T H E  P O E M S  O F

W I L F R E D
C A M P B E L L



 


Sonnets
 

 



Our Heritage


NOT all the fire of Burns, the mind of Scott,
     The stern and holy human zeal of Knox,
     Nor that wise lore which human life unlocks
Of magic Shakespeare, Bacon’s subtlest thought,
Nor Milton’s lofty line sublimely wrought,

5

     Not gentle Wordsworth ’mid his fields and flocks,
     Nor mystic Coleridge of the wizard locks,
Hath power to raise us to our loftiest lot:

But that rare quality, that national dream,
     That lies behind this genius at its core,

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     Which gave it vision, utterance; evermore,
It will be with us, as those stars that gleam,
     Eternal, hid behind the lights of day,
     A people’s best, that may not pass away.

 



The Builders


EACH fane we build is part of God’s great thought,
     One stone in His rare temple thundered down
     In some old wreck of wisdom’s past renown.
So we rebuild, in each gold hour rebought
From life’s dread waste of folly foiled and fraught,

5

     With falsity, where in her tinsel crown
     Philistia’s Queen doth laugh all effort down,
While Nature’s eremites toil and heed her not.

So we rebuild, till, in some afterday,
     ’Mid dreams confused this temple rears its dome,

10

To point to men a fairer, gladder way,
     To ease earth’s being down to its long home,
And make life greater for those weary men
Who toil in trade’s mad mart or care’s grim fen.  [Page 273]

 



The Higher Kinship


LIFE is too grim with anxious, eating care
     To cherish what is best.  Our souls are scarred
     By daily agonies, and our conscience marred
By petty tyrannies that waste and wear.
Why is this human fate so hard to bear?

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     Could we but live with hill-lakes silver-starred,
     Or where the eternal silence leaneth toward
The awful front of nature, waste and bare:

Then might we, brothers to the lofty thought
     And inward self-communion of her dream,

10

Into that closer kin with love be brought,
Where mighty hills and woods and waters, wan,
Moon-paved at midnight or godlike at dawn,
     Hold all earth’s aspirations in their gleam.

 



Nature the Benign


NATURE, the terrible, cruel, deaf, malign!
     So men have named her in their vague alarm,
     Who know her outward only.  Never harm
Came to the soul that read her secret sign,
Lived her pure laws, and dreamed her dream benign,

5

     That broodeth eternal ever kind and warm,
     With rare imagination’s ancient charm,
Where all her lores and kindred loves entwine.

Not hers the working of blind woes and ills,
     Unanswered hunger and the futile breath

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     Of wasted suffering and unneeded death;—
Behind the formless mask, the seeming strife,
Bound by a law as old as her own hills,
She is a spirit, and her joy is life.  [Page 274]

 



The Soul


WHAT bears me up?  ’Tis not this earthly frame,
     These vigorous limbs, this solid teeming earth,
     That bore me patient ever since my birth;
But something inward, some fierce mystic flame,
For which our language hath no subtler name

5

     Than spirit: some dread hidden lamp of life,
     Behind the ego dense, the passions rife,
That looks far out and dreams from whence it came.

Those others weaken.  Fever, sin, disease,
     The shock of mountains and great toppling seas

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Shatter their being: this that dwells within
     Knows other base of power more secret, dread,
     Drawn forth, eternal, from some fountain-head
Of power and life, where sense hath never been.

 



My Religion


LET other men to other faiths defer,
     This is my creed, I live by it alone:
     Not unto gods of self or carven stone
Do I bow down ’mid mists of mind that blur;
Let myriad schools their myriad truths aver,

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     Place Superstition on her ancient throne,
     Or callous Reason to reign in ice alone;
Earth’s truth was never taught by her, or her.

