Literary Sites and Cultural Properties
A minor but engaging sub-genre of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writing is the literary site piece. Usually in lyric form, a writer describes a visit to a physical place associated with a deceased author, expressing in the process a sense of personal admiration and, implicitly, literary and cultural continuity. Well-known poems in the sub-genre include Wordsworth’s Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott (Yarrow) series; less familiar ones are Keats’s "On Visiting the Tomb of Burns," "Sonnet Written in the Cottage where Burns Was Born," and "Lines Written in the Highlands after a Visit to Burns Country" and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s sonnets "On the Site of a Mulberry Tree / Planted by Wm. Shakespeare; felled by the Rev. F. Gaskell" and "William Blake (To Frederick Shields, on his sketch of Blake’s work room and death-room, 3 Fountain Court, Strand)." Of course, the psychological theory that underwrites most such pieces in the post-Romantic tradition is associationism: an antecedent author’s known presence at a particular place "make[s] it sacred" (Samuel 290) or, in Henri Lefebvre’s terms, endows the site with "an affective kernel or centre"—a cluster of associations contingent upon a "sense of what happened [there]…and thereby changed it" (42, 37).1 In such "[r]epresentational spaces," suggests Lefebvre, a place is simultaneously "present" in its "actuality" and as a "script" of past "associations and connections" (37). An examination of the literary site pieces written in Canada during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reveals a persistent yearning on the part of Canadian writers to connect themselves and their landscapes with the British literary tradition, particularly with the second generation of romantic poets—Shelley, Keats, and Thomas Moore.
Needless to say, Moore’s presence in this brief list stems from the fact that he was the only Romantic poet of any stature and reputation who actually visited Canada. While travelling from Niagara to Halifax in the late summer of 1804, Moore visited and described several locales on the Great-Lakes-St. Lawrence system, two of which became literary sites of major significance for later Canadian writers: the "‘little wood’"in Upper Canada that evidently inspired "Ballad Stanzas," and the picturesque stretch of the St. Lawrence above Montreal where, with a little help from Isaac Weld’s Travels, Alexander Mackenzie’s Voyages, and Thomas Gray’s "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," he located "A Canadian Boat Song." Apparently Moore composed this song "to an air which…[the] boatmen sung…frequently" during his voyage down the St. Lawrence from Kingston to Montreal, and he asks the reader to imagine it being "sung by th[e] voyageurs who go to the Grand Portage by the Utawas River":
An indication of the success of "A Canadian Boat Song" in planting an "affective kernel" at St. Ann’s Rapids can be gleaned from Basil Hall’s observation on visiting the site in 1827 that "it…[was] difficult to say how much" of his response was due to "the magic" of Moore’s poem and "how much to the beauty of the real scene"(1:199). Perhaps with an eye on Hall’s Travels as well as Moore’s poem, Catharine Parr Traill records that as she ascended the St. Lawrence in 1832 "the island of St. Anne’s" brought "to…mind…Moore’s Canadian boat song: ‘We’ll sing at St. Anne’s our parting hymn’" (46).2
The most extended and eloquent response to St. Anne’s Rapids as a literary site came from Charles Sangster after he had visited the spot in August, 1853. By that time, the Rapids had been bypassed by a set of locks, with physical consequences that, for Sangster, had almost destroyed their "affective kernel":
I expected to see the Rapid (St. Anne’s)
which Moore had immortalized in his "Canadian Boat Song,"
somewhat deserving the honor with which Erin’s gifted Bard has covered
it; but I was sadly mistaken, and found that my imagination had been
indulging itself too freely. At the present time it is a mere ripple; at
the best of times not to be compared with the meanest of the many Rapids
on the St. Lawrence. What it may have been when the brilliant author of
"Lalla Rookh" condescended to elevate it into classic ground,3
I cannot tell, but I fancy that many tourists, approaching the Rapid
with book in hand, their eyes upon the page, and their lips humming the
beautiful air to which the words of the "Boat Song" have been
wedded, have felt very much as if they had been hoaxed….
Notwithstanding this, the ground is sacred, one of the "green spots
upon memory’s waste" dedicate to Moore, and it will continue
such, though the stream were dried to-morrow, and nothing but the
pebbles at the bottom remained to mark the spot. Peace be to thy manes,
Tom Moore! would there were others like thee to fling their classic
verse broadcast over the many Isles of Beauty and nooks of fairy
loveliness with which Canada is strewn.
Whatever its present condition, St. Anne’s Rapid connects Sangster to Moore, allowing him to address the Irish poet’s spirit ("manes") with cheery familiarity and, as important, permitting him to envisage his own poetry as part of a continuity of "classic verse" in Canada. A little over two years after describing St. Anne’s Rapid, Sangster would celebrate the Thousand Islands, Les Éboulements, and other Canadian "Isles of Beauty and nooks of fairy loveliness" in the self-consciously "classic verse" of The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, and Other Poems (1856), a volume that was recognized at the time as a poetic companion for tourists visiting the picturesque, historical, and sublime sights of central Canada. That Sangster considered himself Moore’s heir in elevating Canadian sites to "classic ground" is further and almost paradoxically indicated by the fact that St. Anne’s Rapid is not among "the many Rapids on the St. Lawrence" that are mentioned in passing in The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay and described at length in the supplementary stanzas for the poem that he began to publish in the eighteen sixties (see Bentley ed. 133-47). As is the case with most, if not all, Canadian writers, Sangster wanted to replicate a major writer’s achievement but in and for a different locale or theme.
Two years after the publication of The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, the association of St. Anne’s Rapid with Moore was made the subject of a poem by the writer who has been described as "the chief orator and literary man…among the founding ‘Fathers of Confederation’": Thomas D’Arcy McGee (Klinck, "Literary Activity in Canada East and West, 1841-1880" 155). Before coming to Montreal by way of the United States in 1857, McGee was associated in the late eighteen forties with "Young Ireland," a group of Irish nationalists who followed Johann Gottfried Herder, Friedrich von Schlegel and other German Romantic philosophers and critics in regarding literature and, especially, epics and ballads as an essential ingredient of national consciousness and cohesion. As Schlegel puts it in his Lectures on the History of Literature, Ancient and Modern (1815; trans. 1818), "[t]here is nothing so necessary…to the whole intellectual existence of a nation, as the possession of a plentiful store of those national recollections and associations…which it forms the great object of the poetical art to perpetuate and adorn….[W]hen a people are exalted in their feelings and ennobled in their own estimation, by the consciousness…that they have a national poetry…we are willing to acknowledge that their pride is reasonable, and they are raised in our eyes by the same circumstances which gave them elevation in their own" (9).4
Almost immediately after settling in Montreal in 1857, McGee began adapting such ideas to Canada. "Every country, every nationality, every people, must create and foster a National Literature, if it is their wish to preserve a distinct individuality from other nations," he argued in the April 24, 1858 issue of his newspaper, The New Era (1857-1858), adding that "[t]here is a glorious field upon which to work for the formation of…[a Canadian] National Literature. It must assume the gorgeous coloring and the gloomy grandeur of the forest. It must partake of the grave mysticism of the Red Man, and the wild vivacity of the hunter of [the] western prairies. Its lyrics must possess the ringing cadence of the waterfall, and its epics be as solemn and beautiful as our great rivers. We have the materials [and] our position is favorable [for] northern latitudes like ours have ever been famed for the strength, variety and beauty of their literature" (). Less than a year later, in December 1858, McGee published Canadian Ballads, a volume dedicated to his Young Ireland colleague Charles Gavan Duffy in "memory of Old Times" and presented "to the younger generation of Canadians" in the belief "[t]hat we shall one day be a great northern nation, and develope [sic] within ourselves that best fruit of nationality, a new and lasting literature (7). "It is…glorious to die in battle in defence of our homes or alters," continues McGee in his Preface, "but not less glorious is it to live to celebrate the virtues of our heroic countrymen, to adorn the history, or to preserve the traditions of our country. From Homer’s age to that of Scott, Moore, and [Pierre-Jean de] Béranger, Patriotism has been the passion of the noblest succession of sweet singers the world ever saw—and the civic virtue they celebrated has, in turn, immortalized their own names" (8).
