"An Intimate Picture of Wilfred Campbell"

by Faith L. Malloch


 

Chapter IX


The poet though a dreamer and an idealist at heart, was forced by circumstances to consider the practical side of life. There were four generations living under his roof-tree, and he was faced with the problem of their future. As there seemed to be no visible prospect of his going to live in Great Britain, and the death of his great friend and chieftain had broken one of the strongest links that connected him with the motherland, Wilfred Campbell decided to buy a place in the country in Canada where he might live and watch his grand-children grow up. He selected an old stone farm house at City View, about three miles outside the city limits of Ottawa and called it Kilmorie. There were five and a half acres of land around the house that the poet attempted to garden. He entered in to it all with a brave and light hearted spirit, little dreaming that it would be too much for him, trying to run a place in the country with inadequate assistance, and very often walking the three miles to the car line that took him to his office where he did his other work as well. Though Wilfred Campbell worked very hard at Kilmorie, he was very happy there, and he and my mother were as enthusiastic as a young married couple. This was the first home that really belonged to them, and they were full of plans for its development. My father had always felt that he must settle on a spot of his own where he would feel that he really belonged. His ancestors had always had their own roof-tree and adhered to it. During our visits to the old country he was always searching our the ghosts of our ancestral holdings, and looking for a likely house to settle in, should the occasion arise to necessitate our using it.

It was in April 1915 that Wilfred Campbell took his grandchildren and their great grand mother to like at Kilmorie. Anything he undertook, he put his whole heart into, and Kilmorie was to be the home he had been dreaming of for years. But at the same time his country and Great Britain had entered into the greatest war that civilization had ever known. He who all his life had been looking for an opportunity to help his country, realized that now she needed all the assistance she could get. There were so many people dependent on him and he was past the age of military service, so he could not see his way clear to give up his work here to go and fight for France. His only son Basil was there. In those bitter early days of the war people did not know to what lengths it mightn’t develop, and anything or person out of the ordinary was apt to be under suspicion. Spies and plots might develop in this country, and the need for home protection arise. Wilfred Campbell searched all the country round about Kilmorie for available recruits to form what he called the Home Guard. In the evenings after his work was done he would go to the different places to drill with these men. He would lecture to them and do everything in his power to persuade and encourage them.

He was continually writing during these months, poetry that expressed his hopes and ideals for his country under her stress of war, a war that all the world was looking to, to culminate in an everlasting peace so we should not have to pay again the price of those who died. Wilfred Campbell did not like the war, and dreaded it as he expressed it in "Peace Chorus." But once it was inevitable he wished the whole Empire to rise as one heart and voice, and do her part. These ideas run through "The Sea Queen[,]" "War[,]" "We are Coming Mother Britain[,]" "Langemarck[,]" "The Woods at Kilmorie[,]" [and] "The Ridge of Flame." In "The Peace of God" he expresses his hope in a great culminating world peace.

In 1918 my father was commissioned to write the history of the Imperial Munitions Board. He entered into it with great interest, and hoped with naďve importance that he was after all doing something towards the war’s general fulfilment. All the pent up energetic Imperial enthusiasm of years was at last to find an outlet, and Wilfred Campbell was to die in action, of the spirit at least, before his work was finished. During his lifetime he may have been disillusioned in some minor details, but he had a great irrepressible hope in things, a childish faith that was a bright and shining star leading him ever on. During a very severe winter the poet developed pneumonia, and before his family or anybody could realize it passed away on New Years morning 1918. Just before he died he said to my mother "Mary I see the Duke"—He was very ill at the time, and the unbeliever might say he was delirious, but the next minute he had passed on to the great beyond where he friend the Duke had preceded him. The Duke and the people my father loved formed such a real part of his life that no Paradise were a Paradise without him. Let the unbeliever prove I say, that when the poet was just entering the great future, that he had no sudden or illuminating vision of what was awaiting him.

In finishing I am going to include two poems written in memory of Wilfred Campbell by his two friends Mr. J.E. Caldwell, and Mr. F.A. Acland.

