Often, when I write or speak of Australia, I will include a phrase about loving the “sunburnt country.” While most Australians would immediately understand the allusion, most folks outside Australia would not — though some might think I’m alluding to Bill Bryson’s book The Sunburned Country (which was released in Australia with the title Down Under). In fact, both Bryson’s book title and my comments are allusions to a famous Australian poem by Dorothea Mackellar.
Mackellar was born in Sydney in 1885 and went on to become one of Australia’s most notable poets. The poem for which she is best known was written when she was only 19. Actually, the poem itself, titled “My Country,” is rarely quoted in its entirety. It is the second stanza of the poem that almost everyone in Australia learns by heart growing up.
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!
This stanza has been set to music, and the “sunburnt country” phrase appears regularly in tales of the land Down Under. A hundred years after its writing, it remains an iconic tribute to Australia.
Should you wish to read the rest of the poem, you can find it here: “My Country.”