The "civic virtue…celebrated" in Canadian Ballads has immortalized McGee less as a "sweet singer" than as a Father of Confederation and as the victim of an assassin’s bullet in Ottawa on April 8, 1868.5 Nevertheless, McGee’s ballads, "especially ‘Sebastian Cabot to His Lady,’ ‘Jacques Cartier,’ ‘The Arctic Indian’s Faith’ and ‘Our Ladye of the Snow,’" "became immediate…favourites" among Canadian readers and were much imitated by other writers, particularly Irish Montrealers such as George Murray and Rosanna (Mullins) Leprohon (Klinck, "Literary Activity in Canada East and West, 1841-1880" 156-57; and see O’Donnell). As significant as any of the pieces in Canadian Ballads (and, arguably, in the commemorative collection of McGee’s Poems that was published in Montreal a year after his death) is "Thomas Moore at St. Anne’s," a brief treatment of the poet’s visit to Canada that uses his response to the "glorious song" of the St. Lawrence and its "boatm[e]n" to make the point that Canadian poets do indeed possess "a glorious field upon which to work for the formation of…[a] National Literature":
Just as the "Laurel" (or, more accurately, the Kalmia) whose leaves and branches are emblematic of literary accomplishment "loves the North" so—to quote again from McGee’s article in The New Era— "northern latitudes" contain an abundance of "materials" to inspire a "National Literature," one very specific one being, as McGee explains in a note, the "particular spot" where by 1857-58 Moore was supposed to have "composed his well-known ‘Canadian Boat-Song" (Canadian Ballads 63).6 For McGee, as, implicitly, for Sangster, a site associated with an esteemed poet and poem was a source of inspiration as well as an object of veneration—a token of the capacity of Canadian "materials" to generate accomplished poetry, not only in the past, but also in the present and the future. What had been done by a poet in Canada could surely be done again by a Canadian poet.
But what of the countless places in Canada that, unlike St. Anne’s Rapid, bore no known literary associations? Were such associations creatively necessary and, if so, were there ways of compensating for their absence? These questions were far from meaningless to nineteenth-century Canadian writers, and their answers are far from devoid of ingenuity and interest. Canada is "‘the most unpoetical of lands,’" proclaims Traill’s friend and possible alter ego in The Backwoods of Canada; "‘there is no scope for imagination…no recollections of former deeds connected with the country. The only beings…[of] any interest are the Indians’" (154). True, concedes Traill, but this will not trouble "the unlettered and industrious labourers and artisans" for whom Canada is "so admirably adapted…. They feel no regret that the land they labour on has not yet been celebrated by the pen of the historian or the lay of the poet." And for educated and sensitive emigrants like herself it matters little if the "volume of history is yet a blank" in Canada for "that of Nature is open,…eloquently marked by the finger of God" and abundantly rich in "sources of amusement…interest" and inspiration (155). Sangster knew and agreed with Traill’s assessment of the literary limitations and compensations of the Canadian environment:
While both Traill and Sangster recognized that in a few places at least "the land…ha[d]…been celebrated by…the lay of the poet," both found it necessary to confront and transcend the country’s relative lack of European literary and mythological associations.7 So, too, did the succeeding generation of writers—the Confederation poets—whose geographical location and late Victorian tastes deprived them of the sites associated with Moore as sources of connectedness and inspiration. To Charles G.D. Roberts, Bliss Carman, Archibald Lampman, and Duncan Campbell Scott, the problem became one of achieving and expressing continuity with the Hellenic and Romantic traditions that they admired in a country unvisited by Prometheus and Pan, Shelley or Keats.
The solutions to this problem began to appear in the work of Roberts and Carman in the eighteen eighties. Shortly before he left the Maritimes for Ontario in the fall of 1883, Roberts was experimenting with what he later called "Ovidian elegiac metre" (Selected Poems vii)—alternating lines of dactylic hexameter and pentameter that combine classical resonances with a rising and falling movement which, perhaps with the help of Coleridge,8 he recognized, as peculiarly apt for descriptions of the ebb and flow of tidal water. Of course, the most successful outcome of Roberts’s experiments in the summer of 1883 is "Tantramar Revisited," his masterful fusion of "Ovidian elegiac metre" with the Wordsworthian return poem and the Victorian sea meditation. Both technically and, more important, attitudinally, "Tantramar Revisited" could scarcely have been written without the poem immediately preceding it in Roberts’s canon, a slightly shorter experiment in the same metre entitled "The Pipes of Pan" that offers a fanciful account of the way in which the music and spirit of the Greek god crossed the Atlantic to North America: after being tossed into the river Penëus in the Arcadian vale of Tempe the fragments of a set of a Pan’s "outworn pipes" are "wind-blown…Over the whole green earth and globe of sea…to secret spots" where the god thus "Comes…in his workings" though not "in a visible form" (Collected Poems 77). Any "mortal" finding such a "secret spot," be it a "glade" in Kensington Gardens (where Matthew Arnold had contrived to be "breathed on by the rural Pan") or a "shad[y] covert" on the coast of New Brunswick, can set Pan’s pipes "to their lips" and acquire the god’s "charm-struck / Passion for woods and the wild, the solitude of the hills" (Collected Poems 78). As Sandra Djwa has shown (132), Roberts’s poem lies centrally in the background of Lampman’s "The Favorites of Pan" (1895), where the vehicle for the god’s spirit is a creature—the frog—whose voice was regarded by the American naturalist John Burroughs as uniquely characteristic of spring in North America (6: 96-97). Very likely, Lampman’s association of the "piping of…frogs" (Burroughs 6: 93) with the "murmur of Pan’s pipes" (Poems 133) also stemmed from his recognition of the correspondence between their amphibious nature and the god’s spirit-body dualism (see Bentley, The Gay] Grey Moose 236-40) and his awareness that for residents of Ontario a vehicle other than the ocean was required to give classical culture a local presence.9
In their expressed desire to discover or plant evidences of European culture in the Canadian environment, "The Pipes of Pan" and "The Favorites of Pan" are typical of much eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and even twentieth-century writing in Canada. One implication of this is that Harold Bloom’s theory of the anxiety of influence, which achieves some of its most eccentrically successful results when applied to Emerson and other rebellious American writers, holds much less true for Canada, where the spirit of independence has tended to be balanced or outweighed by an anxiety of severance, a desire to transplant British culture to North America and maintain connections between the New and the Old World. Mainland Canada’s most easterly and westerly provinces are Nova Scotia and British Columbia. Ontario’s provincial motto is Ut Incepit Fidelis Sic Permanet: "Loyal it began, loyal it remains." When Haliburton contemplated "communication by steam [ship] between Nova Scotia and England" in 1840, he hoped that it would "draw closer the bonds of affection between the two countries" (283). And when Roberts pondered the implications of "The Atlantic Cable" (1898) that was laid between Newfoundland and Ireland in 1886, he envisaged it far beneath "some lonely ship" laden with "exile hearts that homeward ache" (Collected Poems 250). The final words of Henry Kreisel’s "Chassidic Song" (1983) are "[r]emember your grandfather…he sang too" (35).
