Journeys of Self-Discovery – Unpacking Banjo Paterson’s Poignant Bush Ballad “The Travelling Post Office”
One of Paterson’s most moving poetic narratives, “The Travelling Post Office” follows a son’s letter in search of its wandering addressee across the Australian wilderness. Through this simple premise, Paterson insightfully explores poignant themes of isolation, displacement, communication, and ultimately self-knowledge.
The letter bearer’s odyssey traversing the vast inhospitable terrain becomes a quest to bridge distance – both physical and generational. Details of the arduous route emphasize the path’s unpredictability, much like the itinerant son’s career.
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses
by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson
By the conclusion, letter and son still remain apart, separated by the journey. Yet in traversing the land, the mailman, letter, and even Paterson experience deeper understanding of the son, the nation, and themselves.
So while ostensibly tracing a missed connection, “The Travelling Post Office” compellingly chronicles the revelations found along the way. Paterson suggests meaning lies not at destinations but within long stretches of reflection and reconciliation with one’s place. His wisdom persists in connecting us to the Australian spirit.
The Travelling Post Office
The roving breezes come and go, the reed beds sweep and sway,
The sleepy river murmurs low, and loiters on its way,
It is the land of lots o’ time along the Castlereagh.
. . . . .
The old man’s son had left the farm, he found it dull and slow,
He drifted to the great North-west where all the rovers go.
He’s gone so long,’ the old man said,he’s dropped right out of mind,
But if you’d write a line to him I’d take it very kind;
He’s shearing here and fencing there, a kind of waif and stray,
He’s droving now with Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh.
The sheep are travelling for the grass, and travelling very slow; They may be at Mundooran now, or past the Overflow, Or tramping down the black soil flats across by Waddiwong, But all those little country towns would send the letter wrong, The mailman, if he’s extra tired, would pass them in his sleep, It’s safest to address the note to Care of Conroy’s sheep’,
For five and twenty thousand head can scarcely go astray,
You write to `Care of Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh’.’
. . . . .
By rock and ridge and riverside the western mail has gone,
Across the great Blue Mountain Range to take that letter on.
A moment on the topmost grade while open fire doors glare,
She pauses like a living thing to breathe the mountain air,
Then launches down the other side across the plains away
To bear that note to `Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh’.
And now by coach and mailman’s bag it goes from town to town,
And Conroy’s Gap and Conroy’s Creek have marked it `further down’.
Beneath a sky of deepest blue where never cloud abides,
A speck upon the waste of plain the lonely mailman rides.
Where fierce hot winds have set the pine and myall boughs asweep
He hails the shearers passing by for news of Conroy’s sheep.
By big lagoons where wildfowl play and crested pigeons flock,
By camp fires where the drovers ride around their restless stock,
And past the teamster toiling down to fetch the wool away
My letter chases Conroy’s sheep along the Castlereagh.