In accordance with the
last wishes of the author, the first portion of
his manuscript is here submitted to your judgment.
This volume represents about one fourth of his
life work. If it is well received, the rest will
follow in due course. This is a Canadian contribution
to our common literature, and I hope that it may
be thought by the old world a worthy interpreter
of our younger and broader national life.
Of the Lyrics on
Freedom, those on Cuba were written between the
ages of fourteen and nineteen, on France about
his eighteenth or nineteenth year, and on Russia
between then and the time of his death, The verses
prefixed to each are from an address written by
the author while a student of Queen’s University,
and inserted as an introduction to that which
In its issue of Friday, Sept. 18th,
1885, the Montreal Witness contained,
as its first item of Canadian News, the following:—
On Thursday night, George F.
Cameron, late editor of the Kingston News,
died suddenly. He was a graceful writer and a
prominent Canadian poet.
This was the sum of the
story of his life, so far as the world could tell
it. The high position which he took in Canadian
literature he won almost in a day, on a few lyrics
published in his own paper and in the columns
of the Queen’s College Journal. The preface
to this conclusion you will find here.
Young, as the world counts
time, at thirty years of age he had run the whole
gamut of its pleasures and its pains.
There was to him a terrible sameness about it
Golden prospects and ominous clouds:
walks and level drives:
Glittering silks and colorless shrouds:
Flattering records and shattered lives,
These were the elements of its every change, and
to his eternal quid novi? it had nothing
further to answer. So that he who had begun life
by being an enthusiast has almost finished it
by becoming a cynic.
All heartsick and headsick and weary,
Sore wounded, oft struck in the strife,
I ask is there end of this dreary
Dark pilgrimage called by us life? [Page
ask, is there end of it—any?
If any, when comes it anigh?
I would die, not the one death, but many
To know and be sure I should die.
To know that Somewhere—in the distance,
When Nature shall take back my breath,
I shall add up the sum of existence
And find that its total is—death!
It was impossible, being
what he was, that his poetry should be free from
occasional pessimism. This was the natural product
of the circumstances of his life. It was necessary
from the character of the age in which he wrote:
it was inevitable from the quality of his own
It is not without meaning
that he sings in the last Springtime of his life,
We reach for rest, and the world wheels by us
And leaves us each in our vale of tears;
Till the green sod covers and nought comes nigh
With hopes and fears.
Nor that in its last
month we hear him say, as he looks out into the
For we shall rest. The brain that planned,
That thought or wrought or well or ill, [Page
At gaze like Joshua’s moon shall stand,
Not working any work or will;
While eye, and lip, and heart, and hand
Shall all be still—shall all be still!
The truest life of a
poet is written in his songs. Why then, go further?
If they hear not Moses and the prophets,—You
know the rest.
From the Present he asked
nothing: and from the Future—but, let him
speak for himself:—
We only ask it as our share
That, when your day-star rises clear,
A perfect splendor in the air,
A glory ever far and near,
Ye write such words as these—of those
I have one favor to ask
of the critic, and one only. Read him, before
you review him.
Remember that he is with
the dead, and do him justice. I ask no more, and
the editor of these songs needs to ask no more.
How will the world receive
him? With coldness, may be: it may be with pleasure.
In any case it will matter little to him, who,
as I pen these words, sleeps peacefully beneath
the daisies in the land which gave him birth.
128 Union St., Kingston,
October 6th, 1887.