Tomorrow is Australia day. Our national anthem used to be Waltzing Matilda. Wiki has a number of theories as to how the lyrics were shaped.
What strikes me is how many German references are involved. Firstly “waltz”, then “matilda”.
- “Waltzing Matilda
- “to waltz Matilda” is to travel with a swag, that is, with all one’s belongings on one’s back wrapped in a blanket or cloth. The exact origins of the term “Matilda” are disputed; one fanciful derivation states that when swagmen met each other at their gatherings, there were rarely women to dance with. Nonetheless, they enjoyed a dance and so danced with their swags, which was given a woman’s name. However, this appears to be influenced by the word “waltz”, hence the introduction of dancing. It seems more likely that, as a swagman’s only companion, the swag came to be personified as a woman.
- The National Library of Australia states:
- Matilda is an old Teutonic female name meaning “mighty battle maid”. This may have informed the use of “Matilda” as a slang term to mean a de facto wife who accompanied a wanderer. In the Australian bush a man’s swag was regarded as a sleeping partner, hence his “Matilda”.” My thanks to Wiki.
- There is however a German folk practice that exists to this day, where young German youths as part of an apprentise system would, dressed in leder hosen and with a swag on their backs and a staff in hand would go a wandering. The practice was called waltzing. The wandergesellen set out auf der walz on the wanderjahre in Germany – to cultivate technical and moral aptitude, to learn about work and life. I myself came across two young men in Canberra in 2005.
- It’s the German equivalent of the journeyman setting out to learn about life; not a bad national vision.