Very much the same connective desire pervades the commemorative odes of the Confederation poets. The seminal poem in this sub-genre is Carman’s "Shelley," a crisply structured appreciation of the English poet that was first published in the Literary World (Boston) on January 8, 1887 (Glickman 22-24, 27). After bringing the first five stanzas of the poem to rest at the site of Shelley’s grave "beneath the wall / Of changeless Rome," Carman uses the remaining five stanzas to suggest a more appropriate repository for the poet’s remains in the poem’s compositional setting, "Frye Island, N.B., Canada":
With its stock diction ("azure skies," "beauteous islanded") and awkward syntax (see especially the third and fourth stanzas), "Shelley" does not represent Carman at his best, but it is nevertheless remarkable for two interrelated reasons: (1) its suggestion that Shelley’s "soul" might be more at home in a natural, unspoiled Canadian environment than in the carceral, historied space of Europe (see Bhojwani 42); and (2) its association of the English poet with a Canadian landscape that he never visited or described (see Glickman 25). In effect, Carman creates a literary site where none existed before, transforming the animate and inanimate features of an island in New Brunswick into a "representational space" whose "affective kernel or centre" is Shelley. After reading Carman’s poem, it would be difficult, if not impossible, at least for a while, to hear the thrushes of Frye Island without thinking of the author of Alastor, "Adonais," "Ode to the West Wind," and "To a Sky-Lark."
This last title is perhaps the most intertextually interesting because it points to another aspect of Carman’s originality in "Shelley": his preservation and reinscription of the authorized association of the English poet with high-flying birds through the substitution of a North American species (the thrush) for an English species (the skylark) that is not indigenous to Canada. A variation on this strategy can be found in "The White Gull," Carman’s contribution to the 1893 "Centenary of the Birth of Shelley," where, probably with an eye on "The Pipes of Pan," he treats the "solitary sea-bird" that reportedly put in several appearances at Shelley’s "funeral ceremony" (Dowden 2:534) as a partial analogue for his new renown in Canada. "In that sea-rover’s glimmering flight," Carman tells Shelley,
…something…like thy fame
Several stanzas of "Shelley" are incorporated into the final portion of "The White Gull" but pride of concluding place in the later poem goes, not to the thrushes of Frye Island, but to "A white gull search[ing] the blue dome / With keening cry" by the "ruthless noisy sea" (Poems 173-74). The implication is clear: anyone seeing or hearing a seagull on the coast of Canada or the United States should think of Shelley.
Since Roberts read and admired "The White Gull" before completing "Ave (An Ode for the Shelley Centenary, 1892)" in late October of that year (see Collected Letters 154-55), it is scarcely surprising that his commemorative ode also contains a reference to the sea-gull that graced the poet’s funeral. In "Ave," however, the "wild white bird" is the "wailing semblance" of a "grieving ghost"—possibly, as Desmond Pacey and Graham Adams suggest, the ghost of Keats (Collected Poems 461) who is "made one with Nature" towards the end of Adonais and, hence, becomes a "Presence to be felt or known … where’er that Power may more / Which has withdrawn his being to its own" (402). While this neo-Platonic notion of the universal immanence of a dead poet’s spirit obviously lies in the background of "Ave," Roberts’s poem also betrays its debt to Carman’s commemorative pieces in its association of Shelley with a particular New Brunswick landscape, in this case the tidal marshes of the river that Roberts had begun to make his own almost a decade earlier in "Tantramar Revisited."
It is worth pausing for a moment to consider the notion that by writing about the Tantramar area in the eighteen eighties and ’nineties Roberts somehow made it "his own" or, in contemporary critical parlance, "appropriated" or "authored" it. Is there a sense in which the Tantramar had become Roberts’s poetic or intellectual property by the time he wrote "Ave"? Such a suggestion may seem far-fetched as well as anachronistic, but, in fact, it is metaphorically consistent with John Locke’s legally seminal statement in Two Treatises of Government (1690) that ownership in land devolves to the person who "hath mixed his labour with [it]" and, hence, "remove[d] [it] from the common state that nature…placed it in" (134). "[W]here a man bestows labor and industry upon any object which before belonged to nobody," explains David Hume in another passage that was quoted earlier (see Essay 2: Tokens of Being There: Land Deeds and Demarkations) "the alteration which he produces causes a relation between him and the object, and naturally engages us to annex it to him by the new relationship of property" (125-26n.). Needless to say, the "labor" and "industry" that Roberts bestowed on the Tantramar were literary rather than manual and the resulting "alteration" and "annex[ation]" perceptual rather than legal, but in the consensual community of Canadian letters in which he worked these were the necessary and sufficient conditions to establish the area as his and to mandate the term "Roberts’s Tantramar."10
Nor would Roberts himself have had to look beyond the famous opening chapter of Emerson’s "Nature" (1836) to find the issue of land ownership clarified in favour of the poet:
This statement of the abilities and rights of the poet may well have struck a sympathetic chord in Roberts and his fellow Confederation poets not only because they were seeking to give imaginative expression to local landscapes but also because they were attempting to establish themselves as authors in and of the new Dominion of Canada—and, indeed, as creators of goods that would be of use and value in and for a predominantly agricultural but increasingly urbanized society. It is surely not fortuitous that when Roberts spoke of the future of Canadian and Acadian literature at the University of New Brunswick in 1883 and at Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1886, he referred to the "poetical wealth" that remained "unappropriated in [Canada’s] broad and magnificent landscapes" and envisaged Acadian legend as a "new field" that had been broken by two New Englanders, Charles Godfrey Leland and Henry Wads- worth Longfellow, but was now set to yield its "richest harvests" to their poetic successors (Selected Poetry and Critical Prose 258, 263): it was time for Canadian poets to take metaphorical ownership of the Canadian landscape and, in Pierre Bourdieu’s phrase, transform its constituents and productions into "cultural capital"—that is, objects of value from which they could derive income (see Bourdieu 262). "Think not, O master of the well-tilled field / This earth is only thine," Lampman would write in "The Poet’s Possession" (1895); "for after thee…Comes the grave poet with creative eye, / And from these silent acres and clean plots, / Bids…A second tilth and second harvest be, / The crop of images and curious thoughts" (Poems 157).
The fact that by 1892 the Tantramar marshes were well on their way to becoming Roberts’s literary property—a poetic tenancy that he could sub-let at will—adds a magnanimity born of self-confidence to his association of their "tranquil meadows" and "fierce tides" with Shelley:
Strangely akin you [the marshes]
seem to him whose birth
Conceived as a "Commemoration Ode" rather than an "elegy" (Collected Letters 156), "Ave" nevertheless belongs in the tradition of the pastoral elegy that Roberts traces back to Bion and Moschus in an essay first published in the New Princeton Review in May 1888 and subsequently reprinted, first in the King’s College Record (Windsor, N.S.) in March 1893 and then as the preface to his 1902 edition of Shelley’s Alastor and Adonais. Almost as predictable as the presence of the two stanzas beginning "He is made one with Nature" as the principal sample of Adonais in "Pastoral Elegies" is Roberts’s Victorian insistence that the "spiritualized pantheism" of Shelley’s neo-Platonic consolation is "vivified by a breadth of the essence of Christian philosophy" and "a creed of personal immortality, of inextinguishable identity" (365). The Shelley who is one with the Tantramar marshes in "Ave" may have "Defied the ancient gates of wrath and wrong," but he also followed the same "star" as Dante and "saw…the living God / And worshipped…,beholding Him the same / Adored on earth as Love" (Collected Poems 148, 151). In short, the Shelley associated and connected with the Tantramar is a Browningesque Shelley "strangely akin," not merely to the physical qualities of a particular Canadian place, but also to the religious disposition of late Victorian Canada.
