Charles Harpur, considered by many to be the first born and bred Australian poet of any worth was the son of a couple who had both been transported; his father came from Kinsale in Ireland, his mother from here in Somerset. Charles was born 1813, in Windsor in New South Wales. His mother Sarah was born in about 1786 in West Bagborough, and whatever her crime, she was convicted at Taunton in 1805 to seven years and transported on the ship ‘Alexander’ in 1806 when she was only twenty.

Sarah met and married John Welsh, presumably another convict, but what happened to him I am unable to find out. She then  married again,  Joseph Harpur, an Irish Protestant who, it seems was involved in the 1798 uprising; he was one of over three hundred convicts transported on the ship ‘Royal Admiral’ in 1800 for a life term. Sarah and Joseph had seven children, Elizabeth, Joseph Jehoshaphat, Charles, John Mileham, Mary Chidley, William and James Henry. Their third child, Charles became the poet.

Although not as popular now, Charles was published in many anthologies and wrote over seven hundred poems. he died relatively young, at the age of fifty-five, from TB and from the ghastly tragedy of the death of a son, who accidentally shot himself.

A Similitude
Fair as the night–when all the astral fires
Of heaven are burning in the clear expanse,
My love is; and her eyes like star-depths glance
Lustrous with glowing thoughts and pure desires,
And that mysterious pathos which inspires
All moods divine in mortal passion’s trance–
All that its earthly music doth enhance
As with the rapture of seraphic lyres!
I gaze upon her till the atmosphere
Sweetens intensely, and to my charmed sight
All fair associated forms appear
Swimming in joy, as swim yon orbs in light–
And all sweet sounds, though common to mine ear,
Chime up like silver-wingèd dreams in flight.

 

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