Later Canadian Poems

Edited by J. E. Wetherell



WILLIAM WILFRED CAMPBELL.

(These Poems are taken from “Lake Lyrics” only)




Lazarus.

O Father Abram, I can never rest,
    Here in thy bosom in the whitest heaven,
    Where love blooms on through days without an even;
    For up through all the paradises seven,
There comes a cry from some fierce, anguished breast.
5

A cry that comes from out of hell’s dark night,
    A piercing cry of one in agony,
    That reaches me here in heaven white and high;
    A call of anguish that doth never die;
Like dream-waked infant wailing for the light.
10

O Father Abram, heaven is love and peace,
    And God is good; eternity is rest.
    Sweet would it be to lie upon thy breast
    And know no thought but loving to be blest—
Save for that cry that never more will cease.
15

It comes to me above the angel-lyres,
    The chanting praises of the Cherubim; [Page 25]
    It comes between my upward gaze and Him,
    All-blessed Christ,—a voice from the vague dim,
O Lazarus, come and ease me of these fires.
20

O Lazarus, I have called thee all these years,
    It is so long for me to reach to thee,
    Across the ages of this mighty sea,
    That loometh dark, dense, like eternity;
Which I have bridged by anguished prayers and tears.

25

Which I have bridged by knowledge of God’s love,
    That even penetrates this anguished glare;
    A gleaming ray, a tremulous star-built stair,
    A road by which love-hungered souls may fare
Past hate and doubt, to heaven and God above.

30

So calleth it ever upward unto me.
    It creepeth in through heaven’s golden doors;
    It echoes all along the sapphire floors;
    Like smoke of sacrifice, it soars and soars;
It fills the vastness of eternity.
35

Until my sense of love is waned and dimmed,
    The music-rounded spheres do clash and jar:
    No more those spirit-calls from star to star,
    The harmonies that float and melt afar,
The belts of light by which all heaven is rimmed. [Page 26]
40

No more I hear the beat of heavenly wings,
    The seraph chanting in my rest-tuned ear;
    I only know a cry, a prayer, a tear,
    That rises from the depths up to me here;
A soul that to me suppliant leans and clings.
45

O, Father Abram, thou must bid me go
    Into the spaces of the deep abyss;
    Where far from us and our God-given bliss,
    Do dwell those souls that have done Christ amiss;
For through my rest I hear that upward woe.
50

I hear it crying through the heavenly night,
    When curvéd, hung in space, the million moons
    Lean planet-ward, and infinite space attunes
    Itself to silence, as from drear gray dunes
A cry is heard along the shuddering light,
55

Of wild dusk-bird, a sad, heart-curdling cry,
    So comes to me that call from out hell’s coasts;
    I see an infinite shore with gaping ghosts;
    This is no heaven, with all its shining hosts;
This is no heaven until that hell doth die.
60

So spake the soul of Lazarus, and from thence,
    Like new-fledged bird from its sun-jewelled nest,
    Drunk with the music of the young year’s quest; [Page 27]
    He sank out into heaven’s gloried breast,
Spaceward turned, toward darkness dim, immense.
65

Hellward he moved like radiant star shot out
    From heaven’s blue with rain of gold at even,
    When Orion’s train and that mysterious seven
    Move on in mystic range from heaven to heaven,
Hellward he sank, followed by radiant rout.
70

The liquid floor of heaven bore him up,
    With unseen arms, as in his feathery flight
    He floated down toward the infinite night;
    But each way downward, on the left and right,
He saw each moon of heaven like a cup
75

Of liquid, misty fire that shone afar
    From sentinel towers of heaven’s battlements;
    But onward, winged by love’s desire intense,
    And sank, space-swallowed, into the immense,
While with him ever widened heaven’s bar.
80

’Tis ages now long-gone since he went out,
    Christ-urged, love-driven, across the jasper walls,
    But hellward still he ever floats and falls,
    And ever nearer come those anguished calls;
And far behind he hears a glorious shout. [Page 28]
85

—————

Ode to Thunder Cape.