A further continuation of the line inaugurated by Carman’s "Shelley" is the "Ode for the Keats Centenary" that Duncan Campbell Scott "Read at Hart House Theatre before the University of Toronto" on "February 23, 1921" (Poems 151). Perhaps remembering the commemorative poems of both Carman and Roberts, Scott follows some preliminary remarks on Keats’s posthumous fame by focussing on his burial site "Beneath the frown of…old Roman stone" and conceding the impossibility of reviving and contacting him either through a passionate "incantation" of "his most sacred lines" or through "all the praise that sets / Towards his pale grave" (Poems 151-52). But if Keats were to escape the "Shadow" of death, suggests Scott, then his "power / Of ‘seeing great things in loneliness’" (as Tracy Ware notes in "A Generic Approach to Canadian Romanticism"  , the quotation is from one of Keats’s letters to Benjamin Robert Haydon) would propel his "Spirit" away from the "toil and press" of southern Europe to the solitude and purity of the Canadian arctic. Two parallel verse paragraphs—the first a catalogue of northern flora and fauna and the second a tribute to lonely scientists and poets—conclude with incantatory prayers to the "Spirit of Keats" to "unfurl [its] deathless wings" in Canada and "Teach us…Beauty in loneliness" (153-54). What makes Keats a desirable teacher for both the scientist and the poet is his lonely dedication, "oft in pain and penury" (Poems 153), to the cause of beauty, truth, and the betterment of the human condition.11"[W]hen…calling on the name of poetry," Scott told the Royal Society of Canada in his presidential address on "Poetry and Progress" in May 1922, "I am thinking of that element in the art…in which the power of growth resides, which is the winged and restless spirit keeping pace with knowledge and often beating into the void in advance of speculation…. This spirit endeavours to interpret the world in new terms of beauty…. It absorbs science and philosophy, and anticipates social progress in terms of ideality. It is rare, but it is ever present, for what is it but the flickering and pulsation of the force that created the world" (19). The fact that Keats is mentioned and quoted several times in "Poetry and Progress" reinforces the suspicion that in Scott’s mind the winged "Spirit of Keats" and the "winged and restless spirit of poetry" were so closely linked as to be almost identical.
The remainder of "Ode for the Keats Centenary" is a meditation of the forces that have driven Beauty into the Canadian arctic and the means by which the "goddess" might be persuaded to return to the "desolate world" (Poems 155). Driven into solitude by human ignorance, aggression, and sordidness, Beauty might be persuaded to return to "the great highways" of human life "if the world’s mood" were to "Change" for the better and if the "Spirit of Keats" would "lend[its] voice…like surge in some enchanted cave / On a dream-sea-coast" to that of the poet and her other devotees. Without the necessary change in the weltkultur, however, even a chorus containing Keats’s "Spirit" must fail to tempt Beauty away from "the precinct of pure air / Where moments turn to months of solitude": "‘Let me restore the soul that ye have marred,’" she implores, "‘Leave me alone, lone mortals, / Until my shaken soul comes to its own’" (Poems 156-57). After this request the "mortals" redouble their appeal to Beauty to return to the "lonely world" and the poem draws to its muted and crepuscular conclusion: "All the dim wood is silent as a dream / That dreams of silence" (Poems 157). Beauty, it would appear, has taken "permanent…refuge from life" and can only be found in regions "beyond the bitter strife" (Poems 156). Such realms are as geographically remote as the Canadian arctic and as readily available as the town library, for, as Scott says at the conclusion of his essay on "Poetry and Progress," "[i]f the poetry of our generation is wayward and discomfiting,…bitter with the turbulance of an uncertain and ominous time, we may turn from it for refreshment to those earlier days when society appears to us to have been simpler, when there were seers who made clear the paths of life and adorned them with beauty" (27). It was this anti-modern yearning for less complex and more aesthetically congenial times and places that drew Scott to both Keats and the "lonely north" and led, in "Ode for the Keats Centenary," to a conjunction of the Romantic poet and the Canadian arctic that emphasizes the remoteness even while it affirms the persistence of a Beauty that may yet "return / Even lovelier than before" to grace the "crowded southern land" (Poems 47, 155). After all, had not the "seer" himself asserted in the famous opening lines of Endymion that "A thing of beauty is a joy forever" whose "loveliness increases" and "will never / Pass into nothingness" (55)?
No more in "Ode for the Keats Centenary" than in "Ave," "The White Gull," or "Shelley" is the English literary tradition a burden that stifles creativity and provokes rebellion. On the contrary, in Scott’s commemorative ode, as in the earlier poems, the naturalization of a Romantic poet in Canadian space is a creative and connective act that bridges the temporal and geographical gaps between the Old and the New World and, in so doing, offers cultural memory as a source of inspiration and hope for a troubled present and an uncertain future.
At about the time that Carman and Roberts were finding ways to naturalize Shelley in Canada, a minor and now little-known member of their literary circle, John Frederic Herbin, was busy crediting Roberts especially with the creation of a "representational space." With an eye, very likely, on both "The Pipes of Pan" and "Tantramar Revisited," Herbin suggests that Roberts has transformed the Tantramar area, not merely into "classic ground," but into "classical ground"—ground imbued with the qualities of ancient Greece. "Is green-walled Acadie a later Greece, / And Thou a classic come to life again?" Herbin asks Roberts in the second of the four tributary sonnets "To the Singers of Minas" in his Marshlands volume of 1893. His answer reveals the question to be as rhetorical as it is flattering:
In his desire to flatter, Herbin makes Roberts himself a resurrected Hellenic artist, a "sculptor then, a poet now, whose lease of labour" is to "carve" lyrics that call to the mind’s eye vivid "pictures" of the Acadian landscape. As well as identifying Acadia with Arcadia, Herbin’s extravagant tribute gives Roberts’s transmigratory spirit the credit for creating the artistic glories of both modern Canada and ancient Greece. It would be difficult to imagine the desire to connect the New World with the Old producing a more fulsome compliment.
Thankfully, Herbin’s tribute to Carman is more muted and fraternal. One reason for this is that when "To the Singers of Minas" was published in 1893 in Herbin’s second collection of poems (The Marshlands), Roberts was already the author of Ave and two substantial volumes (Orion, and Other Poems  and In Divers Tones ) but Carman was still in the process of making a belated poetic debut with Low Tide on Grand Pré. A Book of Lyrics (1893). Another is that Herbin, the descendant of an Acadian exile who later used his influence as "mayor of Wolfville, Nova Scotia…[to] secur[e] land at Grand Pré for the establishment of a park dedicated to his ancestors" (Large 35-36), regarded Carman as his spiritual kinsman in treating of places associated with the Acadians:
The dyke-lands and meadows of the
The fact that the two poets, one of French and the other of British descent, derive parallel inspiration from places "Sad with remembrance of…deathless wrong" (52) speaks to Herbin of the peaceful coexistence of the two linguistic groups in Canada:
The "crime and misery" of the Acadian expulsion cannot be forgotten, but they can be subordinated to a bond born of shared knowledge and sympathy. "Whatever, once, their country and their race, / One hope and one ambition closely tie / This people to a common destiny," Herbin had written in Canada, and Other Poems (1891). "Stray winds of discontent do sometimes fan / The flowering peace, and dull the day with shade" but still and overall "Union has raised up her stainless flag…where nothing shall betray" ([5,9]). Time is still testing Herbin’s optimism.
