Nox Oculis


Archibald Lampman (1861-1899)

Généralement considéré comme le meilleur poète canadien de langue anglaise du XIXe siècle, Archibald Lampman faisait partie du groupe de la "Confédération", qui comptait aussi les poètes Charles G. D. Roberts, Bliss Carman et Duncan Campbell Scott.

Archibald Lampman est né en 1861 à Morpeth, en Ontario, un village près de Chatham. En 1867, sa famille déménaga à Gore's Landing, dans le district de Rice Lake. C'est là qu'il connut les soeurs Strickland, Susanna Moodie et Catharine Parr Traill. En 1868, à l'âge de sept ans, il contracta la fièvre rhumatismale, qui affaiblit sa constitution et a probablement contribué à son décès prématuré. En 1879, il commença ses études au Trinity College de Toronto (aujourd'hui l'Université de Toronto). Là, au printemps de 1880, il lut un nouveau recueil de poèmes, Orion (1880), de Charles G. D. Roberts, qui l'a inspiré à entreprendre sérieusement sa carrière d'écrivain. Il rédiga des essais littéraires et des poèmes pour le Rouge et Noir, la revue de son collège. Quand il reçut son diplôme en 1882, il avait déjà commencé à soumettre ses poèmes à des magazines littéraires. À partir de ce moment jusqu'à la fin de sa vie, les poèmes de Lampman ont fréquemment été publiés dans des revues canadiennes, américaines et britanniques, en particulier The Week, le Globe et les magazines américains Harper's et Scribner's.

En 1883, après une brève et infructueuse tentative d'enseigner à l'école secondaire à Orangeville, en Ontario, Lampman obtint un emploi mal payé de commis au Ministère des Postes à Ottawa, emploi qu'il garda toute sa vie. Il s'est bien vite lié d'amitié avec un autre poète, Duncan Campbell Scott, également employé du gouvernement. Les deux hommes aimaient faire de longues marches dans la campagne entourant Ottawa et des expéditions en canot dans les régions sauvages du nord d'Ottawa.

En 1887, Lampman épousa Maud Playter ; à l'aide de la petite dot qu'elle lui apporta, il publia lui-même Among the Millet, and Other Poems (1888). Il y démontre sa maîtrise des techniques de poésie et son talent d'observation et de contemplation de la nature. La critique l'acclama, confirmant Lampman comme le meilleur poète canadien anglophone de son temps. Il eu l'intelligence de faire parvenir des copies de son premier recueil de poèmes aux plus grands périodiques du Canada, des États-Unis et d'Angleterre. Cela lui valut l'attention internationale pour son oeuvre et l'intérêt de ces magazines pour sa poésie. De février 1892 à juillet 1893, Lampman et ses amis, Duncan Campbell Scott et W. W. Campbell, ont collaboré pour le Globe à une chronique de commentaires littéraires et sociaux intitulée « At the Mermaid Inn ». Son talent littéraire fut reconnu et apprécié ; en 1895, il fut élu à la Société royale du Canada.

Parmi les amis les plus influents de Lampman, citons Katherine Waddell, une collègue aux Postes, dont il est tombé amoureux en 1889. Cette relation fut une grande source d'affliction pour lui, dont on voit les effets dans le ton empreint de mélancolie et de critique sociale de ses derniers poèmes. Son second recueil de vers, Lyrics of Earth, fut publié en 1895 par Copeland and Day de Boston. En dépit de ses efforts de promotion, le livre s'est mal vendu et a peu retenu l'attention des critiques. Après cette expérience, il choisit de payer pour la publication de son troisième volume, Alcyone, qu'il voulait faire publier à Édimbourg. Lampman travaillait encore sur les épreuves d'Alcyone au moment de son décès, le 10 février 1899 (à Ottawa), à l'âge de trente-sept ans. Duncan Campbell Scott, son exécuteur littéraire, en a commandé l'impression de douze exemplaires en 1899. Ce fut la première de plusieurs éditions des poèmes de Lampman édités par Scott, qui s'est efforcé toute sa vie de garder vivante la renommée de son ami.