Storm-beaten cliff, thou mighty cape of thunder;
Rock-Titan of the north, whose feet the waves beat under;
Cloud-reared, mist-veiled, to all the world a wonder,
Shut out in thy wild solitude asunder,
    O Thunder Cape, thou mighty cape of storms.
5

About thy base, like woe that naught assuages,
Throughout the years the wild lake raves and rages;
One after one, time closes up weird pages;
But firm thou standest, unchanged, through the ages,
    O Thunder Cape, thou awful cape of storms.
10

Upon thy ragged front, the storm’s black anger,
Like eagle clings, amid the elements’ clangor;
About thee feels the lake’s soft sensuous languor;
But dead alike to loving and to anger,
    Thou towerest bleak, O mighty cape of storms.
15

Year in, year out, the summer rain’s soft beating,
Thy front hath known, the winter’s snow and sleeting;
But unto each thou givest contemptuous greeting.
These hurt thee not through seasons fast and fleeting;
    O proud, imperious, rock-ribbed cape of storms. [Page 29]
20

In August nights, when on thy under beaches,
The lake to caverns time-weird legends teaches;
And moon-pearled waves to shadowed shores send speeches.
Far into heaven thine awful darkness reaches,
    O’ershadowing night; thou ghostly cape of storms.
25

In wild October, when the lake is booming
Its madness at thee, and the north is dooming
The season to fiercest hate, still unconsuming,
Over the strife, thine awful front is looming;
    Like death in life, thou awful cape of storms.
30

Across thy rest the wild bee’s noonday humming,
And sound of martial hosts to battle drumming,
Are one to thee—no date knows thine incoming;
The earliest years belong to thy life’s summing,
    O ancient rock, thou aged cape of storms.
35

O thou so old, within thy sage discerning,
What sorrows, hates, what dead past loves still-burning,
Couldst thou relate, thine ancient pages turning;
O thou, who seemest ever new lores learning,
    O unforgetting, wondrous cape of storms.
40

O tell me what wild past lies here enchanted;
What borders thou dost guard, what regions haunted?
What type of man a little era flaunted, [Page 30]
Then passed and slept? O tell me thou undaunted,
    Thou aged as eld, O mighty cape of storms.
45

O speak, if thou canst speak, what cities sleeping,
What busy streets, what laughing and what weeping,
What vanished deeds and hopes like dust up-heaping,
Hast thou long held within thy silent keeping?
    O wise old cape, thou rugged cape of storms.
50

These all have passed, as all that’s living passes;
Our thoughts they wither as the centuries’ grasses,
That bloom and rot in bleak, wild lake morasses:
But still thou loomest where Superior glasses
    Himself in surge and sleep, O cape of storms.
55

And thou wilt stay when we and all our dreaming
Lie low in dust. The age’s last moon-beaming
Will shed on thy wild front its final gleaming;
For last of all that’s real and all that’s seeming,
    Thou still wilt linger, mighty cape of storms. [Page 31]
60

—————

The Winter Lakes.

Out in a world of death, far to the northward lying,
    Under the sun and the moon, under the dusk and the day;
Under the glimmer of stars and the purple of sunsets dying,
    Wan and waste and white, stretch the great lakes away.

Never a bud of spring, never a laugh of summer,
5
    Never a dream of love, never a song of bird;
But only the silence and white, the shores that grow chiller and             dumber,
Wherever the ice-winds sob, and the griefs of winter are heard.

Crags that are black and wet out of the gray lake looming,
    Under the sunset’s flush, and the pallid, faint glimmer of dawn;
10
Shadowy, ghost-like shores, where midnight surfs are booming
    Thunders of wintry woe over the spaces wan.

Lands that loom like spectres, whited regions of winter,
    Wastes of desolate woods, deserts of water and shore;
A world of winter and death, within these regions who enter,
15
    Lost to summer and life, go to return no more. [Page 32]

Moons that glimmer above, waters that lie white under,
    Miles and miles of lake far out under the night;
Foaming crests of waves, surfs that shoreward thunder,
    Shadowy shapes that flee, haunting the spaces white.
20

Lonely hidden bays, moon-lit, ice-rimmed, winding,
    Fringed by forests and crags, haunted by shadowy shores;
Hushed from the outward strife, where the mighty surf is grinding
    Death and hate on the rocks, as sandward and landward it             roars.

