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Australian Studies. Bush Legend in Urban Context Essay

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Updated: Oct 13th, 2021

In this essay we are going to look at Richard’s, Sean’s and Graeme’s work and compare their ideas on present arguments about the urban context of the bush legend. The three historians project good views on the issue.

According to Richard the legend came about, due to a similar concept in Britain and America, their musicians, artists and literary were trying to get there identity through their pasts and their history. He moves that the search through history brought about or associated by growth of urban middle class or in other words bourgeoisie. He also portrayed it was Australians city dwellers image of the bush as a sunlit landscape of faded blue hills, cloudless skies and noble gum trees, peopled by idealized shearers and drovers. This concept was also shared by Graeme who also stated that the poet worked in a ‘dingy little office’ in a ‘dusty dirty city’ and he on permanent vacation, rode with the ‘western drovers’, sharing the ‘pleasures that the townsfolk never know. This showed that he appreciated the niceties bush environment had to offer, the space and fresh air in part of the dusty cramped up town life. The sunlit land scape perception on the bush is also raised in another angle; this is through the eyes of artists or bohemians.

In portraying this perception in the lives of urban Australians, the legend quickly crept in the urban Australia. The Australians learnt to identify themselves with the bush legend and it started building up as their national culture. This created a unique conception of Australians amongst themselves, a different one than that seen or brought about by the Britons and the Americans. Due to this new innovation, the Australians began to foolish and alienate the conception and images of the British on the old Australian culture. They condemned the European images as biased and blurred and brought in a belief that only the new Australian image could be clear, pure and true. The bush legend or in other words the new image inevitably moved into the perception of the Europeans, this was ironically placed, as this was not the image they brought to Australia. The image got trapped within the European intellectual social environment in which there lives worked.

The Australians also projected on to their image of the bush their alienation from the urban environment; this is shown by Richard in his literature. The new group of people within the Australian community who are interested in culture, learning and the arts carried into the image of the bush their own art displaying the informal way of life as their radicalism, their male comradeship, heir belief of their own freedom from colonial restraints, presenting it as the real Australia They also projected on to their image of the bush their alienation from their urban environment, they sought an escape from what-the city represented. As per the above interpretation of the book the artist/bohemian brought about the legend in Richard’s view. Most chose the bush as an imaginative refuge. The contrast between the cramping, city and the wide open spaces became a cliché for that generation.

The bohemian highly contributed to imagery of the life, with that in mind, the people who favor thorough and complete social reforms and were holding extreme views on the bush legend and those who supported republican principles which was also the bush legend were mainly urban and they considered the shearer and drovers of the bush as perfect or ideal occasional forays or escapades by the bohemian to gather material from the bush gave the urban bohemian a clear picture of the perception they would want to achieve. They ten went back to finish there work in their urban studios. Richard gives an example of Roberts who visited the sheep stations to make sketches and the finished in his city studios. This was emulated by many others romanticizing in it.

The connection between bohemian and bush values can also be seen in the statement by Richard’s where he places in context the Roberts’s The sunny (1987), to show that a group of paintings as this one portrayed naked Australian youth as part of a sunlit bush landscape.

The bush worker is also portrayed as a valuable as they were an integral part of the empire. The imperial significance of the bush-worker rested on two points. Firstly the bush-worker, rather than the urban or agricultural worker, gave Australia its identity in the empire. The economic basis of empire was that the colonies provided a variety of raw materials for English industry which were produced mainly by the bush workers. When they were given greater dignity as they were ennobled as ‘the bushman’ there capacity for drunkenness and blasphemy and this greatly contributed to imperial set of ideas/beliefs that formed the basis of economy, political theory and held the Australians together. Richard’s states that according to the London Times the bush workers were valued as part of the Empire showing that the British had accepted the new idea. Ward himself was concerned with the third element, and argued that tile nationalist image of the Australian bushman had a distinctively Australian inheritance in the nomadic bush-workers of the small remote areas far from the coast, where few people lived.

According to Graeme, Michael Roe reminded them that ‘whereas the appeal of the bush has been the great myth of Australian history the appeal of the city has been the great fact’. Yet ‘fact’ and ‘myth’ have remained strangely unrelated, not least because the few casual attempts at an urban interpretation of the ‘Australian Legend’ became the ‘Bush’, folk tradition was transmuted into literature that was wide spread to the shore of Australia. Have lacked a definite intellectual and social context. He puts it that the writers were the ones who pushed forward the idea of the bush legend. He states that a writer named Lawson in his year of fame was the one who insisted that the ‘b’ in ‘bush’ was to be capitalized as he saw there were many in pursuit of the bush idea. The idea was only one strand in a broader movement during the 1890’s to make the rural interior a focus on Australian standards of perfection. Graeme also protest Adams and Lawson identity of the ‘ bush man’ as a distinct national type promoting the word ‘bush’ and leaving out the matching terms , ‘city’ and ‘city man’. Graeme sees this as very important literary touchstones to writers in the period. The term ‘bush’ was later significantly acquired by the Australians.