La réputation d'Archibald Lampman, celle de meilleur poète canadien anglophone de la fin du XIXe siècle, tient toujours. C'était un maître du sonnet, et ses poèmes sur la nature abondent en descriptions vivaces des paysages canadiens. Même si l'influence romantique anglaise est évidente dans sa poésie, Archibald Lampman a eu le génie de créer une voix différente, qui lui était propre.


A Vision of Twilight

    By a void and soundless river
    On the outer edge of space,
    Where the body comes not ever,
    But the absent dream hath place,
    Stands a city, tall and quiet,
    And its air is sweet and dim ;
    Never sound of grief or riot
    Makes it mad, or makes it grim.

    And the tender skies thereover
    Neither sun, not star, behold --
    Only dusk it hath for cover, --
    But a glamour soft with gold,
    Through a mist of dreamier essence
    Than the dew of twilight, smiles
    On strange shafts and domes and crescents,
    Lifting into eerie piles.

    In its courts and hallowed places
    Dreams of distant worlds arise,
    Shadows of transfigured faces,
    Glimpses of immortal eyes
    Echoes of serenest pleasure,
    Notes of perfect speech that fall,
    Through an air of endless leisure,
    Marvellously musical.

    And I wander there at even,
    Sometimes when my heart is clear,
    When a wider round of heaven
    And a vaster world are near,
    When from many a shadow steeple
    Sounds of dreamy bells begin,
    And I love the gentle people
    That my spirit finds therein.

    Men of a diviner making
    Than the sons of pride and strife,
    Quick with love and pity, breaking
    From a knowledge old as life ;
    Women of a spiritual rareness,
    Whom old passion and old woe
    Moulded to a slenderer fairness
    Than the dearest shapes we know.

    In its domed and towered centre
    Lies a garden wide and fair,
    Open for the soul to enter,
    And the watchful townsmen there
    Greet the stranger gloomed and fretting
    From this world of stormy hands,
    With a look that deals forgetting
    And a touch that understands.

    For they see with power, not borrowed
    From a record taught or told,
    But they loved and laughed and sorrowed
    In a thousand worlds of old ;
    Now they rest and dream for ever,
    And with hearts serene and whole
    See the struggle, the old fever,
    Clear as on a painted scroll.

    Wandering by that grey and solemn
    Water, with its ghostly quays --
    Vistas of vast arch and column,
    Shadowed by unearthly trees --
    Biddings of sweet power compel me,
    And I go with bated breath,
    Listening to the tales they tell me,
    Parables of Life and Death.

    In a tongue that once was spoken,
    Ere the world was cooled by Time,
    When the spirit flowed unbroken
    Through the flesh, and the Sublime
    Made the eyes of men far-seeing,
    And their souls as pure as rain,
    They declare the ends of being,
    And the sacred need of pain.

    For they know the sweetest reasons
    For the products most malign --
    They can tell the paths and seasons
    Of the farthest suns that shine.
    How the moth-wing’s iridescence
    By an inward plan was wrought,
    And they read me curious lessons
    In the secret ways of thought.

    When day turns, and over heaven
    To the balmy western verge
    Sail the victor fleets of even,
    And the pilot stars emerge,
    Then my city rounds and rises,
    Like a vapour formed afar,
    And its sudden girth surprises,
    And its shadowy gates unbar.

    Dreamy crowds are moving yonder
    In a faint and phantom blue ;
    Through the dusk I lean, and wonder
    If their winsome shapes are true ;
    But in veiling indecision
    Come my questions back again --
    Which is real? The fleeting vision ?
    Or the fleeting world of men ?

    Archibald Lampman, 19 Septembre 1895, Alcyone (1899),


Alcyone

    In the silent depth of space,
    Old, immeasurably far,
    Glittering with a silver flame
    Through eternity,
    Rolls a great and burning star,
    With a noble name,
    Alcyone !

