Category Archives: The True History of the Kelly Gang

Harry Power

The True History of the Kelly Gang presents Harry Power, memorably portrayed by Russell Crowe, as something of an enigma. Does he really need Ned’s help, or is he just tired of drinking alone? As Ned narrates over our last scene with Harry in the movie, one can hardly trust anything Harry says about himself. His most paradoxical moments are perhaps his only honest moves. This poem, in Harry’s voice addressed to young Ned, is based on the 71st Psalm.

That’s you, sunshine – my little helper.
Never let them trammel on my name.
Your apprenticeship frees me from loathing.
You’ll lend me your ear, spare me snow’s silence.
Here in the bushranger’s bullet-proof shed
we will always be safe and snug – alone.
Sold into servitude at my side,
your hand will steady mine, too, in time.
My boy, we’ll range far from the grip of the laws,
far from the scabrous constables’ reach.
For the vastness of bush is our only hope,
a man’s surety is his remoteness – you’ll see.
I was whelped in the rough with the unimpressed.
From my mother’s belly loathing brought me out.
The curses of lawmen are our highest praise,
and we rake out our infamy under their sun.
If you go, do not leave me alive, boy,
for aging has stripped me of pleasure in breathing.
These constables whisper about me already,
lose on my scent and with heads bent together –
they whisper that strength has forsaken me,
they’ll rush me alone, if you leave me here.
Boy, do not turn your head – face me!
Be my helper in this, if only this – quick!
By your nerve, my pursuers will be disgraced –
with their hangdog faces lowered, they’ll sulk,
these men who could not stop my kind and yours.
Look at me, and see how I hold out hope
of making a true immortal of you.
All I’ve written of us will lay the scene,
and the pale sun that rises and sets on their soil
will flush at your wrath like a startled bride.
I will harry the sleep of their judges for you,
in my skull I will carry your blazon alone.
Long has the bush been a succour to me,
long have I sung of the bushranger’s triumphs.
And grim though the vice of old age is to me,
for our kind, for our ways, you will not betray me.
When you ride, songs I’ve written will mark out your fame,
and the young ones will relish your infamy,
they will eat from your table, praise you to the skies,
for the fell deeds begun at a bushranger’s side –
now my boy, can you taste the flint of your name?
Now, with the blast of your wrath in my face,
you will carry the stamp of my life for your fate
and the bowels of the worms cannot hold me.
Your exploits will outnumber mine by far –
the curses you’ll raise are a sop to my pride.
Just so, I wrote verses with you at my knee.

Our true claim to glory is testimony.
You and I sang of showing those constables up,
and though both of us hang, still our words can cut.
My lips will peel back on a bone-chilling smile,
bought back from disuse at the price of a child.
My tongue will swell, black as the seed of a grave,
fat with the tales men will tell of your name.
Those lecherous constables fear us, my boy,
fruitlessly scouring, dog-kneed and vile.

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Ned Kelly

The True History of the Kelly Gang is not for the faint of heart – this retelling of a famous outlaw’s tale is gritty in the extreme. Director Justin Kurzel turns the popular romance narrative of outlawry on its head with a child’s eye view of the Australian anti-hero’s origin story, a view that pulls no punches and leaves no intriguing detail of the legend unexplored.

Russell Crowe plays a major role in this origin story, as young Ned’s mentor Harry Power, leading him on his first real adventure away from home. The bushranger instills in Ned a desire to tell his own story, in his own words, in defiance of the corrupted, oppressive legal records that will dog his legacy throughout his short life.

This poem, based on the 57th Psalm, is in Ned’s voice, at the end of the road, desperately trying to set the record straight before all is lost, scribbling in a fury at the scene of a siege.

Grant me this, my son, that in good faith
I’ve written down your history myself,
for in your care my words may find safekeeping
until the plague upon our land has passed.
I call upon your duty to me, son,
for you must live, and by your works requite me.
No one else will trouble for my bones,
for those who lay me low despise us.
You must persevere – they’ll test your love.
I crouch here at bay, among dire men;
arrayed against us, soldiers hot for our blood.
Their mouths leer with malice,
knowing a mere word from them could end the likes of us.
My son, do not look to the heavens for rescue,
their glory is paramount, but we die alone.
A baited snare lay waiting for my men,
and all the while a boot pressed on our necks,
but those who dug our graves in this ambush
will join us in our deaths, as I’m a man.
My faith in my own destiny is strong,
and as I write to you, I claim my own.
Remember me as a man, and no fool’s slave.
Sing out the ballads of our land – sing loud!
Sing ditties that defame all wicked men.
Our music has the grit to rouse the dawn.
In words of my own choosing, tell my tale.
Our hymns are of a different kind out here.
No kindness ever smiled without the sting
of bitterest derision on our fates.
Though over all the one sky looms, unmoved,
and for a greater glory all are judged.

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