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AUSTRALIAN SONGS

Waltzing Matilda

By Andrew 'Banjo' Paterson
    (1864 - 1941)

Written at old Dagworth Homestead, Queensland in January 1895

See it on You TubeWaltzing Matilda
sung by Slim Dusty

This YouTube version is from the Sydney 2000 Olympics. A lovely reminder of why Slim Dusty is considered an Australian music legend. He is truly missed.

You might also enjoy this beautiful rendition also on YouTube by Andre Rieu.

Waltzing Matilda has become one of the world's ten most recorded songs. The origins of the song, and the meaning of the lyrics have been argued over by many researchers and performers since it was written over 100 years ago.

Some feel that Waltzing Matilda was an early political protest song - a song of freedom. That the Great Shearers Strike of 1894 influenced Banjo Paterson to write this song. Others disagree.

There are four main versions of Waltzing Matilda. The original by Banjo Paterson (shown below) was written in 1895.

In 1903 Marie Cowan altered the lyrics to help sell Billy Tea. An advertisement for the tea was on the back cover of the sheet music. Marie Cowan version.

Harry Nathan claimed that he wrote the music and edited lyrics in 1900, but he didn't apply for copyright until 1903. And finally there is an international version by Thomas Wood which is the most well-known outside of Australia. Slim Dusty sang Waltzing Matilda at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

On this page is the original version as written by Banjo Paterson.

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Waltzing Matilda Marie Cowan version 1903

Oh there once was a swagman camped in the billabong
Under the shade of a Coolabah 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 Coolabah 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 handful of tea thrown in.
  • tucker bag ~ bag to carry your tucker (food)
  • jumbuck ~ sheep
  • coolabah ~ E.coolabah is a species of gum or eucalyptus tree; coolibah is an alternate spelling.
  • billabong ~ a dead-end channel extending from the main stream of a river filled with water only in the rainy season.

More Information

  1. Banjo Paterson information on our website
  2. Waltzing Matilda government site  updated
    Excellent website about the entire history of Waltzing Matilda.
  3. Matilda Expo in Kynuna, Queensland
    One of two known, handwritten, notated musical manuscripts of the song and lyrics can be seen by the public at the Matilda Expo.

 

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