can hardly write simply enough of so simple and genuine
a poet as Lampman. His strain is so sincere, so limpid
and uninsistent to reiterate it too vigorously would
be to break its charm. One might say of him, I think,
that he was a poet of nature. He certainly was no less;
and perhaps he would not have wished to be more. I know
it was always refreshing to take up those unsullied
lines of his and read their wonderful transcripts from
the book of the earth; and I was never sorry to be spared
the injection of philosophy to which we are accustomed
in so much contemporary verse. But Lampman was as clear
as a brook and warm as the sunshine. The commonest beauty
was singular enough for him and took on for us a heightened
charm and glamour in the tone of his line.
the first star precedes the great red moon,
The shore lark twinkles from
the darkening field.
Somewhere, we know not in the
His little creaking and continuous tune.
again the sonnet on solicitude:
The dreamy white-throat from some far-off tree
Pipe slowly on the listening solicitude
His fine, pure notes succeeding pensively.
crazy fiddler of the hot mid-year,
The dry cicada plies his wiry bow
In long-spun cadence.
are examples of that happy power in describing the daily
operations of nature in which Lampman so greatly excelled.
His eye was faultless, and his ear was never to be deceived;
all the myriad murmurous life of the April hillside
and the summer fields he knew; nothing escaped him;
nothing was trivial or unworthy; whatever formed a part
of that visible world of being went to make up the tale
of the creation also. And even the seeming commonplaces
of human activity assumed proportions of grace as he
repeated them, so consummate was his taste, so fine
his instinct for art.
crackling rustle of the pitch-forked hay
And lazy jerk of wheels,
in the poem "Heat" we have this wonderful
impression of open air and summer, along with the human
plains that reel to southward, dim,
The road runs by me white and
Up the steep hill it seems to swim
Beyond, and melt into the glare.
Upward half-way, or it may be
Nearer the summit, slowly steals
A haycart, moving dustily
With idly clacking wheels.
By his eart's side the wagoner
Is slouching slowly at his ease
Half-hidden in the windless blur
Of white dust puffing to his
same felicitious delineation, too, is to be found in
his verses "At the Ferry;"
tugboat up the farther shore
Half pants, half whistles, in
The cadence of a creaking oar
Falls drowsily, a cold draft
Creeps slowly in the noon-day gleam
And wheresoe'er a shadow sleeps
The men lie by, or half a-dream
Stand xxxx at the idle sweeps
all these selections there is evident a love of nature
and xxx beauty such as Keats possesses, or much as possessed
Keats, perhaps one ought to say. They convey that sense
of willing rapture, the luxurious joy of the spirit:
in beauty. They are greater because they are wholly
native, wholly Canadian, with the least possible indebtedness
to any purely literary impulse. With his severe Wordsworthian
sincerity, it is difficult to say what more wonderful
interpretations of nature Archibald Lampman ought not
have given us. But that wild, soft flow of his is stilled
now; the great frost has quelled the sound of his alluring
pipes and there will be not a few, even among those
who knew him distantly, through his books, to whom this
returning April will come sadlier up the earth because
he is not here.
is too soon for anyone to speak finally of Lampman.
He was a reticent poet, not exuberant; and it is not
surprising to learn that he left a good deal of unpublished
work behind him, which his friends are preparing to
issue. When this complete volume of poetry shall be
made public it will be time enough for criticism to
measure his niche in the temple of renown. And even
then whether that place is large or small, prominent
or obscure will be of not much importance to his true
lovers. They will be content to have his book beside
them, a reminder if that were needed of his fine charity
of spirit, his serene temper, his wise undoubting mind,
so sure and energetic. They will recall, too, for their
own encouragement that lovable indifference which I
fancy to have been his.
is he, who, never quite secure
Changes his thoughts for better
day by day
To-morrow some new light will shine, by sure,
And thou shalt see thy thought another day.
they will turn the pages of a recent magazine for his
last utterance, reading these lines, to which death
has given so stringent a pathos now:
to address our spirit to the bright
And so attune to the valiant
That the great light be cleared for our light,
And the great soul the stronger
for our soul.
To have done this is to have lived, though fame
Remember us with no familiar name.
was not a poet of force, but he was a lover of truth;
and if the trend and tenor of his work did not win him
great popularity, it was none the poorer on that account.
He was engrossed with the ultimate question, the affairs
of the spirit of man. And every effort of his beautiful
art was devoted to the reassuring and ennoblement of
that spirit. He was of the new era, the generation whose
faith is less robust but more pure than their ancestors.
His influence in English letters cannot be large, perhaps,
but his note remains significant; he was feeling his
own way toward expression in a direction where there
is still much to be said-the realm cleared by science
in the jungle of romantic ignorance. To see nature as
it is; to purge the mind of the gross and heathenish
superstitions of traditional credulity; and yet to preserve
an undistorted, free, glad sentiment toward life, is
not easy. But it is needful; it is our one hope of salvation.
In the new religion which science and art will one day
combine to give us, this habit of absolute content will
find place. It breathes from the pages of Archibald
Lampman as it does from the splendid volumes of Whitman
and Emerson. And to be named not unworthily as a follower
of these prophets of a new day is perhaps reward enough.