A Celebration of Women Writers

"Wilfred Campbell" (1861-1918) by John Garvin, (1872-1934)
Garvin, John William, ed. Canadian Poets. Toronto, Canada: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, Publishers, 1916. pp. 87-100.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

[Page 87]

Wilfred Campbell

It is just because Campbell has always made man and the larger, greater interests of man, the prevailing note of his poetic work, and is doing it more than ever before, that he is to be placed in the very front of our Canadian singers. . . . The majesty and grandeur of nature appeals to the poet, but there is always attached thereto the larger human interest. . . . His exquisite nature poems are as worthy of being read as any that Wordsworth wrote . . . . 'The Bereavement of the Fields,' the beautiful tribute to the memory of Archibald Lampman, worthily takes its place beside the other greater elegies of the English language. In technique and melody it ranks very high . . . . . . . The well known poem, 'The Mother,' has justly been praised as one of the finest poems in all English literature. –PROF. L. E. HORNING, M.A., PH.D., in 'Globe Magazine.'

His poetry not only touches the deepest thought and feeling of humanity, but goes into the sacred and tragic places, where the great dramatic moments of life are known.–'Toronto Saturday Night.'

[Page 88]

WILFRED CAMPBELL, one of the most distinguished of our native writers, is a poet and novelist by inherited right. Through his father, the Rev. Thomas Swaniston Campbell, a descendant of the first Lord Campbell, of the House of Argyll, he is of the same stock as the poet, Thomas Campbell, and as the novelist, Henry Fielding.

His maternal grandfather was the late Major Francis Wright of the Royal Horse Guards.

He was born in Berlin, Ontario, June 1st, 1861, and was educated at the local High School, at University College, Toronto, and at Cambridge, Massachusetts. The honorary degree, LL.D., was conferred on him, in 1906, by the University of Aberdeen.

He was married in 1884 to Mary Louisa, only child of the late David Mark Dibble, M.D., of Woodstock, Ontario.

Dr. Campbell was ordained a clergyman of the Episcopal Church in 1885, and undertook parish work in New England. Three years later he returned to Canada and became Rector of St. Stephen, New Brunswick. In 1891, he retired from the ministry to devote his life chiefly to literary effort, and entered the civil service at Ottawa. For some years he has been associated with Dr. Doughty in the Dominion Archives Bureau.

In 1905, the best of Campbell's lyrics and sonnets were published in a substantial volume entitled, The Collected Poems of Wilfred Campbell. At the same time appeared The Collected Poems of Isabella Valancy Crawford, and such a notable coincidence aroused much interest in Canadian literary circles.

There is another coincidence of singular interest pertaining to these poets: each has written a remarkable poem on an identical theme,–the soul of a mother returning from the grave for her child.

In 1908, Campbell's Poetical Tragedies: "Mordred," "Daulac," "Morning" and "Hildebrand," were issued in a handsome volume, and his Sagas of Vaster Britain, a notable selection of his verse, in 1914.

The historical novels of this author, Ian of the Orcades (1906) and A Beautiful Rebel (1909), should be more widely read, and several other volumes of historical importance. Indeed his literary achievements are being added to yearly with a will and energy indomitable and purposeful.

[Page 89]

England

ENGLAND, England, England,
  Girdled by ocean and skies,
And the power of a world, and the heart of a race,
  And a hope that never dies.

England, England, England,
  Wherever a true heart beats,
Wherever the rivers of commerce flow,
Wherever the bugles of conquest blow,
Wherever the glories of liberty grow,
  'Tis the name that the world repeats.

And ye, who dwell in the shadow
  Of the century-sculptured piles,
Where sleep our century-honoured dead,
Whilst the great world thunders overhead,
  And far out, miles on miles,
Beyond the smoke of the mighty town,
  The blue Thames dimples and smiles;
Not yours alone the glory of old,
  Of the splendid thousand years,
Of Britain's might and Britain's right
  And the brunt of British spears.
Not yours alone, for the great world round,
  Ready to dare and do,
Scot and Celt and Norman and Dane,
With the Northman's sinew and heart and brain,
And the Northman's courage for blessing or bane,
  Are England's heroes too.

North and south and east and west,
  Wherever their triumphs be,
Their glory goes home to the ocean-girt isle,
Where the heather blooms and the roses smile,
  With the green isle under her lee.
And if ever the smoke of an alien gun
  Should threaten her iron repose,
Shoulder to shoulder against the world,
  Face to face with her foes,

[Page 90]

Scot, and Celt and Saxon are one
  Where the glory of England goes.