    In the glorious chart of heaven
    It is marked the first of seven ;
    ’Tis a Pleiad :
    And a hundred years of earth
    With their long-forgotten deeds have come and gone,
    Since that tiny point of light,
    Once a splendour fierce and bright,
    Had its birth
    In the star we gaze upon.

    It has travelled all that time --
    Thought has not a swifter flight --
    Through a region where no faintest gust
    Of life comes ever, but the power of night
    Dwells stupendous and sublime,
    Limitless and void and lonely,
    A region mute with age, and peopled only
    With the dead and ruined dust
    Of worlds that lived eternities ago.

    Man ! when thou dost think of this,
    And what our earth and its existence is,
    The half-blind toils since life began,
    The little aims, the little span,
    With what passion and what pride,
    And what hunger fierce and wide,
    Thou dost break beyond it all,
    Seeking for the spirit unconfined
    In the clear abyss of mind
    A shelter and a peace majestical.
    For what is life to thee,
    Turning toward the primal light,
    With that stern and silent face,
    If thou canst not be
    Something radiant and august as night,
    Something wide as space ?

    Therefore with a love and gratitude divine
    Thou shalt cherish in thine heart for sign
    A vision of the great and burning star,
    Immeasurably old, immeasurably far,
    Surging forth its silver flame
    Through eternity ;
    And thine inner heart shall ring and cry
    With the music strange and high,
    The grandeur of its name
    Alcyone!

    Archibald Lampman, 1er novembre 1893, Alcyone (1899)


An October Sunset

    One moment the slim cloudflakes seem to lean
    With their sad sunward faces aureoled,
    And longing lips set downward brightening
    To take the last sweet hand kiss of the king,
    Gone down beyond the closing west acold ;

    Paying no reverence to the slender queen,
    That like a curvèd olive leaf of gold
    Hangs low in heaven, rounded toward the sun,
    Or the small stars that one by one unfold
    Down the gray border of the night begun.

    Archibald Lampman, Poems of Archibald Lampman (1900)


April Night

    How deep the April night is in its noon,
    The hopeful, solemn, many-murmured night !
    The earth lies hushed with expectation ; bright
    Above the world’s dark border burns the moon,
    Yellow and large; from forest floorways, strewn
    With flowers, and fields that tingle with new birth,
    The moist smell of the unimprisoned earth
    Comes up, a sigh, a haunting promise. Soon,
    Ah, soon, the teeming triumph! At my feet
    The river with its stately sweep and wheel
    Moves on slow-motioned, luminous, grey like steel.
    From fields far off whose watery hollows gleam,
    Aye with blown throats that make the long hours sweet,
    The sleepless toads are murmuring in their dream.

    Archibald Lampman, 1888, Alcyone (1899)


Evening

    From upland slopes I see the cows file by,
    Lowing, great-chested, down the homeward trail,
    By dusking fields and meadows shining pale
    With moon-tipped dandelions. Flickering high,
    A peevish night-hawk in the western sky
    Beats up into the lucent solitudes,
    Or drops with griding wing. The stilly woods
    Grow dark and deep and gloom mysteriously.
    Cool night-winds creep, and whisper in mine ear.
    The homely cricket gossips at my feet.
    From far-off pools and wastes of reeds I hear,
    Clear and soft-piped, the chanting frogs break sweet
    In full Pandean chorus. One by one
    Shine out the stars, and the great night comes on.

    Archibald Lampman, 1889, Alcyone (1899)


Midnight

    From where I sit, I see the stars,
    And down the chilly floor
    The moon between the frozen bars
    Is glimmering dim and hoar.

    Without in many a peaked mound
    The glinting snowdrifts lie ;
    There is no voice or living sound;
    The embers slowly die.

    Yet some wild thing is in mine ear ;
    I hold my breath and hark ;
    Out of the depth I seem to hear
    A crying in the dark ;

    No sound of man or wife or child,
    No sound of beast that groans,
    Or of the wind that whistles wild,
    Or of the tree that moans :

    I know not what it is I hear ;
    I bend my head and hark :
    I cannot drive it from mine ear,
    That crying in the dark.

