Waltzing Matilda

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"Waltzing Matilda" is Australia's most widely known bush ballad, a country folk song, and has been referred to as "the unofficial national anthem of Australia".[1]

The title is Australian slang for travelling by foot with one's goods in a "Matilda" (bag) slung over one's back.[2] The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or swagman, making a drink of tea at a bush camp and capturing a sheep to eat. When the sheep's ostensible owner arrives with three police officers to arrest the worker for the theft (a crime punishable by hanging), the worker commits suicide by drowning himself in the nearby watering hole, and then goes on to haunt the site.

The original lyrics were written in 1887 by poet and nationalist Banjo Paterson. It was first published as sheet music in 1903. Extensive folklore surrounds the song and the process of its creation, to the extent that the song has its own museum, the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, Queensland.



Writing of the song

The words to the song were written in 1895 by Banjo Paterson, a famous Australian poet, and the music was written (based on a folk tune) by Christina Macpherson, who wrote herself that she "was no musician, but she would do her best." Paterson wrote the piece while staying at the Dagworth Homestead, a bush station in Queensland. While he was there his hosts played him a traditional Celtic folk tune called "The Craigeelee", and Paterson decided that it would be a good piece to set lyrics to, producing them during the rest of his stay.

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