—————

In the River Bay.

Alone I pause in morning dream
Upon the border of the stream,
Where all the summer melts away,
In mists of wood and sky and bay;
And voices of the morning wake
5
In whispers from the distant lake.
With dews down fallen from the night,
The alders scintillate in light.
Reflected in the river pool, [Page 33]
The woods bend restful, sweet and cool.
10
And hidden in their heart away,
A thrush sends forth his roundelay,
Echo’d in the airs above,
Filling all heaven and earth with love.

Above me in the darkling wood,
15
Through dusks of morning solitude,
Drifting in many a watery moon,
The river chants a sleepy tune.
Far out in front, in shining curves,
Where, sun-cuirassed, his soft tide swerves,
20
And all the dreams of morning brood,
His shores wind, mirroring in his flood.

With half-shut eyes I muse and see
This morning picture dreamily.
Then throbbeth up within my heart
25
(Which seemeth nature’s counterpart),
A wish to stay and dream for aye,
The morning by this river-bay,
To stay forever and forget
The new desire and old regret,
30
The doubt, the sorrow, and the curse,
The passions that our spirits nurse;
Never to dream in morning’s fires [Page 34]
The ghosts of vanished, dead desires;
Never to read in kindling skies
35
The sadness of reproachful eyes:
Refined, removed of all earth’s dross,
Its strife, its sorrow, and its loss,
To be a little child for aye,
Mist-cradled in this river-bay.
40

The dream is sweet but all too soon,
Is lost its vision, hushed its rune;
For up along the river-wall
I hear my comrades gaily call:
The dream is broken, life, reclaims,
45
To darker fancies, sterner aims.
I leave my restful river bay,
And worldward once more wend my way. [Page 35]

—————

The Heart of the Lakes.

There are crags that loom like specters
    Half under the sun and the mist;
There are beaches that gleam and glisten,
There are ears that open to listen
    And lips held up to be kissed.
5

There are miles and miles of waters
    That throb like a woman’s breast,
With a glad harmonious motion
    Like happiness caught at rest,
As if a heart beat under
10
    In love with its own glad rest;
Beating and beating forever,
    Outward to east and to west.

There are forests that kneel forever,
    Robed in the dreamiest haze
15
That God sends down in the summer
    To mantle the gold of its days,
Kneeling and leaning forever
    In winding and sinuous bays.

There are birds that like smoke drift over,
20
    With a strange and bodeful cry, [Page 36]
Into the dream and the distance
    Of the marshes that southward lie,
With their lonely lagoons and rivers,
    Far under the reeling sky.
25

—————

How Spring Came to the Lake Region.

No passionate cry came over the desolate places,
    No answering call from iron-bound land to land;
But dawns and sunsets fell on mute, dead faces,
    And noon and night, death crept from strand to strand.

Till love breathed out across the wasted reaches,
5
    And dipped in rosy dawns from desolate deeps;
And woke with mystic songs the sullen beaches,
    And flamed to life the pale, mute, death-like sleeps.

Then the warm south, with amorous breath inblowing,
    Breathed o’er breast of wrinkled lake and mere;
10
And faces white from scorn of the north’s snowing,
    Now rosier grew to greet the kindling year. [Page 37]

—————

A Lake Memory.

The lake comes throbbing in with voice of pain
    Across these flats, athwart the sunset’s glow.
I see her face, I know her voice again,
    Her lips, her breath, O God, as long ago.

To live the sweet past over I would fain,
5
    As lives the day in the red sunset’s fire,
That all these wild, wan marshlands now would stain,
    With the dawn’s memories, loves and flushed desire.

I call her back across the vanished years,
    Nor vain—a white-armed phantom fills her place;
10
Its eyes the wind-blown sunset fires, its tears
    This rain of spray that blows about my face. [Page 38]