Rosanna Leprohon

by Wanda Campbell


 

Rosanna Leprohon
1829-1879


 

Rosanna (Mullins) Leprohon was born in Montreal on January 12, 1829, the daughter of a wealthy businessman and was educated at the convent of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. Beginning when she was seventeen, her poetry and prose began to appear in the Literary Garland and other periodicals including the True Witness, the Journal of Education, and the New Dominion Monthly. In 1848, Susanna Moodie drew attention to the young writer as “one of the gifted, upon whom fancy smiled in her cradle and genius marked her for his own. As a Canadian born, we augur for her a bright wreath of fame” (Victoria Magazine [June 1848]:240). In 1851, she married the French Canadian doctor Jean-Lucien Leprohon and, over the next twenty years, bore thirteen children. Not surprisingly, her literary output declined during this period though she continued to publish poetry in Montreal periodicals and write the historical novels for which she is most remembered.

    In 1864, Edward Hartley Dewart included five of her poems in his Selections from Canadian Poets. “Her poetry,” he writes, “is marked by simplicity and gracefulness of style, strong domestic and human sympathies and high moral sentiments” (58). He also notes that her poems have never been collected, and encourages her to “present them in a form suitable for permanent preservation” (58). Dewart’s suggestion was acted upon in 1881, two years after Leprohon’s death, when The Poetical Works of Mrs. Leprohon was published in Montreal with an Introduction attributed to John Reade, the literary editor of the Montreal Gazette. The 222 page volume includes 110 poems divided into five categories: “Sacred Poems,” “Narrative and Descriptive Poems,” “Reflective and Elegiac Poems,” “Vers de Societé," and “Voices of the Hearth.” One contemporary review in Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly indicates that “there is not a little in the volume which, from a literary point of view, had better have been left out” (325) an assessment with which is it is difficult not to concur. [Page 33]

    In 1972, J.C. Stockdale wrote that Leprohon’s poetry is touched with “moral seriousness and didacticism” (537). He cites the influence of Thomas Gray and picks “A Canadian Snowfall” as her best poem, comparing it to a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem on the same theme. His discussion of the Romanticism of her depictions of scenery and seasons concludes: “her poetry is good technically, and, in places, interesting in theme and content, but it must take second place to her novels of life in early Quebec” (537). It was primarily Leprohon’s fiction that prompted Henry Morgan to write in 1867: “She has done more almost than any other Can. writer to foster and promote the growth of a national Literature” (224). In her Preface to Antoinette de Mirecourt (1864) Leprohon wrote: “Canadians should not be discouraged from endeavouring to form and foster a literature of their own…the smallest stone employed always helps a little in the construction of even the loftiest building” (17). In his Introduction to a 1973 reprint of that novel, Carl F. Klinck writes that Leprohon’s book of poetry

anticipates in many ways the interests of the next generation of poets; one senses now that a Canadian poetic tradition was then in the making, that from sources such as hers would come the native poetry of Charles Mair, Isabella Valancy Crawford, and Wilfred Campbell.                                                                     (7)

In her sympathetic overview of Leprohon’s fiction, Carole Gerson argues that she shares the fate of her contemporaries James DeMille and Agnes Maule Machar in that “a combination of choice and chance shaped their literary fortunes, destining them to support their country’s conservative cultural values and to refrain from challenging the limits of their own talents” (217).

    Though dismissed by R.G. Moyles as “generally poor stuff” that “deserves little critical attention” (157), Leprohon’s poetry still speaks to the power of the Canadian landscape, particularly in winter. Even when that landscape is foreboding, as in “Autumn Evening at Murray Bay,” the image of “restless waters ’gainst a bleak and rock-bound shore” lingers in the mind of the poet and her readers long after “pleasant tapers” and glad voices lure her back into a domestic interior.

    Leprohon’s efforts to infuse the Canadian scene with mythical significance are revealed in her portrayals of French Canadian and Native history. A central theme of poems about the lives of white and Native women is the contrast between the “bright unfettered” hours of girlhood, when young women are still “heart-free” and “unwon,” and the adult world of pain and [Page 34] responsibility. The “strange Promethean spark” of Joan of Arc and other virginal heroines stands in stark contrast to the “cunning and art” cultivated by Edith, the shallow social climber of “A Modern Courtship.” Elsewhere, Leprohon celebrates the benefits of the marital and maternal state but acknowledges that to love is to open oneself to loss.

