The Old Enchanter

The Old Enchanter

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The Old Enchanter

A Portrait of George Johnston

Edited by M.I. Cameron, Douglas Campbell, and Gurli Woods

6 X 9 inches, 260 pages

"PLAIN LUCK" is how the poet George Johnston accounts for his appointment to the young Carleton University, soon after his discharge from the R.C.A.F. and service in the Second World War. It was more than luck that kept them together. He was, as he has said, a working academic, "not ornamental." For twenty-nine years, while he was creating some of the truest and brightest poems of our literature, he was a leading scholar of Old Norse and a charismatic teacher and colleague. "He brought such a sense of fresh delight, such spontaneity to Chaucer," writes Robert MacNeil in Wordstruck, "that I caught it like a virus." To those who fell under his spell, he imparted a compelling ideal of clean, unaffected scholarship and a persistent passion for the English language, for what it owes to the speech of ordinary people, and for the literature that is crafted out of it.

The Old Enchanter is a celebration of George Johnston's eighty-fifth birthday by students, colleagues, and friends. It is a miscellany, containing poems, essays (academic and otherwise), and a collective reminiscence of his years in Ottawa. It is headed by his own account of the trip he made by bicycle through the Germany of 1936. The poems come from poets who have been touched in different ways by his presence. The essays have to do with his poetry and various of his enthusiams—Old-English and Old-Norse literature, translation, spoken English, popular narrative and popular culture, poetry in time of war, life on the shore of the North Atlantic.

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