Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Waltzing Matilda
Date: August 20, 1994 02:18

8:45 Emerald, Australia :: 16 JUL 94

Waltzing Matilda
Lyrics by A. B. Paterson

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he sat and watched his billy boiling
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?


Waltzing Matilda, Matilda my darling,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me,
Waltzing Matilda and leading a water bag
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Along came a jumbuck and he drank from the billabong,
Down jumped the swagman and he grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Down came the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
Whose is the jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Well up jumped the swagman and he leapt into the billabong,
He drowned himself by the coolibah tree,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

17:50 Toowong, Australia :: 20 JUL 94

A movement in Australia promotes changing the national anthem to Waltzing Matilda. The lyrics as printed above differ in some respects from the way the song is typically sung, however the essentials remain consistent.

A close examination of the lyrics, and a guide to Australian bush slang reveals a story about a migrant farm/ranch worker [swagman] camped beside a water hole in a dried-up river bed [billabong]. While waiting for his tea water to boil in the pot [billy] he whiles away the lonely time by dancing with his sleeping roll [a matilda, or swag (thus, swagman)].

When a jumbuck [sheep (male, I think)] comes to the billabong for a drink the fiscally challenged vagrant catches it, hiding it in his tucker bag [like a duffel bag; tucker means 'food' so a tucker bag literally means something to carry food in].

The rancher [squatter; unlike North American usage, a squatter in this context holds legal title to the land he occupies] comes by with the constabulary [troopers] and questions the jumbuck's owner. The swagman escapes prosecution and eventual hanging for sheep rustling (referred to as 'duffing' here) by instead committing suicide.

This doesn't quite seem the most appropriate of anthems to me.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --