Go to Knowledge4Africa.com

Roy Campbell


More challenging questions!

Lorraine Knickelbein
Updated: 18 January 2014
Contact the English4Africa Subject Coordinator

It is with great sadness that we have to announce that the creator of Knowledge4Africa, Dr T., has passed away. Helping people through his website gave him no end of pleasure. If you had contact with him and would like to leave a message, please send us an e-mail here.


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,
Winter, the paragon of art,
That kills all forms of life and feeling
Save what is pure and will survive."
  • Examine the PARADOX in this first stanza. (6)

[Need help?]

"And the dark pines, their own revealing,
Let in the needles of the noon."
  • Identify the figures of speech in these two lines and discuss their contribution to the poem as a whole. (5)

[Need help?]

"Stripped are the great sun-clouding planes."
  • Discuss the effectiveness of the METAPHOR in the above line. (3)

[Need help?]

"Strained by the gale the olives whiten
like hoary wrestlers bent with toil."
  • Explain why Campbell has used this comparison. (4)

[Need help?]

"To brim our vats where summer lingers."
  • The word "brim" is NOT often used in association with autumn. Explain why not. Why has Campbell chosen to use this word. (4)

[Need help?]

"Soon on our hearth's reviving pyre
Their rotted stems will crumble up."
  • Discuss how the comparison of the fire to a "pyre" reveals Campbell's attitude towards autumn. (4)

[Need help?]

"Soon on our hearth's reviving pyre"
  • By considering the connotations, comment on Campbell's decision to use the word "hearth". (4)

[Need help?]

"And like a ruby, panting fire,
The grape will redden on your fingers
Through the lit crystal of the cup."
  • Comment on the effectiveness of the SIMILE and the PERSONIFICATION. (6)

[Need help?]

"Soon on our hearth's reviving pyre
Their rotted stems will crumble up:
And like a ruby, panting fire,
The grape will redden on your fingers
Through the lit crystal of the cup."
  • Identify the mood of this last stanza and discuss how Campbell has succeeded in achieving it. (6)

[Need help?]

Each stanza in this poem contains a contrast. Discuss Campbell's reasons for using this structure. (5)

[Need help?]

Try another worksheet?

See also:
This document is copyrighted. No part of it may be reproduced in any form whatever without explicit permission in writing from the author. The sole exception is for educational institutions which may wish to reproduce it as a handout for their students.

Contact the English4Africa Subject Coordinator