The Endless Forms of Things: Harpur's Radicalism Revisited

Michael Falk


Charles Harpur was the oustanding radical intellectual of early nineteenth-century New South Wales. His particular brand of spiritualised republicanism has long been of interest to scholars, but hitherto analysts of his politics have focussed mainly on the content of his opinions, rather than the form in which he expressed them. In this essay, I present a formalist analysis of Harpur's poetry, revealing how he structured his verse to express his radical convictions. His finest poems are inevitably perspectival and progressive. He was a pluralist who sought to represent reality from a range of perspectives; and he was an idealist who described objects in terms of their progressive growth toward higher forms. If we recognise these two elements of his poetics, we can come to a truer understanding of his politics and a fairer assessment of his achievement as a poet.


Charles Harpur; colonial poetry; colonial politics

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