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Holiday Australia: “I Love a Sunburnt Country”: A Poem by Dorothy McKellar (1885-1968)

Dorothea MacKellar (1885-1968) (written 1906) (Republished courtesy:  Curtis Brown (Aust) Ltd)

Our Comment:

Dorothea MacKellar was born in Sydney in 1885. Her poetry is regarded as quintessential bush poetry and inspired by her experience on her brothers' farms near Gunnedah, in the north-east of New South Wales. Her best-known poem is “My Country”, written at age 19 while homesick in England, and first published in the London Spectator in 1908 under the title “Core of My Heart”. It has often been altered and changed and appears in many incarnations with the most common being the first verse completely deleted - as it of course refers to England - but the poem itself is in tribute to Australia’s early English and Irish settlers. This is the correct version with of course the most significant verses referring to the sheer awe and rugged beauty that Australia conjures up in all who live beneath her southern skies, with - in our opinion - the last verse being the most powerful and emotional call to home that any Australian can attest to -no matter where they live in the world. Personally, this poem is my personal call to home ..and every time I hear it and watch the wonderful ‘Celebrate Australia’ Australia Day video below - it’s not long before I’m back home...

Here’s a RARE recital of the poem by Dorothea McKellar herself.. Quite amazing! Scroll down after the video for the full words to the poem.




“The love of field and coppice, of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens, Is running in your veins;
Strong love of grey-blue distance, brown streams and soft, dim skies -
I know but cannot share it, my love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, of drought and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror - the wide brown land for me.

The tragic ring-barked forests stark white beneath the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains, the hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes where lithe lianas coil,
An orchids deck the tree-tops and ferns the crimson soil.

Core of my heart, my country! Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart around us we see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather and we can bless again
The drumming of an army, the steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country! Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine, she pays us back threefold;
Over the thirsty paddocks, watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness that thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country, a wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her, you will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours, wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country my homing thoughts will fly.


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