey supply in thick Scottish brogue, establishing their bonhomie and thirst for drink. Their grand plans to tap a huge keg when MacFierce’un returns satirizes their excessive love of liquor.
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses
by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson
Paterson masterfully pivots the story as MacFierce’un later finds McThirst devastated – but not for conventional tragedies like losing his livelihood or family. Rather, McThirst is shattered by his son accidentally spilling their precious whiskey reserves!
By playing the son’s mistake as a catastrophic “deed of shame”, even worse than death, Paterson humorously skewers the men’s warped priorities. Their overblown weeping at the “solemn silence deep” of lost whiskey exposes their folly through comic exaggeration.
While gently parodying cultural types, Paterson adds nuance in the moving depiction of the men’s friendship, forged by shared experience. Overall, the poem employs humor to subtly question values while upholding camaraderie.
The Great Calamity
MacFierce’un came to Whiskeyhurst
When summer days were hot,
And bided there wi’ Jock McThirst,
A brawny brother Scot.
Gude Faith! They made the whisky fly,
Like Highland chieftains true,
And when they’d drunk the beaker dry
They sang `We are nae fou!’
`There is nae folk like oor ain folk, Sae gallant and sae true.' They sang the only Scottish joke Which is, `We are nae fou.'
Said bold McThirst, `Let Saxons jaw
Aboot their great concerns,
But bonny Scotland beats them a’,
The land o’ cakes and Burns,
The land o’ partridge, deer, and grouse,
Fill up your glass, I beg,
There’s muckle whusky i’ the house,
Forbye what’s in the keg.’
And here a hearty laugh he laughed, `Just come wi' me, I beg.' MacFierce'un saw with pleasure daft A fifty-gallon keg.
Losh, man, that’s grand,’ MacFierce’un cried, Saw ever man the like,
Now, wi’ the daylight, I maun ride
To meet a Southron tyke,
But I’ll be back ere summer’s gone,
So bide for me, I beg,
We’ll make a grand assault upon
Yon deevil of a keg.’
. . . . .
MacFierce’un rode to Whiskeyhurst,
When summer days were gone,
And there he met with Jock McThirst
Was greetin’ all alone.
McThirst what gars ye look sae blank? Have all yer wits gane daft? Has that accursed Southron bank Called up your overdraft? Is all your grass burnt up wi’ drouth? Is wool and hides gone flat?’ McThirst replied,Gude friend, in truth,
‘Tis muckle waur than that.’
Has sair misfortune cursed your life That you should weep sae free? Is harm upon your bonny wife, The children at your knee? Is scaith upon your house and hame?’ McThirst upraised his head: My bairns hae done the deed of shame —
‘Twere better they were dead.
`To think my bonny infant son
Should do the deed o’ guilt —
HE LET THE WHUSKEY SPIGOT RUN,
AND A’ THE WHUSKEY’S SPILT!’
. . . . .
Upon them both these words did bring
A solemn silence deep,
Gude faith, it is a fearsome thing
To see two strong men weep.