This is my creed, where each man hath his own,
     God is a spirit, love with insight blends,

10

     Make to thyself earth’s rarest, highest friends,
Truth, wisdom, beauty: let all else alone;—
     Beyond all doubts and dread dogmatic fears,
     These speak for God along His ancient years.  [Page 275]

 



Toleration


TOLERATION for the alien soul,
     Who thinketh different from thy special dream
     Of how earth’s freedom widens its pure stream
To this world’s splendid, ultimate, mighty whole:
Yea, toleration for the one whose goal

5

     Is equal, though ’tis reached by other ways:
     For other dreams of other hopes and days:
While over all the same wide heavens roll.—

But for the tyrant, he who would enslave:
     Wouldst tolerate the wolf thy child would clutch,

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The eating flame, the rude engulfing wave
     That would destroy thee?  Nay, nay, unto such
The barrier walls, the iron gates that gird,
The dread denial, the hate, the sanguine sword.

 



September


AS ONE who lieth on a bed of death,
     And knowing in truth that he hath soon to die,
     For months and months in silent dream doth lie,
And mind grown clear, his whole life pondereth,
And sees it fade before him like a breath

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     That smokes a glass; so thou, hushed month, dost dream
     The whole year’s memories in thy quiet gleam
Of inward thought that no speech uttereth.

Here, haply, musing by thy silent fields,
     Thy ripened woods, thy brown, shorn harvest floors,

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And hazy hillsides, he who seeks may find
     The sort of soul he is, and at thy doors
Of inward contemplation lend his mind
To those high reveries nature’s heart reveals.  [Page 276]

 



Nature’s Truth


NATURE, give me thy truth, for I am worn
     With outward knowledge of this surface world.
     Men know thy trees, thy hills, thy clouds upcurled,
Thy dreams at even and thy dews at morn,
Thy great sky-temples, domed or thunder-torn;

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     Thy lakes, thy rivers hushed or seaward hurled,
     Thy limpid brooks, thy grasses dew impearled,
And all thy beauty love or wonder born.

But that rare glory, that invisible,
     Undreamed-of vision of thine under deeps,

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     That face behind earth’s face that never sleeps,
That mystic word our wisdom fails to spell,
     Which man calls genius, that sincerity,
     That magic seeing heart, give, give to me.

 



The Truth


NOT what is true in this place or in yon,
     But what is truest for the whole world’s ill,
     Rolling its stone eternal up its hill,
Or Ixion-like, stretched fate’s grim wheel upon,
Hungering long o’er opportunity gone;

5

     Or like blind Samson, grinding his grim mill,
     Crippled and futile; yet with one sweet thrill
For some old springtime or unrisen dawn;

That somewhere, sometime, through the fateful years,
     Earth’s disappointment and her urgent strife,

10

     Man’s soul might reach some outer door of life;
And stripped of folly’s garb and time’s poor fears,
     Grow large and godlike, as those cloud-dreams furled,
     And splendid deeps that drift about the world.  [Page 277]

 



Life’s Inferno


I STOOD last night on Dante’s bridge of woe,
     And saw that awful host of those who pass,
     Like phantom shadows on a wizard’s glass,
In all dread miseries of the stygian throe.
I saw the fated lovers come and go

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     In agony of love’s despair, alas,
     Ixion’s wheel; and Sisyphus’ taunting glass
Escape his lips amid the hellish glow.

But nowhere saw I ill so great as here
     Goes grinding sadly, patient day by day,

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     Jealousy, hate, yon miser aged and grey
Gripping his gold with mocking death anear;
     Or that dread dart of all dread woes above,
     Earth’s agony of unrequited love.

 



Death


WHEN He who built this magic wizardry
     Of sky and earth and sea and human heart,
     And planning brain and all that holdeth part
In fleeting joy and quick mortality,
From azure peak to purpled rim of sea,

5

     Shall come again, and by His wizard art
     Dissolve the pearl, and bid the guest depart
From this high house of being’s majesty:—

May He not come as summons shrill at morn,
     Or sudden tempest shaking life’s frail tower,

10

     Or angry black when storms and tempests lower;
But soft at even ere the stars be born,
     And love lets down her gradual veils of sleep,
     So my soul pass from splendid deep to deep.  [Page 278]

 



The Consolation of the Stars


WHERE white Orion rules the hosts of night,
     And grim Arcturus wheels his ancient round,
     If there be any soul by earth-weight bound,
Let him here come, and if he hath a blight
Of poisoned spirit, let him note the flight

5

     Of those great seers of centuries, without sound,
     Patient, orderly, in their mystic swound,
Wheeling forever eternal hills of light.

