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Waltzing Matilda

by Banjo Paterson (1864-1941)

Written at old Dagworth Homestead, Queensland in January 1895. This is the original version as written by Banjo. To listen to the music and learn more about it, see the Waltzing Matilda page in our Song section.

Oh there once was a swagman camped in the billabong
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree
And he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Who'll come a waltzing Matilda my darling
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda leading a tucker bag
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Down came a jumbuck to drink at the water hole
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him in glee
And he said as he put him away in the tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

You'll come a waltzing Matilda my darling
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda leading a tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Down came the squatter a riding on his thoroughbred
Down came policemen one, two and three
Where is the jumbuck you've got in the tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

You'll come a waltzing Matilda my darling
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me
Waltzing Matilda leading a tucker bag
You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

But the swagman he ups and he jumps in the water hole
Drowning himself by the Coolibah tree
And his ghost can be heard as it sings in the billabong
Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Note: when reading Paterson's hand written manuscript, it is difficult to determine the correct words for two parts of his poem:

  • "leading a tucker bag" could also be "heaving a tucker bag" or "leading a water bag" or "heaving a
     water bag".
  • "Where is the jumbuck" could also be "Whose is the jumbuck"

What the words mean

  • Waltzing Matilda ~ to go walkabout carrying your swag
  • Walkabout ~ walking in the bush for an extended period of time
  • Swag ~ a pack or bundle containing the personal belongings of a swagman.
  • Swagman ~ a drifter (person without a permanent place to live) who carried his swag as he travelled the country on foot looking for work. He was a common sight during the depression of the 1890's and 1930's.
  • Squatter ~ a grazier or station (ranch) owner especially with a large landholding. Today squatter
    means a person illegally occupying a property.
  • Billy ~ a tin can with a wire handle or a pot. To make tea, water was boiled in it and a handful of tea thrown in.
  • Tucker bag ~ bag to carry your tucker (food)
  • Jumbuck ~ sheep
  • Coolibah ~ species of gum or eucalyptus tree; coolabah (alternate spelling)
  • Billabong ~ a dead-end channel extending from the main stream of a river filled with water only in the rainy season. Comes from Wiradhuri (Aboriginal language of southeast Australia), watercourse filled only after rain.

About the Author

See our page on Banjo Paterson. Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.

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