CHARLES HARPUR: SELECTED POETRY AND PROSE book cover   Charles Harpur: Selected Poetry and Prose
edited by Michael Ackland

Cover illustration: Detail from Mount Wellington with the Orphan Asylum - Van Dieman's Land, John Glover 1837

Dustjacket synopsis:
"Charles Harpur was one of the first and most important of Australia's native-born poets. From the time he bagan writing in the 1820s till his death in 1868, he was concerned with celebrating the beauty of the Australian landscape, and attempting to improve the intellectual life of his fellows.

"Harpur was a vigorous advocate of republican ideas; and, just as rigorously, opposed transportation, the arrogation of power by a landed elite, and privilege of all kinds. His writings also provide important insights into contemporary attitudes towards national identity, faith, Aborigines, women, education and love. This book brings together Charles Harpur's best-known poetry and prose - including a number of works out of print since the poet's lifetime."

First Paragraph from the Introduction:

Charles Harpur is now acknowledged to be our most important colonial poet, but it was not always so. In his own lifetime, Harpur attracted both sincere praise and downright abuse. Among his friends he could number the future Colonial Secretary and Premier, Henry Parkes, the literary Maecenas of Sydney, Nicol Stenhouse, and the gifted native youth, Daniel Deniehy; all of whom hailed him as a writer of genius. Their encouragement, however, was more than counterbalanced by contemporary derision and incomprehension. The first survey of Australian writing, G. B. Barton's Literature in New South Wales (1866), stated flatly that 'the greater part of his compositions will never command much admiration'; and other writers have echoed Barton in finding Harpur's verse unmusical, his diction awkward, and the high opinion he held of his own productions to be absurd. The poet for his part responded bitterly to contemporary attacks, and repeatedly asserted both his mental superiority to and his moral alienation from his materially-obsessed fellows:

In short, my name and fame up to this moment, except as bye words in the mean mouths of such defamers and detractors, are utterly blanks in their day and generation; - and I conclude, therefore, that either I am unworthy of my country and countrymen, or my countrymen are unworthy of it and me. Time will ratify this conclusion one way or the other - and to Time I refer it accordingly.
Yet Harpur's last years were brightened by the devoted friendship of a poet from a younger generation, Henry Kendall. In Harpur's verse Kendall believed he was encouraging the first authentic voice of a new land, and one which uttered 'the whole truth ... before the World in all its unclouded simplicity.' Unerringly and unselfishly Kendall recognised the older man's poetic strengths, the striking originality of his achievement, and his future place as the founding figure of Australian verse.


Charles Harpur - His Own Epitaph
The Dream by the Fountain
Final Note to the Miscellaneous Poems
from Rosa or Sonnets of Love
Note to The Lass of Eulengo
To the Sonnet on the Fate of Poetic Genius in a Sordid
To Myself, June 1855
Note to a Republican Lyric
This Southern Land of Ours
A Note on the Australian-born Whites from The Kangaroo Hunt
The Tree of Liberty
from The True Finality
My Own Poetry
Australia's First Great Poet
from Harpur's Lecture on Poetry
Bible Poetry and Piety
Talent and Genius
Wordsworth's Poetry
Early and Late Art
Review of a Poem by Kendall
To Twank
Modern Poetry
from The Nevers of Poetry
from Finish of Style
The Perfect Poet
Andrew Marvell
To the Criticlings of Doggreldom
Poetical Egotism
from Harpur's Lecture on Poetry
The Tower of the Dream
Words Are Deeds
Asinine Loyalty and Abject Patriotism
True and False Glory
Edmund Burke
On the Repeal Movement in Ireland
Whatever Is, Is Right
A Bit of Prose in the Vein and after the Manner of the Hon. Robert Boyle
Marvellous Martin
from The Temple of Infamy
A Roguish Epigram
from Sonnets Dedicated to Australian Senators
from Bits
The Big (Bygone) Claims of the Big Squatters
Bush Justice
A Splendid is Never a Happy Land
On the Proposed Recurrence to Transportation
Aboriginal Death Song
My Sable Fair
The Great Fish of the Sea (See)
Providential Design
Note to Have Faith
from The Witch of Hebron: A Rabbinical Legend
from Note to The Death of Shelley
Life and Death
Happiness and Faith
The World and the Soul
Note to the poem called Geologia
The Silence of Faith
Life Without and Within
A Similitude
A Flight of Wild Ducks
A Summer Night Scene
The Spouse of Infinitude
Note to the Poem Early Summer
Early Summer
A Mid-Summer Noon in the Australian Forest
Dawn in the Australian Forest
Names of Colonial Birds
The Scenic Part of Poetry
A Coast View
The Bush Fire
Preface to The Kangaroo Hunt
A Storm in the Mountains
The Creek of the Four Graves
Poetic Descriptions of Violent Death
Eden Lost
Charles Harpur to Henry Parkes, 21 March 1844
Charles Harpur to Nicol D. Stenhouse, 2 July 1859
Charles Harpur to Nicol D. Stenhouse, 12 November 1859
Henry Kendall to Charles Harpur, 25 September 1862
Charles Harpur to Henry Kendall, 9 November 1863
Henry Kendall to Charles Harpur, 29 April 1865
Charles Harpur to Henry Kendall, 10 June 1866
Charles Harpur to Henry Kendall, 7 July, 1866
Charles Harpur to Henry Kendall, 19 January 1867
Charles Harpur to Henry Kendall, 15 October 1867

From the Penguin paperback edition, 1986.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2002-04 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: June 1, 2004.