Matilda went waltzing a long time ago and Australia has never been the same since.
Waltzing Matilda is Australia's best-known bush ballad, based on an old Scottish ballad and has been described as the country's unofficial national anthem.
The title was Australian slang for travelling on foot, waltzing, derived from the German auf der Walz with one's belongings in a matilda (swag) slung over one's back.
The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or "swagman", making a drink of tea at a bush camp and capturing a stray jumbuck (sheep) to eat.
When the jumbuck's owner, a squatter (wealthy landowner), and three mounted policemen pursue the swagman for theft, he declares "you'll never take me alive" and drowns himself in a nearby billabong, after which his ghost haunts the site.
The Macquarie says to waltz Matilda was to wander about as a tramp with a swag.
The lyrics to the song were written in 1895 by Banjo Paterson, and were published as sheet music in 1903. The Macquarie says Waltzing Matilda was first sung in public at Winton in 1895.
The book Singer of the Bush, page 250, starts: “Oh, there once was a swagman camped in the billabongs”. But the original manuscript published on the next page, says “billabong”.
And he crossed out what seems to be a few words, one of which is Australia, and he inserted Waltzing Matilda.
Crooked Mick in the Dinkum Aussie Dictionary says: “almost everyone in the civilised world believes it is the Australian national anthem. Quite a few Australians think so as well.”
In 2008, the National Film and Sound Archive said there were more recordings of Waltzing Matilda than any other Australian song.
I wasn’t sure whether to cap Matilda or to lower-case matilda. My big dictionary caps it. The Macquarie does both. The Australian National Dictionary caps it.
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