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Short poem

William Wilfred Campbell (1858?-1918)

Stella Flammarum: An Ode to Halley's Comet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1] Campbell wrote about the "flaming star" in his diary on April 13,1910: "I believe that the Comet has its appointed place and task in the universe. It may be a vast carrier of necessary elements or gases or other substances necessary to life on the planets so that they may revive or receive new life. No one can fathom the vast unplumbed deeps of the mystery of the universe. Our mind is finite, but the soul is wider in its dim consciousness of things outside its comprehension" (Carl F. Klinck, Wilfred Campbell: A Study in Late Provincial Victorianism (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1942), p. 260; PS 8455 A6Z75 Robarts Library).

31] surcease: cessation.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Wilfred Campbell, Sagas of Vaster Britain: Poems of the Race, the Empire and the Divinity of Man (Toronto: Musson, 1914), pp. 128-29. PS 8455 A6S3 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 17 May 1910
Publication date note: Published in Toronto Globe.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/17

Composition date: 12 April 1910 - 16 April 1910
Rhyme: ababcdcd

Other poems by William Wilfred Campbell