original version

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 with me?

Chorus

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda my darling,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
Waltzing Matilda and leading a waterbag,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Down came the jumbuck to drink at the water-hole,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Up came the Squatter a-ridding his thoroughbred,
Up came Policemen - one, two and three,
Whose is that jumbuck you've got in the tucker-bag,
You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

The swagman he up and he jumped in the water-hole,
Drowning himself by the coolibah tree,
And his ghost may be heard as it sings by the billabong,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

-Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson


common version

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?"

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?"

Along came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong,
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,
And he sang as he stowed that jumbuck in his tucker bag,
"You'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?"

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred,
Down came the troopers, one, two, three,
"Whose is that jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag?"
"You'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?"

Up jumped the swagman, leapt into the billabong,
"You'll never catch me alive," said he,
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by the billabong,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me".

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me
And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled,
"Who'll come a-waltzing, Matilda, with me?"

-Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson

This sad and famous Australian song uses several unusual Australian words, not all of which are still in common use.

Definitions

A swagman is a homeless and unemployed wanderer. Think hobo or migrant worker.

A waltzing matilda is a reference to a walking swagman. A swagman would roll up all his possessions in a wool blanket and tie both ends with a single strand of rope. This would make a rudimentary backpack, and as the swagman walked, the roll would progress from side to side. Hence the term "waltzing matilda".

A billy is a kind of makeshift teapot.

A tucker-bag holds food.

A jumbuck is a sheep.

A coolibah tree is a kind of eucalyptus.

A billabong is a creek.

Further definitions:

A swag is a bedroll, like a sleeping bag. This is what the swagman carries with his belongings therein.

A squatter was originally a man granted land by the government to settle in Australia. Land was given to ex-convicts and free settlers who came to farm. These people became the landed middle-classes, the squatocracy, the natural enemy of the worker and the economic backbone of the colonies.

Tucker is food, and is tucked in to. It is kept in a tucker bag.

A billabong is not a creek. It is that part of a geographically old river, such as those common in Australia, that has meandered so far it is now cut off from the rest of the river. In effect, it is a horseshoe shaped pond. In the rest of the world, it is called an 'oxbow lake'.

A billy is in fact a tin can with a looped wire handle to hook over a stick. The stick is used to hold the billy over a campfire. You can make tea or stew in it. When you make tea it is called billy-tea, and you eat the stew or tea with damper, which is a simple fire-cooked bread.

The word 'swagman' does not have the negative connotations that hobo does. The swaggies were a necessary part of the labour force of the day and squatters offered hospitality of the best kind they could to swagmen. A better equivalent would be perhaps a peddlar.

A slightly different version with basic guitar chords:

Once a jolly Swagman sat beside a Billabong
D A Bm G
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree
D D A7 A7
And he sang as he sat and waited till his Billy boiled,
D A Bm G
"You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me"
D D A7 D

Chorus *Repeat the last two lines of verse at end of Chorus

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
D D G G
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
D G D A7
And he sang as he sat and waited till his Billy boiled,
D A Bm G
"You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me"
D D A7 D

Down come a Jumbuck to drink beside the Billabong
Up jumped the Swagman and seized him with glee
And he sang as he stowed that Jumbuck in his Tuckerbag,
"You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me."

Repeat Chorus

Up come the Squatter riding on his Thoroughbred
Down come the Troopers, one, two, three
"Who's that jolly Jumbuck you got in your Tuckerbag?"
You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Repeat Chorus

Up jumped the Swagman and leapt into the Billabong
"You'll never catch me alive!" cried he.
And his ghost can be heard as you ride by the Billabong
"You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me."

Repeat Chorus


This is a fun song to play to kids or just with friends who may not be as familiar with it. My dad lived in Australia for a while, so I grew up with him playing this on the guitar. It's fun also in the third verse, if you can do it, to put in an Aussie accent when the sqatter and troopers talk.

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