Biography of Charles Wolfe
Charles Wolfe was an Irish poet, chiefly remembered for his "exquisite elegy", The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna
Born at Blackhall, County Kildare, the youngest son of Theobald Wolfe of Blackhall - grandson of Richard Wolfe of Forenaughts House in the same county - and his wife Frances, daughter of Rev. Peter Lombard. Charles Wolfe's grandfather was a first cousin of Arthur Wolfe, 1st Viscount Kilwarden and the godfather, but widely believed to be the natural father, of Theobald Wolfe Tone.
Not long after he was born, his father died and the family moved to England. In 1801, Wolfe was sent to a school in Bath but was sent home a few months later due to his ill health. From 1802 to 1805, he was tutored by a Dr Evans in Salisbury before being sent to Winchester College. He seems to have been exceedingly popular both at school and within his own family. In 1808, his family returned to Ireland, and the following year he was entered into Trinity College, Dublin, graduating in 1814. He had turned down the chance to read for a scholarship as he was in love with a girl and could not commit to celibacy as was then required.
He was ordained as a Church of Ireland priest in 1817, first taking the Curacy of Ballyclog in Co. Tyrone before transferring almost immediately to Donaghmore, County Tyrone. There he developed a close friendship and deep respect for the Rev. Thomas Meredith, Rector of nearby Ardtrea, Co. Tyrone, and a former Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. Wolfe wrote two epitaphs for Meredith, one on his memorial in the parish church of Ardtrea, and another intended for his tomb, which can both be read within Meredith's entry.
Charles Wolfe is best remembered for his poem, The Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna, written in 1816 and much collected in 19th and 20th century anthologies. The poem first appeared in the Newry Telegraph, April 19, 1817, and was re-printed in many other periodicals. But it was forgotten until after his death when Lord Byron drew the attention of the public to it. Wolfe's only volume of verse, Poetical Remains appeared in 1825 with The Burial of Sir John Moore and fourteen other verses of an equally high standard.
Wolfe remained at Donoughmore until 1820, but, rejected by the woman for whom he gave up his academic career, and with his only real friend in Co. Tyrone now dead, he moved to Cobh, where he remained until his death three years later from consumption , caught from a cow at the age of 31. He is buried in Cobh at the cemetery known locally as Old Church Cemetery, but properly Clonmel Cemetery. There is also a plaque to his memory in the church at Castlecaulfield, the village where he lived whilst Curate at Donaghmore, as well as a marble monument to him at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.
Charles Wolfe's Works:
Poetical Remains (1825)
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Charles Wolfe Poems
The Burial Of Sir John Moore At Corunna
Not a drum was heard, nor a funeral note, As his corse to the rampart we hurried; Not a soldier discharged his farewell shot O'er the grave where our hero we buried.
The Last Rose Of Summer
That strain again? It seems to tell Of something like a joy departed; I love its mourning accents well, Like voice of one, ah! broken-hearted.
If I had thought thou couldst have died, I might not weep for thee; But I forgot, when by thy side, That thou couldst mortal be:
Oh Say Not That My Heart Is Cold
Oh say not that my heart is cold To aught that once could warm it - That Nature's Form so dear of old No more has power to charm it;
The Last Rose Of Summer
That strain again? It seems to tell
Of something like a joy departed;
I love its mourning accents well,
Like voice of one, ah! broken-hearted.
That note that pensive dies away,
And can each answering thrill awaken,
It sadly, wildly, seems to say,
Thy meek heart mourns its truth forsaken.