    Archibald Lampman, Poems of Archibald Lampman (1900)


Midsummer Night

    Mother of balms and soothings manifold,
    Quiet-breathèd night whose brooding hours are seven,
    To whom the voices of all rest are given,
    And those few stars whose scattered names are told,
    Far off beyond the westward hills outrolled,
    Darker than thou, more still, more dreamy even,
    The golden moon leans in the dusky heaven,
    And under the one star—a point of gold :

    And all go slowly lingering toward the west,
    As we go down forgetfully to our rest,
    Weary of daytime, tired of noise and light :
    Ah, it was time that thou should’st come ; for we
    Were sore athirst, and had great need of thee,
    Thou sweet physician, balmy-blossomed night.

    Archibald Lampman


The Moon-Path

    The full, clear moon uprose and spread
    Her cold, pale splendor o’er the sea ;
    A light-strewn path that seemed to lead
    Outward into eternity.
    Between the darkness and the gleam
    An old-world spell encompassed me :
    Methought that in a godlike dream
    I trod upon the sea.

    And lo! upon that glimmering road,
    In shining companies unfurled,
    The trains of many a primal god,
    The monsters of the elder world ;
    Strange creatures that, with silver wings,
    Scarce touched the ocean’s thronging floor,
    The phantoms of old tales, and things
    Whose shapes are known no more.
    Giants and demi-gods who once
    Were dwellers of the earth and sea,
    And they who from Deucalion’s stones,
    Rose men without an infancy ;

    Beings on whose majestic lids
    Time’s solemn secrets seemed to dwell,
    Tritons and pale-limbed Nereids,
    And forms of heaven and hell.
    Some who were heroes long of yore,
    When the great world was hale and young ;
    And some whose marble lips yet pour
    The murmur of an antique tongue ;
    Sad queens, whose names are like soft moans,
    Whose griefs were written up in gold ;
    And some who on their silver thrones
    Were goddesses of old.

    As if I had been dead indeed,
    And come into some after-land,
    I saw them pass me, and take heed,
    And touch me with each mighty hand ;
    And evermore a murmurous stream,
    So beautiful they seemed to me,
    Not less than in a godlike dream
    I trod the shining sea.

    Archibald Lampman, septembre 1889, Lyrics of Earth (1895)


Night

    Come with thine unveiled worlds, O truth of night,
    Come with thy calm. Adown the shallow day,
    Whose splendours hid the vaster world away,
    I wandered on this little plot of light,
    A dreamer among dreamers. Veiled or bright,
    Whether the gold shower roofed me or the gray,
    I strove and fretted at life's feverish play,
    And dreamed until the dream seemed infinite.

    But now the gateway of the All unbars ;
    The passions and the cares that beat so shrill,
    The giants of this petty world, disband ;
    On the great threshold of the night I stand,
    Once more a soul self-cognizant and still,
    Among the wheeling multitude of stars.

    Archibald Lampman, Poems of Archibald Lampman (1900)


Sirius

    The old night waned, and all the purple dawn
    Grew pale with green and opal. The wide earth
    Lay darkling and strange and silent as at birth,
    Save for a single far-off brightness drawn
    Of water gray as steel. The silver bow
    Of broad Orion still pursued the night,
    And farther down, amid the gathering light,
    A great star leaped and smouldered. Standing so,
    I dreamed myself in Denderah by the Nile ;
    Beyond the hall of columns and the crowd
    And the vast pylons, I beheld afar
    The goddess gleam, and saw the morning smile,
    And lifting both my hands, I cried aloud
    In joy to Hathor, smitten by her star !

    Archibald Lampman, Poems of Archibald Lampman (1900)


The Sun Cup

    The earth is the cup of the sun,
    That he filleth at morning with wine,
    With the warm, strong wine of his might
    From the vintage of gold and of light,
    Fills it, and makes it divine.