And we of the newer and vaster West,
  Where the great war-banners are furled,
And commerce hurries her teeming hosts,
And the cannon are silent along our coasts,
Saxon and Gaul, Canadians claim
A part in the glory and pride and aim
  Of the Empire that girdles the world.

England, England, England,
  Wherever the daring heart
By Arctic floe or torrid strand
  Thy heroes play their part;
For as long as conquest holds the earth,
  Or commerce sweeps the sea,
By orient jungle or western plain
  Will the Saxon spirit be:
And whatever the people that dwell beneath,
  Or whatever the alien tongue,
Over the freedom and peace of the world
  Is the flag of England flung,
Till the last great freedom is found,
  And the last great truth be taught,
Till the last great deed be done,
  And the last great battle is fought;
Till the last great fighter is slain in the last great fight,
  And the war-wolf is dead in his den–
England, breeder of hope and valour and might,
  Iron mother of men.

Yea, England, England, England,
  Till honour and valour are dead,
Till the world's great cannons rust,
Till the world's great hopes are dust,
  Till faith and freedom be fled,
Till wisdom and justice have passed
To sleep with those who sleep in the many-chambered vast,
Till glory and knowledge are charnelled dust in dust,
To all that is best in the world's unrest,

[Page 91]

  In heart and mind you are wed.
While out from the Indian jungle
  To the far Canadian snows,
Over the East and over the West,
  Over the worst and over the best,
The flag of the world to its winds unfurled,
  The blood-red ensign blows.

The Children of the Foam

OUT forever and forever,
Where our tresses glint and shiver
  On the icy moonlit air;
Come we from a land of gloaming,
Children lost, forever homing,
  Never, never reaching there;
Ride we, ride we, ever faster,
Driven by our demon master,
  The wild wind in his despair.
Ride we, ride we, ever home,
Wan, white children of the foam.

In the wild October dawning,
When the heaven's angry awning
  Leans to lakeward, bleak and drear;
And along the black, wet ledges,
Under icy, caverned edges,
  Breaks the lake in maddened fear;
And the woods in shore are moaning;
Then you hear our weird intoning,
  Mad, late children of the year;
Ride we, ride we, ever home,
Lost, white children of the foam.

All grey day, the black sky under,
Where the beaches moan and thunder,
  Where the breakers spume and comb,
You may hear our riding, riding,
You may hear our voices chiding,
  Under glimmer, under gloam;
Like a far-off infant wailing,

[Page 92]

You may hear our hailing, hailing,
  For the voices of our home;
Ride we, ride we, ever home,
Haunted children of the foam.

And at midnight, when the glimmer
Of the moon grows dank and dimmer,
  Then we lift our gleaming eyes;
Then you see our white arms tossing,
Our wan breasts the moon embossing,
  Under gloom of lake and skies;
You may hear our mournful chanting,
And our voices haunting, haunting,
  Through the night's mad melodies;
Riding, riding, ever home,
Wild, white children of the foam.

There, forever and forever,
Will no demon-hate dissever
  Peace and sleep and rest and dream:
There is neither fear nor fret there
When the tired children get there,
  Only dews and pallid beam
Fall in gentle peace and sadness
Over long surcease of madness,
  From hushed skies that gleam and gleam,
In the longed-for, sought-for home
Of the children of the foam.

There the streets are hushed and restful,
And of dreams is every breast full,
  With the sleep that tired eyes wear;
There the city hath long quiet
From the madness and the riot,
  From the failing hearts of care;
Balm of peacefulness ingliding,
Dream we through our riding, riding,
  As we homeward, homeward fare;
Riding, riding, ever home,
Wild, white children of the foam.

[Page 93]

Under pallid moonlight beaming,
Under stars of midnight gleaming,
  And the ebon arch of night;
Round the rosy edge of morning,
You may hear our distant horning,
  You may mark our phantom flight;
Riding, riding, ever faster,
Driven by our demon master,
  Under darkness, under light;
Ride we, ride we, ever home,
Wild, white children of the foam.

The Dreamers

THEY lingered on the middle heights
  Betwixt the brown earth and the heaven;
They whispered, 'We are not the night's,
  But pallid children of the even.'

They muttered, 'We are not the day's,
  For the old struggle and endeavour,
The rugged and unquiet ways
  Are dead and driven past for ever.'

