miércoles, 23 de noviembre de 2016


Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
  • Once - a single time
  • jolly - gay, but not in the same sense as that understood by the young men of Darlinghurst. (US readers subsitiute "San Francisco" or something similar in place of "Darlinghurst". Spanish readers substitute "Chueca".)
  • swagman - itinerant worker, called a swagman because of the "swag" normally carried by such persons. A swag comprises the worldly belongings of the swagman, wrapped in a blanket and formed into a back-pack. A swagman is also known as a "swaggie"
  • camped - made camp (nothing to to do with the behaviour of the Darlinghurst set)
  • billabong - oxbow lake formed when a meandering river cuts through its own course leaving a segment of the river isolated from the main stream
Under the shade of a coolibah tree
  • under - beneath. Implies that there is something above (this may be wishful thinking)
  • shade - half a pair of sunglasses
  • coolibah - type of eucalyptus tree which grows in some of Australia's wetlands
  • tree - a woody thing with leaves, which gets pissed upon by dogs
And he sang as he watched and waited 'till his billy boiled
  • and he - a distortion of the swagman's name (Andy)
  • sang - another distortion
  • watched - something the swaggie did while waiting
  • waited - something the swaggie did while watching
  • 'till - another distortion. Not to be confused with the money receptacle found at the checkout in most stores.
  • billy - a tin can with a lid, and a looped wire handle over the top. Used by denizens of the Australian outback as a cooking utensil primarily for the boiling of water to make tea
  • boiled - what happened to the water when it was heated to 100 degrees. (This effect is not so apparent in backward countries like the US, where the water must be heated to over 200 degrees before anything interesting happens because they use the Fahrenheit scale instead of the Celsius scale)
You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me
  • You'll - a distortion
  • come - no comment
  • waltzing - walking; the term used by swagmen to describe their means of travel
  • matilda - the name given by one particular swagman to his swag. Apparently the swaggie in question was a Dutchman who came to Australia after his wife, Matilda, had died. He adopted the swaggie's lifestyle, and named his swag in memory of his wife. Use of the name spread. (This is supposed to be a true story. Really.)
Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda

You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me

And he sang as he watched and waited 'till his billy boiled

You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me
Down came a jumbuck to drink at the billabong
  • down - opposite of up (see next line of song)
  • jumbuck - a sheep, specifically a young ram
  • drink - to swallow water or other liquid, to imbibe alcoholic beverages (the latter being somewhat unlikely behaviour for a sheep, so water is assumed - this assumption may not be correct however, since it is said "to drink at" as opposed to "from")
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
  • up - opposite of down (see previous line of song)
  • jumped - to have performed a jump or leap, or in this case probably just standing up briskly.
  • grabbed - seized suddenly, snached
  • glee - Matilda had been dead for quite some time
And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker-bag
  • shoved - pushed, stuffed, packed. Presumably after skinning and gutting
  • tucker - food, hence "tucker-bag"
  • bag - sack, usually made of hessian. The term also refers to a woman of similar appearance (to the hessian bag, not the sheep.)
You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me
Down came the squatter mounted on his thoroughbred
  • squatter - a landholder through occupancy rather than purchase
  • mounted - sitting upon (we hope this is not a reference to the Darlinghurst types mentioned at the beginning)
  • thoroughbred - a breed of horse. Not much use in the Australian bush or as a farm horse, but probably ridden by the squatter as a symbol of wealth. A similar phenomenon may be observed in Sydney, where one can see the odd yuppie driving his Ferrari over the Harbour Bridge in the peak-hour.
Down came the troopers, one, two, three
  • trooper - outback policeman
  • one, two, three - just to show that the swaggie could count
Where's that jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker-bag
  • a singularly redundant question
You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me
  • waltzing - a dance performed by sheep stealers whilst suspended from a gibbet by a rope
Waltzing matilda ... (etc)

Up jumped the swagman and jumped into the billabong
  • jumped(1) - (see previous definition)
  • jumped(2) - in this case probably more of a misguided leap, especially when one considers the ending to the song
You'll never take me alive said he
  • alive - what the sheep isn't
Now his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong

You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me.

I hope this helps those who would otherwise never have been able to decode this song.

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