Biography of Charles Harpur
Charles Harpur was an Australian poet.
Harpur was born at Windsor, New South Wales, the third child of Joseph Harpur — originally from Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland, parish clerk and master of the Windsor district school — and Sarah, née Chidley (from Somerset; both had been transported.) Harpur received his elementary education in Windsor. This was probably largely supplemented by private study; he was an eager reader of William Shakespeare. Harpur followed various avocations in the bush and for some years in his twenties held a clerical position at the post office in Sydney.
In Sydney, he met Henry Parkes, Daniel Deniehy, Robert Lowe and W. A. Duncan, who in 1845 published Harpur's first little volume, Thoughts, A Series of Sonnets, which has since become very rare. Harpur had left Sydney two years before and was farming with a brother on the Hunter River. In 1850, he married Mary Doyle and engaged in sheep farming for some years with varying success. In 1853, he published The Bushrangers: a Play in Five Acts, and other Poems. The play is a failure and contains some of Harpur's worst writing, but the volume included some of his best poems. In 1858, he was appointed gold commissioner at Araluen with a good salary. He held the position for eight years and also had a farm at Eurobodalla. Harpur found, however, that his duties prevented him from supervising the work on the farm and it became a bad investment.
Two verse pamphlets, A Poets Home and The Tower of a Dream, appeared in 1862 and 1865 respectively.
In 1866, Harpur's position was abolished at a time of retrenchment, and in March 1867 he had a great sorrow when his second son was killed by the accidental discharge of his own gun. Harpur never recovered from the blow. He contracted tuberculosis in the hard winter of 1867, and died on 10 June 1868. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. One of his daughters, writing many years later, mentioned that he had left his family an unencumbered farm and a well-furnished comfortable home.
A collected edition of Harpur's poems was not published until 1883. The unknown editor stated that he had "had to supply those final revisions which the author had been obliged to leave unmade". This work does not appear to have been well done, and several already published poems which needed no revision were not included. The manuscripts of Harpur's poems are at the Mitchell Library, Sydney, and a portrait is in the council chamber at Windsor.
Harpur was the first Australian poet worthy of the name. He is little read today and the tendency has been to under-rate him in comparison with other writers of the nineteenth century. He may have been slightly influenced by William Wordsworth but he is not really a derivative poet, and his best work is excellent. He is represented in several Australian anthologies.
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Charles Harpur Poems
A Midsummer Noon in the Australian Fores...
A MIDSUMMER NOON IN THE AUSTRALIAN FOREST Not a bird disturbs the air! There is quiet everywhere;
A Storm in the Mountains
A lonely boy, far venturing from home Out on the half-wild herd’s faint tracks I roam; Mid rock-browned mountains, which with stony frown Glare into haggard chasms deep adown;
An Aboriginal Mothers's Lament
An Aboriginal Mother’s Lament Charles Harpur
Of Cora, once so dearly ours, Would mournful memory sing; Of how she came when came the flowers, To leave us with the spring.
Trust in God
Deep trust in God—for that I still have sought Through all the grim doubts that bemock the soul, When in the amazement of far-reaching throught, We list the labourings that for ever roll
A Poet to...
Long ere I knew thee—years of loveless days, A shape would gather from my dreams, and pour The soul-sweet influence of its gentle gaze Into my heart, to thrill it to the core:
Australia's First Great Poet
HIS lot how glorious whom the must shall name Her first high-priest in this bright southern clime! Aglow with light from her aspiring flame, Catching the raptures of her Grecian prime,
Mark yon runnel, how ’tis flowing, Like a sylvan spirit dreaming Of the spring-blooms near it blowing, And the sunlight o’er it beaming—
A Basket of Summer Fruit
First see those ample melons-brindled o'er With mingled green and brown is all the rind; For they are ripe, and mealy at the core,
Change and Death
We build but for change and for death, To whom a like homage pay glory and shame; For something must pass to give being to both. All things are rounded by change, and are perishing—
The Temperance Movement
A POWER is stirring—a broad light has shone Amid the nation’s—in the wilderness Of the world’s social horror and distress, Heralding temperance as the Baptist John
A Flight of Wild Ducks
Far up the River-hark! 'tls the loud shock Deadened by distance, of some Fowler's gun: And as into the stillness of the scene
Flowers in their freshness are flushing the earth, And the voice-peopled forest is loud in its mirth, And streams in their fulness are laughing at dearth— Yet my bosom is aching.
MY OWN WILD BURNS! these rude-wrought rhymes of thine In golden worth are like the unshapely coin Of some new realm, yet pure as from the mine—
The Drowned Alive
I was one so deeply drowned,
That when the drag my body found,
Twas void of motion, void of breath,
And to sensation dead as death.
In a languid summer mood
I had plunged into a flood,
That to the low sun’s slanting beams
Gleamed with only quiet gleams,
Each with a wide flicker sheeting