The question: What is Charles Harpur’s experience of the Australian Landscape? How can we feel his experience through the words chosen (in their sound as well as their meaning).
Charles Harpur was born the son of two convicts, transported for crimes against the crown from England. When harpur’s father lost the land granted to him, he became the clerk of the church in Windsor NSW. At that time, there was a small population, and the landscape in the area surrounding comprised of hills, fields for grazing, bush, and a mighty river.
Charles was later appointed assistant commissioner of the southern goldfields, where he was successful and well liked. it was on the goldfields that he met his wife. Charles wanted to make his country “worthy of esteem” and after a stint as a sheep farmer and teacher, he followed his hearts desire of a literary career.
So Charles was familiar with the varied landscapes that make up our vast country, along with its animals, insects, birdlife and flora. He looked upon it with great depth, seeing not just the initial harshness of the environment, but sought to look deeper, right to the very insects that helped create the sound and beauty of our great land.
The Language he uses in his poem, “Midsummer noon in the Australian Forest”, shows us that Charles was educated using traditional texts of perhaps Shakespeare and the Bible. But it also shows us how intimately Charles knew the Australian Landscape. We see the poem start slowly, as one would move in the midday sun, but it gains momentum as he looks at the details of the dragon – hornet. His description of the wings of the insect in flight is breathtaking and one can almost see it in one’s mindeye as we read the lines.
I asked myself the question; Why did he write this poem? and came to the conclusion that Charles had made a new discovery, and wanted to share that with the world. He used the language of the old texts, to convey the message to people back in Britain, in a language they can understand.
This poem seems to show us that he found his place to meditate. Mindfulness is not such a new idea after all.
Source: Australian Dictionary of Biography Vol 1. 1966