Selected Bibliography

The Poetical Works of Mrs. Leprohon (Montreal: Lovell, 1881)

Susanna Moodie, “Editor’s Table,” Victoria Magazine 1 (June 1848): 240; E.H. Dewart, ed. Selections from Canadian Poets (Montreal, Lovell: 1864) 58; Henry Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis (Ottawa: G.E. Desbarats, 1867) 224. Anonymous, “The Poetical Works of Mrs. Leprohon,” Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly 8 (1882): 324-25; Henri Deneau, “Life and Works of Mrs. Leprohon, nee R.E. Mullins” (unpub. MA thesis, U of Montreal, 1948); J.C. Stockdale, “Mullins, Rosanna Eleanor,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography 10 (1972): 536-38; Carl F. Klinck, “Introduction,” Antoinette de Mirecourt (1864, rpt. 1973): 5-14; R.G. Moyles, English-Canadian Literature to 1900 (Detroit: Gale, 1976): 157-58; Carole Gerson, “Three Writers of Victorian Canada,” Canadian Writers and Their Works: Fiction Series 1:195-256 (Toronto: ECW, 1983); Mary Jane Edwards, “Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon,” Dictionary of Literary Biography 99 (1990): 206-208; Lorraine McMullen and Elizabeth Waterston, “Rosanna Mullins Leprohon: At Home in Many Worlds,” Silenced Sextet: Six Nineteenth-Century Canadian Women Novelists (Montreal: McGill-Queens UP, 1992): 14-51. [Page 35]

 

An Autumn Evening at Murray Bay*

 

Darkly falls the autumn twilight, rustles by the crisp leaf sere,
Sadly wail the lonely night-winds, sweeping sea-ward, chill and             drear,
Sullen dash the restless waters ’gainst a bleak and rock-bound             shore,
While the sea-birds’ weird voices mingle with their surging roar.

Vainly seeks the eye a flow’ret ’mid the desolation drear,

5
Or a spray of pleasant verdure which the gloomy scene might             cheer;
Nought but frowning crags and boulders, and long sea-weeds,             ghastly, dank,
With the mosses and pale lichens, to the wet rocks clinging rank.

See, the fog-clouds thickly rolling o’er the landscape far and wide,
Till the tall cliffs look like phantoms, seeking ’mid their shrouds to
10
            hide;  
On they come, the misty masses of the wreathing vapour white,
Filling hill and mead and valley, blotting earth and heaven from             sight.

Silent, mournful, am I standing, gazing from the window pane,
Dimmed and blurred with heavy plashes of the fast descending             rain,
While thoughts chiming with the hour my weary brain are passing

15
            through,  

Till the shadows of the evening on my brow are mirrored too.

Rise, although uncalled, within me, memories of the distant past,
Of the dreams, the hopes, the fancies, that round life sweet             sunshine cast;
Whilst the moan of winds and waters, with a strange, mysterious             art,
Seem to awaken drear forebodings in the listening gazer’s heart.

20

Ah! it needs yon pleasant tapers with enlivening, home-like ray,
And the sound of voices sharing, each in turn, in converse gay,
And the flash of fire-light, making happy faces still more glad,
To dispel the mournful thoughts that make the evening hour so             sad.

Turning from this lonely musing, wilful nursing of dark care,

25
I will join the joyous circle of the dear ones gathered there, [Page 36]
Who with smiles will greet my advent, and in that delightful room
Shake aside the dreary shadows of this scene of autumn gloom.
 

 

* All poems are from the Poetical Works of Mrs. Leprohon 1881 [back]

 

 

The River Saguenay

 

 
Few poets yet in praise of thee
    Have tuned a passing lay.
Yet art thou rich in beauties stern,
    Thou dark-browed Saguenay!

And those grand charms that surely form

5
    For earth her rarest crown
On thee, with strangely lavish hand,
    Have all been showered down.

Thine own wild flood, so deep, so dark,
    That holds the gaze enthralled

10
As if by some weird spell, at once
    Entranced yet not appalled;

Seeking in vain to pierce those depths,
    Where wave and rock have met,
Those depths which, by the hand of man,

15
    Have ne’er been fathomed yet.

And then thy shores—thy rock-bound shores,
    Where giant cliffs arise,
Raising their untrod, unknown heights
    Defiant to the skies,

20

And casting from their steep, stern brows
    Shadows of deepest gloom
Athwart thy wave, till it doth seem
    A passage to a tomb.