Partly because of Herbin’s later writing about Acadia in Grand-Pré (1898), The Heir to Grand-Pré (1907), Jen of the Marshes (1921) and, especially, The Land of Evangeline (1921), the poet associated with Grand Pré by most of today’s visitors is not Carman but Longfellow. A section of the shore of Long Island off the coast of Grand Pré is named Evangeline Beach (see Herbin, The Land of Evangeline [vi]), and a statue of Longfellow’s fictional heroine completes the conversion of the area’s dominant literary association into a sentimental tourist attraction that began about 1895 with a promotion by the Dominion Atlantic Railway (see Woodworth 115-16 and Bentley, "Charles G.D. Roberts" 85-89). As David Conrad ascerbically remarks in "Grand Pré" (1994), "Evangeline’s passion frozen in bronze" has "made a spot for bus loads / of the curious and the bored." "And if they read the blurbs / And listen to the tour guide / they might hold hands until they get to Lunenburg" (41, 43). Only in the minds of a few readers of Canadian literature can Carman be present at the site that inspired one of his most anthologized and memorable poems. But perhaps this is almost as appropriate as it is ironical, for "Low Tide on Grand Pré" is as much about forgetting as remembering—a meditation on the capacity of a particular place at a particular time to conjure up memories of a moment that transcended place, time, and memory:
Was it a year or lives ago,
Such lyric utterances are not the inspiration for statues. Indeed— and to adapt a statement by the poet who lies in the background of Carman’s poem—"Low Tide on Grand Pré" is itself "a moment’s monument, / [A] Memorial from the Soul’s eternity / To one dead deathless hour" (Rossetti 74).12It neither sanctions nor requires translation into stone.
But despite the transcendental moment at its heart, "Low Tide on Grand Pré" is firmly grounded in the locale announced by its title: the tidal river with which it begins and ends flows through "the fields of Acadie," leaving "barren reaches" on its retreat and "sigh[ing] like driven wind or foam" on its return. Surrounding and sustaining the poem’s "mystic" core (Herbin, The Marshlands 51) is a specific and specified Canadian landscape. This is the thrust of Herbin’s observation that Carman "has…raised his lyric voice among / The places where the ebb and flood so strong / Fill with red life the veins of Acadie," and it helps to explain the conviction of a later Canadian poet, Douglas Lochhead, that "a heightened sense of place…is…[a] powerful element in Carman’s poetry" ("Preface" xv). "What captured my admiration, I now see," explains Lochhead, "was Carman’s ability to write so convincingly and well about the places I had come to love, the Bay of Fundy, the Saint John River….Malcolm Ross, who was born and raised in Fredericton, has written with sensitivity about this characteristic of Carman’s writing in ‘Bliss Carman and the Poetry of Mystery’ (1985)….[Since] his…experience…so closely resembles mine, I quote it here: ‘Carman was the river, the sea, the new air I breathed.’" In the minds of both Ross and Lochhead, Carman had become one with Maritime nature or—to put the matter less metaphorically—the Bay of Fundy area had become for them a "representational space," a literary site ineffaceably associated and connected with the author of "Low Tide on Grand Pré" and other local descriptive poems.
Given Lochhead’s willingness to endorse Ross’s identification of poet and place, it is almost to be expected that in High Marsh Road (1980), his "lines for a diary" about the Tantramar Marshes, he includes references to that area’s best-known author and artist: Roberts and Alex Colville. Even before Lochhead has wondered "what Acadian sweated and froze in the / ever-wind to make these dykes?" and affirmed that "there is / a sense of history here and all across / this marsh" (September 2), Colville enters the diary through a meditative allusion to his Crow with Silver Spoon (1972): "Colville’s crow mounts higher higher. / the silver spoon is fast in the beak. / what behind eye prompts bird to seize / such objects and hide them away?" (September 1). The referral of nature to art and the search for an explanation that are evident here also appear in the two diary entries that mention Roberts. In the first of these (October 9), Lochhead finds in "Tantramar Revisited" a comforting precedent for his own perspective on the marshes:
the total glimpse of it as Roberts
In the second (October 31), the "High Marsh Road" of the volume’s title provides a continuity between the present, the future and the past:
The comparison between Roberts as he appears on the dust-jacket and frontispiece of E.M. Pomeroy’s Sir Charles G. D. Roberts: a Biography (1943) and the stylized angels of an English visionary painter who is scarcely known in Canada risks intellectual ostentation in order to create a vivid and surprising visual image of the poet as a bygone but enduring presence in the Tantramar Marshes—the genius loci or tutelary spirit of the place with which Lochhead also wishes to associate and connect himself. In both diary entries, the marshes and the road are reassuringly permanent; "place" is a constant that supports life, inspires writing, and encourages the hope of literary permanence and continuity: "echoes of all / this picked up."
On June 10, 1899, exactly four months after Lampman’s premature death of pneumonia at his home in Ottawa, the Toronto Globe and the Ottawa Evening Journal printed a commemorative ode by his friend and onetime literary collaborator William Wilfred Campbell. "Bereavement of the Fields (In Memory of Archibald Lampman, who died February 10th, 1899)" is an uneven poem, but it contains a memorable refrain ("Soft fall the February snows…" [Selected Poetry 66-68]) and several borrowings from Lampman’s poems that serve the twofold purpose of displaying Campbell’s knowledge and admiration of his colleague’s achievements and confirming their continued existence and impact after his death.13Almost certainly thinking of "The Favorites of Pan" and related poems, Campbell likens Lampman to "some rare Pan of those old Grecian days" who was "reborn" in "our hour of deeper stress," and he consoles himself with the thought that his friend’s "gentle spirit" now "moves with those whose music filled his ears…—Wordsworth, Arnold, [and] Keats, [the] high masters of his song" (Selected Poetry 67). Since Lampman regarded poets as the "Children of Pan" (Poems 114) and himself as a "faint reincarnation" of Keats (Annotated Edition 119), he would probably not have been displeased by Campbell’s sentiments.
To mark the ninth anniversary of Lampman’s death, excerpts from "Bereavement of the Fields" were printed in the Ottawa Evening Journal on February 8, 1908, and, over eighty years later, Michael Gnarowski would give a commemorative dimension to his Selected Poetry of Archibald Lampman (1990) by dating its substantial Introduction "10 February 1989" (25). But the most ambitious bibliographical monument to Lampman was initiated within months of his death. Conceived by its sponsors, S.E. Dawson, William D. Le Sueur, and Duncan Campbell Scott as a "lasting memorial" to the poet, Scott’s Poems of Archibald Lampman was published in Toronto in 1900 (and, incidentally, sold directly to subscribers "in order to secure to [his] widow the full and entire return without deduction or discount of any kind whatever" [qtd. in Whitridge xxxiii]). The "memorial edition" of Lampman’s poems has been reprinted at least five times between 1900 and the present, most recently in 1974 in Lochhead’s Literature of Canada: Poetry and Prose in Reprint series from the University of Toronto Press. As much as the "[c]oins and medals" discussed by Joseph Priestley in his Lectures on History (1788), the various printings and editions of Lampman’s Poems "may be considered a kind of portable monuments" whose advantage over "pillars, edifices, or…heaps of stones" resides in the fact that, in being "easily multiplied,…they stand a much fairer chance of being seen by posterity" (80, 75-76, 81). They also bear out the finding of Gladys Engel and Kurt Lang in Etched in Memory: the Building and Survival of Artistic Reputation (1990) that "[t]he remembrance of most…artists…is highly dependent on survivors with an emotional and/or financial stake in the perpetuation of their reputation" such as "[f]inancially strapped widows with young children" or (in Lampman’s case, and) "a circle of friends and admirers" (326-29).
