Last week I received an email from a friend from the Netherlands who was kind enough to forward to me this week’s poem, “The Wreck of the Golfer.” The poem was written by Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864 – 1941), a famous Australian poet, journalist and author. One of Paterson’s most famous poems is “Waltzing Matilda,” which was set to music and became one of Australian’s most famous songs. Paterson’s image appeared on an Australian postage stamp in 1981 and today graces Australia’s 10 dollar note.
Without some background, “The Wreck of the Golfer” makes strange reading. But once it is understand that the poem is a parody of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Wreck of the Hesperus,” (1842) then at least we can understand its structure and ending. Longfellow’s poem begins,
It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintery sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.
You can read the entire poem at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Wreck_of_the_Hesperus. Paterson’s poem is as follows:
The Wreck of the GolferIt was the Bondi golfing man Drove off from the golf house tee, And he had taken his little daughter To bear him company. "Oh, Father, why do you swing the club And flourish it such a lot?" "You watch it fly o'er the fences high!" And he tried with a brassey shot. "Oh, Father, why did you hit the fence Just there where the brambles twine?" And the father he answered never a word, But he got on the green in nine. "Oh, Father, hark from behind those trees, What dismal yells arrive!" "'Tis a man I ween on the second green, And I've landed him with my drive." "Oh, Father, why does the poor Chinee Fall down on his knees and cry?" "He taketh me for his Excellency, And he thinks once hit twice shy." So on they fared to the waterhole, And he drove with a lot of dash, But his balls full soon in the dread lagoon Fell down with a woeful splash. "Oh, Father, why do you beat the sand Till it flies like the carded wool?" And the father he answered never a word, For his heart was much too full. "Oh, Father, why are they shouting 'fore' And screaming so lustily?" But the father he answered never a word, A pallid corpse was he. For a well-swung drive on the back of his head Had landed and laid him low. Lord save us all from a fate like this When next to the links we go.
The Sydney Mail, 4 September 1897
As a reference point, the first golf club in Australia, the Australian Golf Club in Sydney, was established in 1882. However, Paterson’s relationship to golf has yet to be determined. I have written to a researcher in Australia and if she turns up something I will pass it on. Any comments regarding Paterson’s links to golf would be appreciated.
In the mean time, we have our first historic golf poem from Australia.