Let him here pause; and if he hath a care,
     A poisoned arrow rankling in his heart

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Of human sorrow, or ill too great to bear,
     From off his spirit like mists it will depart,
And in these dreams ’twixt golden dusk and day
Rebuild his soul for its appointed way.

 



True Insight


THEY never know who only know alone.
     Who deeply knows must also deeply feel.
     Life is a knife ground on a grinder’s wheel,
A sea-worn crag, a river-polished stone.
Knowledge for suffering doth to love atone.

5

     O who would not to grim experience kneel,
     And feel the fiat of fate’s averted heel,
To know in truth the great world’s under-moan.

There in her dungeons where her weird mimes flit,
     Behind the curtains of her phantom show,

10

With grim reality for aye to sit,
     And watch those puppet-maskers come and go,
Who build the shadow-dreams that rise and fall,
Grotesque, distorted, on life’s sombre wall.  [Page 279]

 



The House Divine


NOT in the caverned aisles of cloistered gloom,
     Or chancelled splendors built in carven stone,
     Where censer smoke goes up and choirs intone
Those sad dread litanies of human doom,
That lend an added horror to the tomb;

5

     Nor where the modern dervish maketh moan,
     And smites his forehead with impenitent groan,
Doth faith’s rare flower of reverence wake and bloom:

But out in hallowed halls of dawn or night,
     Where overhead the censer stars outswing,

10

     Eternity and night in one vast ring,
Or hid impulses of inmoving light;
     Behind him all the mystery of his race,
     Doth man with Deity come close face to face.

 



“Not Unto Endless Dark”


NOT unto endless dark do we go down,
     Though all the wisdom of wide earth said yea,
     Yet my fond heart would throb eternal nay.
Night, prophet of morning, wears her starry crown,
And jewels with hope her murkiest shades that frown.

5

     Death’s doubt is kernelled in each prayer we pray.
     Eternity but night in some vast day
Of God’s far-off red flame of love’s renown.

Not unto endless dark.  We may not know
The distant deeps to which our hopings go,

10

     The tidal shores where ebbs our fleeting breath:
But over ill and dread and doubt’s fell dart,
Sweet hope, eternal, holds the human heart,
     And love laughs down the desolate dusks of death. 
[Page 280]

 



The Wind’s Royalty


THIS summer day is all one palace rare,
     Builded by architects of life unseen,
     In elfin hours the sun and moon between,
Up out of quarries of the sea and air,
And earth’s fine essences.  Aladdin’s were

5

     But tinsel sheen beside this gloried dream,
     High, sunny-windowed, walled by wood and stream,
And high, dome-roofed, blue burnished, beyond compare.

Here reigns a king, the happiest known on earth,
     That blithesome monarch mortals call the wind,

10

Who roves his galleries wide in vagrant mirth,
     His courtier clouds obedient to his mind;
Or when he sleeps his sentinel stars are still,
With ethiop guards o’ertopping some grave hill.

 



Nature’s Sincerity


NOT by fine straining above our natural powers,
     Or standing tiptoe over greater heads,
     Do we beget that greatness nature weds
To her sure actions and her patient hours.
Nor yet by building arrogant Babel towers,

5

     And aping genius, do we spin those threads
     Of grave existence, which the world besteads
When fortune fails and life’s horizon lowers.

