Diana Carolina Sedano Valdes
Different interpretations of Waltzing Matilda: British and Australians
Waltzing Matilda is the unofficial anthem of Australia. It was composed by A. B. Patterson in 1895. The poem tells the story of a swagman who is drinking a cup of tea while he is in the bush and then a sheep arrive to where he was. He tried to still the sheep, so he put it down in his swag. After that, the owner of the sheep realized that the swagman stole his sheep and went with 3 policemen to capture the man. He preferred drowning in the billabong than being sentenced by the police.
This poem is probably inspired in a real story. During 1891 there was a strike in Queensland; it was a shearers strike between pastoralists and wool workers. The pastoralists wanted to pay low wages to the shearers so there were some of these workers who were against this fact and create movements in order to claim for their rights. That movement was called unionized wool workers; it was such as a syndicate but in that epoch that was against the rule, so policemen were holding pastoralist and not the sheep shearers.
A very important place of this great shearers strike was Dagworth station. This place implies the story of a man called Samuel Hoffmeister. He was a unionist that was involved in the fight for justice in the wool industry. He committed suicide in a billabong after setting fire in a shearers shed. It is said that he stole a sheep and when the owner knew it, he tried to escape from th eyes of them because he didn’t want to be captured and he preferred to die by himself.
It is interesting how a story that involves a very rough context can set down one of the most popular songs over the world; something glorious and nationalist as a representative song for most of the people who leave in Australia. Because of this, it is appropriated to talk about the audience of the poem. It can be understand by Australians but in a different way, the ones who agreed with the fight that unionized people were doing and the ones who were thinking that pastoralists where right with how they managed the industry.
According to that, it would be intriguing to answer the next question: How could the text be read and interpreted by two different readers? In this case, the two different readers would be a pastoralists and a sheep shearer. If the history of the poem is