Waltzing Matilda

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolabah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”
And he sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled,
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”.

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”.

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
“Where’s that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?”
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”
“Where’s that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker bag?”,
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”.

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong,
“You’ll never take me alive”, said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong,
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”.

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me”
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong,
“You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me.”
“Oh, You’ll come a-Waltzing Matilda, with me.”

StateLibQld_1_50240_Troopers_at_Dagworth_Station_during_the_Shearer's_Strike_in_1894

Troopers at w:Dagworth Station during the Shearer’s Strike in 1894
Shown is the temporary shearing shed used after the main shed was burnt by unionists; note the heavy fortifications. On the left in the dark tops are three policemen; the middle one is Senior Constable Michael Daly who was involved in the shoot-out when the main shearing shed was burnt down at the station. Beside them are the squatters who owned the station, Angus Macpherson, Gideon Macpherson, Robert (Bob) Macpherson, and Jack Macpherson. At image right are Weldon Tomlin who was the shed overseer, and Henry Dyer. These men were also involved in the altercation at the burning of the shed. The three policemen and Bob McPherson are thought to be the three troopers and the squatter referred to in the poem/song w:Waltzing Matilda.

“Waltzing Matilda” is Australia’s most widely known bush ballad, a country folk song, and has been referred to as “the unofficial national anthem of Australia”.

The title is Australian slang for travelling by foot with one’s goods in a “Matilda” (bag) slung over one’s back. The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or swagman, making a drink of tea at a bush camp and capturing a sheep to eat. When the sheep’s ostensible owner arrives with three police officers to arrest the worker for the theft (a crime punishable by hanging), the worker commits suicide by drowning himself in the nearby watering hole, and then goes on to haunt the site.

The original lyrics were written in 1887 by poet and nationalist Banjo Paterson. It was first published as sheet music in 1903. Extensive folklore surrounds the song and the process of its creation, to the extent that the song has its own museum, the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, Queensland.

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About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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5 Responses to Waltzing Matilda

  1. cookiecuckoo says:

    I remember this and “Kookaburra” from school! We used to learn so many songs. I don’t think they do that in school anymore sadly. I bet you know this one too: “The Ash Grove,” which I learned when I was about 12 and will always love. And “White Coral Bells” – a great round we used to sing in school.

    • layanglicana says:

      Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree, merry merry king of the bush is he….The Ash Grove, oh yes! And the parody ‘nose like a squashed tomato and eyes like green peas’! I’ll see if YouTube has a rendition…
      White Coral Bells is a new one to me – will have a look for that as well.

      • cookiecuckoo says:

        How funny! I’m not familiar with the parody! 😀
        White Coral Bells upon a slender stalk,
        Lillies of the Valley deck my garden walk.
        Oh don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?
        That will happen only when the fairies sing.
        🙂

  2. Pingback: Waltzing Matilda – history of a song | Flickr Comments

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