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Remembering Roy Campbell:
October 2, 1901–April 22, 1957

722 words

Roy Campbell  was a South African poet and essayist. T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, and Edith Sitwell praised Campbell as one of the best poets of the inter-war period. Unfortunately, his conservatism, Nietzscheanism, and Catholicism, as well as his open contempt for the Bloomsbury set and his participation in the Spanish Civil War on the Fascist side have led his works to be consigned to the memory hole. Campbell died in Portugal in 1957 in a car crash.

Below is a selection of his poems. Also see the new, expanded version of Kerry Bolton’s “Roy Campbell” on this site and Roger Scruton’s “A Dark Horse.” When time permits, we will make more of Campbell’s poems available at Counter-Currents.

Autumn

I love to see, when leaves depart,
The clear anatomy arrive,
Winter, the paragon of art,
That kills all forms of life and feeling
Save what is pure and will survive.

Already now the clanging chains
Of geese are harnessed to the moon:
Stripped are the great sun-clouding planes;
And the dark pines, their own revealing,
Let in the needles of the noon.

Strained by the gale the olives whiten
Like hoary wrestlers bent with toil
And, with the vines, their branches lighten
To brim our vats where summer lingers
In the red froth and sun-gold oil.

Soon on our hearth’s reviving pyre
Their rotted stems will crumble up:
And like a ruby, panting fire,
The grape will redden on your fingers
Through the lit crystal of the cup.

The Zebras

From the dark woods that breathe of fallen showers,
Harnessed with level rays in golden reins,
The zebras draw the dawn across the plains
Wading knee-deep among the scarlet flowers.
The sunlight, zithering their flanks with fire,
Flashes between the shadows as they pass
Barred with electric tremors through the grass
Like wind along the gold strings of a lyre.

Into the flushed air snorting rosy plumes
That smoulder round their feet in drifting fumes,
With dove-like voices call the distant fillies,
While round the herd the stallion wheels his flight,
Engine of beauty volted with delight
To roll his mare among the trampled lilies.

The Making of a Poet

In every herd there is some restive steer
Who leaps the cows and heads each hot stampede,
Till the old bulls unite in jealous fear
To hunt him from the pastures where they feed.

Lost in the night he hears the jungles crash
And desperately, lest his courage fail,
Across his hollow flanks with sounding lash
Scourges the heavy whipcord of his tail.

Far from the phalanxes of horns that ward
The sleeping herds he keeps the wolf at bay,
At nightfall by the slinking leopard spoored,
And goaded by the fly-swarm through the day.

The Georgiad (excerpt)

Dinner, most ancient of the Georgian rites,
The noisy prelude of loquacious nights,
At the mere noise of whose unholy gong
The wagging tongue feels resolute and strong,
Senate of bores and parliament of fools,
Where gossip in her native empire rules;
What doleful memories the word suggests -‘
When I have sat like Job among the guests,
Sandwiched between two bores, a hapless prey,
Chained to my chair, and cannot get away,
Longing, without the appetite to eat,
To fill my ears, more than my mouth, with meat,
And stuff my eardrums full of fish and bread
Against the din to wad my dizzy head:
When I have watched each mouthful that they poke
Between their jaws, and praying they might choke,
Found the descending lump but cleared the way
For further anecdotes and more to say.
O Dinners! take my curse upon you all,
But literary dinners most of all . . .

The Serf

His naked skin clothed in the torrid mist
That puffs in smoke around the patient hooves,
The ploughman drives, a slow somnambulist,
And through the green his crimson furrow grooves.
His heart, more deeply than he wounds the plain,
Long by the rasping share of insult torn,
Red clod, to which the war-cry once was rain
And tribal spears the fatal sheaves of corn,
Lies fallow now. But as the turf divides
I see in the slow progress of his strides
Over the toppled clods and falling flowers,
The timeless, surly patience of the serf
That moves the nearest to the naked earth
And ploughs down palaces, and thrones, and towers.

 

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9 Comments

  1. Posted October 2, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    Tacite, Bardèche, Campbell… Bravo !

  2. Greg Johnson
    Posted October 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a job for Wikipedia — for starters.

  3. CompassionateFascist
    Posted October 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I am always on the lookout for new firsthand accounts by HardRight volunteers who fought with Franco against the Red Republic; there were thousands from all over the world, just not organized into organic Brigades like the Red Internationals. A lot of what went on in Spain during the 1930s is coming soon, to a country near U. I wonder if Roy Campbell wrote an Autobio describing his experiences during the Spanish CW? I recently re-read Peter Kemp’s THORNS OF MEMORY, and it is awesome.

    • Drieu
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Many prominent Spanish writers and intellectuals supported Franco. See my comments below.

  4. francis alexander
    Posted October 3, 2011 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Wikipedia is only to give you unessential and therefore unhelpful facts. They represent the point at which the british upper class embraced progressivism and decadent values. They were often discreetly homosexual. Its most famous members were Virginia Woolf and Keynes; the economist.

  5. eugen
    Posted October 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    The popular understanding of the Spanish Civil War has long been dominated by leftists, who have thoroughly romanticized the “Loyalists.” When Franco raised his banner the leaders of the Spanish Republic were in the process of nationalizing the property of the Church, including the churches and the great cathedrals themselves. As soon as Franco began the war the Red Republicans massacred some 5,000 priests and nuns, the latter mostly subjected to the carnal punishments you would expect. Franco was fighting for the West, and it was lucky for us that he won. During the Second World War, incidentally, Franco remained neutral and despite Hitler’s urgent pressure did not permit German troops to cross into Spain to seize Gibraltar.

  6. Drieu
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Contrary to left-wing propaganda, there were many Spanish intellectuals who supported Franco’s side. I’ve managed to sneak most of them on Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_of_the_Spanish_Civil_War#Other

  7. Drieu
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    Some names this site should particularly look into:

    Ramiro de Maeztu (right-wing essayist and philosopher, assassinated by the Reds.)

    Pío Baroja (one of Spain’s greatest novelists, also compiled a book of his articles entitled “Comunistas, judíos y demás ralea” – Communists, Jews and other Riff-Raff)

    Ernesto Giménez Caballero (Falangist as well as one of the first Spanish surrealists.)

    Dionisio Ridruejo (Falangist intellectual and poet.)

    José María Pemán (right-wing dramatist and intellectual. also wrote some anti-semitic poetry.)

    Pedro Muñoz Seca (right-wing dramatist, also assassinated by the Reds.)

    José Martínez Ruiz / Azorín (represented the traditionalist wing of the Generation of 98. )

    José Antonio Maravall (conservative historian)

    Manuel Machado (brother of Antonio, wrote a pro-Franco poem entitled “The Sword of the Caudillo”)

    Pedro Sainz Rodríguez (prominent right-wing intellectual)

    I would suggest that everyone click on the Wiki link above and go through the names.

    • TJ McAllister
      Posted October 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      Can you point me toward some English translations? I put a few of those names into Amazon and it looks like most are untranslated.

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