If you search Waltzing Matilda on Kazaa or another P2P network, you might hit on one of the most beautiful songs ever. It starts with a short piano intro and a raspy voice: "Wasted and wounded/it ain't what the moon did/Got what I paid for now".
It's by Tom Waits, and if you hear it and you are untouched I question your ability to feel. I played it for my father, who had not been in Australia for 15 years, and he started to cry.
Sometimes I listen to it on the bus home, and I cry too, though I have no connection to Australia beyond my residence here. I cry because I will never write a song this good; because I will never find out why "Matilda's the defendant/she killed 'bout a hundred"; because I am not and never will be Tom Waits.
On bad days this knowledge causes me some joy. Then the song plays again, and I realize it does not matter how low I feel, or how much lower the narrator of the song feels. Such simple solutions cheapen what is, simply, art. Go, waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda, You'll go a waltzing Matilda with me , he sings, and there is no other voice, no other pain.
Now I lost my Saint Christopher now that I've kissed her
And the one-armed bandit knows
What else needs to be said about this man ( On Bushmill's I staggered), his femme fatale, his piano? The rest of Small Change, the album this song opens, lives up to its beginning. I have still not heard the original Waltzing Matilda. I do not know if Tom Waits had a bad experience in Australia, or a good one, or an indifferent one. I don't know influences, narrative history, or who Matilda represents.
It doesn't matter. Listen, and be transformed.