Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Dorothea Mackellar

A few days before christmas my daughter Annie and my son David came over to Canberra to stay a few days. There is a second hand bookshop just a few blocks away from where I live and I had been itching to take Annie in there with me because I knew she would love it. We walked over here in the afternoon that same day and went for a visit. That place is great, a real Aladdin's cave full of all sorts of wonderful things. From reference books to fiction and back again, they even had old antique post cards and advertising pamphlets from early last century, old vinyl records and movies, everything.
Annie got about 4 books and I found treasure in a book of poems by Dorothea Mackellar. I have done a post somewhere in here with a verse from an Australian classic poem, "My Country". Anyway I was most pleased to find this book. I love it so much. I thought I would share a poem with you every now and then. Here is the first.


She is a woman tall and brown
And supple as a swaying vine;
The blood that races through her veins
Is red and fierce like southern wine.

Her lazy arms are strong as steel,
She has the gladiator's grace,
The panther's undulating tread
And tireless velvet-footed pace.

Soft shadows play around her mouth
Swift curved to smiles, in laughter slow;
Her eyes have that deep tranquil look
Which far horizons can bestow;

And all things good are hers to give,
So men will follow anywhere-
Through deserts grim as friendless death-
The gleaming copper of her hair.

For who has gazed into her eyes
Is hers while life is in his veins,
She leads him stumbling on beyond
The dancing heat haze on the plains;

And most she leads to happiness,
But some to stark defeat, and they
May curse her but they love her still,
So lasting is her careless sway.

For subtle is her spell and change
And unawares in sorcery
Enmeshed they stand, while that still witch
Aloof, smiles half disdainfully,

Since it is not for everyone
Her lure is cast; not always kind
Her ways, and those rich gifts she has
Chance flung, a man must seek to find.

My lady of the wilderness,
With venture in her blood astir!
She bears no gift of peace as yet;
The lean wild dogs are slave to her,

And secrets hide behind her eyes
Of buried rivers no man knows,
Wastes, where one year the lizard starves
That next year bloom as the rose.

She has no easy calm to give,
Nor heavy slumber poppy-fed,
The tang of restlessness, the thirst
Of youth unslaked are hers instead;

And some men do not find her fair,
But he to whom she once has bent
Her curving, kissing, mocking lips
Is her sworn soldier, well content

To serve her through the muttering flood
Through hungry fire and aching drouth,
Because he never can forget
The wild fruit savour of her mouth.

She does not lightly show herself,
But in some traceried forest aisle
Between the writhen branches pale,
Warm glintings of her sudden smile

Will break on you, or as you lie
Beside a camp fire on the plains
Where the throned silence is so huge
The clanking of the hobble-chains,

The whisper of the flame, the jar
And crackle as the charred logs fall
But serve to make it stiller yet_
Then you may hear a dream dove call,

And, waking, you will see her eyes
Ashine and sweet and wondering,
Among the stars , and from that night
You will forgive her anything.

Let others praise the rose and white,
For rose and white is fair to see,
Her smooth brown skin and scarlet mouth
And tawny hair is life to me.

Isn't she a wonderful writer. More will follow. I find her work beautifully patriotic and honest.
Dorothea lived in the days when Australia came second to her countrymen, to England the mother country. That is what the last verse is about. She was saying "Hey guys! look around you at what you have first!" That reminder keeps popping up throughout her writing and it applies to what ever part of the world you are living in.
Dorothea was born on 1st July 1885, this book was published in 1982 nearly a hundred years later. I couldn't find the date of her death but it must be in there somewhere. The name of the treasured book I have is 'My Country and other poems" Dorothea Mackellar and was put together by Currey O'Neil.
I wonder how it came to be in that second hand book shop, I am sure if I were given it, I couldn't bear to part with it. There is an inscription inside the front cover saying it was given as a gift.
The four books that Annie bought that day cost less than this one book I found, I don't care , it is worth it.
Aladdin's cave indeed.
Love Linda.


Annie said...

I'm loving the twinning going on here. Not only am I an Annie (duh) but my brother's name is David and we both LOVE books.

Merle said...

Dear Linda ~~ Great post as you guessed right. I do love Dorothea
Mackellar and my favourite is of course My Country. But I will look forward to seeing more of her work.
I am so glad you found this treasure
and that your daughter also got some books she liked. Take care, dear
friend, Stay cool. Love, Merle.

Winterwood said...

oh linda what a lovely peom, but my fave is sunburnt country by DM'K. Do you like that one too?

Shadow said...

the love for her country is plain to see...

gs batty said...

Linda - thanks fr dropping in at my blogs. I appreciate your comments and concern. I took a month off to vacation. Did a ton of writing but no blogging. I googled Dorthea Mackellar and foung the following:

Dorothea McKellar was born in Sydney in 1858 (type - 1885) into a well-established, wealthy family, and was educated privately at the University of Sydney. At 19 years old she wrote a poem, 'My Country', the second verse of which is perhaps the best known stanza in Australian poetry. Her family owned substantial properties in the Gunnedah district of New South Wales and it is in this town which claims her as their own, there a statue of her on horseback has been erected.

Dorothea died in 1968 ...

A wildlife gardener said...

Happy New Year, Linda May :)

Wonderful writer, by the way...


spottedwolf said...

awesome self-portrait.....I can 'see' why it 'speaks' to you Lin...........

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