Not thus doth Nature tread her patient rounds
     In gloom of darkness or in wine of light,

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Flaming the wheel of her slow fixèd bounds,
     Revivifying day in womb of night:
Plodding her dream in mists of mightiest powers,
Working her miracles in her natural hours.  [Page 281]

 



The Soul’s Cloister


AMID the mighty struggles of the day,
     The burdened armies of huge toil enlocked,
     In trade’s grim battle-grounds ambition-rocked,
And busy marts of all the world’s loud fray,
The truer moods of being flee away,

5

     With all the gentler dreams of life that flocked
     From love’s hyperion fields, now cursed and mocked
By iron mouths and brazen throats that bray.

But in the hush of those diviner hours,
     The meditative silences of night,

10

When Nature reasserts her holier powers,
     And all false dreams and garish take their flight,
Those rarer moods of dream return to dwell
’Mid these white towers of truth invisible.

 



Earth’s Innocence


WRAP me, kind Nature, in thy fold of dreams,
     Out from this life and its brute-selfishness,
     Its anguished strivings for the boons that bless,
Its base ambitions and its bauble gleams
That lure poor souls, like foolish fish in streams,

5

     From sunbeam into sunbeam; profitless.
     Make me a part of thine own happiness,
With which thy realm, honey-nurtured, teems.

Give me once more thine olden innocence
Of bird and bee; the sunshine-built romance

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     Of hour to hour, by wood and field and deep;
Co-heir with those blithe wanderers of thy fields,
To whom alone life’s open-sesame yields,
     Like little children, morning, flowers and sleep.  [Page 282]

 



Love


THE truest is the simplest.  Why entail
     Whole days of years to some complex pursuit,
     To probe life’s flower and analyze its fruit?
O weary student, perplexed, spectre-pale,
Why beat against the granite of thy gaol,

5

     Self-built; or kill the flower to search the root?
     Doth lore make mankind any less the brute?
Or knowledge alone for godlike flight avail?

’Tis love draws all from earth to heaven’s heights.
Not all thy weary lore of sleepless nights

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     Hath power to touch like one low daisied sod;—
’Tis love, not lore, whatever come to pass.
We are but child-kin to the birds and grass,—
     And he who yearns, life’s heir, and kin to God.

 



Foundations


WE are what nature made us: soon or late,
     Life’s art that fadeth passeth slow away,
     With iron eatings of our sordid day,
Leaving behind those influences, innate,
Immutable, divine.  As round some great,

5

     Rude, craggy isle, the loud surf’s ravening fray
     Shatters all life in spume of thundered spray,
Leaving huge cliffs, scarred, grim, in naked state:

So life and all its idols hath its hour,
     Its fleet, ephemeral dream, its passing show,

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     Its pomp of fevered hopes that come and go:
Then stripped of vanity and folly’s power,
     Like some wide water bared to moon and star,
     We know ourselves in truth for what we are.  [Page 283]

 



The Poet


HE sings and sings; ye cannot stop his lute;—
     Hunger and misery, death and man’s disdain,
     And all that grieves and gives poor mortals pain,
Sorrow and shame — these cannot make him mute.
Brother to days that gather little fruit,

5

     Shunned by the mob, and scorned of sordid gain,
     He walks his way for love and music fain,
Loving poor life that song be at its root.

And when spring eves are red or ozier-pale,
He wanders where earth’s children lisp their tale

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     To tender skies whose misty stars look down;—
And all love’s realms are his, the budding hours
Of children, brooks and winds and grass and flowers,—
     A king whom death alone may dare uncrown.

 



The Politician


CARVEN in leathern mask or brazen face,
     Were I time’s sculptor, I would set this man.
     Retreating from the truth, his hawk-eyes scan
The platforms of all public thought for place.
There wriggling with insinuating grace,

5

     He takes poor hope and effort by the hand,
     And flatters with half-truths and accents bland,
Till even zeal and earnest love grow base.

