Public holiday: the Library will be open on 3 October. View opening hours
Task no. 1
Dorothea Mackellar was born in Point Piper, Sydney in 1885 and died in 1968. Though Dorothea was born in Sydney, her family owned various properties in the country near the Hunter valley and Gunnedah. Dorothea would often visit the properties. It was her affinity to the land that would be her inspiration for ‘My Country’.
‘My Country’ is one of the most well known and loved Australian poems. Dorothea wrote it at the age of 22 while she was living in England and missing her home country. It is considered THE quintessential Australian poem. It was first published in the London Spectator on 5 September 1908 and was titled ‘Core of My Heart’. The poem was later renamed ‘My Country’ when it was published in a book of her poetry called ‘The Closed Door, and other Verses’
The 1908 published version can be viewed here.
Revise who Dorothea Mackellar was and her background.
Libby Hathorn is a well-known Australian poet and author. She has written and narrated the clip about Dorothea Mackellar that you are about to watch. Briefly look at some of her work.
Before watching the Youtube clip, each student should get a sticky note and write down one interesting fact about Dorothea Mackellar you learn from the clip. The sticky notes will be placed on the topic wall.
Listen to State Library of NSW presents Libby Hathorn's Poets of Australia: Dorothea Mackellar here. (8.51mins)
‘My Country’ is an iconic Australian poem. Your teacher will show you the example from the State Library Collection of, 'My Country’. A poem by Dorothea Mackellar with decorations and illustrations by J.J. Hilder, Sydney 1915'
- Read the poem and pay close attention to the rhyming pattern and the illustrations for each verse.
- Analyse the placement of the rhyming words. Can think of other examples of similar poems?
- Look through the illustrations again and use words to describe what you see. Write the words onto paper to display in classroom, which the class will use the again in a later Learning Sequence.
- As a class learn the second stanza beginning ‘I love a sunburnt country’ and create actions for each line. You may like to perform it to another class or at your school assembly.
Task no. 2
Learning 'My Country'
- Each student should receive a copy of the poem – it is attached at the end of the activity
- Your teacher will re-read the poem ‘My Country’ to the class.
- As your teacher reads the poem again, highlight or circle any words you do not understand.
- Using a thesaurus and or dictionary, begin a word bank with synonyms for each word. These can be placed on the topic wall.
- Dorothea used the country landscape as inspiration for ‘My Country’. Research images of the landscape of your own local area to use as your inspiration just as Dorothea would have done.
- Brainstorm keywords to describe the scenes. Write the words down and place them on the topic wall.
- Continue learning the verse beginning ‘I love a sunburnt country’.
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 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.
Task no. 3
With the class, revise all the information now located on the topic wall. Use this information as inspiration to help you write your own poem about why you love where you live. The poem must be at least 8 lines long.
If students have time, you might like to use the State Library of NSW website to find a painting to go with their poem.