    And at night when his journeys is done,
    At the gate of his radiant hall,
    He setteth his lips to the brim,
    With a long last look of his eye,
    And lifts it and draineth it dry,
    Drains till he leaveth it all
    Empty and hollow and dim.

    And then, as he passes to sleep,
    Still full of the feats that he did,
    Long ago in Olympian wars,
    He closes it down with the sweep
    Of its slow-turning luminous lid,
    Its cover of darkness and stars,
    Wrought once by Hephæstus of old
    With violet and vastness and gold.

    Archibald Lampman


Sunset

    From this windy bridge at rest,
    In some former curious hour,
    We have watched the city's hue,
    All along the orange west,
    Cupola and pointed tower,
    Darken into solid blue.

    Tho' the biting north wind breaks
    Full across this drifted hold,
    Let us stand with icèd cheeks
    Watching westward as of old ;

    Past the violet mountain-head
    To the farthest fringe of pine,
    Where far off the purple-red
    Narrows to a dusky line,
    And the last pale splendours die
    Slowly from the olive sky ;

    Till the thin clouds wear away
    Into threads of purple-gray,
    And the sudden stars between
    Brighten in the pallid green ;
    Till above the spacious east,
    Slow returnèd one by one,
    Like pale prisoners released
    From the dungeons of the sun,
    Capella and her train appear
    In the glittering Charioteer ;

    Till the rounded moon shall grow
    Great above the eastern snow,
    Shining into burnished gold ;
    And the silver earth outrolled,
    In the misty yellow light,
    Shall take on the width of night.

    Archibald Lampman, Poems of Archibald Lampman (1900)


Winter Evening

    To-night the very horses springing by
    Toss gold from whitened nostrils. In a dream
    The streets that narrow to the westward gleam
    Like rows of golden palaces; and high
    From all the crowded chimneys tower and die
    A thousand aureoles. Down in the west
    The brimming plains beneath the sunset rest,
    One burning sea of gold. Soon, soon shall fly
    The glorious vision, and the hours shall feel
    A mightier master; soon from height to height,
    With silence and the sharp unpitying stars,
    Stern creeping frosts, and winds that touch like steel,
    Out of the depth beyond the eastern bars,
    Glittering and still shall come the awful night.

    Archibald Lampman, 22 janvier 1883


Winter Hues Recalled

    Life is not all for effort : there are hours,
    When fancy breaks from the exacting will,
    And rebel though takes schoolboy’s holiday,
    Rejoicing in its idle strength. ’Tis then,
    And only at such moments, that we know
    The treasure of hours gone—scenes once beheld,
    Sweet voices and words bright and beautiful,
    Impetuous deeds that woke the God within us,
    The loveliness of forms and thoughts and colors,
    A moment marked and then as soon forgotten.
    These things are ever near us, laid away,
    Hidden and waiting the appropriate times,
    In the quiet garner-house of memory.
    There in the silent unaccounted depth,
    Beneath the heated strainage and the rush
    That teem the noisy surface of the hours,
    All things that ever touched us are stored up,
    Growing more mellow like sealed wine with age ;
    We thought them dead, and they are but asleep.
    In moments when the heart is most at rest
    And least expectant, from the luminous doors,
    And sacred dwelling place of things unfeared,
    They issue forth, and we who never knew
    Till then how potent and how real they were,
    Take them, and wonder, and so bless the hour.

    Such gifts are sweetest when unsought. To me,
    As I was loitering lately in my dreams,
    Passing from one remembrance to another,
    Like him who reads upon an outstretched map,
    Content and idly happy, these rose up,
    Out of that magic well-stored picture house,
    No dream, rather a thing most keenly real,
    The memory of a moment, when with feet,
    Arrested and spell bound, and captured eyes,
    Made wide with joy and wonder, I beheld
    The spaces of a white and wintery land
    Swept with the fire of sunset, all its width
    Vale, forest, town, and misty eminence,
    A miracle of color and of beauty.