Tangible evidence that Lampman’s Poems were indeed "seen by posterity" is provided by the academic essays and monographs that began to appear shortly after its publication in 1900. As early as 1901, John Marshall used "the complete edition brought out by Morang after the poet’s death" as the basis for a full reassessment of Lampman’s oeuvre in the Queen’s Quarterly that can only have dismayed the book’s sponsors by characterizing him as merely "perhaps the least futile of our Canadian writers of verse" and then castigating him for "his lack of originality, his narrow range of thought and feeling and the almost entire absence [in his work] of any evidence of progress towards clearer and more consistent views of life and art" (37). In its rejection of "patriotic feeling" in favour of "disinterested criticism" (33, 37), Marshall’s assault on Lampman is proleptic of the sneering attitude to the Confederation poets and their admirers that became commonplace with the arrival of Anglo-American Modernism in Canada after the First World War and achieved its most witty expression on the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in F.R. Scott’s "Canadian Authors Meet" (1927):
The air is heavy with
And Carman, Lampman, Roberts, Campbell, Scott,
"Lampman was essentially a dreamer of dreams," Bernard Muddiman had written some twelve years earlier in an essay that "coincides, more or less, with the beginnings of modernism in poetry in the English Language" (Gnarowski, Introduction, Archibald Lampman xviii); "[d]eath…robbed us of nothing in his early demise"14and the "most valuable" aspect of the "collected edition of his works" is Duncan Campbell Scott’s introductory "Memoir" in Poems (78-79).
But these were not the only responses generated by Lampman’s Poems. In "Archibald Lampman and the Sonnet," published in Poet-Lore (Boston) on the tenth anniversary of the poet’s death, Louis Untermeyer judged the "memorial edition of his works" "a noteworthy volume" and, drawing on the ubiquitous spiritualism of the day, expressed the belief that "even if…the inspired music [of his poems] be quite forgotten, the spirit...[or] divine energy that wrought the[m]…can never die" because it will achieve "reincarnation" in another natural or human entity (56, 61). In A Little Book of Canadian Essays, published in the same year, Lawrence J. Burpee also concedes that Lampman may not achieve lasting fame but argues that this is immaterial since, as Scott’s "Memoir" confirms, he lived a life that was "ever true to [the] ideals" expressed in his poems (63). And in "The Poetry of Archibald Lampman," written after the complete Poems had gone through "four editions [actually reprintings] within the space of ten years (1905-1915)," G.H Unwin proceeds through each of the five sections into which Poems is divided—"Among the Millet," "Lyrics of Earth," "Alcyone," "Sonnets," and "Poems and Ballads"—in an effort to discern the "particular qualities" that might reveal "the secret of his appeal" (82). Even as Lampman’s prestige was falling in modernist circles, it was rising among readers and critics who remained sympathetic to the Romantic-Victorian tradition and nationalistic in their affection for its Canadian practitioners. "[B]oth Lampman and Roberts, by the volume of their work and by its general excellence, stand well in the front of Canadian nature poets," concluded Unwin; "[t]hey are both truly Canadian, products of the soil" (97).
By the late ’twenties, the trajectory of admiration that passed from writers such as Agnes Maule Machar, William Dean Howells,15 and Arthur Stringer who admired Lampman’s work during his life-time to those who embraced his collected Poems as, in Unwin’s words, the work of "[a] native genius" (83) had yielded the first (and, until 1986, the only) critical monographs on Lampman— Norman Guthrie’s The Poetry of Archibald Lampman (1927) and Carl Y. Connor’s Archibald Lampman: Canadian Poet of Nature (1929). Both of these books were written and published in the glow of Canada’s Diamond Jubilee, as was the selection of Lampman’s poems that Scott published under the title Lyrics of Earth: Sonnets and Ballads in 1925 and the article entitled "The Poetry of Archibald Lampman" that Raymond Knister published in the Dalhousie Review in October 1927. Like Unwin, both Scott and Knister identify Lampman closely with Canada: "[t]he nature and the life he saw was the Canadian scene and it may well be said of him as was said long ago of Theocritus ‘His Muse is the Muse of his native land’" (Introduction, Lyrics of Earth 47). "[H]e passed ‘with creative eye’ over the country which the farmer and the lumberman and the railway-builder had possessed, and reaped another, more enduring harvest. What he left as heritage will long mean ‘Canada’ in the minds of his countrymen, as surely as her fields and lakes were Canada to him" (Knister 118).16 After such sentiments, could a national monument be long in the offing?
The campaign to erect a memorial cairn to Lampman was initiated in 1928 by Arthur Stringer, a Chatham, Ontario-born novelist who had met the poet in 1898 and regarded him as "the greatest apostle of beauty who ever drew…breath…in…Canada" (qtd. in Connor 192).17 With an initial donation from Stringer and the enthusiastic support of Scott, the Western Ontario Branch of the Canadian Authors Association set about the task of financing and designing "a permanent and attractive memorial to…Lampman at or near his birthplace, the village of Morpeth" on the north shore of Lake Erie (Fox 5). The site of the memorial—"a eminence on one of the King’s busy highways" close to the "picturesque steeple…[of] the Church of which Lampman’s father was the rector" (Fox 6)—was carefully chosen in accordance with three criteria: its "association" with Lampman, its "attractive[ness]," and its visibility (Fox 6). "[O]ne standing on this site looks over such scenes as inspired Lampman’s heart of lyric measures," observed William Sherwood Fox (the President of the Western Ontario Branch of the C.A.A.) at the dedication of the Lampman Memorial Cairn on September 13, 1930; "[i]t also affords a vision of a great inland sea…that is in concert with the words" from Lampman’s "Outlook" (1888) that appear on a bronze tablet on the Cairn’s east face (Fox 6):
Like Fox, Stringer mentions
the beautiful surroundings of the memorial in his dedicatory address,
but with an emphasis on his own connection to the area and, more
important, an appreciation of Lampman’s role in shaping Canadian
landscape perceptions: "[b]ecause of him, every bloodroot that
blooms in early spring, every maple that reddens
with autumn, every sheaf of grain that stands golden amid its
stubble, every orchard and millet-field, every stream and valley and
woodland, has more beauty and meaning for us. Because of what he has
given us, every sunrise and sunset is brought closer and made more
poignant and memorable to us" (10-11). Lampman is a literary
"pioneer" who has "not altogether died and shall never
altogether die" because, in Lefebvre’s terms, he has transformed
parts of Canada into "representational spaces"—spaces "overlay[ed]"
and "[r]edolent" with the "associated" and
"imaginary…elements" of his poems (39, 41). If he has not
quite, as Stringer fulsomely suggests, planted the "affective
kernal" of Canada, he has certainly helped to do so for Ontario.
