David Campbell was born at Ellerslie station, near Adelong, New South Wales. He was educated at home, at a preparatory school and at The King's School in Sydney before entering Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1935. Campbell was an outstanding sportsman, especially as a rugby player, representing The King's School, Cambridge and twice for England (against Wales and Ireland). After taking his BA in 1937, Campbell returned to Australia and joined the Royal Australian Air Force, in which he served as a wing-commander until 1945 and was decorated. He then returned to one of his family's properties at Bungendore, N. S. W., where he lived with his wife and two sons.
Campbell was interested in poetry from an early age and published some poems while at Cambridge, but he began to write seriously in the 1940s, publishing many poems in the Bulletin. Many of these poems were included in his first book Speak With the Sun (1949), initiating a long career that saw more than fifteen books published in thirty years. Campbell's occasional use of the ballad form and his concentration on the rural elements around his station often saw him classed as a pastoral poet, but recent estimations have shown how his modernist tendencies produced poetry more complex than that label suggests. This is most obvious in the poetry written during the 1970s.
In 1964 Campbell became poetry editor of The Australian and also edited Australian Poetry 1966 and Modern Australian Poetry (1970).
Campbell's close friends included Patrick White, A. D. Hope, Manning Clark and Rosemary Dobson (qq.v.), friendships that saw him frequently visit nearby Canberra. He edited several volumes, including the 1966 edition of Australian Poetry and two collections of translated Russian poetry. His poetry won several prizes.
David Campbell died in 1979. He was survived by his second wife and his two sons from his first marriage.
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