After yesterday’s post about Banjo Paterson I thought today I would write about another of his poems. Banjo Paterson also wrote the poem Waltzing Matilda, a variation of which is probably better known as a song rather than the original poem.
Waltzing Matilda is about a swagman who, after settling down under a tree and making camp (boiling his billy), steals a wandering sheep.
The squatter (landowner) and police arrive and to avoid capture, the swagman jumps into the billabong and commits suicide, the poem ending with his ghostly voice haunting the billabong.
A swagman is a homeless man who travels about the bush looking for work. The lifestyle of the swagman was often romanticized but I doubt that being homeless, with very few posessions, and viewed with suspicion wherever you go is the happiest existence…
I am also using the swagman reference as a tenuous link to include this photo of a framed print by William Hatherell* my mum and dad found at a market a few months ago and passed on to me which is, very conveniently, of a swagman with his swag and a billy hanging off his belt.
It also means I get to include Waltzing Matilda as sung by the late Slim Dusty. I am not a country music fan, but who can resist an Aussie icon singing another Aussie icon.
*William Hatherell (1855-1928) was an illustrator known for his detailed work.