Chances are you have seen the 1982 movie The Man from Snowy River. The film tells the story of down-on-his-luck Jim Craig who falls in love with a rich rancher’s daughter in the 1880s Australian frontier. Romance and conflict ensue as the plot unfolds. The outstanding cinematography coupled with a beautiful piano score make this a memorable movie. Yet, did you know the famous ten-minute chase scene is inspired by a poem?
Thanks to the movie’s credits, I long ago realized the movie was based on Banjo Paterson’s famous poem, but it wasn’t until I developed a poetry unit for students at a rural high school that I sought out the poem to read. As it turned out, Australian Bush poetry is a big hit with a student population raised around horses. Other well-known works by Paterson include “Clancy of the Overflow” and “Waltzing Matilda.” It wasn’t until last month that I sat down to read the poet’s collected works. Many of Paterson’s poems are much like “The Man from Snowy River” in subject matter and style. I found the user-friendly poems refreshing and many lines made me chuckle. While enjoyable, the subject matter does get a bit repetitive at times.
Paterson wrote “The Man from Snowy River” as a ballad. Such narrative poems that tell a story in verse have existed since before literacy was common. The meter or rhythm of the lines would make them easier for poets to remember the lines during a peformance. Often musical accompaniment took place as well. It’s been theorized that these type of ballads became popular in Australia in the late nineteenth- and early-twentieth century because life lived on a frontier often finds people in need of making their own entertainment. The settlers came from England, Scotland, and Ireland and the familiar ballad form simply evolved to reflect life in a new environment.
I’ve included the movie clip below that contains the lines of the poem read to accompany the action on the screen. If you would like to read the entire text of “The Man from Snowy River” please follow this link. Note how the lines of each stanza are written in an alternating rhyme scheme where every other line rhymes with the one before it.
There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses – he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stockhorse snuffs the battle with delight.
I hope you are enjoying these posts for National Poetry Month and that I can bring a bit of my love of poetry into your lives.
Have you seen this movie? What is your reaction to the poem?
The DVD cover used in this post is for promotional use only and follows fair use guidelines.
Article by Jeri Walker-Bickett aka JeriWB
Very nice Jeri! Thanks.
Jan, I love this poem so much! Many of the others in his collected works repeat the same themes and imagery a lot, but there’s a reason why “The Man from Snowy River” the best one.
I didn’t know about the story (& poem) behind the movie. Very interesting post. Keep digging out those poetic sources for National Poetry Month.
Candy, it’s quite the romantic movie but the poem is all action. I think I’m actually going to get the soundtrack from iTunes today. One of my friends actually named his daughter Jessica after the main character, and he has her play the theme song on their piano too.
I haven’t seen the movie since it came out. My parents love old westerns and such so I grew up watching quite a bit of movies like this. Never knew it came from a poem.
Jon, I actually own the movie and used to show that 10-minute clip from the DVD in class. But then I found that great version on YouTube. HBO was my babysitter growing up, so I can’t recall how many times I watched the movie. It’s been more than a few 😉 Of all genres, I’m quite drawn to westerns. Go figure.
You just brought back a great memory for me, Jeri! I remember watching the movie when I was younger with my Dad 🙂 Thanks for tieing in the poem and putting a smile on my face!
Christy, this movie is a great memory conjurer for me as well. I was such a horse crazy little girl. It was ridiculous.
WOW! I’ve never seen the movie, but how awesome that a movie was made from a poem. And I would have not known this if you didn’t tell us. Very nice. Thanks much for sharing.
Denise, it really is a pretty awesome movie that tugs at all the right heart strings 😉
I didn’t watch the movie, but the poem is truly great…
I love the gallop rhythm of the poem. It clearly evokes horses.
The last stanza is poetically remarkable…
Thanks for sharing, best wishes, Aquileana 🙂
Aquileana, the rhythm does fit the function of the poem quite well.
I have to admit I had never heard of the movie or the poem. I found the Australian accent a little difficult to follow but I thought the cinematography was terrific. It captured that these were tough men in the outback.
Jeannette, I think my students really responded to this poem not just because of the horses, but because of the toughness of the outback men as well. Such subject matter really plays with our standard expectations of poetry.
Will this movie make me cry as much as the multi-day jag that was The Thorn Birds miniseries? That’s what I want to know. 😉
Laura, the movie would certainly eek a few tears from you, but not nearly as many as The Thorn Birds 😉
I love this poem so much! have nice day!With love maxiam
Maxima, it’s so good to see you here. Thanks for stopping by. I’ve been enjoying your blog as well thanks to Christy B.
Jeri thanks for sharing your love of poetry! I followed the link and read the entire text of “The Man from Snowy River.” Very interesting to see how it relates to the movie clip you provided. You are right, the cinematography is incredible.
Susan, I’m glad you sought out the full text of the poem. It would be fun to see you do a poem podcast about Samuel your cat one of these days 😉
I have never seen the movie, though vaguely remember people talking about it, but I did like the poem. 🙂
Debra, if you ever get a chance, give the full movie a view as well.
I have not seen the movie, at least I don’t remember it at the moment. I like knowing the history of how it came about though. It’s a bit like Jon’s beer histories. Thanks for sharing.
Cheryl, it came out long ago but is you ever notice it anywhere, “The Man from Snowy River” is well worth watching.
1982…explains why I didn’t see it back then–I was financially strapped post-college and didn’t have TV or see a lot of flicks. I just added it to my Amazon queue! I love learning the story behind movies and any time they are connected to poetry is just intriguing!
RoseMary, it was on HBO when I was a kid and HBO was basically my babysitter. I saw it a bunch of times, and then when it came time to teach poetry to kids out in farmland, they really connected with the subject matter.