A Sunburnt Country, Dorothea Mackellar, Analysis, Summary, Themes & Style

This poem, titled "My Country," that is famously remembered as "I Love a Sunburnt Country" is a patriotic ode to the author's love for her homeland, Australia. The speaker begins by acknowledging the beauty of other landscapes, such as the English countryside, but admits that her love is for the sunburnt plains and rugged terrain of her own country. She describes the various natural features of Australia, from its sweeping plains and mountain ranges to its tangle of brush and orchids that adorn the trees. The speaker expresses her devotion to her country despite its harsh climate, including droughts and flooding rains that bring both beauty and tragedy. She emphasizes the resilience of the land, which rewards its inhabitants with lush greenery after periods of dryness. The poem ends with a declaration of the author's deep connection to her country, a place that she considers to be her true home.

My Country Poem

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.

The tragic ring-barked forests
Stark white beneath the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
An orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the crimson 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.

Critical Analysis

Dorothea Mackellar's poem "My Country" is a powerful tribute to the Australian landscape, reflecting the author's deep love for the country. The poem is written in a simple and direct style, which reflects the straightforward and unpretentious character of the Australian people.

The poem's central theme is the author's deep love for Australia and the Australian landscape. This love is expressed through a series of vivid images and sensory descriptions of the natural world. For example, the poem describes the "sweeping plains" and "ragged mountain ranges," the "hot gold hush of noon," and the "green tangle of the brushes."

The poem also explores the theme of the harshness of the Australian landscape, with its "drought and flooding rains" and "pitiless blue sky." The author acknowledges the difficulties of life in Australia, including the impact of droughts on agriculture and the suffering of livestock. However, she also celebrates the resilience of the Australian people in the face of adversity, as represented by the "drumming of an army" during a rainstorm.

The poem also touches on the theme of national identity and pride, with the author describing Australia as the "wide brown land for me" and "land of the Rainbow Gold." The poem suggests that the Australian landscape is an essential part of the country's national identity, and that the country's people are fiercely proud of their land.

The poem's language is simple and direct, with the author using a straightforward, conversational style to convey her love for Australia. The poem is rich in sensory descriptions, with the author using vivid imagery to create a sense of the Australian landscape's beauty and power. The poem's structure is also relatively straightforward, with each stanza exploring a different aspect of the Australian landscape.

Overall, "My Country" is a powerful and evocative tribute to Australia and the Australian landscape. The poem's simple language and direct style make it accessible to a broad audience, while its vivid imagery and emotional depth make it a moving and memorable piece of writing.

Stanza-wise Summary of My Country

  • Stanza 1: The speaker begins the poem by acknowledging the love of the countryside, its greenery, gardens, and woods that run in the veins of some people. However, the speaker admits that she cannot share this love because her love is different.
  • Stanza 2: The speaker explains her love for the sunburnt country, a land of vast plains, mountain ranges, droughts, flooding rains, and far horizons. She loves the country's jewel sea, its beauty, and terror, and considers the wide brown land as her home.
  • Stanza 3: The speaker describes the various natural wonders of the land, including the tragic ring-barked forests, sapphire-misted mountains, hot gold noon, green tangle of brushes, lianas, orchids, and ferns.
  • Stanza 4: The speaker emphasizes her love for the country and its unyielding blue sky, even when the cattle die due to drought. She acknowledges the relief that comes when the grey clouds gather and the steady rain begins.
  • Stanza 5: The speaker reiterates her love for the country as the core of her heart and the land of Rainbow Gold. Despite the flood, fire, and famine, the country still pays back threefold.
  • Stanza 6: The speaker emphasizes the beauty and generosity of the land and challenges those who have not loved her to understand. The speaker concludes by saying that wherever she may die, her homing thoughts will always fly back to her beloved brown country.

    Major Themes in My Country

    The major themes in the poem "My Country" by Dorothea Mackellar are:
  • Love for one's country: The poet expresses her deep love for her country, Australia, through vivid descriptions of its natural beauty and unique features. She finds a sense of belonging and attachment to the land and feels proud of her country.
  • The beauty of nature: Mackellar celebrates the natural beauty of Australia, its landscapes, flora, and fauna. She portrays the vastness and diversity of the country's natural environment, from the sweeping plains to the mountain ranges, from the hot noon to the soaking rain.
  • The harshness of the land: The poet acknowledges the harshness of the Australian environment, with its droughts, floods, and fires. She also notes the struggle for survival faced by the people and animals living on the land.
  • National identity: The poem reflects on the importance of national identity and the role it plays in shaping a person's identity. Mackellar suggests that a person's love for their country can be a significant factor in their sense of self and belonging.

    Style of the Poem

    The style of the poem "My Country" by Dorothea MacKellar is lyrical and descriptive. The poem is written in free verse, which allows the poet to vary the length and structure of the lines to create a natural rhythm. The language used in the poem is evocative and vivid, appealing to the senses and creating vivid images of the Australian landscape. The use of repetition, particularly the refrain "Core of my heart, my country," emphasizes the poet's deep emotional attachment to her homeland. Overall, the style of the poem captures the beauty, power, and uniqueness of the Australian landscape while expressing the poet's intense emotional connection to it.

    Literary Devices

    Here are some of the literary devices used in the poem "My Country" by Dorothea Mackellar:
  • Personification: The poet personifies her country as a living entity with a heart that beats with love and pride.
  • Metaphor: Mackellar uses the metaphor "jewel sea" to describe the beauty of the Australian coast.
  • Imagery: The poet uses vivid imagery to evoke the natural beauty of Australia, such as "ragged mountain ranges," "sapphire-misted mountains," and "orchids deck the tree-tops."
  • Alliteration: There are several instances of alliteration throughout the poem, such as "love of field and coppice" and "green tangle of the brushes."
  • Repetition: The phrase "Core of my heart, my country!" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the poet's love and connection to her homeland.
  • Symbolism: The "Rainbow Gold" is a symbol of the wealth and beauty of Australia.
  • Hyperbole: The poet uses hyperbole to describe the harshness of the Australian landscape, such as "pitiless blue sky" and "hot gold hush of noon."
  • Rhyme: The poem is written in a rhyming pattern, with each stanza following an ABAB rhyme scheme.
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