Australia Day Poems, Part 1: My Love Is Otherwise

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by Mary W Maxwell

All Aussie school children learned the poem “I love a sunburnt country”, by Dorothea Mackellar (1885-1968). Well, that was only a part of the whole poem. They may not have realized that the poet, age 22 at the time, was in England, missing her native Oz. So please see below – preferably read aloud of course – “My Country.” She starts out with what “they” (the dear Pommies) like best.

After that please check the original poem “Advance Australia Fair” by Scots-Australian Peter Dodds McCormick (1834-1916). It has a couple of shockers in it. No need to stand, as it was written before this was made into our national anthem.

My Country

by Dorothea Mackellar, 1885-1968

 

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!

The stark white ring-barked forests,

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.

Advance Australia Fair.

by Peter Dodds McCormick, a choir director in Sydney.     First sung 1878

Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are young and free;

We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,

Our home is girt by sea;

Our land abounds in Nature’s gifts

Of beauty rich and rare;

In history’s page, let every stage

Advance Australia fair!

When gallant Cook from Albion sail’d,

To trace wide oceans o’er,

True British courage bore him on,

Till he landed on our shore.

Then here he raised Old England’s flag,

The standard of the brave;

With all her faults we love her still,

“Brittannia rules the wave!”

While other nations of the globe

Behold us from afar,

We’ll rise to high renown and shine

Like our glorious southern star;

From England, Scotia, Erin’s Isle,

Who come our lot to share,

Let all combine with heart and hand

To advance Australia fair!

Should foreign foe e’er sight our coast,

Or dare a foot to land,

We’ll rouse to arms like sires of yore

To guard our native strand;

Brittannia then shall surely know,

Beyond wide ocean’s roll,

Her sons in fair Australia’s land

Still keep a British soul.


Photo credit: l.ytimg.com
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Comments

  1. Mary have just read through the series. Australia can be very proud of our talented people from all cultures. A very upbeat start to Australia Day, 26th January 2017. Well done.

    • Hang on, there are 5 parts.

      • Anybody who wants to add more poems to the comments — or any tear-jerking videos — please do. Parts 4 and 5 have got J Wight, C Bonney, and Banjo’s horse. I wanted to include Sam Watson but did not get to the library in time.

        • Aha! Ding-dong has just realized that you don’t have to find things only during library hours. Here’s about Sam Watson from ABC:

          At this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week Samuel Wagan Watson began by telling us about a poem he’d written with a Qantas pen on the back of an airsickness bag during his flight over. He’d been wedged between two guys who’d been having a technology ‘battle of erections’ with their Macbooks and smartphones. Wagan Watson’s low-tech approach immediately endeared him to the Writers’ Week audience who showed their appreciation with cheers and a warm round of applause.
          His writing is fast-paced, with multiple interconnections and restless perceptions, drawn from life on the road.

          Wagan Watson’s heritage is Birri-Gubba, Mununjali, Gaelic and Germanic. He grew up in what he calls ‘tigerland’—the Mt Gravatt area of Brisbane whose rugby team is the Tigers. To quote his father, ‘we didn’t win many games but we never lost a fight’. His aunt was Maureen Watson a poet and campaigner against domestic violence, and his father Sam Watson is a writer, teacher and activist.

          (Name of newest book: Love Poems).

  2. A British soul indeed !

  3. Apparenly the rolling of the R’s was not unknown in Australia in Mackellar’s time:
    .

    • Thanks very much for sharing this.
      It made my eyes watery, a sign that it is true art (my commercial art detector is flawlessly merciless).

      • i wish everybody who cried would write in, bl hd.

        I am supposed to give a public reading today of The Man from Snowy River. It’s a good thing I rehearsed it in my hotel room as I bawled my way thru the whole thing. I’d never had that reaction to “Snowy” before.

        First heard it performed in a Concert under the Stars in Alice Springs for the 1988 bicentenial. Maybe it was the Adelaode Symphony Orchestra in the background.. A man read it really fast and to the beat. Funny how the beat of poetry is itself what makes you emotional.

        Thanks.

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