    I had walked out, as I remember now,
    With covered ears, for the bright air was keen,
    To southward up the gleaming snow-packed fields,
    With the snowshoer’s long rejoicing stride,
    Marching at ease. It was a radiant day
    In February, the month of the great struggle
    ’Twixt sun and frost, when with advancing spears,
    The glittering golden vanguard of the spring
    Holds the broad winter’s yet unbroken rear
    In long-closed wavering contest. Thin pale threads
    Like streaks of ash across the far off blue
    Were drawn, nor seemed to move. A brooding silence
    Kept all the land, a stillness as of sleep ;
    But in the east the grey and motionless woods,
    Watching the great sun’s fiery slow decline,
    Grew deep with gold. To westward all was silver.
    An hour had passed above me; I had reached ;
    The loftiest level of the snow-piled fields,
    Clear eyed, but unobservant noting not,
    That all the plain beneath me and the hills
    Took on a change of colour, splendid, gradual,
    Leaving no spot the same; nor that the sun
    Now like a fiery torrent overflamed
    The great line of the west. Ere yet I turned
    With long stride homeward, being heated
    With the loose swinging motion, weary too,
    Nor uninclined to rest, a buried fence,
    Whose topmost log just shouldered from the snow,
    Made me a seat, and thence with heated cheeks,
    Grazed by the northwind’s edge of stinging ice,
    I looked far out upon the snow-bound waste,
    The lifting hills and intersecting forests,
    The scarce marked courses of the buried streams,
    And as I looked I list memory of the frost,
    Transfixed with wonder, overborne with joy.
    I saw them in their silence and their beauty ;
    Swept by the sunset’s rapid hand of fire,
    Sudden, mysterious, every moment deepening
    To some new majesty of rose or flame.
    The whole broad west was like molten sea
    Of crimson. In the north the light-lined hills
    Were veiled far off as with a mist of rose
    Wondrous and soft. Along the darkening east
    The gold of all the forests slowly changed
    To purple. In the valley far before me,
    Low sunk in sapphire shadows, from its hills,
    Softer and lovelier than an opening flower,
    Uprose a city with its sun-touched towers,
    A bunch of amethysts.

    Like one spell-bound
    Caught in the presence of some god, I stood,
    Nor felt the keen wind and the deadly air,
    But watched the sun go down, and watched the gold
    Fade from the town and the withdrawing hills,
    Their westward shapes athwart the dusky red
    Freeze into sapphire, saw the arc of rose
    Rise ever higher in the violet east,
    Above the frore front of the uprearing night
    Remorsefully soft and sweet. Then I awoke
    As from a dream, and from my shoulders shook
    The warning chill, till then unfelt, unfeared.

    Archibald Lampman, 1888, Among the Millet (1888)


The Winter Stars

    Across the iron-bound silence of the night
    A keen wind fitfully creeps, and far away
    The northern ridges glimmer faintly bright,
    Like hills on some dead planet hard and gray.
    Divinely from the icy sky look down
    The deathless stars that sparkle overhead,
    The Wain, the Herdsman, and the Northern Crown,

    And yonder, westward, large and balefully red,
    Arcturus, brooding over fierce resolves :
    Like mystic dancers in the Arctic air
    The troops of the Aurora shift and spin :
    The Dragon strews his bale-fires, and within
    His trailing and prodigious loop involves
    The lonely Pole Star and the Lesser Bear.

    Archibald Lampman, Poems of Archibald Lampman (1900)


With The Night

    O doubts, dull passions, and base fears,
    That harassed and oppressed the day,
    Ye poor remorses and vain tears,
    That shook this house of clay :

    All heaven to the western bars
    Is glittering with the darker dawn ;
    Here with the earth, the night, the stars,
    Ye have no place : begone!

    Archibald Lampman, 1890, Lyrics of Earth (1895)


Références :


Bibliographie :


Oeuvres poétiques :


| Poésie | Page d'accueil | Bibliographie | Glossaire | Hyperliens |

© 2003 Mario Tessier - Tous droits réservés.
Adresse URL : http://pages.infinit.net/noxoculi/lampman.html