Truth, Understanding, Insight

ANZAC Day: The sacrifice at Gallipoli

17th April 2011, hej


7) The Man and the Donkey

It is said that Jack Simpson was separated from his unit where he fortuitously found a donkey. It is clear from all accounts that the donkeys and especially the mules were critical to to the operation. But the power of the image left by the use of the donkey is curious. Added to the fact that Simpson was not even Australian, why do Australians of all images there are value this image? In 1916 the conjunction with Easter led Christian Australian's to associate the loss of life with the idea of a sacrifice and to sanctify the battle.

It just so happens that a man with a donkey is part of the deliverance message of Easter.

And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them, And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. (Matthew 21:5-9)

Here we have the deliverer riding a donkey and leading a colt. At Easter many think of this incident. At ANZAC day to add sanctity they made a hero of a man with a donkey. Simpson's work is commended based on its bravery, but the image of the hero with the donkey is one loaded with religious connotations. In any case it is obvious that Simpson requisitioned it, just as Yeshua did. And the real point of interest is that the animal was not a horse, but a donkey, an ass.

If we have any doubt that Australians understood this image we only have to read 'Banjo' Paterson's “When Dacey rode the Mule”.

'Twas in a small up country
When we were boys at school,
There came a circus with a clown,
Likewise a bucking mule.
The clown announced a scheme they had
The mule was such a king-
They’d give a crown to any lad
Who’d ride him round the ring....
And, gentle reader, do not scoff
Nor think a man a fool—
To buck a porous-plaster off
Was pastime to that mule.
The boys got on- he bucked like sin;
He threw them in the dirt.
An then the clown would raise a grin
By asking, “Are you hurt?”
But Johnny Dacey came one night,
The crack of all the school;
Said he, “I’ll win the crown all right;
Bring in your bucking mule.” ....
But soon there rose a galling shout
Of laughter, for the clown
From somewhere in his pants drew out
A little paper crown.
He placed the crown on Dacey’s head
While Dacey looked a fool;
“Now, there’s your crown, my lad,” he said,
“For riding of the mule!”
The band struck up with “Killaloe”,
And “Rule Britannia, Rule”,
And“Young Man from the Country”,
When Dacey rode the mule.

The image used here is made powerful due to its closeness to the one in the Bible. Paterson's images come from linking the words “sin”, “mule” and “king”. This poem was re-published in 1917 while Banjo Paterson was in Egypt in a collection with 'Waltzing Matilda', 'The Scapegoat' and 'The Reveille'.

The image of a man, a saviour, with a donkey has power because at Easter the world remembers a saviour coming riding an ass. We remember they said, “Blessed is the King of Israel that comes in the name of the Lord” (John 12:13). A king coming to Jerusalem.

“Lest we forget”

Topics: sacrifice, WW1, Israel

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