Friday, October 4, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

The Red Hawk

By David Campbell (1915 - 1979)

The red hawk hangs upon the wind
And the wind strips the ridges bare:
All things go with it but the mind
That rides at peace in hurrying air,

And in the silence finds its voice,
Leaving like larks its songs behind:
The tempests come, they keep their poise;
The seasons change and they are there.

Blow then, and strip these blonding plains,
These delicate round hills. The blind
Are murderous, yet the hawk remains
And all of time in his still stare.

David Campbell, sometimes known as 'the farmer poet' (which he was), had a gift for capturing Australian rural landscapes. Many people loved his poetry for exactly that reason. Being an Aussie myself, it's certainly enough reason for me to love his work, and to wish I could have written this.

But his pastoral poems are not just simple descriptions, beautiful though they are in that respect. There's a keen and questing mind behind them, and he always leaves one with a sense of something profound underlying the words.

His subject matter was not always the countryside. He also wrote about love and war, birth and death, and particular people — but nature usually found its way into these poems too, often metaphorically. In later life his writing became more experimental, but I think of his mastery of rhyme and metre as typical. You can find all his poems at The Australian Poetry Library.

The link on his name above leads you to the Wikipedia article, or there is a more detailed account of his literary career at The Australian Poetry Library.

He was a man's man: a decorated war hero (a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force), a keen fisherman, a golfer, polo player and boxer. He also liked to paint. He graduated Bachelor of Arts from Cambridge University, was poetry editor of The Australian newspaper for a time, and sat on the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. He was a prolific poet who won many awards, and he also published a volume of short stories. A posthumous volume of letters between him and fellow poet Douglas Stewart was published as Letters Lifted Into Poetry.

(If you Google, you may come across another Australian poet called David Campbell, a very good 'bush poet', but you can tell the difference by the fact that that one did not die in 1979 but apparently is still going strong.)

P.S. What a  beautiful form this poem is in, isn't it? Such a distinctive rhyme scheme. It seems as if it should be one of the classic forms but I can't find it. Does anyone else recognise it? Or did he, perhaps, create it?

Any poem or photo used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remains the property of the copyright holder (usually its author).


  1. really enjoyed this... I didn't know this poet so I have somebody new to explore....

  2. Another stellar poet, Rosemary! Thanks so much. I LOVE this poem, especially the red hawk and the wind that "strips the ridges bare". I can see those carved cliffs from that phrase. Wonderful poet!

  3. Very fine, indeed. All time in the hawk's eye ...

  4. This is a beautiful share this week, Rosemary. He really does show the strength of the hawk here, I think.

  5. So glad to have introduced him to you.

    I have just added a P.S. to the article, to enquire if anyone recognises the form. It may have been Campbell's own creation.

  6. What a wonderful choice, thank you.

  7. thanks for sharing this poem, Rosemary. I enjoyed reading it. :)


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