Thursday, June 29, 2006

WALTZING MATILDA

Waltzing Matilda is an Australian icon.
It is quite likely that more Australians know the words to this song than the national anthem.
There is probably no other song that is more easily recognised by a populace: young or old: ocker or a newly arrived immigrant.

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

Along came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?".

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

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?".

Up jumped the swagman, leapt into the billabong,
"You'll never catch me alive," said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?"

What does Waltzing Matilda mean?

The phrase Waltzing Matilda is believed to have originated with German immigrants who settled in Australia.
Waltzing is derived from the German term auf der walz which meant to travel while learning a trade. Young apprentices in those days travelled the country working under a master craftsman earning their living as they went - sleeping where they could.
Matilda has Teutonic origins and means Mighty Battle Maiden. It is believed to have been given to female camp followers who accompanied soldiers during the Thirty Year wars in Europe. This came to mean "to be kept warm at night" and later to mean the great army coats or blankets that soldiers wrapped themselves with. These were rolled into a swag tossed over their shoulder while marching.
So the phrase Waltzing Matilda came to mean: to travel from place to place in search of work with all one's belongings on one's back wrapped in a blanket or cloth. This is what Swagmen did in outback Australia.

How Did the Song Originate?

Andrew Barton (Banjo) Patterson [1864-1941] was a solicitor (lawyer) by profession and lived and worked in Sydney, Australia.
In 1895 Banjo and his fiancee, Sarah Riley, visited the Dagworth Homestead a station in outback Queensland. This station was owned by the family of one of Sarah's school friends: Christina Macpherson. While at the station Banjo heard Christina play a tune called the "Craigeelee" on an autoharp. Banjo liked the "whimsicality and dreaminess" of the tune and thought it would be nice to set some words to it.
During his stay Bob Macpherson took Banjo around the station where they stopped at the Combo Waterhole where they found the skin of a newly killed sheep. Obviously someone had made a meal of it. Bob Macpherson may also have told Banjo of the sheep shearers strike of September 1894 when shearers had set fire to the Dagworth woolshed killing over a hundred sheep. Macpherson and three policeman had given chase and one of them, a man named Hoffmeister, shot and killed himself rather than be captured.
So it appears that Banjo linked up all these events to conjure up "Waltzing Matilda. Christina wrote up the score. It was first sung publicly at a banquet for the Premier of Queensland and was an instant hit. The song was then picked up by the "Billy Tea" company to advertise their product. Paterson sold the rights to Waltzing Matilda and "some other pieces" to Angus & Robertson Publishers for "five quid".
By World War 1 it was Australia's favorite song and has been ever since.
Some great poems by Banjo Patterson:
• Mulga's Bill's Bicycle Kids and adults alike will love it.
• The Man from Snowy River acclaimed as Australia's greatest poem.
Clancy of The Overflow a city folk's yearning for the wide open spaces

1 Comments:

Blogger stinger42 said...

I find it interesting that the song Waltzing Matilda relates to a "swagman" dancing in male company because of a lack of females. When I was a child I always understood that the song was a lament. The "swagman" had been caught poaching (stuffing a a "jumbuck" in his "tuckerbag")by the "stockman" and three "troopers" . He was therefore being brought to justice and would pay the ultimate penalty by having to go "waltzing matilda" which was slang for hanging. To me this seems a far more logical explanation for the sad refrain sung by the swagman

November 30, 2008 at 10:58 AM  

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