They dreamed upon the cricket's tune,
  The winds that stirred the withered grasses:
But never saw the blood-red moon
  That lit the spectre mountain-passes.

They sat and marked the brooklet steal
  In smoke-mist o'er its silvered surges:
But marked not, with its peal on peal,
  The storm that swept the granite gorges.

They dreamed the shimmer and the shade,
  And sought in pools for haunted faces:
Nor heard again the cannonade
  In dreams from earth's old battle-places.

They spake, 'The ages all are dead,
  The strife, the struggle, and the glory;
We are the silences that wed
  Betwixt the story and the story.

[Page 94]

'We are the little winds that moan
  Between the woodlands and the meadows;
We are the ghosted leaves, wind-blown
  Across the gust-light and the shadows.'

Then came a soul across those lands
  Whose face was all one glad, rapt wonder,
And spake: 'The skies are ribbed with bands
  Of fire, and heaven all racked with thunder.

'Climb up and see the glory spread,
  High over cliff and 'scarpment yawning:
The night is past, the dark is dead,
  Behold the triumph of the dawning!'

Then laughed they with a wistful scorn,
  'You are a ghost, a long-dead vision;
You passed by ages ere was born
  This twilight of the days elysian.

'There is no hope, there is no strife,
  But only haunted hearts that hunger
About a dead, scarce-dreamed-of life,
  Old ages when the earth was younger.'

Then came by one in mad distress,
  'Haste, haste below, where strong arms weaken,
The fighting ones grow less and less!
  Great cities of the world are taken!

'Dread evil rolls by like a flood,
  Men's bones beneath his surges whiten,
Go where the ages mark in blood
  The footsteps that their days enlighten.'

Still they but heard, discordant mirth,
  The thin winds through the dead stalks rattle,
While out from far-off haunts of earth
  There smote the mighty sound of battle.

Now there was heard an awful cry,
  Despair that rended heaven asunder,
White pauses when a cause would die,
  Where love was lost and souls went under,

[Page 95]

The while these feebly dreamed and talked
  Betwixt the brown earth and the heaven,
Faint ghosts of men who breathed and walked,
  But deader than the dead ones even.

And out there on the middle height
  They sought in pools for haunted faces,
Nor heard the cry across the night
  That swept from earth's dread battle-places.

Stella Flammarum

An Ode to Halley's Comet

STRANGE wanderer out of the deeps,
  Whence, journeying, come you?
From what far, unsunned sleeps
  Did fate foredoom you,
Returning for ever again,
  Through the surgings of man,
A flaming, awesome portent of dread
  Down the centuries' span?

Riddle! from the dark unwrung
  By all earth's sages;–
God's fiery torch from His hand outflung,
  To flame through the ages;
Thou Satan of planets eterne,
  'Mid angry path,
Chained, in circlings vast, to burn
  Out ancient wrath.

By what dread hand first loosed
  From fires eternal?
With majesties dire infused
  Of force supernal,
Takest thy headlong way
  O'er the highways of space?
O wonderful, blossoming flower of fear
  On the sky's far face!

What secret of destiny's will
  In thy wild burning?

[Page 96]

What portent dire of humanity's ill
  In thy returning?
Or art thou brand of love
  In masking of bale?
And bringest thou ever some mystical surcease
  For all who wail?

Perchance, O Visitor dread,
  Thou hast thine appointed
Task, thou bolt of the vast outsped!
  With God's anointed,
Performest some endless toil
  In the universe wide,
Feeding or cursing some infinite need
  Where the vast worlds ride.

Once, only once, thy face
  Will I view in this breathing;
Just for a space thy majesty trace
  'Mid earth's mad seething;
Ere I go hence to my place,
  As thou to thy deeps,
Thou flambent core of a universe dread,
  Where all else sleeps.

But thou and man's spirit are one,
  Thou poet! thou flaming
Soul of the dauntless sun,
  Past all reclaiming!
One in that red unrest,
  That yearning, that surge,
That mounting surf of the infinite dream,
  O'er eternity's verge.

The Mother

I

IT was April, blossoming spring,
They buried me, when the birds did sing;

Earth, in clammy wedging earth,
They banked my bed with a black, damp girth.

[Page 97]

Under the damp and under the mould,
I kenned my breasts were clammy and cold.

Out from the red beams, slanting and bright,
I kenned my cheeks were sunken and white.

I was a dream, and the world was a dream,
And yet I kenned all things that seem.

