Archibald Lampman

Archibald Lampman: Memory, Nature, Progress

Eric Ball
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Archibald Lampman
    Book Description:

    Treasuring the past, savouring the present, and wanting to do right by the future, Archibald Lampman was a poet keenly focused on the workings of time. He was also a thinker of mystical predisposition. His goal was not to transcend time, but to find redemptive meaning within it. Archibald Lampman: Memory, Nature, Progress explores the ways in which Lampman pursued this goal in relation to the three faces of time. Memory fascinated Lampman. He relished the “alchemy” by which the dross of past experience could be left behind and the gold preserved. Nature compelled his mind and emotions, and his clear-eyed observations of both countryside and wilderness settings gave rise to a self-evolved poetics of inclusiveness. In his celebrations of nature in all its manifestations, mild or bleak, he anticipated the work of iconic Canadian painter Tom Thomson and he forecasted the environmentalism of our own time. Progress for Lampman spelled societal rectification. By forwarding the cause of social betterment, one was part of a movement larger than oneself, and this expansion, too, was redemptive. Archibald Lampman: Memory, Nature, Progress is the first book on this foundational figure in Canadian literature to appear in over twenty-five years and the first thematically focused study. Combining close analysis with biographical context, it shows how Lampman’s oeuvre was shaped by his responses to his physical surroundings and to his social-intellectual milieu, as filtered through his stubbornly independent outlook.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8860-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    Born in Morpeth, Ontario, on 17 November 1861 and a resident of Ottawa all his adult life, Archibald Lampman would not live to see the fireworks go off above the government buildings to usher in the brave new century. He died of heart disease complicated by pneumonia on 10 February 1899, leaving a wife and two children (a third had died in infancy). In that short life, inspired by the beauty of nature in all its multiple manifestations and by the cause of progressive social change, he had created a body of work that garnered him a lasting reputation as...

  5. MEMORY: Alchemy in the Imagination
    • CHAPTER 1 The Workings of Memory
      (pp. 27-40)

      Lampman was a poet preoccupied with states of consciousness in relation to time.

      In his nature poems he demonstrates what it means to be at peace with the here and now, either by “tuning out” other thoughts and focusing intently on the present scene or simply by relaxing and letting his mind wander freely. In his poems on social-political issues, he explores the effects of serving a cause that is greater than oneself – the progress of humanity toward a more enlightened state of being in the future. These two themes, nature and progress, have to do with seeking fulfillment...

    • CHAPTER 2 Winter and Memory
      (pp. 41-56)

      So far in this discussion of the memory theme, I have omitted any consideration of seasonal poems, apart from “April,” in order to show that Lampman’s thinking on this subject is not tied to his interpretation of nature. It is the case, however, that in the context of the annual cycle of seasons – the most important image in Lampman’s oeuvre – memory is often associated with winter. Typically the speaker sees winter, frigid and severe, as a time to dip into his “store” of memories garnered from the other seasons, or even from winter itself since winter has its...

  6. NATURE: The Full Furnace
    • CHAPTER 3 Beauty in Nature: Theory and Poetic Practice
      (pp. 59-84)

      In 1883, after graduating with a b.a. in classics from Trinity College, Toronto, and following a short-lived career as schoolmaster in Orangeville, Ontario, Lampman arrived in Ottawa. With the help of Archibald Campbell, a college friend whose father, Sir Alexander Campbell, was postmaster general of Canada, he had secured an appointment as a clerk in the Post Office department, where he remained employed for the rest of his life.¹ Lampman frequently complained about the drudgery of this job, the low pay, and the time restrictions it imposed on him, but there were advantages to his situation. He had no after-hours...

    • CHAPTER 4 Discovering the Wilderness
      (pp. 85-96)

      In his introduction to Lyrics of Earth: Sonnets and Ballads, the Lampman selection he edited in 1925, Scott makes reference to a canoe trip taken by the two friends in the spring of 1886 on the River Lièvre in the Gatineau Hills.¹ This was Lampman’s first foray into a wilderness environment. Two of the three poems that, according to Scott, derive from this experience – “Morning on the Lièvre” and “A Dawn on the Lièvre” – stand out, by their finely realized evocations of place, as heralding the productive encounter between artist and favoured subject. These poems are largely descriptive...

