Ned’s Revision

Ned Kelly was an outlaw, of humble Irish stock;
Born to Australian parents who farmed a rural block.
Assault at fourteen years of age drew police attention,
And further charges followed, too numerous to mention.
His downfall was a shootout which earnt him lasting fame
For donning home-made armour, though captured just the same.

Ned Kelly, as they hanged him, was stoic to the last;
Resigned to fate, come of late as penance for the past.
Bravado mattered little when charged with armed assault
Proved deadly to policemen—a capital insult.

The magistrate had spoken, the verdict brought to tears
Those members of the public who’d followed him for years;
Though paper headlines printed the general belief
That rope affixed to Kelly removed a murderous thief.

But now, through lens of history, as if for recompense,
We overlook the worst of deeds at the truth’s expense;
In favour of the outlaw—an armoured Aussie knight;
Prepared to face a challenge, although the odds are slight.
And in this folklore version portrayed as just revolt,
Ned Kelly fires his Enfield like Zeus’s thunderbolt.



David Watt is a writer from Canberra, the “Bush Capital” of Australia. He has contributed regularly to Collections of Poetry and Prose by Robin Barratt. When not working for IP (Intellectual Property) Australia, he finds time to appreciate the intrinsic beauty of traditional rhyming poetry.

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6 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Way to go, David. I’m sure he captured the Australian imagination just the way that Jesse James captured the imagination of Americans. Outlaws are, for some reason, considered romantic figures in the minds of the general populace. Maybe that’s because there’s a streak of libertarianism running through the veins of every freedom-loving denizen in every country where self-determination is deemed a virtue. It wouldn’t hurt, however, if you tidied up the metrics a bit. I shouldn’t have to explain, since I’m that you can count just as well as I can.

    • C.B. Anderson

      David, in the last line of my comment, of course I meant, “since I’m sure that you can count ….”

  2. David Watt

    Thanks C.B., Ned Kelly could be likened to Jesse James (minus the homemade body armor). The urge to rebel against authority commenced with the first convicts, and became an ingrained element of our culture. Although our histories differ, Americans and Australians share the love of liberty, now under threat from the strictures of leftist ideologies.

    I will have a closer look at the metrics of this piece.

  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    I like it when a little slice of history is afforded a poetic nod. I especially like the timeless opening lines of the closing stanza: “But now, through lens of history, as if for recompense, /We overlook the worst of deeds at the truth’s expense” – how beautifully put and how perfectly true.

  4. David Watt

    Thank you Susan for appreciating these lines. As an armored underdog, Ned Kelly has, understandably, been romanticized. But he was violent, and not averse to ‘turning in’ his mates.


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