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Roger Clarke's Original Words to Waltzing Matilda

Waltzing Matilda
Transcript of the Original Manuscript


I've had requests for a transcript of the original manuscript, so that people can see the words more clearly. It's important to appreciate that these are the notes that Banjo Paterson scribbled as he first put it together in a station homestead in north-western Queensland in 1895, and it went through several revisions under his own hand afterwards.

It went like this ...


Oh there once was a swagman camped in the billabong

Under the shade of a Coolibah tree

And he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling

Who'll come a waltzing Matilda [1] with me

-

Who'll come a Waltzing Matilda [1] my darling

Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda leading [?] a water bag [2]

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 in glee

And he said as he put him away in the tucker bag

You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

-

You'll come a Waltzing Matilda my darling

You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda leading [?] a water bag

You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

-

Down came the squatter a riding on his thoroughbred

Down came policemen one two three

Where [3] is the jumbuck you've got in the tuckerbag

You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

-

You'll come a Waltzing Matilda my darling

You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda leading [?] a tucker bag

You'll come a waltzing Matilda with me

-

But the swagman he up and he jumped in the waterhole

Drowning himself by the Coolibah tree

And his ghost can be heard as it sings in the billabong

Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me


Transcriber's Comments

  1. It seems that Banjo's first attempt was not "Who'll come a waltzing Matilda with me", but "Who'll come a XXXX Australia with me". He changed that when he started the refrain, and went back and replaced the first occurrence. XXXX could be 'around'; but in both cases there's a dot, implying an 'i' somewhere in the word. His dots seem to be consistently a couple of letters to the right of the 'i's that they're meant to accompany, but I can't think of a word that would fit both the visual evidence and the sentence.
  2. The first two instances of the refrain refer to a 'water bag', but the third to the now-immortal 'tucker-bag'. I can't decipher the present participle that precedes the bag. It appears to be 'leading, which doesn't seem to make much sense, but in the second instance it could be 'heaving'.
  3. There are two schools of thought about the question asked of the swagman:
    1. it can be read as 'where is the jumbuck ...'. This seems silly, given that the rest of the sentence answers the question with 'in the tucker bag'; but this is actually an expression used in some forms of Australian English, meaning 'give me that jumbuck!'. (I can vouch for that usage, because I went to school in southern Queensland in the '50s and '60s); or
    2. it could be 'whose is the jumbuck ...'. One correspondent (John P. Maloney - great Irish name that, except that his email address implied he was in Japan?!) points out that this wording "lends an inquisitional feeling to the arrival of the authorities. You know, the squatter brings his Policemen to ask what he already believes - that it's his sheep that the swagman has poached".
  4. An American correspondent has suggested to me that a 1950s American interpretation of 'waltzing' was 'hanging' (as in 'dancing on the end of a noose'). That's certainly consistent with the 'oppression of the working-classes' theme; but I'm unaware of any intention by Paterson, or usage in Australia, to support the theory.


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Created: 28 March 1997 - Last Amended: 29 March 1997 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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