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Waltzing Matilda -- A B "Banjo" Paterson

       
(Poem #1125) Waltzing Matilda
 Oh! there once was a swagman camped in a Billabong,
 Under the shade of a Coolabah tree;
 And he sang as he looked at his 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 and leading a water-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 with glee;
 And he sang as he stowed him away in his tucker-bag,
 "You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me."

 Down came the Squatter a-riding his thoroughbred;
 Down came Policemen -- one, two and three.
 "Whose is the jumbuck you've got in the tucker-bag?
 You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me!"

 But the swagman he up and he jumped in the water-hole,
 Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree;
 And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the Billabong
 "Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?"
-- A B "Banjo" Paterson
Notes: Published as sheet music in 1903. This is Paterson's original version;
I've included a link to the somewhat altered popular version

There is little doubt that Waltzing Matilda belongs in any collection of
immortal narrative verse. As one commentator put it,

    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.
      -- http://www.ozramp.net.au/~senani/waltz.htm

and even outside its homeland, it is unquestionably the world's best known
piece of Australian writing. Or perhaps that should be "writing and music",
for the words are inextricably entwined with the tune (I have to wonder how
popular the poem, with its heavy use of Australianisms, would have been
internationally were it not for the delightfully catchy tune - it is
definitely a great poem, but I wouldn't really call it accessible. The tune
has ensured, though, that people do take the time to find out what exactly
all the words mean.)

While I have chosen to run Paterson's original words, I do think the popular
version is in several ways an improvement upon it. (Indeed, while WM is
Paterson's most famous work, it is far from his best). The greatest
improvement is in line two of the last verse - the rather weak

  Drowning himself by the coolabah tree

becomes

  You'll never catch me alive, said he

and lends the song that touch of desperate, defiant romance that was missing
from its earlier incarnation.

martin

Links:

  [broken link] http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/WM/ is a great starting point
  for all things related to the poem

  Biography of Paterson: [broken link] http://www.waltzingmatilda.com/wmbanjo.html

  The popular "Marie Cowan" version of the poem, with annotations:
    http://www.ozramp.net.au/~senani/waltz.htm

  The original "Queensland" version, with sheet music and several midi
  files: http://www.uq.edu.au/~mlwham/banjo/waltzing_matilda.html

  Paterson's handwritten manuscript:
    [broken link] http://waltzingmatilda.com/wmwords.html

  Bogle's "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda": Poem #981

  The current theme:
    [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/collections/58.html

56 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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