Roy Campbell (poet) : biography

2 October 1901 - 22 April 1957

According to Tolkien, Lewis' hostility to Campbell was grounded in residual Anti-Catholicism from his upbringing in Northern Ireland. But hatred of our church is after all the real only final foundation of the C[hurch] of E[ngland] — so deep laid that it remains even when all the superstructure seems removed (C.S.L. for instance reveres the Blessed Sacrament, and admires nuns!). Yet if a Lutheran is put in jail he is up in arms; but if Catholic priests are slaughtered — he disbelieves it (and I daresay really thinks they asked for it). In the aftermath, Campbell joined Tolkien and Lewis at several meetings of the Inklings at The Eagle and Child.

Literary style

Much of Campbell's verse was satirical in heroic couplets, a form otherwise rare in 20th-century English verse. Rhymed verse was generally his favoured medium. One modern assessment of his poetry is that "he was vigorous in all he wrote, but not distinctly original."The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature, Bloomsbury: 1989

This is Campbell celebrating fertility and sexuality, in Anadyomene (1924):

Maternal Earth stirs redly from beneath
Her blue sea-blanket and her quilt of sky,
A giant Anadyomene from the sheath
And chrysalis of darkness; till we spy
Her vast barbaric haunches, furred with trees,
Stretched on the continents, and see her hair
Combed in a surf of fire along the breeze
To curl about the dim sierras, where
Faint snow-peaks catch the sun's far-swivelled beams:
And, tinder to his rays, the mountain-streams
Kindle, and volleying with a thunderstroke
Out of their roaring gullies, burst in smoke
To shred themselves as fine as women's hair,
And hoop gay rainbows on the sunlit air.

On the subject of nature, Campbell could produce poetry such as this in his The Zebras (1931):

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 herds the stallion wheels his flight,
Engine of beauty volted with delight,
To roll his mare among the trampled lilies.

Early life

Roy Campbell was born in Durban, Colony of Natal, the fourth child of Dr. Samuel George Campbell, who was the son of Ulster Scots parents, and of his wife Margaret, daughter of James Dunnachie of Glenboig, Lanarkshire, who had married Jean Hendry of Eaglesham.The Dictionary of National Biography Educated at Durban High School, he counted literature and the outdoor life among his first loves. Campbell, an accomplished horseman and fisherman, became fluent in Zulu. He left the Union of South Africa in December 1918, being sent to Oxford University, where he arrived early in 1919. However, he failed the entrance examination.Joseph Pearce: Unafraid of Virginia Woolf (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware: 2004), pp. 26, 33-34 Reporting this to his father, he took a philosophical stance, telling him that "university lectures interfere very much with my work", which was writing poetry. His verse-writing was stimulated by avid readings in Nietzsche, Darwin, and the English Elizabethan and Romantic poets. Among his early fruitful contacts were William Walton, the Sitwells, and Wyndham Lewis. Campbell wrote verse imitations of T. S. Eliot and Paul Verlaine. He also began to drink heavily, and continued to do so for the rest of his life.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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