I was a dream, and the world was a dream,
But you cannot bury a red sunbeam.

For though in the under-grave's doom-night
I lay all silent and stark and white,

Yet over my head I seemed to know
The murmurous moods of wind and snow,

The snows that wasted, the winds that blew,
The rays that slanted, the clouds that drew

The water-ghosts up from lakes below,
And the little flower-souls in earth that grow.

Under earth, in the grave's stark night,
I felt the stars and the moon's pale light.

I felt the winds of ocean and land
That whispered the blossoms soft and bland.

Though they had buried me dark and low,
My soul with the season's seemed to grow.

II

From throes of pain they buried me low,
For death had finished a mother's woe.

But under the sod, in the grave's dread doom,
I dreamed of my baby in glimmer and gloom.

I dreamed of my babe, and I kenned that his rest
Was broken in wailings on my dead breast.

I dreamed that a rose-leaf hand did cling;
Oh, you cannot bury a mother in spring!

[Page 98]

When the winds are soft and the blossoms are red
She could not sleep in her cold earth-bed.

I dreamed of my babe for a day and a night,
And then I rose in my grave-clothes white.

I rose like a flower from my damp earth-bed
To the world of sorrowing overhead.

Men would have called me a thing of harm,
But dreams of my babe made me rosy and warm.

I felt my breasts swell under my shroud;
No star shone white, no winds were loud;

But I stole me past the graveyard wall,
For the voice of my baby seemed to call;

And I kenned me a voice, though my lips were dumb:
Hush, baby, hush! for mother is come.

I passed the streets to my husband's home;
The chamber stairs in a dream I clomb;

I heard the sound of each sleeper's breath,
Light waves that break on the shores of death.

I listened a space at my chamber door,
Then stole like a moon-ray over its floor.

My babe was asleep on a stranger's arm,
'O baby, my baby, the grave is so warm,

'Though dark and so deep, for mother is there!
O come with me from the pain and care!

'O come with me from the anguish of earth,
Where the bed is banked with a blossoming girth,

'Where the pillow is soft and the rest is long,
And mother will croon you a slumber-song–

'A slumber-song that will charm your eyes
To a sleep that never in earth-song lies!

'The loves of earth your being can spare,
But never the grave, for mother is there.'

[Page 99]

I nestled him soft to my throbbing breast,
And stole me back to my long, long rest.

And here I lie with him under the stars,
Dead to earth, its peace and its wars;

Dead to its hates, its hopes, and its harms,
So long as he cradles up soft in my arms.

And heaven may open its shimmering doors,
And saints make music on pearly floors,

And hell may yawn to its infinite sea,
But they never can take my baby from me.

For so much a part of my soul he hath grown
That God doth know of it high on His throne.

And here I lie with him under the flowers
That sun-winds rock through the billowy hours,

With the night-airs that steal from the murmuring sea,
Bringing sweet peace to my baby and me.

The Last Prayer

MASTER of life, the day is done;
  My sun of life is sinking low;
I watch the hours slip one by one
  And hark the night-wind and the snow.

And must Thou shut the morning out,
  And dim the eye that loved to see;
Silence the melody and rout,
  And seal the joys of earth for me?

And must Thou banish all the hope,
  The large horizon's eagle-swim,
The splendour of the far-off slope
  That ran about the world's great rim,

That rose with morning's crimson rays
  And grew to noonday's gloried dome,
Melting to even's purple haze
  When all the hopes of earth went home?

[Page 100]

Yea, Master of this ruined house,
  The mortgage closed, outruns the lease;
Long since is hushed the gay carouse,
  And now the windowed lights must cease.

The doors all barred, the shutters up,
  Dismantled, empty, wall and floor,
And now for one grim eve to sup
  With Death, the bailiff, at the door.

Yea, I will take the gloomward road
  Where fast the Arctic nights set in,
To reach the bourne of that abode
  Which Thou hast kept for all my kin.

And all life's splendid joys forego,
  Walled in with night and senseless stone,
If at the last my heart might know
  Through all the dark one joy alone.

Yea, Thou mayst quench the latest spark
  Of life's weird day's expectancy,
Roll down the thunders of the dark
  And close the light of life for me;

Melt all the splendid blue above
  And let these magic wonders die,
If Thou wilt only leave me, Love,
  And Love's heart-brother, Memory.

Though all the hopes of every race
  Crumbled in one red crucible,
And melted, mingled into space,
  Yet, Master, Thou wert merciful.

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Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom