Dorothea MacKellar

Dorothea was born into a wealthy, well-established family. Her father a well-known doctor who had a huge home in the ‘right’ Sydney suburb plus two country properties. Privately educated she was the only daughter with three brothers. Dorothea was well travelled and her poetry was published broadly with two anthologies of her own work. She was adept at languages and fiercely loyal to her homeland. Best known for this first poem, My Country, which could be considered our national anthem. The second resonates deepest with me as it describes well the ‘sense’ or feeling experienced every time I returned home.

Dorothea had all the advantages that Oodgeroo lacked and those differences show in their poetry, they are the two extremes. Can you tell the difference?

My Country

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 droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark 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.

 

Dawn

At the dawning of the day,
On the road to Gunnedah,
When the sky is pink and grey
As the wings of a wild galah,
And the last night-shadow ebbs
From the trees like a falling tide,
And the dew-hung spiderwebs
On the grass-blades spread far and wide –
Each sharp spike loaded well,
Bent down low with the heavy dew –
Wait the daily miracle
When the world is all made anew:
When the sun’s rim lifts beyond
The horizon turned crystal-white,
And a sea of diamond
Is the plain to the dazzled sight.

At the dawning of the day,
To my happiness thus it fell:
That I went the common way,
And I witnessed a miracle.

https://www.dorotheamackellar.com.au/

17 comments

  1. “My Country” brings a kaleidoscope of images. One can feel MacKellar’s deep love for her country. As I read, some verses reminded of scenes from the film “The Man from Snowy River.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the first poem. Loved the rhythm and content. I’m not sophisticated enough for the second to hit the spot. I’m surprised at the ability of the poet to write such extreme forms. She must surely be talented.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love how there are little details in these poems that only a native would know of. If I remember correctly, the first one is the one our Jesuit principal had often quoted. A lovely ode to Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember learning the first two verses of Dorothea MacKellar’s poem at school and certainly read the rest.
    While I have heard of Oodgeroo, I wasn’t aware of ‘Dawn’. Some beautiful images in it. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reading the second poem, I have a sense of your homeland, as if I were walking along, seeing the sights. I have never been there, but maybe, in these lines of poetry, I visited briefly…just me, and the open road ahead.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s very formal in its tone, which I feel erects a barrier between the author and reader. Much preferred the rawness of Ooderoo’s poems. They were earthy, and felt real. These seem a bit typical. 😕

    Liked by 1 person

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