Waltzing Matilda - Australia's Anthem of the Heart

Waltzing Matilda is Australia’s best known Bush Ballad and really is Australia’s unofficial Anthem of our Hearts. It bodes back to our very beginning when times were very tough and theft was necessary to survive another day.


It is the story of a man (swagman) who is moving through the country (waltzing) looking for work carrying only a bag (matilda) over his shoulder. He camps by a creek (billabong) and boils up a pot of water (billy) for a cup of tea. While he is waiting for the water to boil, a sheep (jumbuck) comes down to the creek to drink, the man jumps up and kills the sheep for dinner placing what was left in his food bag (tuckerbag). The land owner (squatter) rides up on his horse, along with three policemen (troopers) and they try to take the man to jail for stealing the sheep. The man decides he doesn’t want to go to jail and jumps in the creek to escape. Unfortunately he dies in the process…

There are three versions of Waltzing Matilda. The original was written by Banjo Patterson in 1895, Harry Nathan wrote another version around the turn of the century, and Marie Cowan wrote a further version in 1903.

Marie Cowan’s version is the most popular version of this tune, but I have included the words of all 3 versions for your interest.

Did you know…

The music from Waltzing Matilda was also used for another song called
God Bless Australia in a bid for a new National Anthem during 1961?

Banjo Patterson (version 1)

Oh there once was a swagman camped in the billabongs
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

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

Up came the jumbuck to drink at the waterhole
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him in glee
And he sang as he put him away in the tuckerbag
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

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

Up came the squatter a-riding his thoroughbred
Up came policemen one two three
Who’s is the jumbuck you’ve got in the tuckerbag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

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

Up sprang the swagman and jumped in the waterhole
Drowning himself by the Coolibah
And his voice can be heard as it sings in the billabongs
Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Harry Nathan (version 2)

Once a jolly swagman camp’d by a billabong
Under the shade of a Coolibah tree
And he sang as he sat and waited till his billy boiled
You’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Matilda my darling
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he sat and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he shoved the jumbuck in his tuckerbag
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Matilda my darling
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he sat and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Down came a squatter mounted on a thoroughbred
Down came troopers one two three
Whose is the jumbuck you’ve got in the tuckerbag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Matilda my darling
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he sat and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Up jumped the swagman, sprang into the billabong
Drowning himself neath the Coolibah tree
And his ghost may be heard as you walk around the billabong
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Marie Cowan (version 3)

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
You’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tuckerbag
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Up rode the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred
Down came troopers one two three
Whose that jumbuck you’ve got in the tuckerbag?
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong
You’ll never catch me alive said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.