Finding Joy in Stillness

One would perceive that Charles Harpur enjoyed the Australian landscape, and that it was his happy place for silence and reflection. In his poem, “Midsummer Noon in the Australian Forest” (1830s), he romantically describes his sense of wonder and awe, while “being still” in the Australian bush.

The first two stanzas illustrate the joy found in the quietness of the landscape, where everything, including the creatures of the earth, remain still.

            Not a bird disturbs the air!

            … grasshoppers keep

            … busy ants are found resting

            … locust clingeth now in silence

The repetition of vowel sounds and the positive language used is euphonic,

            “bird disturbs”… “keep/ sleep”… “found/ mound”… “stillness broods”

emphasising Harpur’s pleasing experience in the landscape where “over hills and over plains quiet, vast and slumberous reigns”.

There’s a shift in the 3rd stanza, where the sudden “drowsy humming” of a “dragon-hornet” catches the eye of Charles Harpur. A sight that he invites us all into “…see!”, when he wants us to recognise a distraction to the stillness he was describing earlier.

What first started out as an annoyance, later became a deeper interest to this little creature, as Harpur vividly talks about the dragon-hornet as being “bedaubed resplendently” and “gleams the air”, even in its “droning flight”.

Finally, it is in the last few stanzas that we see and understand Charles Harpur’s appreciation of the Australian landscape. A place where he can escape the Australian summer heat, resting in the cool shadows, pondering in silence;

            “every other thing is still,

            save the ever wakeful rill,

            whose cool murmur only throws

            a cooler comfort round Repose;

            or some ripple in the sea

            of leafy boughs, where, lazily

            Tired Summer, in her forest bower

            turning with the moontide hour,

            heaves a slumberous breath, ere she,

            once more slumbers peacefully.

            O ‘tis easeful here to lie

            hidden from the Noon’s scorching eye,

            in this grassy cool recess

            musing thus of quietness.

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