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Roy Campbell


Easier questions to cut your teeth on!

Lorraine Knickelbein
Updated: 18 January 2014
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Campbell's poem is a tribute to autumn and winter as a time, not of death, but of purifying and transformation.

He looks forward to the migrating of the geese, seeing the trees lose their leaves and enjoying olive oil and wine, the fruits of summer, in front of a fire made of the dead branches of the olive trees and vines.


Roy Campbell was born in Durban in 1901 and was at one stage considered to be one of South Africa's best poets. His popularity, however, has waned in recent years so that today his poetry is hardly ever read.

Educated at Durban High School, he spent much of his youth in the great outdoors -- something that is reflected in many of his poems like "The Zebras" and "Autumn". As soon as the Great War was over, however, he moved to England where he attended Oxford University.

He married Mary Garman, a marriage which did not carry his parents' consent and therefore meant that, for a time at least, Campbell was struck off from his inheritance. He had two daughters by this marriage.

In 1925, he returned to South Africa and founded a literary magazine called Voorslag which was meant to promote cultural development amongst the Afrikaners whom the poet regarded as backward and uncouth.

Very soon disillusionment set in, however, and he returned to England. His disillusionment continued even there as he fell foul of his own fellow poets because of the many rude things he said about them in his poems -- and even of his wife whom he found was not averse to lesbian affairs.

During the early 1930s he settled in the Provence region of France -- the scene for one of his greatest poems, "Horses on the Camargue". During this time he was slowly drawn to Catholicism and drunkenness.

In the mid-1930s, due to a loss in a civil lawsuit, the Campbell family fled to Spain where the poet became an avid supporter of the fascist dictator, General Franco.

He also supported Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini. This support saw the poet's reputation slump even further amongst his literary colleagues.

When World War II broke out, the poet moved back to England and enlisted for military duty. It was during those years that he became close friends with the Welsh poet and fellow drunkard, Dylan Thomas.

After the war, the poet returned to the Iberian Peninsula but this time settled in Portugal. He died in a car accident over the Easter weekend of 1957.

Have you looked at the questions
in the right column?
Read the left column and then answer
the following questions:

"I love to see, when leaves depart,
The clear anatomy arrive."
  • Identify the figures of speech in these two lines and state what the poet particularly enjoys about autumn. (4)

[Need help?]

"Winter, the paragon of art,
That kills all forms of life and feeling
Save what is pure and will survive."
  • The poet bestows high praise on autumn. Quote the phrase which conveys this praise. Explain also what Campbell is saying about autumn. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Campbell admits that winter "kills all forms of life and feeling". Yet he does not regard this as a negative aspect of winter. Explain why not. (4)

[Need help?]

"Save what is pure and will survive."
  • Comment on the reason for the inclusion of the words "will survive". (4)

[Need help?]

"Already now the clanging chains
Of geese are harnessed to the moon."
  • Identify an example of ONOMATOPOEIA and explain its effect. (4)

[Need help?]

  • Explain the effectiveness of the METAPHOR contained in these lines. (4)

[Need help?]

"Stripped are the great sun-clouding planes."
  • Although "stripped" has a negative connotation, the overall effect of this line is positive. Discuss these positive and negative aspects. (4)

[Need help?]

"Strained by the gale the olives whiten
Like hoary wrestlers bent with toil."
  • Account for the poet's use of the word "hoary". (2)

[Need help?]

"To brim our vats where summer lingers."
  • How is summer able to "linger" into autumn? (4)

[Need help?]

"Strained by the gale the olives whiten
Like hoary wrestlers bent with toil
And, with the vines, their branches lighten
To brim our vats where summer lingers
In the red froth and sun-gold oil."
  • This stanza also has a contrast between positive and negative. Discuss these contrasting aspects of the stanza. (3)

[Need help?]

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