Charles Wolfe

Image by Creative Commons/St Patricks Cathedral, Dublin

Charles Wolfe

b. 1791 d. 1823

Slowly and sadly we laid him down, from the field of his fame fresh and gory; we carved not a line, and we raised not a stone - but left him alone with his glory. - Charles Wolfe, 'The Burial of Sir John Moore After Corunna'

About Charles Wolfe

Charles Wolfe was an Irish priest and poet who is best remembered for this extremely popular elegy, which has appeared in many anthologies of poetry throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Wolfe was educated at Trinity College Dublin and, at one point, it seemed that the brilliantly academic student would study for a fellowship. However, he declined to take his studies further and was ordained as a Church of Ireland priest in 1817. Contemporary records suggest that he was exemplary in this role, full of ‘zeal’ and ‘unaffected benevolence’.

His career was cut short by death through consumption when he was only thirty‑one years old. His poetry had been published in periodicals and, in 1825, shortly after his death, a well-received collection of his work appeared, which included this touching, patriotic poem about Sir John Moore. Byron was an admirer of the elegy and celebrated its qualities.