The Poetry of Dorothea Mackellar

THE POETRY OF DOROTHEA MACKELLAR

The first draft of what was to become Australia’s most quoted and best loved poem, My Country, was written at age 19 in England at a time when Dorothea was feeling homesick. Published in the London Spectator under the title Core of My Heart in 1908, Dorothea was never quite content with the verses. She wrote, and re-wrote the poem several times after returning to Australia and living in the apartments above her father‘s consulting rooms in Buckland Chambers, Liverpool Street, Sydney, opposite the ANZAC Memorial.

During 1910 – 1920 Dorothea wrote prolifically. 1913 saw a novel Outlaw’s Luck and with Ruth Bedford, a childhood friend, she wrote two other novels, The Little Blue Devil (1912) and Two’s Company (1914). During this time, most particularly through WWII, My Country became hugely popular – appealing to the sense of patriotism fostered by the war and post-war nationalism.

The Australian countryside continued to be a source of inspiration to Dorothea. Two poems that particularly reflected her special relationship with the Gunnedah district are; Dawn (At the dawning of the day; On the road to Gunnedah …), andBurning Off (They‘re burning off at the Rampadells; The tawny flames uprise …).

Dorothea continued to write and travel during the 1920s and early the following decade, her work appearing in publications such as London’s Spectator, the American Harper’s Magazine and Sydney’s The Bulletin among others. During these years, four volumes of her verse were published, The Closed Door (Containing My CountryThe Witchmaid and Other Verses,Dreamharbour and Fancy Dress.

She wrote little after the death of her father, and often had extended periods of ill health with which to deal. However, Dorothea’s patriotism, her love of nature, and of regional Australia which she often frequented, was already immortalised. In anyone’s list of most known and most loved Australian poems My Country has featured in top position for over a century. It is, simply, THE quintessential Australian poem.

DID YOU KNOW?

The State Library contains the original manuscript (c. 1907) of ‘Core of My Heart’, which is the original title of ‘My Country’.

View the original ‘My Country’ manuscript online

To view more of Dorothea’s poetry, visit dorotheamackellar.com.au.