I Love A Sunburnt Country

Kimberley Coast, Western Australia

Looking back with fondness to my younger education at primary school in, Hamilton, country Victoria during the 1970s, I have many terrific memories that warmly make me smile, and more often, laugh!

Monday afternoon’s lesson was a favourite for us children, as it was the ‘ABC Music Program’ broadcasted through our classroom radio. We all sat cross-legged on the classroom mat and belted out songs together with the radio tutor. We sang songs about Australian animals and folk characters, and it was wonderful.

Our fourth grade teacher taught us a fabulous poem, ”My Country” by Dorothea Mackellar,  and all of us pupils were to learn it “off-by-heart’. Individually each of us took our turn to stand up in front of the class to recite our favourite verse and I chose the second, “I Love  a Sunburnt Country” as this verse gript my imagination visually; the brilliant rich colours, the red and brown earth meeting the blue jewel seas; to me it was a paradise.

I remember one young boy stood up nervously to recite his choice verse of “My Country”, being verse number three. He made it through the first line, with a sign of relief expressed on his face. He continued with more gusto to narrate the second line, sprouting out confidently “All rockets to the moon”, the teacher stopped him in is tracks, to remind him that Australia had not sent rockets to the moon, and for him to return the next day, once he learnt the verse more factually!

The poem “My Country” was written by Australia’s famous poet, Dorothea Mackellar in 1906, whilst on a trip to England. Dorothea’s words hinted she was homesick for her Australia. Dorothea returned to Australia and lived in Sydney until her passing in 1968, at 82 year of age.

Dorothea’s legacy of her poem and the descriptive words, allow each of us to paint an imaginary picture in our minds of our own sunburnt country. Here is the poem in its entirety, as not always known, apart from the famous line of the second verse, “I love a sunburnt country”. This famous line is emphasising her true love and devotion for Australia, in comparison to the nurtured beauty of England.

“My Country” by Dorothea Mackellar

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!

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.

This poem is for all Australian’s, inclusively, to appreciate, connect and to protect our beautiful country.