Australia: Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson

Dancing Matilda


To atone for our neglect of Australia, we are happy to post John Gehl's bio of the Australian icon Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson (1864-1941), who composed the internationally famous ballad, "Waltzing Matilda," which by popular acclaim became Australia's informal anthem.  Paterson first achieved popular success as a writer in 1895 when he published The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, which sold out its first edition within a week and went through four editions in six months, making Paterson second only to Rudyard Kipling in popularity among living poets writing in English. Paterson became the premier folk poet of Australia, having produced a body of work that included seven volumes of poetry and prose, a children's book about animals, in addition to his journalistic writings. His poetry continues to sell well today and the recent popular film, "The Man from Snowy River," has rekindled interest in his many engaging ballads about Australia and its people.

Banjo Paterson was born in Narrambla, near Orange, New South Wales, Australia. He was called Barty by his family, but acquired the nickname Banjo (the name of his favorite horse) because he used that pseudonym to conceal his identity as a solicitor when he published his early verse in Sydney's newspapers.  Paterson's parents were graziers in the Yass district of the Australian bush. He received his early education at home and at the Sydney Grammar School. When he turned 16, he was apprenticed as a clerk to a Sydney legal firm for training as a solicitor. Admitted to the bar in 1886, he formed the legal partnership, Street and Paterson. While working as a solicitor, Paterson also made time to write verse, and int1895 with the publication of The Man from Snowy River his unexpected literary celebrity caused him to lose interest in continuing his legal career.

In 1899 Paterson accepted an assignment as a special war correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald to cover the Boer War in South Africa, later traveling on assignment to China and the Philippines. Before returning to Sydney in 1902, Paterson also visited London at the invitation of Rudyard Kipling. Back in Australia, he finally abandoned the law and took an editorial job with the Sydney Evening News, remaining in newspaper work until 1908 when he left to take up ranching.  In 1903 he traveled to Tenterfield, New South Wales, where he met and later married Alice Walker. They had two children, Grace born in 1904 and Hugh in 1906. When World War I broke out, Paterson returned to newspaper work, traveling to Europe for the Sydney Morning Herald. Frustrated at not being able to reach the front, he volunteered to drive an ambulance for the Australian Voluntary Hospital in France. Later, returning to Australia he was commissioned a major in the Australian army's remount division to procure horses. After the war he returned to journalism and the writing of verse and prose. He retired from newspaper work in 1930, but continued his other writing until he died just short of his 77th birthday.

See <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000062XG0/newsscancom/ref=nosim> for the DVD version of The Man From Snowy River.

John Gehl's posting on Banjo Patterson was Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, since he did not give the text of
"Waltzing Matilda " by

'Banjo' (A.B.) Patterson, c. 1890, so here it is:

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 dri-ink at that billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
And he sang as he stuffed that jumbuck in his tucker-bag
You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred
Up rode the troopers, one, two, three
"Where's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker-bag?"
You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into that billabong
"You'll never take me alive!", said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pa-ass by that billabong
You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me

The refrain is repeated after each verse. In each case, the third line of the refrain is the same as the third line of the preceding verse. And the last two lines of the last verse are performed in a hushed tone, before bursting back into the jollity of the refrain.

RH: This informal Australian national anthem seems to idealize a poacher. That's as odd as the "English". is. Who is matilda, and why doesn't she rate a capital M? John spelt Paterson with one t. Here are subjects for a scholarly dissertation.
said "John Gehl's posting on Banjo Patterson was Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, since he did not give the text of  "Waltzing Matilda "."

John retorts " Actually, I *did* include the text (and the music!); look at the Flash Card section and you'll find a pointer to http://www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/lyrics/matilda.htm, which also includes an explanation of sorts about the word matilda". 

RH: Mea culpa, mea minima culpa.

Ronald Hilton -


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