Such art thou in thy solitude,

25
    Majestic Saguenay! [Page 37]
As lonely and as sternly rude
    As in time past away,

When the red man in his fragile bark
    Sped o’er thy glassy wave,
30
And found amid thy forests wild
    His cradle, home and grave.

All, all is changed—reigns in his stead
    Another race and name,
But, in thy lonely grandeur still,
35
    Proud River, thou’rt the same!  

 

Far West Emigrant

 

 

 

I

 

 
Mine eye is weary of the plains
    Of verdure, vast and wide,
That stretch around me—lovely, calm,
    From morn till even-tide;
And I recall with aching heart
5
    My childhood’s village home;
Its cottage roofs and garden plots,
    Its brooks of silver foam.
 

 

II

 

 
True, glowing verdure smiles around,
    And this rich virgin soil
10
Gives stores of wealth in quick return
    For hours of careless toil;
But, oh! the reaper’s joyous song
    Ne’er mounts to Heaven’s dome,
For unknown is the mirth and joy
15
    Of the merry “Harvest Home.” [Page 38]  

 

III

 

 
The solemn trackless woods are fair,
    And bright their summer dress;
But their still hush—their whisp’rings vague,
    My heart seem to oppress;
20
And ’neath their shadow could I sit,
    And think the live-long day
On my country’s fields and hedges green,
    Gemmed with sweet hawthorn spray.
 

 

IV

 

 
The graceful vines and strange bright flow’rs,
25
    I meet in every spot,
I’d give up for a daisy meek,
    A blue forget-me-not;
And from the brilliant birds I turn,
    Warbling the trees among:
30
I know them not—and breathe a sigh
    For lark or linnet’s song.
 

 

V

 

 
But useless now those vain regrets!
    My course must finish here;
In dreams alone I now can see
35
    Again my home so dear,
Or those fond loving friends who clung
    Weeping unto my breast;
And bade “God speed me” when I left,
    To seek the far, far West
. [Page 39]
40

 

Beneath the Snow

 

 
’Twas near the close of the dying year,
And December’s winds blew cold and drear,
Driving the snow and sharp blinding sleet
In gusty whirls through square and street,
Shrieking more wildly and fiercely still
5
In the dreary grave-yard that crowns the hill.

No mourners there to sorrow or pray,
But soon a traveller passed that way:
He paused and leant against the low stone wall,
While sighs breathed forth from the pine-trees tall

10
That darkly look down on the silent crowd
Of graves, all wrapped in a snowy shroud.

Solemn and weird was the spectral scene—
The tombstones white, with low mounds between,
The awful stillness, eerie and dread,

15
Brooding above that home of the dead,
While Christmas fires lit up each hearth
And shed their glow upon the scenes of mirth.

Silent the weary wayfarer stood—
The spot well suited his pensive mood,

20
And severed friendships, bright day-dreams flown,
Thronged on his thoughts in that moment lone.
“Yes, happiness—hope,” he murmured low,
“All buried alike beneath the snow.”

“O, for the right to lay down the load

25
I’ve borne so long on life’s dreary road,
Heavily weighing on heart and brain,
And as galling to both as a convict’s chain;—
No more its strain shall I tamely bear
But join the peaceful sleepers there.” [Page 40]
30


His head on the old wall drooped more low,
Whilst faster came down the sleet and snow,
Sharply chilling the blood in his veins,
Racking his frame with rheumatic pains;
“No matter,” he thought, “I’ll soon lie low,

35
Calm—quiet enough—beneath the snow.”

Ah! hapless one, thus thine arms to yield
When nearly won, perchance, is the field.
After long struggling to lose at last
The price of many a victory past,

40
Of many an hour of keen, sharp strife,
Mournfully spent in the war of Life.

But, hark! on high sound the Christmas bells,
Of hope to that mourner their chiming tells,
Of the sinless hours of childhood pure,

45
Of a God who came all griefs to cure;
And, leaving, he prayed: “O my Father and Friend,
Grant me strength to be faithful to the end!”
 

 

Winter in Canada

 

 
Nay tell me not that, with shivering fear,
You shrink from the thought of wintering here;
That the cold intense of our winter-time
Is severe as that of Siberian clime,
And, if wishes could waft you across the sea,
5
You, to-night, in your English home would be.

