Waltzing Matilda

 

 

Waltzing Matilda is possibly Australia's best known song. Although it features some strange elements, including archaic slang, it seems to strike a chord with many Australians. When he wrote the words of the song, Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson had no idea how enduring his ballad would be.

 

Even the most blasť Australian stirs to the sound of what is often referred to as our unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda. Overseas, it's a song that is immediately identified with "down under".

 

Sometimes, it finds itself caught up in controversy. The present Rugby World Cup is a good example. The International Rugby Union Board (IRB) decided Australians were not allowed to sing Waltzing Matilda at the World Cup. Undaunted, Australian supporters have broken out in spontaneous accord with verses from Waltzing Matilda at games played since the competition started earlier this month. Former Australian rugby union captain John Eales remembers the spontaneous singing of Waltzing Matilda from the crowd as a highlight of his career. It was in Christchurch in 1998 with 20 minutes to play in a match in which Australia had forged a winning lead to bring home the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in four years. "It was a special moment. The crowd just suddenly started singing Waltzing Matilda. We just identified with it," Eales said.

 

 

Activities:

 

n       Rewrite Waltzing Matilda as a short story.

 

n       What was a squatter? What part did they play in the history of Australia in the 19th century and what might have been the reason for Paterson's negative attitude toward them?

 

n       Write a version of Waltzing Matilda setting it in modern times, replacing old slang words with contemporary equivalents.

 

n       "Waltzing Matilda is just a song about a sheep thief who commits suicide." Use this statement as the basis for a class discussion or debate.

 

n       Write a poem in the style of Banjo Paterson, creating your own bush legend.

 

n       List other poems and ballads written by Banjo Paterson. Is there a common theme throughout?

 

n       What was the purpose of Banjo Paterson's poetry? Give an explanation for the longevity of his works.

 

n       Why has Waltzing Matilda become Australia's theme song at major sporting and world events, to the point that it can be mistaken for our national anthem? Should it be? Use this as a point of debate.

 

n       Banjo Paterson, the man. Compile a list of websites that proffer useful information to someone wishing to research this famous Australian.

 

n       Complete a glossary of the colloquialisms used in Waltzing Matilda and in other examples of his poetry.

 

n       What insight into Australian society can be found in Waltzing Matilda and other such works? Describe the living conditions of our early pioneers.

 

n       A person's wealth was once mainly in their land. Identify areas locally that were once vast farming lands. Sketch a map of what stands on this land now.

 

 

Australia author and poet, Andrew Barton Paterson 1864 - 1941, best known as Banjo Paterson, author of Waltzing Matilda.

 

Websites:

 

Who'll Come a Waltzing Matilda With Me?

http://www.nla.gov.au/epubs/waltzingmatilda/1-Origins.html

Looks at the origins of Paterson's song in terms of literary, folkloric and even musical influences.

 

Waltzing Matilda

http://www.waltzingmatilda.com

Basically a site plugging a movie that was made about the writing of the song but there are some useful links and some tantalising bits of information.

 

Australianisms in Waltzing Matilda

http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/WM/WMTerms.html

Looks at some of the slang words used in the song and attempts to unravel their origins.

 

Andrew Barton Paterson

http://shevamp.freeyellow.com/banjo.html

A brief biography of Paterson with images of his manuscripts and of Dagworth Station where he wrote Waltzing Matilda. There is also a set of lyrics followed by a glossary and a brief look at how the song was born.

 

Andrew Barton Paterson

http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/P/PatersonAB_Banjo/

A simple site with a brief biog of Paterson and many of his poems available online.

 

Books:

 

Complete Poems

By Banjo Paterson

All of Paterson's poems including Waltzing Matilda collected in one book. It also includes a brief timeline of Paterson's life (A&R Classics).

 

The Banjo of the Bush

By Clement Semmler

Looks at the life, times and works of Paterson. Includes an entire chapter devoted to the creation of Waltzing Matilda (Lansdowne Press).

 

From the Front: A.B. (Banjo) Paterson's Dispatches from the Boer War

By AB Paterson

A collection of Paterson's correspondence from the Boer war, an insight into the man and his involvement with his subject (Macmillan).

 

The Best of Banjo Paterson : an Illustrated Collection

By AB Paterson

186 of Banjo's poems accompanied by period illustrations, giving a flavour of the times (Cameron House Publishing).

 

Banjo Paterson, Poet of the Bush

By Valerie Krantz

Looks at the life and times of Banjo Paterson (Macmillan Education Australia).

 

A Guide to Australian Folklore

By Graham Seal and Gwenda Beed Davey

Australia has a rich heritage and continuing tradition of folklore. Waltzing Matilda is one example, this book explains the place of the song and many other bits of folklore in Australian culture (Kangaroo Press).