William Wilfred Campbell

1858 - 1918 / Ontario

The Sky Watcher

Black rolls the phantom chimney-smoke
Beneath the wintry moon;
For miles on miles, by sound unbroke,
The world lies wrapt in its ermine cloak,
And the night's icy swoon
Sways earthward in great brimming wells
Of luminous, frosty particles.

Far up the roadway, drifted deep,
Where frost-etched fences gleam;
Beneath the sky's wan, shimmering sleep
My solitary way I keep
Across the world's white dream;
The only living moving thing
In all this mighty slumbering.

Up in the eastern range of hill,
The thin wood spectrally
Stirs in its sleep and then is still
(Like querulous age) at the wind's will.
My shadow doggedly
Follows my footsteps where I go,
A grotesque giant on the snow.

Out where the river's arms are wound,
And icy sedges cling,
There comes to me as in a swound
A far-off clear, thin, vibrant sound,--
The distant hammering
Of frost-elves as they come and go,
Forging, in silver chains, his woe.

I stand upon the hill's bleak crest
And note the far night world:
The mighty lake whose passionate breast,
Manacled into arctic rest,
In shrouded sleep is furled:
The steely heavens whose wondrous host
Wheel white from flaming coast to coast.

Then down the night's dim luminous ways,
Meseems they come once more,
Those great star-watchers of old days
The lonely, calm-ones, whose still gaze,
On old-time, orient shore,
Dreamed in the wheeling sons of light,
The awful secrets of earth's night.

They come, those lofty ones of old,
And take me by the hand,
And call me brother; ages rolled
Are but a smoke-mist; kindred-souled,
They lift me to their band;
Like lights that from pale starbeams shine,
Their clear eyes look with peace on mine.

In language of no common kind
These watchers speak to me;
Their thoughts the depths of heaven find
Like plummets true. It were a kind
Of immortality
To spend with them one holy hour,
And know their love and grasp their power.

And wrapt around with glad content,
I learn with soul serene,
Caught from the beauty that is blent
In earth, the heaven's luminous tent,
The frost-lit dreams between,
And something holier out of sight,
Glad visions of the infinite.

Then backward past the sere hill's breast,
The spectral moaning wood,
With great peace brooding in my breast,
I turn me toward the common rest
Of earth's worn brotherhood;
But as I pass, a sacred sign,
Each lays his holy lips on mine:--

Gives me the golden chrism of song,
Tips my hushed heart with fire;
Till high in heaven I hear that throng
Who march in mystic paths along,
Great Pleiades, The Lyre,
The Te-Deum of the ages swell,
To earth-tuned ear inaudible.
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