Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dorothea Mackellar

Dorothea Mackellar is a poet. She wrote the poem about the sunburnt country. Maybe it's called sunburnt country? I don't like much poetry, but I do like that poem...at least some of the lines.

The poem is pretty long, but I think this part is the one that's often quoted.

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! 


That's very beautiful. This website says the title is "My Country".

Yikes. I have a mosquito in my office that has decided I'm breakfast!

Oh well.....

Baby Isobel Marion Dorothea was born on 1 July 1885 in Sydney. Her daddy Charles was a noted physician and politician. Her Grandpa was a doctor from Scotland.

Lord Wiki says MacKellar was an only daughter. I'm not sure if that means she was an only child....or just the only female one.

Although MacKellar is known as bush poet, she lived a pretty urban life. Lord Wiki says it was her brother's farm in Gunnedah, New South Wales that inspired her. I guess she visited there fairly often.

Gunnedah is about six hours north of Sydney, and it's about an hour west of Tamworth.

One of Gunnedah's claim to fame is that Mackellar wrote her poem there....or she wrote it ABOUT there. In honor of her, the town has an annual poetry contest for school kids. It looks like every year has a theme. This year's theme was Searching For Stars. Now that's not MOVIE stars. It's not about Hollywood stalking. It's related to astronomy.

Okay. MacKellar didn't write her poem at the Gunnedah farm. She wrote them when she was in England. She was nineteen and homesick. Oh. That's very sweet. I mean if you look at all the lyrics, and then think about a homesick teenager writing the poem....I don't know. It makes it much more meaningful. It's a declaration of love.

The last lines of the poem say:

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. 

Maybe in some ways, she's talking to the British....those she spent time with who may not have understand her love for her home country.

The poem was actually first published in London. That was in 1908.

Oh wait. Lord Wiki has an entry on the poem itself, and he contradicts himself. He says the poem was written when MacKellar was twenty-two. I don't know. Maybe she was like me and wrote the same thing multiple times.

All right. Yes. It looks like she did. She wrote the poem in 1904, and then rewrote it several times.

I wrote The Dream Games when I was seventeen or eighteen. I rewrote it when I was living in New York. Maybe 1998 or 1999. Then I rewrote it a third time in 2007. Plus, I keep updating it. The funny thing is my friend read it in 2007. He liked it a lot...was VERY supportive. Then a few days ago, he decided to read it again. He told me he loved the new ending. I told him I didn't change the ending. I think what happened was the ending had grown on him...maybe? He wasn't sure about it in the past, but then later it appealed to him.

Lord Wiki says the first stanza of MacKellar's poem refers to England actually.

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.

Oh. I have goosebumps now. See, that's how I am with poetry. I think I can love it, IF someone explains it to me. I'm usually not smart enough to figure it out on my own.

Between 1911 and 1926, Mackellar published four books of poetry.

She also wrote three novels. Two of them were collaborative projects.

It doesn't look like any of the novels are easy to find.

I thought I could download The Little Blue Devil from this site, but I ended up downloading some weird thing. It looks like some kind of old artifact dug up from underground....dug up like that freaky gray cat in Pet Semetary.

Mackellar died in 1968. Besides the poetry contest honoring her in Gunnedah, there is also a federal electorate zone in Northern Sydney, and a street in Canberra, named after her.

I'm now going to look at the Australian Biographical Dictionary.

Mackellar did have other siblings. She had brothers.

She was born in Point Piper Sydney. I'm not sure if I know where that is. I'll have to look at Google Maps.

Okay. It's in the Eastern Suburbs. It's between Double Bay and Rose Bay. That's a very affluent area now. I wonder if it was that way when Mackellar was born.

Mackellar was educated at home. Homeschooled!

They did a lot of traveling.

She learned French, Spanish, German, and Italian. Wow.

She also attended some lectures at the University of Sydney.

The website says, Her youth was protected and highly civilized. She moved easily between the society of Sydney's intellectual and administrative elite, life on her family's country properties, and among their friends in London.

It sounds like a pretty nice and easy life.

"My Country" was originally called "Core of My Heart".

In World War I, the poem became very popular. I can imagine you had a lot of homesick Australians at that time.

Between 1911 and 1914, MacKellar was engaged twice. Both ended without a wedding. She left the first guy because he was overprotective.

