Waltzing Matilda

Once a jolly swagman camped out by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang and he sang as he waited by the billabong:
“Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me?”

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me
And he sang and he sang as he waited by the billabong:
“You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me.”

Waltzing Matilda is a famous Australian folksong from the outback about a workman sitting by the riverbed. This version from the informant is much shorter than some other versions. However, this change is what makes it folklore. The song was “originally” written by A.B. Patterson, but since then it has been appropriated by may people and turned into a folksong. The song is held dearly in Australia. They have even created a Waltzing Matilda Centre and a Waltzing Matilda day. (http://www.matildacentre.com.au) I found another longer version of the song on this website as well, at http://www.matildacentre.com.au/the-song.

The informant learned this Australian folksong back home in primary school and when growing up. He can’t remember the first time he heard it. However, this shorter version is all he remembers. When he moved to America, he brought this folksong with him and taught it to his children and wife. Thus, he spread the song across the globe. The informant says that the song means a lot to him, because it reminds him of his home and his heritage. There isn’t much in America that celebrates Australian culture, so little ditties like this one serve to reaffirm his Australian roots. Furthermore, he says that the song is pleasant to sing and to listen to. It has a cheerful tone.

I also like this song, and I have heard it before. It’s fun to sing. I looked up the song online and was surprised to find the the real meaning is not about a man by a river singing to his lover, Matilda, like I originally thought. Instead, Matilda refers to a specific type of bag, and the song is about a man who hunts a sheep and then drowns himself to avoid being arrested. (http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858856415/) However, I still like the song and it still reminds me of my ties to Australia. There are people who assert that the song is a protest song against the law, and others who believe that it is just a song with a sad narrative. I think it could probably be both, because even if it wasn’t written with protest in mind, people could still appropriate it as a song of protest. I also think it’s interesting that such a sad and graphic song is regarded so highly by the Australian population. It shows the power of romantic nationalism.