Verse > Anthologies > William Wilfred Campbell, ed. > The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse
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William Wilfred Campbell, comp.  The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse.  1913.
 
The Tragedy of Man
By William Wilfred Campbell (1861–1918)
 
LONG, long ago;
  Ere these material days;
Ere man learned o’er much for the golden glow
  Of Love’s divine amaze;
Ere faith was slain; there came to this sad earth        5
  A high, immortal being of source divine,
And mingling with the upward climbing life,
  Like crystal water in some fevered wine,
Wakened in one red blood mysterious strife,
  Knowledge of good and ill, and that sad birth        10
  Of splendour and woe for all who yearn and pine.
 
And this is why,
  Down in the craving, remorseful human heart
There doth remain a dream that will not die,
  An unassuagèd hunger, that o’er the smart        15
Of sorrow and shame and travail, clamours eterne
For some high goal, some vision of being superne,
  Life doth not grant, earth doth not satisfy.
 
This is the secret of the heart of man
  And his sad tragedy; his godlike powers;        20
His summer of vastness, and the wintry ban
  Of all his greatness high which deity dowers,
Sunk to the yearnings of goat-footed Pan;
Hinted of Shakespeare and that mighty clan
Of earth’s high prophets, who in their brief day,        25
  Holding the glory of the god in them,
Though chained to cravings of the lesser clay,
  Dreamed earth’s high dreams, and wore love’s diadem.
 
Yea, this is why,
  Through all earth’s travail and joy, her seasons brief        30
Through all her beauty and genius that will not die,
  Surges a mighty grief,
Mingling with our heart’s best piety;—
  A sadness, dread, divine,
  Lifting us beyond the pagan wine        35
And dance of life,
The satyr clamour and strife,
  Unto a dream of being, a yearning flame
  Of that heredity whence our sorrowings came.
 
 
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