As interesting as Stringer’s address at the dedication of the Lampman Memorial Cairn (and more so than Scott’s ensuing rehearsal of the poet’s life and philosophy) are the remarks on "The National Importance of Monuments" that were delivered on the occasion by Brigadier-General E.A. Cruikshank, the Chairman of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Cruikshank begins his address by stressing the universality of the commemorative urge: "[f]rom the dawn of civilization, all nations, and…all races, have evinced their longing to commemorate the great events of their history and the notable deeds of distinguished persons by some durable monument or work of their hands, usually of stone or some form of metal. This natural impulse…much preceded the art of pictorial or sculptural representation and that of recording such events or deeds by writing" (7). He then proceeds to make the Burkean point that "a people who have no pride or veneration for their past can have little confidence or hope for their future" and to argue for the "practical use of local association" as a means of putting "the youth of the country in touch with the great citizens and noble deeds of the past, and inspir[ing] them with a direct personal interest" in their "heritage" (7). Aligning the creation of "memorials" and "monuments" with "national advancement" and the "resolute…patriotism" that is "indispensable in performing the duties of good citizens" (7-8), Cruikshank concludes with the observation that the dedication of the Lampman Memorial Cairn is "an act of what… Wordsworth…term[s] ‘natural piety,’ by which the present becomes spiritually linked with the past" (8). This last point is, of course, an extension into the sphere of nationhood of Wordsworth’s near proverbial expression of desire for continuity in his own life— "The Child is father of the Man; / And I could wish my days to be / Bound each to each by natural piety" (1: 226); if Canada is to grow and mature in an integrated, organic, and humanistic manner, it must affirm the continuity between the present, the past, and the future. A disconcertingly prophetic dimension is lent to "The National Importance of Monuments" by an admiring paragraph on the "racial continuity and solidarity" displayed by the Japanese ceremonies of thanksgiving after their "successful war with Russia" in 1904-05 (7), but Cruikshank’s fundamental argument is not negated by his soldierly glances towards a portentously aggressive nation. Even—perhaps especially—countries that eschew militarism and imperialism need to venerate their cultural and national achievements if they are to maintain and foster the identity and independence of their citizens.
The two literary site poems so far generated by the Lampman Memorial Cairn date from before its dedication on September 13, 1930. The earlier of these, Nathaniel A. Benson’s "The Lampman Cairn at Morpeth" (1930), was written in 1928 when "the erection of [the] memorial…was first proposed" and, despite ample opportunity for revision before its inclusion among the Addresses Delivered at the Dedication of the Archibald Lampman Memorial Cairn (1930), remains a dismaying combination of good intentions, rhythmic ineptitude, and metaphorical infelicity. Apart from anything else, the sonnet’s opening lines—"Build high this cairn, for here was Lampman born, / Here fell that silver seed of high endeavor"—render his birth and survival unlikely by indicting his father with Onanism and his mother (or her midwife) with carelessness. Scott must have cringed on hearing his friend described as "a Croesus of pure song, whose arts / to poets’ hands the wandering winds resign," but, of course, this is Benson’s flatulent way of expressing his feelings of admiration and continuity.
literary site poem generated by the Lampman Memorial Cairn is not much
better. Dated "Wednesday, September 10th, 1930" and published
in the Toronto Mail and Empire on the morning of the dedication
ceremony, Wilson MacDonald’s "The Cairn at Morpeth" (1931)
begins with a bitter attack on the promoters of the Cairn as "tardy
mortals" and "Ironic Jesters" whose erection of
"great towers" to dead "bards" in no way compensates
for their "indifference" to "yet-living poets" such
as (if not principally) MacDonald himself. After three lengthy stanzas
in this vein, MacDonald turns his attention briefly to the dedication
ceremony, proclaiming imperiously that two
"well-loved poets of our time" should be "heard"
beside the "monument": "Charles Roberts of the half-sea
Tantramar" who "stirred" "in the bard of Morpeth’sspirit…/
The first fine flowing of his youthful rhyme" and "Duncan
Scott who loved him well and long / And… /Kept the white brilliance of
a comrade star" (85). Was it perhaps anger at being assigned no
part in the ceremony by its organizers that prompted MacDonald, not only
to write his bilious poem, but also to send it to Fox in advance of the
ceremony, to arrange for its publication on the same day as the event,
and, to absent himself from the proceedings on the pretext of an
Be this as it may, Roberts did indeed join
Scott "beside th[e] monument,"19
albeit not as a speaker, and Fox found space
in the programme to read aloud one of two apposite stanzas of MacDonald’s
poem, a description of the landscape surrounding the Cairn that nicely
incorporates a reference to Lampman’s beloved "goldenrod":
In the other apposite stanza in "The Cairn at Morpeth," MacDonald acknowledges his enduring debt to Lampman through allusions to three of his poems—"Heat" (1888), "June" (1895), and, appropriately, "September" (1895):
That beauty came to me while yet a
Because of Lampman, Stringer might have observed, every Canadian summer and fall "had more beauty and more meaning" for MacDonald. The psychological and cultural implications of what he is recording remain personal for MacDonald, however, and "The Cairn at Morpeth"concludes with the egotistical and ill-tempered suggestion that, if Lampman "could…gaze from his far bourne / His eyes would see no cairn or gathered throng, / But, for those souls who loved in life his song, / Beyond his cloudy frontiers would he mourn" (85).
In the decades following the dedication of the Lampman Memorial Cairn, Lampman’s critical reputation continued to be affected by fluctuations of nationalism in Canada and by the ascendancy of Modernism in Canadian poetry and criticism. While modernists such as Leo Kennedy, W.E. Collin, John Sutherland, and Louis Dudek wrote essays marked by varying degrees of negativity in the ‘thirties, ‘forties, and ‘fifties, poets and critics more sympathetic to writing in the Romantic-Victorian tradition, most notably E.K. Brown, produced appreciative essays and scholarly editions that enhanced Lampman’s reputation as Canada’s most accomplished nineteenth-century poet. Nor is it any coincidence that Brown and Scott published At the Long Sault and Other New Poems in 1943, for the subject of the title poem in this selection of Lampman’s thereto unpublished work—Dollard des Ormeaux’s supposed saving of Quebec from destruction by the Iroquois in May 1666—perfectly suited the nationalistic tenor of the war years. Whether positive or negative, however, the attention given to Lampman before, during, and after the Second World War consolidated his position as a Canadian literary icon, as a writer whose work had to be reckoned with because it seemed to be an authentic representation and integral part of Canada. As Brown put it in On Canadian Poetry (1943): "[i]n Canada Lampman is the nearest approach to a national classic in verse, and the passing of decades has confirmed his status if it has not very much widened the circle of his readers" (88).
By way of establishing a context for Lampman’s work in On Canadian Poetry, Brown quotes at length from the now well-know passage in "Two Canadian Poets[:] a Lecture" (1891) in which he describes his reaction to reading Roberts’s Orion, and Other Poems (1880) while a student at Trinity College, Toronto in the early eighteen eighties:
It seemed to me a wonderful thing that
such work could be done by a Canadian, by a young man, one of ourselves.
It was like a voice from some new paradise of art, calling to us to be
up and doing. A little after sunrise I got up and went out into the
college grounds. The air, I remember, was full of the odour and cool
sunshine of the spring morning. The dew was thick upon the grass, all
the birds of our Maytime seemed to be singing in the oaks, and there
were even a few adder tongues and trilliums blooming on the slope of the
little ravine. But everything was transfigured for me beyond
description, bathed in an old world radiance and beauty….
