(Poem #784) To a Millionaire
The world in gloom and splendour passes by, And thou in the midst of it with brows that gleam, A creature of that old distorted dream That makes the sound of life an evil cry. Good men perform just deeds, and brave men die, And win not honour such as gold can give, While the vain multitudes plod on, and live, And serve the curse that pins them down: But I Think only of the unnumbered broken hearts, The hunger and the mortal strife for bread, Old age and youth alike mistaught, misfed, By want and rags and homelessness made vile, The griefs and hates, and all the meaner parts That balance thy one grim misgotten pile.
Note: Written Oct 1891 A grim, mordant poem, reminiscent (as are many of Lampman's poems) of Hardy in one of his bleak moods. Lampman's poetry divides, roughly, into three main parts - a large body of excellent nature poems, many of them in the Romantic tradition, some highly atmospheric and somewhat surreal 'scene' poems that wouldn't raise eyebrows in a fantasy collection, and, especially in his later years, trenchant socialist poems like today's. Lampman handles these voices with equal facility; his poems are often haunting, usually vivid and nearly always rewarding. 'Millionaire' is a nice example - the tirade could easily have become overdone and hence off-putting; instead, Lampman treads the line between harsh criticism and ranting without ever losing control of the poem. By no means a 'great' poem, but definitely worth the read. Biography: Archibald Lampman (1861-99) http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/lamp.html#notes which includes the note that 'Lampman is widely regarded as Canada's greatest poet of the nineteenth century' Links: L. R. Early has collected some of Lampman's hitherto uncollected poems [broken link] http://www.arts.uwo.ca/canpoetry/cpjrn/vol12/early.htm The Google Directory has collected an excellent set of essays on Lampman's work: [broken link] http://directory.google.com/Top/Arts/Literature/World_Literature/Canadian/Poetry/Poets/Lampman,_Archibald/Reviews/ The previous poems in the Canadian theme: Poem #781: Robert Service, 'The Law of the Yukon' Poem #782: F.R. Scott, 'National Identity' Poem #783: Stan Rogers, 'Northwest Passage' Surprisingly enough, we haven't run any of Lampman's poems yet, something I will definitely make up for. m.