Biography of Dorothea Mackellar
Isobel Marion Dorothea Mackellar was an Australian poet and fiction writer.
Life and Works
The only daughter of noted physician and parliamentarian Sir Charles Mackellar, she was born in Sydney in 1885. Although raised in a professional urban family, Mackellar's poetry is usually regarded as quintessential bush poetry, inspired by her experience on her brothers' farms near Gunnedah, North-West New South Wales.
Her best-known poem is My Country, written at age 19 while homesick in England, and first published in the London Spectator in 1908 under the title Core of My Heart. The second stanza of this poem is amongst the most well-known in Australia. Four volumes of her collected verse were published: The Closed Door (published in 1911, contained the first appearance of My Country under its present name); The Witch Maid, and Other Verses (1914); Dreamharbour (1923); and Fancy Dress (1926).
In addition to writing poems, Mackellar also wrote novels, one by herself, Outlaw's Luck (1913), and at least two in collaboration with Ruth Bedford. These are The Little Blue Devil (1912) and Two's Company (1914). According to Dale Spender, little has been written or is yet known about the circumstances behind this collaboration.
In the New Year's Day Honours of 1968, Dorothea Mackellar was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her contribution to Australian literature.She died two weeks later. She is buried with her father and family in Waverley Cemetery overlooking the open ocean. A memorial to Mackellar stands in ANZAC Park in Gunnedah. A federal electorate covering half of Sydney's Northern Beaches and a street in the Canberra suburb of Cook are named in her honour. (The Canberra suburb of McKellar was not named after her, but is often assumed to have been.)
A federal electorate covering half of Sydney's Northern Beaches is named in her honour as well as a street in the Canberra suburb of Cook. (The Canberra suburb of McKellar was not named after her, but is often assumed to have been.)
On Australia Day, 26 January 1983, a statue was unveiled in Gunnedah to commemorate Dorothea Mackellar. In conjunction with the unveiling, there was an exhibition of a series of 34 water colour paintings by Jean Isherwood illustrating the writer's most famous poem, My Country. The watercolours were eventually put on permanent display in the Gunnedah Bicentennial Regional Gallery. Isherwood set about painting a series of oils based on the watercolours which were exhibited at the Artarmon Galleries in Sydney in 1986.
In 1984, Gunnedah resident Mikie Maas created the "Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards", which has grown into a nationwide poetry competition for Australian school students.
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Dorothea Mackellar Poems
The love of field and coppice, Of green and shaded lanes. Of ordered woods and gardens Is running in your veins,
At the dawning of the day, On the road to Gunnedah, When the sky is pink and grey As the wings of a wild galah,
This life that we call our own Is neither strong nor free; A flame in the wind of death, It trembles ceaselessly.
The Colours Of Light
This is not easy to understand For you that come from a distant land Where all thecolours are low in pitch -
The lovely things that I have watched unthinking, Unknowing, day by day, That their soft dyes have steeped my soul in colour
They're burning off at the Rampadells, The tawny flames uprise, With greedy licking around the trees; The fierce breath sears our eyes.
In A Southern Garden
WHEN the tall bamboos are clicking to the restless little breeze, And bats begin their jerky skimming flight,
THERE are some that go for love of a fight And some for love of a land, And some for a dream of the world set free Which they barely understand.
The Open Sea
From my window I can see, Where the sandhills dip, One far glimpse of open sea. Just a slender slip
An Old Song
The almond bloom is overpast, the apple blossoms blow. I never loved but one man, and I never told him so.
Over the crest of the Hill of Sleep, Over the plain where the mists lie deep, Into a country of wondrous things,
The Waiting Life
Since it befell, with work and strife I had not time to live my life I turned away from it until Work should be done and strife be still.
The lovely things that I have watched unthinking,
Unknowing, day by day,
That their soft dyes have steeped my soul in colour
That will not pass away -
Great saffron sunset clouds, and larkspur mountains,
And fenceless miles of plain,
And hillsides golden-green in that unearthly
Clear shining after rain;