"Could a nation’s poetic history begin with a more charming freshness?" asks Brown, adding pensively:
It is delightful to look back across
the years to that bright spring morning in the semi-wild meadows about
the old Trinity building, to evoke the delicate, young Ontario poet
destined to die long before he had grown to his full power, reading from
the slim booklet of the young man from New Brunswick who was so
recently, after the passing of more than sixty years, shaping verses in
the city where so long ago Lampman caught from him the assurance that a
Canadian literature was waiting to be born.20
No doubt, it was the combination of Lampman’s description and Brown’s commentary that provided the primary inspiration for Verna Loveday Harden’s "At the Gates of Old Trinity" (1946), a charming, if slight, literary site poem first published in Saturday Night on April 19, 1944.21Prefaced by a note explaining that "[i]t was in May 1881 that…Lampman,…then a student at Old Trinity College, Toronto (whose buildings are now used for other purposes) read Orion and Other Poems…and knew that this was the birth of a distinctly Canadian literature," Harden’s poem reflects its war-time context in its forthright and sanctified nationalism: not only are the gates of Old Trinity "holy" because of their literary associations but Roberts and Lampman were a "choir" from which "a newly-wakened people / Would hear the call to conscious nationhood" (1). "These old gates adorning / A shabby street, in proud remembrance stand," the poem concludes, because "This is where Lampman walked on that May morning / With Roberts’ Orion in his hand" (2).
Lampman’s status as a literary icon and a "national classic" was further confirmed by the attention devoted to him by scholars and poets after the War, especially in the nationalistic ‘sixties and ‘seventies. Perhaps on the basis of articles by Ralph Gustafson in Fiddlehead (1945) and Northern Review (1947),22 Margaret Avison conceives of Lampman in "The Iconoclasts" (1947) as a Romantic primitive who "prowled the Gatineau" in search of sensual and transcendental experiences (320) and Miriam Waddington invokes him somewhat desperately in "Looking for strawberries in June" (1969) as a possible literary guide to an unfamiliar "landscape…of plastic and silence" (28-29). Perhaps in response to Desmond Pacey’s new-critical analysis of "Heat" in Ten Canadian Poets (1958), Al Purdy writes jocularly in "Lampman in Heat" (1973) of a poet who "gave [him] standards about heat" but, unaccountably, preferred "Fahrenheit" to "girls" (Sex and Death 64). And perhaps drawing upon the material in the proceedings of the Lampman Symposium (1976) that was held at the University of Ottawa in 1975, Raymond Souster addresses him in "A Letter to Archibald Lampman" (1977) as a major poet in a "minor" country whose "verse— / let’s face it,…[i]s the best we have" (4: 177). But by far the most extended and engaging response to Lampman in Canadian poetry is D.G. Jones’s "Kate, these flowers…(The Lampman Poems)" (1977), a sequence of thirteen acrostics that takes as its point of departure the love affair with Kate Waddell that Margaret Coulby Whitridge first publicized in her Introduction to the facsimile edition of Lampman’s Poems (1900) and At the Long Sault (1943) in the University of Toronto Press’s Literature of Canada: Poetry and Prose in Reprint series (1974). Memory had once again become the mother of the Muses.23
In the wake of the Jubilee and Centennial celebrations that did so much to make Lampman a "national classic," memory was also the mother of two works that constitute the apogee of interest in Canadian literary sites: William Arthur Deacon’s Literary Map of Canada (1936) and John Robert Colombo’s Canadian Literary Landmarks (1984). By his own description, "a splendid opportunity for education about the native literature," Deacon’s Literary Map assumes a connection between creative works and "places," particularly the "location" in which they are set (Deacon 178-79). Probably because the settings of the "essential" materials that Deacon wished to include did not co-operate with his aim of preserving "graphic harmony" by avoiding "a whole mass [of information] in one spot," A Literary Map of Canada includes two insets entitled "The Land of Evangeline" and "Some Books of the St. Lawrence Basin," the former, a confirmation of Roberts’s authorship of the region and the latter, an itemization of what S. I. Hayakawa had already called the "‘Victorian, Neo-Victorian, Quasi-Victorian, and Pseudo-Victorian" literature of central Canada (qtd. in Leo Kennedy 36). More grandiose in its ambitions, Colombo’s Canadian Literary Landmarks was written "to suggest some answers to the Zen-like riddle ‘Where is here?‘ with which Northrop Frye concluded the first edition of the Literary History of Canada (1965) and, true to its mythopoeic inspiration, aspires to be not only "an imaginative cartography" and the "groundwork for a mythography," but also "something of a ‘native odyssey,’" as well as a compendium of "imaginative signposts that summarize our hopes and fears" (12, 9). In his entry on Sainte-Anne-de-Belleville, Colombo notes that the house in which Moore is supposed to have composed "A Canadian Boat Song" has been transformed by the Victorian Order of Nurses as a restaurant, Au P’tit Cafe, and quotes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s account of his visit to the site in Our Second American Adventure (1923): "[w]e drove up the beautiful shores of the St. Lawrence, and saw the villages and villas which adorn them…. One small house of stone was pointed out in which Tom Moore dwelt and where he wrote the ‘Canadian Boat Song.’ No medallion marks it. This I have endeavoured to amend by a letter to the press. I must confess that I never knew before that Moore had been to Canada" (qtd. in Colombo 99).
In the same year that the
University of Toronto Press reprinted Lampman’s Poems and At
the Long Sault, and at about the time that the University of Ottawa
was finalizing the programme for the Lampman Symposium, a University of
Ottawa English Professor and member of the Symposium Committee, Glenn W.
Clever, wrote to the Post Office Department (now Canada Post) suggesting
that Lampman might be honoured with a commemorative stamp and outlining
his qualifications for the distinction (Cloutier). (Needless to say,
these went beyond the fact that Lampman worked in the Post Office
Department in Ottawa, as did Kate Waddell.) Fifteen years later, on July
7, 1989, Clever’s suggestion bore fruit in a pair of thirty-eight cent
stamps commemorating Lampman and the nineteenth-century French-Canadian
poet Louis-Honoré Fréchette (1839-1908). Designed by René Milot,
the Lampman stamp reflects the limited but tenable
thesis that—to quote the statement on the back of the day-of-issue
envelope—"Lampman best displayed his power and sensitivity in his
sonnets, when observing and contemplating nature." As an
illustration of this view, the day-of-issue envelope carries the octave
of Lampman’s sonnet "On the Companionship with Nature"
(1900), the opening exhortation of which had been recommended to Canada
Post by at least one writer as an appropriate caption for the stamp:
Let us be much with Nature; not as
On the stamp itself, a portrait of Lampman based on a photograph in the Library at Simon Fraser University is superimposed upon an impressionistic rendition of the upper branches of a tree in full leaf against a pink and blue sky. To indicate the poet’s "Kinship and bond" with "Nature," the branches and the sky are visible through his shoulders and part of his hair. But Lampman’s head is held high and his eyes are directed away from the trees. Neither entirely other than "Nature" nor entirely of it, he is the "diviner clay" who understands the human condition of being both a part of and apart from "each natural fruit of earth." As Milot appears to have well understood, Lampman’s goal in urging companionship with nature was not to diminish the physical and mental qualities and capabilities that belong uniquely to humans but to strengthen and enrich them. The sestet of "On the Companionship with Nature" is one among many versions of his view that affection must be balanced by detachment in human relationships with the natural world:
Let us be with [Nature] wholly at
Human potential resides in restraint, aspiration, thought, and the capacity to align the human body and mind with things that are as good and beautiful as Nature’s "blessèd trees" and "flowers." To the extent that it captures the essence of Lampman’s philosophy of nature in visible and miniature form, Milot’s commemorative stamp can be judged a brilliant success. To the extent that it failed to attract the attention of its users, to provoke interest in Lampman, and to inspire stamps commemorating other Canadian poets, its success as a "portable monument" must be judged less certain. Yet a letter to Canada Post may still earn Roberts, Carman, Scott, Crawford, and even Campbell a commemorative stamp, in fifteen years or so.24 In the meantime, literary sites and representational spaces are everywhere in Canada, and so long as species survive no frog need pipe anywhere without poetic and historical associations for readers of Canadian writing.