Roy Campbell (poet) : biography
Ignatius Royston Dunnachie Campbell, better known as Roy Campbell, (2 October 1901 – 23 April 1957) was a South African poet and satirist. He was considered by T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas and Edith Sitwell to have been one of the best poets of the period between the First and Second World Wars. Campbell's vocal attacks upon the Marxism and Freudianism popular among the British intelligentsia caused him to be a controversial figure during his own lifetime. It has been suggested by some critics and his daughters in their memoirs that his support for Francisco Franco's Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War has caused him to be labelled politically incorrect and blacklisted from modern poetry anthologies.Joseph Pearce, "Introduction," in Roy Campbell: Selected Poems (London: Saint Austin Press, 2001), xxv
In 2009, Roger Scruton wrote, "Campbell wrote vigorous rhyming pentameters, into which he instilled the most prodigious array of images and the most intoxicating draft of life of any poet of the 20th century... He was also a swashbuckling adventurer and a dreamer of dreams. And his life and writings contain so many lessons about the British experience in the 20th century that it is worth revisiting them".
Post-war life and works
For many years, Campbell worked at the BBC and remained a fixture. During a poetry recitation by the communist Stephen Spender, Campbell stormed the stage and punched him. However, Spender refused to press charges, saying, "He is a great poet… We must try to understand."Peter Alexander, Roy Campbell: A Critical Biography, 214; Joseph Pearce, Unafraid of Virginia Woolf: The Friends and Enemies of Roy Campbell, 377; Parsons, D. S. J. Roy Campbell: A Descriptive and Annotated Bibliography with Notes on Unpublished Sources, New York: Garland Pub, 1981, 155. Spender later broke with the Communist Party of Great Britain and presented Campbell with the 1952 Foyle Prize for his verse translations of St. John of the Cross.Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), p. 397.
In 1952, the Campbells moved to Portugal. Although Estado Novo was not Fascist, emigrating to it after the War further contributed to Campbell's bad reputation among the British intelligentsia. Ironically, the regime of António de Oliveira Salazar was by then far more to Campbell's tastes than Franco's Spain, which was compromised in his mind by an intimate collaboration with Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. In Portugal, he wrote a new version of his autobiography, Light on a Dark Horse. In 1953 he embarked on a lecture tour of Canada and the United States. Organized by the Canadian poet and editor John Sutherland, the tour was largely a success, though not without attacks on Campbell's "Fascistic opinions."The Letters of John Sutherland, Bruce Whiteman, ed. (Toronto: ECW Press, 1992), p. 285. During the 1950s, Campbell was also a contributor to The European, a magazine published in France and edited by Diana Mosley. The European could also boast contributions from Ezra Pound and Henry Williamson.The Daily Telegraph, obituary of Lady Mosley, 13 Aug. 2003.
Campbell's conversion to Catholicism inspired him to write what some consider to be the finest spiritual verse of his generation. Campbell's translations of the Catholic mystical poetry by St. John of the Cross were lavishly praised by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, who considered them, in some ways, superior to the original Spanish.Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse, Harvard University Press, 2000. Pages 64-65. Campbell also wrote travel guides and children's literature. He began translating poetry from languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Among the poets he translated were Francisco de Quevedo, Fernando Pessoa, Manuel Bandeira and Ruben Dario. Some of Campbell's translations of the symbolist verse of Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud have appeared in modern anthologies.
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