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God's Own Country, is a phrase meaning an area, region or country supposedly favoured by God, that was first used to describe the Wicklow Mountains in Ireland, and has subsequently been used to refer to various places, including Australia, Canada, England (Cornwall, Surrey, Yorkshire, Northumberland), United States, New Zealand, Indian state of Kerala, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
When used in reference to England, "God's own country" refers to the legend that as a boy Jesus of Nazareth visited England with his great uncle, Joseph of Arimathea. The event itself inspiring the musical prelude to William Blake's "Milton", the piece And did those feet in ancient time also known as 'Jerusalem' which has become an unofficial anthem of England. The poem asks did Jesus visit England in ancient times, and in so doing created the New Jerusalem, or heaven in England.
Another first usage of the term by Edward du Bois was in a poem describing the English county of Surrey in 1839. The phrase was also used in its more literal meaning to refer to Heaven, in a poem by Elizabeth Harcourt Rolls Mitchell in 1857.
The phrase later found sporadic use to describe several American regions. Most known is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was also used by the Confederate army to describe parts of Tennessee in the 1860s. The phrase was also used to describe California in the 1860s, and by Clement Laird Vallandigham to describe the land of the Mississippi plains. None of these remain widely used to describe a region, though it is still occasionally used to describe the United States overall.
During World War II, German Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels sarcastically mocked the US as "Aus Gottes eigenem Land" (From God's Own Country) in an essay that appeared in the German newspaper Das Reich on August 9, 1942. Goebbels ridiculed America as a young land that lacked culture, education and history in contrast with Germany. In 1943, the Nazis published an anti-American, anti-semitic propaganda book written by Erwin Berghaus called "USA - nackt!: Bilddokumente aus Gottes eigenem Land" (USA naked! Photo documents from God's own country) which also mockingly characterized the US with the phrase. Several modern German newspapers such as Die Welt, Der Tagesspiegel and Die Zeit have also used the phrase "Gottes eigenes Land" (God's own country) to criticize American culture and society.
The earliest recorded use of the phrase as applied to New Zealand was as the title of a poem about New Zealand written by Thomas Bracken. It was published in a book of his poems in 1890, and again in 1893 in a book entitled Lays and Lyrics: God's Own Country and Other Poems. God's Own Country as a phrase was often used and popularised by New Zealand's longest serving prime minister, Richard John Seddon. He last quoted it on 10 June 1906 when he sent a telegram to the Victorian premier, Thomas Bent, the day before leaving Sydney to return home to New Zealand. "Just leaving for God's own country," he wrote. He never made it, dying the next day on the ship Oswestry Grange. Bracken's God's Own Country is less well known internationally than God Defend New Zealand which he published in 1876. The latter poem, set to music by John Joseph Woods, was declared the country's national hymn in 1940, and made the second national anthem of New Zealand along with God Save the Queen in 1977.
In Australia, the phrase "God's own country" was often used to describe the country in the early 1900s, but it appears to have gradually fallen out of favour. The phrase "God's Country" is often used to describe Queensland and the Sutherland Shire in southern Sydney
Kerala is a state in south India; the phrase was adopted by the tourism department of the state's government in the 1980s. Kerala is famous for its Ayurvedic treatments, high mountains, gorges and deep-cut valleys, lush and evergreen rain forests, coconut palms, backwaters, and food items. According to Hindu mythology, Kerala was created by Lord Parashurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu by throwing his axe across the sea to create new land for his devotees to live peacefully, hence the expression.
The phrase "God's own country" was heard during the 1970s in Rhodesia (formerly: Southern Rhodesia, now: Zimbabwe), where most people perceived the land as beautiful despite the ongoing Bush War of the time. Evidence of the phrase being used earlier in reference to Rhodesia is found in Chartered Millions: Rhodesia and the Challenge to the British Commonwealth by John Hobbis Harris, published 1920 by Swarthmore Press (refer to page 27). The phrase "Godzone" is distinctly different and was not used in Rhodesia.