I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world, to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')

These poems are works in progress and may be updated without notice. Nevertheless copyright applies to all writings here and all photos (which are either my own or used with permission). Thank you for your comments. I read and appreciate them all, and reply here to specific points that seem to need it — or as I have the leisure. Otherwise I reciprocate by reading and commenting on your blog posts as much as possible.

27 August 2015

Who'll Come A-Waltzing Matilda With Me?

I liked the jolly swagman
camped by his billabong

but Gough, who was PM then,
insisted on Advance Australia Fair

even though we all said, 'Wot's this "girt 
by sea" bit – who the heck's Gert?'

Still, anything was better than,
'God - save - our - GRAY - shushQueen'

not that I wished her any harm, mind,
but it was boring slow, a dirge.

So now we sing that our hearts 
are young and free, our beauty

rich and rare – in this ancient continent
usurped from its first people.

We might do better 
to remember the starving swaggie

tramping the outback roads
looking for work or just a feed.

England colonised this country
with starving men and women

and with political rebels, 
all brought here on prison ships.

Now we turn away boat-loads
of hungry families and 

political refugees. 
Or imprison them worse 

than in those convict ships or even
the stone-walled hells like Port Arthur. 

Yet our anthem says
 – get this –

'For those who've come across the seas
we've boundless plains to share.'

So – 'Down came a jumbuck
to drink by the billabong.'

(Down came a sheep
to drink from the waterhole.

Those other words we took
from the first people

while we also took their land
and their children.)

It was the Depression. Many
tramped the endless tracks.

'Up jumped the swagman
and grabbed it with glee.'

'He sang as he stowed
that jumbuck in his tuckerbag.' 

And then came the rich landowner,
and then came the cops. It was

a serious crime. And the system 
then as now was skewed against the poor.

'Australians all, let us rejoice.'
'We've golden soil and wealth for toil.'

' "You'll never take me alive!" said he.'
What became of our nation of rebels?

'... his ghost may be heard ...'
Advance, Australia Fair.

Written for dVerse: National Anthem Poetry 

Advance Australia Fair original lyrics.

(To be truthful, they no longer include sharing our plains.)

Lyrics of Waltzing Matilda

Some people, including me, would have preferred Waltzing Matilda as our national anthem, but now I like the idea that it remains what it always was: our outlaw anthem.


  1. i like how you've captured the dark side...
    btw, Rosemary, i think your link is not working @ dVerse...

    1. I couldn't make it work on my son's computer, Sumana (being away from home) so put it in the comments there. Glad you found your way here!

  2. I think our country would do well to remember our leaner times and our roots as well. As we have similar immigrant stories. I guess at times it seems the difference between truth and ideal.

  3. I love the idea of Waltzing Matilda as an outlaw anthem. I enjoyed the true history in this poem, Rosemary. Our countries share some very similar history. Have you seen the movie The Rabbit Proof Fence, about the sisters who walked a thousand miles to get back home from residential school? Astonishing.

  4. Give me Liberty or Give me Waltzing Matilda.. i
    will be free not taken alive or dead..
    i will dance now in
    living bush
    and tree of life..
    with Matilda too..
    in Anthem of free
    not.. ugh..
    human beings
    and the fears
    anxieties and
    WHO Free..:)

  5. I find that looking back at our history is still relevant and should be our guide for the future ~ A very interesting response Rosemary on your country's anthem ~

  6. A lively poem Rosemary.. says so much. Like the "outlaw anthem" concept!! We all need one :)

  7. I love the local color in this...and the historical commentary you give, Rosemary! My mother-in-law's name was Matilda too :)

    1. Rosemary Nissen-Wade28 August 2015 at 15:50
      Lynn, this Matilda was his swag, or back-pack in modern terminology, though it looked very different from the modern ones.


  8. so billabong means waterhole? how cool is that... i went to sydney a few years ago and loved the city and the people i met - almost everyone told me about their ancestors who came from all over the world. thanks for joining and bringing australia to the mix of flags as well

  9. i have an anthem poem today at Monday WRites
    Forged from the love of liberty
    my post is way too late for the DVerse linky

    much love…

  10. It is funny how country change...good read.

    Thanks for your kind comment.

  11. Love the tone in this....the truthfulness, the irony, the way you haven't shied away from the raw brutality of historical accuracy:

    "Those other words we took
    from the first people

    while we also took their land
    and their children"

    REALLY well-written and informative and entertaining too :-)

  12. Stumbled on this gem (like finding a nugget at Sovereign Hill) I like the idea of the 'outlaw' anthem staying just that too, and your 'new' words to Advance Australia Fair remind me how cringe-worthy as a nation we have become! Came via Magaly's blog, and being broke sing your fab posts :)


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