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Stella Flammarum: An Ode to Halley's Comet

William Wilfred Campbell 1860 (Newmarket) – 1918 (Ottawa)



1 Strange wanderer out of the deeps,
2 Whence, journeying, come you?
3 From what far, unsunned sleeps
4 Did fate foredoom you,
5 Returning for ever again
6 Through the surgings of man,
7 A flaming, awesome portent of dread
8 Down the centuries' span?

9 Riddle! from the dark unwrung
10 By all earth's sages;--
11 God's fiery torch from His hand outflung,
12 To flame through the ages:
13 Thou Satan of planets eterne,
14 'Mid angry path,
15 Chained, in circlings vast, to burn
16 Out ancient wrath.

17 By what dread hand first loosed
18 From fires eternal?
19 With majesties dire infused
20 Of force supernal,
21 Takest thy headlong way
22 O'er the highways of space?
23 O wonderful, blossoming flower of fear
24 On the sky's far face!

25 What secret of destiny's will
26 In thy wild burning?
27 What portent dire of humanity's ill
28 In thy returning?
29 Or art thou brand of love
30 In masking of bale?
31 And bringest thou ever some mystical surcease
32 For all who wail?

33 Perchance, O Visitor dread,
34 Thou hast thine appointed
35 Task, thou bolt of the vast outsped!
36 With God's anointed,
37 Performest some endless toil
38 In the universe wide,
39 Feeding or curing some infinite need
40 Where the vast worlds ride.

41 Once, only once, thy face
42 Will I view in this breathing;
43 Just for a space thy majesty trace
44 'Mid earth's mad seething;
45 Ere I go hence to my place,
46 As thou to thy deeps,
47 Thou flambent core of a universe dread,
48 Where all else sleeps.

49 But thou and man's spirit are one,
50 Thou poet! thou flaming
51 Soul of the dauntless sun,
52 Past all reclaiming!
53 One in that red unrest,
54 That yearning, that surge,
55 That mounting surf of the infinite dream,
56 O'er eternity's verge.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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William Wilfred Campbell

William Wilfred Campbell (1 June ca. 1860 – 1 January 1918) was a Canadian poet. He is often classed as one of the country's Confederation Poets, a group that included fellow Canadians Charles G. D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, Archibald Lampman, and Duncan Campbell Scott; he was a colleague of Lampman and Scott. By the end of the 19th century, he was considered the "unofficial poet laureate of Canada." Although not as well known as the other Confederation poets today, Campbell was a "versatile, interesting writer" who was influenced by Robert Burns, the English Romantics, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Thomas Carlyle, and Alfred Tennyson. Inspired by these writers, Campbell expressed his own religious idealism in traditional forms and genres.  more…

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