In the Preface to the first edition of Archibald Lampman’s poems and in the Introduction to the selection Lyrics of Earth, I said all that I had to say on the life and work of the poet and I thought my function as custodian, editor and critic was accomplished; but as the poems contained in this volume will prove it was not to be. Although I abandon here, gladly, the function of critic, I assume due share of responsibility as editor; and the feeling of guardianship over the whole accomplishment of the poet it still present. But here I have strong aid on the editorial side and am greatly strengthened on the critical. In fact, it if had not been for Professor E.K. Brown’s admiration of Lampman and his interest in his method of work many of these poems might have been lost. When he was in Ottawa last summer we were talking on this subject, and I drew his attention to the manuscript books which had been deposited in the Library of Parliament. These books contain fair, pen-and-ink copies of the early poems, the complete manuscript of Alcyone, the book that was in the printer’s hands when he died, and also some of the long narrative pieces. The collection in the Library did not contain any of the note-books that he was accustomed to work in, mere scribblers made up of paper which took the pencil easily. These I knew would be vital to Professor Brown’s purpose, insight into Lampman’s methods of work. They had been carefully preserved by his daughter Mrs. T.R. Loftus MacInnes and she generously and unreservedly lent them to him. During his scrutiny and study of these books, which show early forms of well-known poems and revisions after his manner, he came upon several poems which I had thought too fragmentary ever to be assembled and which I had forgotten when I put together Lyrics of Earth: although I can now say [page 482] that I would not have then attempted any re-examination of these note-books. It is Professor Brown we must thank for discovering and deciphering many of these poems which add to the sum of the poet’s work and in several instances definitely enrich out possessions. I welcome his Introduction, because it is free from the personal attachment which must ever colour anything I say about these poems and brings them in review before a highly qualified and unprejudiced judge.
I remember the poet’s fruitless effort, after Among the Millet had been in print for some years, to find a publisher who would assume financial responsibility for a new book. He had assembled a hundred sonnets and had endeavoured to publish them under the title, “A Century of Sonnets,” but without success. When Copeland and Day of Boston agreed to issue a small book it was to consist of nature lyrics only, and Lampman was disappointed, in every way, with the result. When he projected the book, Alcyone, he undertook to pay for it as he had paid for Among the Millet. The full publication of his poems was to be left to his friends, and At the Long Sault is but a continuation of that honour and responsibility.
I would describe this book, At the Long Sault, as a gathering together, in a liberal spirit, of all that is left of the poet’s work. In quality it will be found unequal but in general interest it is of high value. It should not be compared with Lyrics of Earth, for which the poems were selected with a definite aim, but rather with the Memorial Edition which was inclusive. With the exception of the sonnets addressed to his wife before their marriage, which exist in fair copies in the MS. books in the Library of Parliament, the note-books I have mentioned are the sources of these poems. They exist there as we present them here; but they required some editorial attention, minor corrections of mere slips or errors in the pencilling, slight rearrangements here and there, and necessary punctuation. These editorial duties we have carried out as I did in preparing the Memorial Edition.
Here the poems range from the earliest to the latest; from the sonnets addressed to his wife before their marriage to “At the long Sault,” which comes at the very end. We thought it well to place in sequence the sonnets to which I have just referred, and to reprint three which appeared in his first book and which we thought inseparable from the others. These sonnets are a record of youthful love, its hope and fulfilment. Other sonnets fall well within the fine tradition. [page 483] The sestet of the sonnet, “Fair Speech,” was published under the title “God Speech,” in the Memorial Edition. In that book will also be found a sonnet, “Ambition,” in which the idea used in the eight lines here entitled, “The Choice,” receives ampler treatment.
“New Year’s Ever” appeared in the issue of The Canadian Magazine for January, 1914. The series, “A Portrait in Six Sonnets,” is evidently the record of a friendship strong in affection, and, to judge by the last Sonnet, high in emotional value.
As his life unfolded and as experience pressed upon him we can now, I think, see how all that happened to his heart and mind had begun to deepen and strengthen his art. He had not reached his limit or his perfection and to recall and adapt works of Sturge Moore, he was turning leaves in some book that Death forbade him to write. We are the losers; we must treasure what we have; to add to the store has been our reward for a labour of love. [page 484]