Knowing no right, save power’s grim right-of-way;
     No nobleness, save life’s ignoble praise;

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No future, save this sordid day to day;
     He is the curse of these material days:
Juggling with mighty wrongs and mightier lies,
This worshipper of Dagon and his flies!  [Page 284]

 



Sublimity


THAT rarer essence, that which lies behind
     Our truest beauty, light of beauty’s core,
     Where all truth rises, font of wisdom’s lore,
Back of all dreams of human heart and mind,
At life’s great well heads where earth’s gropings, blind,

5

     Fumble for Deity round their caverned floor,
     As some great water feeling for his door,
Azure of ocean, where sea-caverns wind:

So in our nature’s far recessional deeps
     It dwells, this greatness, at the heart of things,

10

     Where wisdom broods with ancient folded wings,
And all those hid impulses of earth’s youth.
     All know this presence sometime ’mid life’s ways,
Only the few who follow love and truth
     Feel earth’s sublimity all their human days.

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The Patriot


BORN with a love for truth and liberty,
     And earnest for the public right, he stands
     Like solitary pine in wasted lands,—
Or some paladin of old legends, he
Would live that other souls like his be free,

5

     Not caring for self or pelf or pandering power,
     He thunders incessant, earnest, hour by hour,
Till some old despot shackle cease to be.

Not his the gaudy title, nor the place
     Where hungry fingers clutch his country’s gold:

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But where the trodden crouch in evil case,
     His cause is theirs, to lighten or to hold;
His monument, the people’s glad acclaim;
And title high, a love more great than fame.  [Page 285]

 



Night


HOME of the pure in heart and tranquil mind,
     Temple of love’s white silence, holy Night;
     Greater than splendid thought or iron might,
Thy lofty peace unswept by any wind
Of human sorrow, leaves all care behind.

5

     Uplifted to the zenith of thy height,
     My world-worn spirit drinks thy calm delight,
And, chrysalis-like, lets slip its earthly rind.

The blinded feuds, base passions and fierce guilt,
     Vain pride and falseness that enslaved the day,

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          Here dwindle and fade with all that mocks and mars;
     Where wisdom, awed, walks hushed with lips that pray,
’Neath this high minster, dim, invisible, built,
          Vast, walled with deeps of space and roofed with stars.

 



Job


IN all that olden Israelitish lore
     Whose lofty beauty fills the ages’ span,
’Mid all those mighty souls who being bore,
     There was one man, a king, who lived a man.

Smitten of heaven, scourged of all earth’s woes,

5

     With love and kinship, wealth forsworn and fled;
Stung by those friends, worse ills to men than foes,
     Tormenting where they might have comforted:—  [Page 286]

Stripped of all hopes that common men hold dear,
     Polluted of body, clothed with leprous scars,

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          There ’mid his ashes alien from his race,
He still maintained his being without fear,
     And lifting agonized eyeballs to the stars,
          Did question Deity, naked, face to face.

 



On a Picture of Columbus


NOT for one age was it given thee to be;
     Out-living all in thine immortal span,
     Thou wondrous, titan, godlike minded man;
Earth’s little lives comparable to thee
As meadow tarns unto the mighty sea;

5

     ’Mid few great souls, create since time began,
     Thy spirit ever seems to brood and scan,
Strong, self-contained, time’s lone immensity.

Nor dread Atlantic did thy purpose daunt:
     Scorning the trackless paths toward ocean’s verge,

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Thine eyes sought ever where Hesperides haunt,—
     Thy spirit rode above all weak despair,
Seeing in visions gleaming coasts emerge
     Out of the Wild and Limitless, waste and bare.  [Page 287]

 



Shelley


SPIRIT of fire and snow and heart all dew,
     Child of the midnight’s glory and the stars,
     Whose mad, sweet chanting smote to heaven’s bars:—
Brother, ethereal, to that glorious few
Who from earth’s beauty song’s high triumphs drew;—

5

     Beyond the earthy, like some paler Mars,
     Winging above thine age’s petty jars,
Thy song to heaven meteor-like out-flew.

First came one great in love’s majestic calm,
     The wizard singer of all singing men;

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Then he who sang in high immortal psalm
     That greatest of all love’s great, sad rebels. Then
Thou camest, angel of the starry lyre!
Raining the dusk with melody of fire.  [Page 288]

 

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