A poem by Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar

Here is a lovely, lovely poem recommended to me in response to my chatting about the Pershing at the Front poem which I published a couple of days ago here on Sometimes.     My new blogger friend, ACFlory mentioned her own favorite poem…with which I was not familiar (which isn’t unusual, I’m no expert on poetry or poets.)   I googled the title, and located this charming site dedicated to the Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar.

My own roots, some of them, are in Australia…thanks to my grandfather, who when he left Australia at the age of 16, he was already himself a third or fourth generation Aussie.   I never have been there, by the time I decided I wanted to go, I had no funding to finance a trip, and so missed the opportunity.

So I am posting the web site I found honoring the poet, and her poem…

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/my-country-17/  (A reading.)

My Country

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!

A stark white ring-barked forest
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.

Dorothea Mackellar

Pershing at the Front (by poet Arthur Guiterman) a student recitation favorite…

Back in the day students were required to memorize poems and recite them in class.  For most the process was torture—memorizing a poem from a list of “suggested” poems, working up the nerve to stand up in front of the class for the recitation, and enduring the embarrassment from  snickers of buddies in the audience.

Here’s one that was a favorite of the day, passed around on typewritten and mimeographed “ditto machine” purple-ink copies.     It is appropriate now, among all this false rhetoric about General Pershing, who was a World War I American general, with a long and distinguished reputation as a good, tough cookie among military Historians.

It’s a great poem…rhythm and meter perfect in my book, and well worth reading out loud and all the way through.     Thanks to the folks at holyjoe.org\guiter8.htm for posting it on their site.

Pershing at the Front

      by

Arthur Guiterman

    (1871-1943)

The General came in a new tin hat
To the shell-torn front where the war was at;
With a faithful Aide at his good right hand
He made his way toward No Man’s Land,
And a tough Top Sergeant there they found,
And a Captain, too, to show them round.

Threading the ditch, their heads bent low,
Toward the lines of the watchful foe
They came through the murk and the powder stench
Till the Sergeant whispered, “Third-line trench!”
And the Captain whispered, “Third-line trench!”
And the Aide repeated, “Third-line trench!”
And Pershing answered- not in French-
“Yes, I see it. Third-line trench.”

Again they marched with wary tread,
Following on where the Sergeant led
Through the wet and the muck as well,
Till they came to another parallel.
They halted there in the mud and drench,
And the Sergeant whispered, “Second-line trench!”
And the Captain whispered, “Second-line trench!”
And the Aide repeated, “Second-line trench!”
And Pershing nodded: “Second-line trench!”

Yet on they went through mire like pitch
Till they came to a fine and spacious ditch
Well camouflaged from planes and Zeps
Where soldiers stood on firing steps
And a Major sat on a wooden bench;
And the Sergeant whispered, “First-line trench!”
And the Captain whispered, “First-line trench!”
And the Aide repeated, “First-line trench!”
And Pershing whispered, “Yes, I see.
How far off is the enemy?”
And the faithful Aide he asked, asked he,
“How far off is the enemy?”
And the Captain breathed in a softer key,
“How far off is the enemy?”

The silence lay in heaps and piles
And the Sergeant whispered, “Just three miles.”
And the Captain whispered, “Just three miles.”
And the Aide repeated, “Just three miles.”
“Just three miles!” the General swore,
“What in the heck are we whispering for?”
And the faithful Aide the message bore,
“What in the heck are we whispering for?”
And the Captain said in a gentle roar,
“What in the heck are we whispering for?”
“Whispering for?” the echo rolled;
And the Sergeant whispered, “I have a cold.”

 


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