 

The Song Is Hushed

"The song is hushed—the singer strangely still
Shrinks not at blame, nor heeds the voice of praise
Winter and care and time have had their will
And haunting horror of these dreadful days.

"Lover of beauty, lover of righteousness
Lover of childhood and the childish heart
Lover of Britain in her sore distress
Eager to do and more than do his part.

"Singer of gladness in the far gone days
The quest eternal towards the hills of dream
The magic cloud, the iridescent haze
The mirrored lake, the sunset’s dying gleam.

"A vast enchanted palace seemed this earth
And he a child to seek its wonder out
With more of dread and awe than joyous mirth
Smitten at times with chill and tragic doubt.

"But through it all the true and trusting friends,
Scorning no task to help the common weal
Drilling our Home Guard at the long day’s end
Firing us all with patriotic zeal.

"To him as unto Abraham came the call
Take now the son—he made the sacrifice
Undreaming that upon himself should fall
The stroke deferred—the bitter bitter price.

"Sweet singers we have had since time began
Waking new harmonies in sound and soul
Singer and prophet, patriot and man
Such will be Campbell as the long years roll.

"Our eyes were holden that we knew him not
So simple and so human every breath
Immortal pathos marks his earthly lot
Seen through the cold and crystal lens of death."

J.E. Caldwell.
City View, January 26/18

Wilfred Campbell

"The soul had left its tenement of clay
But hovered still amid the friends who came
To say how they had loved him, and to pay
All those sad tributes that the dead can claim.

"And then, his friends with lowered voices, told
Something of what his poet’s work had meant;
Those charts of larger life he had unrolled
In living words of strength and music blent.

"This yearning after nature, wild and free
Mountain and lake, the earth, the sky, the wind;
His dreamed-of golden age-past and to be
With God incarnate in the human mind.

"His note of Empire, passionate and high
Commanding and compelling, fiery clear;
A call to live—and in these days to die—
True heirs to greatness God has given us here.

"So talked his friends in those few solemn hours
Before the earth had closed upon its own
While he lay calm, enthroned in winter flowers
The eager heart at rest, care no more known.

"The tomb is filled: the mourning friends depart;
The glowing soul ascends; the world speeds on
In realms for noble spirits set apart,
He lives, but dearth is here since Campbell[’]s gone."


F.A. Acland
City View, January 3rd. 1918

Notes on the Life of Wilfred Campbell

 

Wilfred Campbell and his wife (nee Mary L. Dibble) had four children:

Margery Berridge, born in West Claremont, Sept. 15, 1886.

married George Archibald Grey.

now Mrs. W.L. Fleming of Toronto.

(her children are by her first marriage; it is said that her son may become Earl Grey: this is not for publication.)

Faith L.                   born in St. Stephen

now Mrs. E.S. Malloch of Ottawa.

Basil B.                   born in St. Stephen

now of the firm of Campbell and Shepherd, Toronto.

Overseas during the war; rose to rank of Major.

Dorothy                  born in Ottawa

now Mrs. Brennison of Buffalo.

 

Campbell was honoured in many ways; some of them are as follows:

 

F.R.S.C.    Elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1893.

Held various offices in the society from time to time.

 

LL.D.     Represented the Royal Society of Canada at the Aberdeen University Quarter-Centenary. Received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Aberdeen University on Sept. 26, 1906. On this occasion he was also presented to King Edward and Queen Alexandria, a distinct honour.

 

Collected Poems of 1905. Andrew Carnegie had a special edition of 500 volumes of this book published to present to his libraries in Canada and the United States.

 

On visits to England in 1905 and 1911 he was entertained by many people of note, among them the Duke of Argyll, the Bishop of Ripon, the Duchess of Sutherland, Lord Pentland, Sir William Osler, Andrew Carnegie, Rudyard Kipling, Lord Strathcona, and many others.

 

Wilfred Campbell died in the early morning of January 1, 1918. Death was due to pneumonia. The latter part of his life was filled with anxiety regarding the Great war and with noble efforts on his part to "do his bit."