Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Peter Clarke

Words:  Unknown
Tune:  Traditional (Look Out Below)

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On Walden's range at morning time
The sun shone brightly down;
It shone across the winding Page
Near Murrurundi town.

It glittered o'er the burning mount
Where murky shadows fell,
Across a path to travelers known,
To some, alas, too well.

There stands a simply block of stone
Erected as a mark
To show the spot where he fought and died,
The gallant Peter Clarke.

And if you will but listen a while,
To you I will relate
What happened there to Peter Clarke
And Jimmy Clarke, his mate.

They camped one night close by the range;
In songs the hours flew past,
And little did poor Peter think
That night would be his last.

At dawn they toiled the steep ascent,
They had scarcely reached the top
When a voice in accents stern and bold
Commanded them to stop.

"Hand up your money, watch, and chain,"
The robber sternly cried.
"Who takes my money takes my life,"
The angry Clarke replies.

Then laughed the robber loud in scorn
As he his pistol drew.
Said he, "My hand is firm and strong,
My aim is ever true.

"And he who would my word gainsay,
Though he be earl or knight,
I swear by all I sacred hold,
He'll ne'er see morning light.

"So give up your money now, my lad,
And do not idly rave;
Resist, and by the God above,
This night you'll fill the grave."

"These are but words, and idle words,"
The daring Clarke replied,
And with one rapid bound he strode
Close by the robber's side.

And now commenced the struggle
For life between them both;
One hand of Clarke's the pistol grasped
And the other grasped his throat.

Now haste you, haste you, Jimmy Clarke,
And seek for help in need.
Your comrade's welfare, nay, his life
Depends on your good speed.

But hark to that loud pistol shot
In a second rends the skies;
A human being on the sod
In his death struggle lies.

But still in his last dying gasp
Poor Peter seemed to say,
"Revenge, revenge for Peter Clarke,"
And so he passed away.

But the robber frightened by his deed
In terror now did lie;
For the hand of Clarke upon his throat
Grows tighter as he died.

And so indeed was Clarke avenged,
For God has set it so,
"Who takes a life must yield a life,"
And the murderer met his doom.

Reprinted in Singabout, Volume 6,  Number 1 in 1966 from the original 1955 publication in Speewah, journal of the Australian Folklore Society.  Printed with the following note:

It was collected from Mrs Gladys Scrivener who said:

"The story as I heard it was that Peter Clarke and Jimmy Clarke (who were not related) had camped on the banks of the Page River, and were attacked by an unidentified robber.  Peter Clarke made an effort to sieze the robber's gun while Jimmy Clarke sought help from the camp they had left.  When he returned, he found that Peter Clarke had been shot dead, but in dying, had not relaxed his hold on his assailant's throat and so had prevented him from escaping."

The illustration to this post is the cover of the 1959 Smithsonian Folkways album Australian Folksongs and Ballads by John Greenway.  The song was also recorded by Marian Henderson on a 1964 EP released through Pix magazine (with Don Burrows among the accompanists).

1 comment:

  1. Another fine song. I think you are doing a very fine job of making these songs available to those of us around the world who may not know much about Australia and its songs. If I might I would like to share a link to a new blog on Sea Chanties. I think everybody who loves sea chanties and is interested in their history will very much enjoy this blog, called "Wild Chants with Doggerel Words":