    • CHAPTER 5 Heat and Cold: An Inclusive Vision
      (pp. 97-122)

      Lampman believed that, through memory, experience is transformed so that even negative occurrences can be seen in a positive light, owing to the workings of “an alchemy in the imagination which can brew pleasure out of the most unpromising material.”¹ At first this idea seems merely delusional, but if it is understood to mean that, from a removed perspective, one can clarify experience, then it appears much more in tune with the way in which, as we reflect, we process information. In retrospect, we can appreciate the positive aspects of events that may have seemed compromised, or that were obscured,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Lyrics of Earth: Genesis, Design, Meaning
      (pp. 123-161)

      Over the years and months leading up to the publication of Among the Millet, Lampman was gradually evolving his perspective on nature. As the number of nature poems expanded, the most characteristic feature to emerge was the catholicity of his vision, embracing a broad range of seasonal settings and climatic conditions. Gradually this inclusiveness began to take hold as a conscious philosophy, giving rise to poems such as “Heat” and the sonnet “In November,” where the benefits of natural-world observation in unlikely settings or under inhospitable conditions are extolled and the irony made explicit. In the wake of the success...

    • CHAPTER 7 Later Nature Poems
      (pp. 162-194)

      What the nature poems examined so far reveal is that central to Lampman’s depiction of nature, and fundamental to the meaning of the sequence in Lyrics of Earth, is the simple idea that nature is pervaded by beauty despite change, along with the complementary notion that the restorative effects of contact with nature can be experienced throughout the annual cycle. In presenting these ideas, Lampman does not downplay or disguise the severity of extreme conditions. The strength of his “And yet to me” at the end of “Heat” depends precisely on the success with which the oppressive heat of the...

  7. PROGRESS: Through Lapse and Strife
    • CHAPTER 8 Ideas of Progress
      (pp. 197-217)

      “Archibald Lampman’s greatest gift to us,” wrote Duncan Campbell Scott in 1943, “is his interpretation of nature in its varied aspects, from the gentleness of spring flowers to the wildness of winter storms.” But this was not his only gift: “He had other powers, for he was greatly interested in men and affairs; he has said some memorable things about life and has made plain what was his ideal for the good life. It is no disparagement to say that he was first of all the poet of nature and there is no derogation of that finest of his powers...

    • CHAPTER 9 Poems of Progress
      (pp. 218-265)

      It is sometimes argued that Lampman’s retreat to nature and his progressivist outlook constitute what L.R. Early has called “one of the deepest rifts in his imagination,” compromising the integrity of his work overall.¹ This view would appear to rest on two assumptions: first, that natural-world primitivism cannot be squared with evolutionary idealism, and second, that a progressivist must take the view that everything will always improve regardless of what people may do to advance or impede the process. These assumptions, I suggest, are not a good fit for the progressivism we encounter in Lampman. Nevertheless, in turning now to...

    • CHAPTER 10 Heroic Visionaries of Future Progress
      (pp. 266-288)

      Two social-political poems that do not employ the rousing language of “Liberty” and “The Modern Politician” but that nevertheless reflect Lampman’s radical social conscience are the narrative-descriptive “Sebastian” and what Lampman called his “small novel in blank verse,” The Story of an Affinity.¹ These are both character-focused works featuring descriptive realism in an overtly Canadian setting within which socially aware main characters are seen to be readying themselves for significant, though unspecified, involvement in the struggle for societal transformation. If ever the future ideal envisioned by Lampman’s progressivist philosophy is to be realized, these poems suggest, the social movement sparking...

  8. APPENDIX A Index of Poems in The Poems of Archibald Lampman (including At the Long Sault)
    (pp. 289-293)
  9. APPENDIX B Table of Contents of “Afoot with the Year” and Lyrics of Earth
    (pp. 294-296)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 297-338)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 339-352)
  12. Index
    (pp. 353-365)