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To a Millionaire -- Archibald Lampman

       
(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.
-- Archibald Lampman
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.

35 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Matthew Chanoff said...

Typical 19th century socialist/communist view that wealth is a big pile and
the more someone takes, the less everyone else has. Yes definitely, let's
end that [Capitalist] curse which pins down the multitudes, so that they're
free to perform just deeds, or die and win honour.

It seems churlish to criticize a poem for its point rather than its
language, but still, this doesn't seem more to me than slightly elevated and
very dated propaganda. Worse, its in service to a cause that made the "sound
of life an evil cry" for generations of Russians, Chinese, Eastern
Europeans, Cubans, Vietnamese, North Koreans, etcetera.

Right wingedly,

Matt

Martin DeMello said...

Also sprach Matthew Chanoff...
> Typical 19th century socialist/communist view that wealth is a big pile and
> the more someone takes, the less everyone else has. Yes definitely, let's
> end that [Capitalist] curse which pins down the multitudes, so that they're
> free to perform just deeds, or die and win honour.

Yep, but it made sense according to the economic theories of the time.

> It seems churlish to criticize a poem for its point rather than its
> language, but still, this doesn't seem more to me than slightly elevated
> and very dated propaganda.

Dated it is, but considering that the poem was written in the 1890s,
allowances should be made. Both the content and the tone are very much in
keeping with other works of the period.

> Worse, its in service to a cause that made the "sound of life an evil cry"
> for generations of Russians, Chinese, Eastern Europeans, Cubans,
> Vietnamese, North Koreans, etcetera.

I think you're conflating socialism and communism here. They really aren't
the same thing at all.

m.

David Wright said...

What strikes me most about this poem, and what I enjoy, is its texture, its
earnest density, the great chewy runs of anglo-saxon, its dour grindy
grumbling rhetoric, dire as a fist, brooding like a sausage.

-David Wright

Neil and Madeline Posey said...

I am searching for a poem that our Barbershop Quartet sang many years ago when we were active. We are older and retired now (can't sing quite as well as we used to), but the song (poem) is so beautiful I would like to know who the author might be. I will include the words below. If you want to use them, it is fine because at the moment the author would be "anonymous". Nevertheless, you might enjoy the poem. I intend to have it read as my eulogy when I leave this world (which I hope is not too soon). If you know the author, please remit, and I would be forever grateful to you. Thank you,

Neil Posey
Goliad, Texas

"Millionaire"

I know a millionaire
Who's burdened down with care
A load is on his mind

He's thinking of the day
When he must pass away
And leave his wealth behind

I haven't any gold
To leave when I grow old
Somehow it passed me by

I'm very poor but still
I leave a precious will
When I must say goodbye

I leave the sunshine
To the flowers
The springtime to the trees

And to the old folk
I leave the memory
Of a baby upon their knees

I leave the nighttime to the dreamer
Songbird to the blind
I leave the moon above
To those in love

When I leave the world behind

When I leave the world behind.

Anonymous said...

IT IS BETTER TO HAVE A FEW POINT ABOUT THE POEM -SRINI

Anonymous said...

very nice poem-dhamu

peshma said...

can i have the summary of this poem plzz?

Anonymous said...

A very good satire-srini

Anonymous said...

A very fine verse penned by Lampman that clearly depicts the balance between the poverty ridden vile mortals and the rich enjoying millionaire-Dhamu

cheap viagra said...

I have read in an article that Archibald Lampman,was a Canadian poet. "He has been described as 'the Canadian Keats;' and he is perhaps the most outstanding exponent of the Canadian school of nature poets., the poem in the post is a good example about it !!22dd

Anonymous said...

It would be really nice and useful if anybody could make the paraphrase of this poem available in net. It is hoped that some kind-heart would do it.

Anonymous said...

more summary about this poem. please...

Anonymous said...

can I have a summary of this poem please

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Anonymous said...

BOOGIE

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