William Wilfred Campbell (1860-1918) was one of the “Confederation Poets”, a literary circle that included Archibald Lampman. Campbell, who is buried in Ottawa’s Beechwood Cemetery, wrote the poem, “A Mid-Winter Night’s Dream,” that is included here. First-prize winner of the Atlantic Voices 2013 composition contest, Elise Letourneau, produced a choral setting of Campbell’s poem for Atlantic Voices’ Winter Concert in 2015.
A Mid-Winter Night’s Dream
The snows outside are white and white;
The gusty flue shouts through the night;
And by the lonely chimney light
I sit and dream of Summer.
The orchard bough creeks in the blast,
That like a ghost goes shrieking past,
And coals are dying fast and fast,
But still I dream of Summer.
‘Tis not the voice of falling rain,
Or dream wind-blown through latticed pane,
When earth will laugh in green again,
That makes me dream of Summer.
But hopes will then have backward flown,
Like fleets of promise, long outblown,
And love once more will greet his own,
This is my dream of Summer.
Note how the poem captures the chill of mid-winter such as we recently experienced from the polar air that descended upon us on February 2 and 3, as well as the imagined warmth of summer.
Campbell spent several years as an Anglican rector, in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. While living there, he published Lake Lyrics that included the above poem.
Before the pandemic, when travelling alone, my preferred method was by public transit. A senior’s bus pass is inexpensive. It allows you to explore the city, find interesting paths to walk, and visit various sites. I also found this a relaxing way of getting around.
On one of these excursions, after walking several kilometers along Richmond Road, I decided to board a bus at Roosevelt Avenue and Richmond Road. Tubman’s Funeral Home is located at the intersection. Outside, behind the bus shelter, is one of those raised flower beds. In front of this is a spreading juniper bush.
Noticing waves of starlings flying into the sheltered bush, I paused to observe and to listen to their happy singing. So enthralled was I by the unexpected concert of bird song, I didn’t even notice the bus sail by. I didn’t regret it, however, since it was a late May morning after a night of rainfall. The air was fresh and warm. I was afforded an extra 15 minutes of bird song.
While on my walk, I had passed by St. James Anglican Church, a detail which I included in the first draft of a poem. However, I realized that the image going through my mind was of the Anglican Church on the hill near the chemical plant in Buckingham. It then became “the church on the hill.”
After the rainfall, the hedgerow comes alive
As starlings sing out to a warm rising sun
Fresh scent of earth after last evening’s shower
Thus, this new day has begun.
Eavestroughs yet trickle a wee stream of water
Silver beads sparkle on fences and leaves
See how the garden seedlings have sprouted
As starlings, we sing our praises for these.
From the church on the hill, the hymnals have opened
Praising God from whom all blessings flow
Then on the wings that sweep from the hedgerow
Straight up to heaven our praises will go.