Design a site like this with
Get started

Blog #3 Bailed Up

CREATIVE: Take any single Australian painting that you saw at the gallery yesterday (it must be one that you saw) and write a description either in poetry or prose. Pay close attention to detail in your description. What you are in fact doing in this exercise is a piece of Ekphrastic Writing. Check up the meaning of this word!

Ekphrastic. Wow, what a wonderful word! Originating from the Greek, it translates to description . Ekphrastic poetry dates all the way back to Homer’s Illiad in his description of Achilles Shield. This is my own humble attempt at such description, to capture the essence behind a visual work and place it in written terms. I was grabbed by Tom Roberts’ Bailed Up in the late colonial era, depicting the holdup of a stage coach. I got a touch of a Robin Hood vibe and doing a little research on the painting I gained some intriguing insights…

‘Bailed Up’ Tom Roberts 1895
Beneath his hat stood proud chiseled features 
Hard grey eyes flecked with specks of steel

His hands lovingly caressed his deadly preachers

Terrible blood and thunder they deal

The horses whinnied and snorted

Stamping their feet with eyes ran wild

Around the stage coach they cavorted

As the men atop them smiled

The Driver sighed and surrendered

He was a man well worth his salt

Only too well he remembered

The ways of Captain Thunderbolt

‘Good morning to you Silent Bob’

Came the cheerful calls from below

It was a standard old fashioned job

Disappointing if you hoped for a show

The sun bore brightly down

Upon these noble bush-rangers

In this wide land of brown

As they stood and made polite exchanges

Laconically they worked

Stuffing full their sacks

The tension usurped

For the highwaymen were just another tax

Whilst composing this piece Roberts consulted a man by the name of ‘Silent’ Bob Bates, who was held up by the famous’Captain Thunderbolt’ during the 1860s. For this reason my choice of names was very deliberate for that added contextual detail. Bob gaves to Roberts a detailed description of “the quiet way the whole thing took place”, which we can see translated in the painting. There is no drama in the work according to Humphrey McQueen, the scene lit with bright sunshine, as one of the rangers has a chat with the passenger as he casually leans on the stage coach. “The affray looks like a picnic party delayed by a broken spoke rather than a matter of life or death.”

It exposes a distinctive Australian trait; the carefree, she’ll be right attitude that can be applied to any pressure inducing situation. In a growing national fervor pushing for federation this representation begins to make a lot of sense. I wanted to capture this in the poem with an initial expectation of great drama and tension which can then be shattered by the end of the poem, with the cadence and choice of words.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: