Monday, May 4, 2020

Charles Sangster

Charles Sangster (1822―1893) is a Canadian poet, born near Kingston, Upper Canada (now Ontario). When his first collection The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay… appeared in 1856, it was considered by many to be the best book of poetry yet published in Canada. He was praised in the London press as “the Wordsworth of Canada.” His second volume Hesperus… followed in 1860, and was considered to be even better.

His life circumstances, however, began to hinder his literary progress. He began to suffer from depression and a nervous disorder. His position with the Post Office Department in Ottawa left him little time for his poetic pursuits ― and both his first wife, and second wife had died, leaving him with three children to raise.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says of him, “By temperament quiet and introspective, Charles Sangster strove for harmony in his relationship with humanity and for spiritual fulfilment in God’s will.”

Henry’s Grave

Standing beside the consecrated mound,
-----That marked the narrow grave wherein he lay,
I thought upon the Trumpet’s welcome sound,
-----That would arouse him in the latter day.

I thought of the young spirit, that had fled
-----Beyond the keenest search of human eye—
Beyond the limits of a world of dread—
-----Beyond the reach of man’s philosophy.

And as I strove to lift the distant veil—
-----To track the spirit in its upward flight—
My mind was awed—my vision seemed to fail,
-----And all became confused as blackest night!

I was an atom of mere mortal mould,
-----Too weak to pierce the depths that soul had trod;
Backward to earth my wandering senses rolled,
-----And my eye rested on the crumbling sod—

Part of myself—poor perishable clay!
-----The child whose corse beneath my feet did lie,
Was, like myself, but mortal, yesterday,
-----And now, a dweller with the blest on high!

Oh! Mystery of Mysteries! Oh, Death!
-----I sit and muse in deep solemnity,
And wonder how the dust that perisheth
-----Must pass to life eternal but through thee!

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection is Ampersand (2018, Cascade). His books are available through Amazon, and Wipf & Stock, including the anthologies The Turning Aside, and Adam, Eve, & the Riders of the Apocalypse.