Nox Oculis

Wilfred Campbell (1858-1918)

Poète canadien. Né le 1er juin 1858 à Kitchener (Berlin, à cette époque), en Ontario, Campbell a grandi à Wiarton, fréquenta le University College en 1881-82, le Wycliffe University (Toronto) en 1882-83. Après avoir étudié au Episcopal Theological School à Cambridge (Massachusetts), il fut ordonné ministre du culte par l'Église d'Angleterre en 1885. Il épousa Mary Dibble, en 1884, et travailla comme recteur des congrégations de West Claremont (New Hampshire), et de Saint-Stephen (Nouveau Brunswick), jusqu'à ce qu'il abandonne le ministère en 1892. Ses deux premiers recueils de vers furent Sunshine and Snowflakes (1888) and Lake Lyrics (1889). Sa foi religieuse l'ayant abandonné, il quitta le sacerdoce en 1892 ; l'année précédente, il avait reçu une position au Bureau du Secrétaire d'État à Ottawa, et en 1909, il occupa une fonction aux Dominion Archives. Il écrivit pour le Toronto Globe dans les années 1890, ainsi que pour le Atlantic Monthly, le Century et Harper's. Il fut élu à la Société Royale du Canada en 1892. Il publia régulièrement des recueils de poésies ainsi que des drames pièces en vers et des romans historiques.

Wilfred Campbell est mort à Ottawa en 1918, et est enterré dans le cimetière de Beechwood.


    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.
    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,
    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.

    Wilfred Campbell

The Sky Watcher

    Black rolls the phantom chimney-smoke
    Beneath the wintry moon ;
    For miles on miles, by sound unbroke,
    The world lies wrapt in its ermine cloak,
    And the night's icy swoon
    Sways earthward in great brimming wells
    Of luminous, frosty particles.

    Far up the roadway, drifted deep,
    Where frost-etched fences gleam ;
    Beneath the sky's wan, shimmering sleep
    My solitary way I keep
    Across the world's white dream ;
    The only living moving thing
    In all this mighty slumbering.

    Up in the eastern range of hill,
    The thin wood spectrally
    Stirs in its sleep and then is still
    (Like querulous age) at the wind's will.
    My shadow doggedly
    Follows my footsteps where I go,
    A grotesque giant on the snow.

    Out where the river's arms are wound,
    And icy sedges cling,
    There comes to me as in a swound
    A far-off clear, thin, vibrant sound, --
    The distant hammering
    Of frost-elves as they come and go,
    Forging, in silver chains, his woe.

    I stand upon the hill's bleak crest
    And note the far night world :
    The mighty lake whose passionate breast,
    Manacled into arctic rest,
    In shrouded sleep is furled :
    The steely heavens whose wondrous host
    Wheel white from flaming coast to coast.

    Then down the night's dim luminous ways,
    Meseems they come once more,
    Those great star-watchers of old days
    The lonely, calm-ones, whose still gaze,
    On old-time, orient shore,
    Dreamed in the wheeling sons of light,
    The awful secrets of earth's night.

    They come, those lofty ones of old,
    And take me by the hand,
    And call me brother ; ages rolled
    Are but a smoke-mist; kindred-souled,
    They lift me to their band ;
    Like lights that from pale starbeams shine,
    Their clear eyes look with peace on mine.

    In language of no common kind
    These watchers speak to me ;
    Their thoughts the depths of heaven find
    Like plummets true. It were a kind
    Of immortality
    To spend with them one holy hour,
    And know their love and grasp their power.

    And wrapt around with glad content,
    I learn with soul serene,
    Caught from the beauty that is blent
    In earth, the heaven's luminous tent,
    The frost-lit dreams between,
    And something holier out of sight,
    Glad visions of the infinite.

    Then backward past the sere hill's breast,
    The spectral moaning wood,
    With great peace brooding in my breast,
    I turn me toward the common rest
    Of earth's worn brotherhood ;
    But as I pass, a sacred sign,
    Each lays his holy lips on mine : --

    Gives me the golden chrism of song,
    Tips my hushed heart with fire ;
    Till high in heaven I hear that throng
    Who march in mystic paths along,
    Great Pleiades, The Lyre,
    The Te-Deum of the ages swell,
    To earth-tuned ear inaudible.

    Wilfred Campbell, 1890-91

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 ?
    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 curing 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.

    Wilfred Campbell, 1910

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