01 May 2010

Another poem

I haven't posted a landmark poem for a while. As a direct result of coincident conversations both with my two brothers and with Jim Putnam over at TTMF, here is one which enthralled me when I learned it at an Australian primary school in the early 1960s and still calls back a mythical golden childhood time.

I'm not a fan of patriotism, and don't usually go for purple pastoral, but I forgive this one on both counts for its power to call up my own good ghosts.

My Country
Dorothea MacKellar, 1904

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.


Ray Girvan said...

It's rather in the same vein as John Buchan's The Old Love, written about Canada.

The little countries are shaped by men
And moulded by human hands. —
But you cannot trace on my ancient face
The scars of the little lands.
They come, they pass, like shadows on grass,
Or a child's play on the sands.

I'm rather sorry to have found this only recently (even a couple of years back there was only a snippet view). I've been intrigued by it ever since Lauren Cooper asked if I could trace it from a couple of lines she remembered, but in those days there was vastly less online. I never suspected it would be John Buchan.

Dr. C said...

Gol darn, Ray. If this isn't the guy who wrote "Thirty-nine Steps." And with a name like "Lord Tweedsmuir" straight out of P.G. Wodehouse.

Ray Girvan said...

Yes: I didn't know until quite recently how much poetry he wrote (for instance) as well as a deal of short fiction, not all of it gung-ho. The Runagates Club is a very good collection, an anthology of stories linked by the framing device of characters from other Buchan works (including Hannay) meeting to swap yarns.