Charles Harpur

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

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Charles Harpur

  1. Hi Dave! your description of Charles Harpur and his appreciation for the Australian landscape is great. I really enjoy reading your writing. I especially like the imagery of the poem starting slowly like “one would move in the midday sun”, thats great! I did this unit last semester though did not study this poem. You have conveyed the overreaching themes of the Australian literature unit really well especially in how you depict very vividly the intricate detail that the poet notices in nature. He doesn’t simply look at it he looks into it and appreciates its beauty and its construct! I also liked how you draw connections to Shakespeare and biblical themes thats a great thing to pic up on, and its not always an easy thing to do!

    You have done a great job, it was great to read such a good description of how this poet really views the land!! Keep up the awesome work!

    From Kate 😀

  2. Hi Dave. I enjoyed this very much as it gave me an insight into Charles Harpur’s background as well as some of your thoughts regarding his motivation behind this poem. I loved your final comment regarding mindfulness and shows that you are a deep thinker my friend. Keep it coming Dave.

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