William Wilfred Campbell (1858?-1918)

Notes on Life and Works (University of Toronto)

return to sonnet central return to canadian sonnets


There dwells a spirit in the budding year--
As motherhood doth beautify the face--
That even lends these barren glebes a grace,
And fills grey hours with beauty that were drear
And bleak when the loud, storming March was here:
A glamour that the thrilled heart dimly traces
In swelling boughs and soft, wet, windy spaces,
And sunlands where the chattering birds make cheer.
I thread the uplands where the wind's footfalls
Stir leaves in gusty hollows, autumn's urns.
Seaward the river's shining breast expands,
High in the windy pines a lone crow calls,
And far below some patient ploughman turns
His great black furrow over steaming lands.


Already Winter in his sombre round,
Before his time, hath touched these hills austere
With lonely flame. Last night, without a sound,
The ghostly frost walked out by wood and mere.
And now the sumach curls his frond of fire,
The aspen-tree reluctant drops his gold,
And down the gullies the North's wild vibrant lyre
Rouses the bitter armies of the cold.
O'er this short afternoon the night draws down,
With ominous chill, across these regions bleak;
Wind-beaten gold, the sunset fades around
The purple loneliness of crag and peak,
Leaving the world an iron house wherein
Nor love nor life nor hope hath ever been.

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


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.

"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.
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,
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.


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,
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,
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.