Graeme argues that the projection of these values, born of urban experience, onto the ‘bush’ must be understood in terms of a concurrent movement to establish the ‘city’ as a symbol of their negation. This view is shared amongst the views of all the three that is Sean and Richard too. Only careful attention to the arrangement of occurrence of their writings discloses the connection between their increasingly dismal view of the city and the rise of the bush ideal community, the depression years fixed the rural ideal

The economic crush intensified urban experiences; this is elaborated by both Sean and Graeme. With anti urban sentiment flowing strongly in the wider and by the end of the decade the original negative image of the city had slid silently away, leaving the bush to acquire. A new reality of its own.

Graeme puts it that, Paterson thought/resolved that the city vices or urban ills could only be resolved by the bush. He used the terms opening up of the ‘rolling fertile plains’ to closer settlement to mean the opening up of the bush. Graeme addresses the view of Paterson showing that Paterson actually fled the city terming the city as having horrors. His retreat inwards to living the urban ills as he took it that the city were established in different and as separate moral universes, hence Paterson claimed his solace from the bush. The bush is again portrayed as a heathen. The transmission to the city of values nurtured on the bush became a frontier between city and bush, so much as the projection inner lands values to be admired greatly and generally respected deeply by an alienated urban intelligentsia. How far the bush worker travelled from place to place and absorbed these values, or shared them already, remains very much an open question.

Historians of the Australian cultural origins have generally sought the explanation of the ‘bush’ myth in the social context of the bush itself as put down by Graeme. He places that Russell Ward, who was the most influential interpreter, has traced the ‘Australian Legend’ to a popular tradition of ballad and yam that developed first among the convict settlers and itinerant workers of the pastoral frontier. Graeme acknowledges this as a tribute to Ward’s persuasiveness. Ward through a new generation of historical writing, puts Australian Legend as remaining the standard account of Australia’s cultural origins. Ward states towards the end of the nineteenth century, through the powerful influence of the Sydney Bulletin and the ‘new unionism.’ these traditions were imported from the pastoral frontier to the coastal cities, where they formed the basis of a national, rather than merely sectional, culture As the ‘bush ‘became the ‘Bush’, folk tradition was transmuted into literature. This literature was the basis of the bush legend in all urban contexts; it was their means of the spread of the legend.

In Ward’s argument that while America, was small man’s frontier, which had produced a national characteristic spirit of moral values and beliefs off their culture of doing things there own way without consideration of others opinions and privately. He described Australia as a big man’s frontier, which created a tradition of holding a belief in equal rights, beliefs and benefits for everybody and they shared ownership of their social and economic and social systems through the community for the benefit of everyone. The culture of mate-ship grew from this collectivism and there the legend grew amongst the urban. This experience, it must be emphasized, was of an emerging urban intelligentsia rather than a dying rural folk culture.

Only careful attention to the chronology of their writings discloses the connection between their increasingly dismal view of the city and the rise of the bush ideal. Until about 1890, for example, Henry Lawson’s writing had consisted mainly of republican ‘songs for the people’, verses on urban themes (‘Watch on the Kerb’) and semi. Autobiographical sketches on gold fields and selection life. But in that year we find his interests moving further inland. In a series of newspaper articles he discussed the idea of decentralization and land reform, arguing that ‘if some of the surplus suburbs of Sydney were shifted up country a few hundred miles. This shows the effect the bush was creating on urban life. The change shows the change in views and current opinions as per the latest objective.

In Sean’s view the Australian 19th century bush songs and ballads elaborated the bush legend in urban areas as they represent rural Australian values. These were collected by Paterson and others. He claims that songs were adapted to suit the bush settings while they being were played and sourced from the cities. The bush themes and melodies remained intact during all these.

In the search for a contrast with the urban way of life and a distinct national type, the city-bred writers turned increasingly, although not exclusively, to the simple folk in the bush. The legend thus created met the emotional demands of urban escapism and the need for a distinct national identity which was apparently lacking amongst the urban majority this was as per Sean’s statement.

As communications improved inter-colonial activities extended and some signs of urban specialization began to emerge. In their search for a contrast with the urban way of life and a distinct national type, these city-bred writers turned increasingly to the simple folk in the bush, Sean explains. The legend thus created met the emotional demands of urban escapism and the need for a distinct national identity which was apparently lacking amongst the urban majority. At the same time the bush workers were flattered and confirmed in their belief that they were a superior type of ‘Australian’ and they were, perhaps, the most avid readers.

Ward does not attempt to explain is how, or why, the ‘bush virtues’ came to be accepted by the nation as a whole. Why, paradoxically, did one of the most highly urbanized countries in the world seek its national inspiration in the bush? Historians have largely ignored the substantial literary attention given to the urban larrikin-perhaps the closest city equivalent to the bush workers.

Sean describes the historians as to have largely ignored the substantial literary attention given to the urban larrikin-perhaps the closest city equivalent to the bush workers. The street gang was a common phenomenon in cities throughout the world and the larrikin was perhaps the Australian version of the English hooligan, As a whole, the larrikin literature is highly imaginative rather than descriptive, and of doubtful worth as historical evidence.

Most if not all historians agree with the concept of the Australian bush legend erupting from art of writers, performers, musicians in the work on setting the outback.

Bibliography

Davison, Graeme ‘Sydney and the Bush’ in Carroll, John (ed) 1992, Intruders in the Bush: The Australian Quest for identity, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp 109-130.

Glynn, Sean 1970, Urbanization in Australian History, Thomas Nelson, Melbourne, pp 61-80.

White, Richard 1981, Inventing Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, pp 85-109.

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