That's something I think about a lot. I've always kind of wished for an overprotective partner. I know I've mentioned that before in this blog. Anyway, reading Twilight kind of made me feel better about myself, because the idealistic boyfriend in the story is VERY protective. Since Twilight is such a popular series, I can conclude that I'm not the only women who feels this way. I'm not alone. Although there are plenty who disagree with me. I've seen all kinds of things on the Internet about how Edward Cullen is NOT the ideal boyfriend. He's an abusive boyfriend. I think it's fascinating, although I disagree with it. I think what Edward has is PASSION....something many of us shy away from these days. We fear passion in relationships. I know I do. If I start to love someone a little too much, I feel it's wrong. There is a thin line between passionate dedication, and abusive control. I think Edward sometimes dwells in murky areas, but for the most his unbeating heart is in the right place.

To me, abusive control is when you make someone feel trapped. But if the love is strong and mutual, no one will feel trapped.

That's what it all depends on....whether the feelings are mutual. If someone I have mediocre feelings for emails me fifteen times in one day, I'll probably feel it's a bit creepy. But if someone I love (like one of my best friends) emails me that much, I'll think it's awesome.

Well, I should end this tangent. I've been kind of WAITING to have that tangent. There's so much I want to say about Twilight....so much stuff running through my head. I didn't want to start a whole new blog. So I have a homeschooling blog, this Australia Blog, and the eating disorder blog. I figured one day something would come up in my Australian research that would allow me a indulgent tangent.

I guess I could stick Twilight discussion in the eating disorder blog. The book could be seen as symbolic of eating disorders. It's all about self-control and abstinence....then becoming absolutely obsessed with what you're abstaining from.

Here is a Dorothea Mackellar site. The photo of her on the left reminds me of one of my sister's friends.....Andrea.

The website has a bio section.

Her grandparents came to Australia from Scotland in 1839. Mackellar was a third generation Australian.

Mackellar had three older brothers and one younger brother.

The website says her education was very informal. So maybe not only was she homeschooled, we might be able to say that she was unschooled.

The family saw travel as part of her education. Tim and I think this way too. I do admit (grudgingly) that we need more variety in our travel. Jack probably won't get THAT much education if we go to Sydney all the time. That's why we're going to go to Melbourne next.

We do repeat a lot though. We keep going to Disney World, but that's because we're part of their vacation club. And we're going back to Hawaii this spring. We kind of go to the same places over and over. I guess that's still educational though. If you go to too many different places, it's likely to get all jumbled up in your head. You won't even remember the places. That's happening to me with this blog. I write about someone new almost every day. It's messing with my brain. It's disheartening when I look back at titles of old posts and have no earthly idea who the person is. I spent hours writing about them, and later my mind pulls a complete blank.

Is it better to get a little taste of many countries in the world, or get a huge substantial helping of one or two countries? I kind of vote for the latter, but I do think we should probably expand our horizons a LITTLE bit.

I'm getting the idea from stuff I've been reading, that the farm in Gunnedah was not her brother's really....but more family property. Maybe her brother lived there more though....or lived there full time while the others just visited.

MacKellar was good with horses.

There's a story on the site. A drought was broken, and Mackellar danced in the rain. There's something so beautiful about dancing in the rain....or at least stepping out into the rain. What's that saying....

Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about dancing in the rain.

I love that. It's a beautiful philosophy.

I shared it with Tim and Jack when we got stuck in downpour at Disney World.

I actually have a photo of it!



Mackellar never married. But she had a romantic heart. I think it MIGHT be easier to stay romantic if you never get married. Am I being cynical?

Mackellar loved acting. She and her best friend would act our scenarios together. I think some of us just have it in our blood. Here's my confession. I did make-believe play MUCH longer than most kids. I played with Cabbage Patch dolls when I was thirteen. I loved to be in a make-believe world. Fortunately, I had a younger sister to play with me, and a friend who helped me indulge in such an "immature" past time. I was very ashamed of it though. I thought there was something wrong with me, because other kids had stopped doing such stuff a long time before.

Then in seventh grade, I started fiction writing. I think that eventually replaced the fantasy play.

Here's some more history/biographical stuff.

It says, She resented the tendency of acquaintances in her youth to discredit Australia, and to refer to England as 'Home'.

Yeah. Like P.L Travers!

I might discredit America sometimes, but I don't deny it's my home. Well, I have wanted to migrate to Australia.

Okay. So maybe I'm guilty. What can I say?

I do love my country. It's just that I love Australia much more.

I love a sunburnt country. Okay? So sue me.

I have to go. I feel bad that this post is more about me than it is about Mackellar. But we all know I'm self-centered like that. It's the American way....right?

Anyway, I leave you with this video. It's a nice slideshow and supposedly Mackellar herself is reading the poem. Watching it brought me close to crying. It's that kind of video. But I'm getting my period soon, so that could be making me emotional too.





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