Remember, no hedges there now are bright
With verdure, or blossoms of hawthorn white;
In damp, sodden fields or bare garden beds
No daisies or cowslips show their heads;

10

Whilst chill winds and skies of gloomy hue
Tell in England, as elsewhere, ‘tis winter too.
[Page 41]

Away with dull thoughts! Raise your brooding eyes
To yonder unclouded azure skies;
Look round on the earth, robed in bridal white,

15
All glittering and flashing with diamonds bright,
While o’er head, her lover and lord, the sun,
Shines brightly as e’er in summer he’s done.

In a graceful sleigh, drawn by spirited steed,
You glide o’er the snow with lightning speed,

20
Whilst from harness, decked with silvery bells,
In sweet showers the sound on the clear air swells;
And the keen bracing breeze, with vigor rife,
Sends quick through your veins warm streams of life.

Or, on with your snow-shoes, so strong and light,

25
Thick blanket-coat, sash of scarlet bright,
And, away o’er the deep and untrodden snow,

Through wood, o’er mountain, untrammelled to go
Through lone, narrow paths, where in years long fled,
The Indian passed with light active tread.
30

What! dare to rail at our snow-storms, why
Not view them with poet’s or artist’s eye?
Watch each pearly flake as it falls from above,
Like snowy plumes from some spotless dove,
Clothing all objects in ermine rare,
35
More sure than the bright robes which monarchs wear.

Have you not witnessed our glorious nights,
So brilliant with gleaming Northern lights,
Quick flashing and darting across the sky
While far in the starry heavens on high

40
The shining moon pours streams of light
O’er the silent earth, robed in dazzling white.

There are times, too, our woods show wond’rous sights.
Such as are read of in “Arabian Nights,”
When branch and bough are all laden with gems [Page 42]

45
Bright as those that deck Eastern diadems;
And the sun sheds a blaze of dazzling light
On ruby and opal and diamond bright.

Only tarry till Spring on Canadian shore,
And you’ll rail at our winters, then, no more;

50
New health and fresh life through your veins shall glow,
Spite of piercing winds—spite of ice and snow,
And I’d venture to promise, in truth, my friend,
’Twill not be the last that with us you’ll spend.
 

 

A Modern Courtship

 

 
Why turn from me thus with such petulant pride,
When I ask thee, sweet Edith, to be my bride;
When I offer the gift of heart fond and true,
And with loyalty seek thy young love to woo?
With patience I’ve waited from week unto week,
5
And at length I must openly, candidly speak.

But why dost thou watch me in doubting surprise,
Why thus dost thou raise thy dark, deep, melting eyes?
Can’st thou wonder I love thee, when for the last year
We have whispered and flirted—told each hope and fear;

10
When I’ve lavished on thee presents costly and gay,
And kissed thy fair hands at least six times each day?

What! Do I hear right? So those long sunny hours
Spent wand’ring in woods or whispering in bowers,
Our love-making ardent in prose and in rhyme,

15
Was just only a method of passing the time!
A harmless flirtation—the fashion just now,
To be closed, by a smile, or a jest, or a bow!

Ah, believe me, fair Edith, with me ’twas not so,
And I would I had known this but six months ago;

20
I would not have wasted on false, luring smiles, [Page 43]
On graces coquettish and cold, studied wiles,
True love that would give thee a life for thy life,
And guarded and prized thee, a fond, worshipped wife.

Oh! thou’rt pleased now to whisper my manners are good,

25
And my smiles such as maiden’s heart rarely withstood,
My age just the thing—not too young nor too old—
My character faultless, naught lacking but gold,
And to-day might I claim e’en thy beauty so rare
If good Uncle John would but make me his heir.
30

Many thanks, my best Edith! I now understand
For what thou are willing to barter thy hand:
A palace-like mansion with front of brown stone,
In some splendid quarter to fashion well known,
Sèvres china, conservatory, furniture rare,
35
Unlimited pin-money, phæton and pair.

It is well, gentle lady! The price is not high
With a figure like thine, such a hand, such an eye,
Most brilliant accomplishments, statuesque face,
Manners, carriage distingué, and queenlike in grace,—

40
Nothing wanting whatever, save only a heart,
But, instead, double portions of cunning and art.

Ah! well for me, lady, I have learned in good time
To save myself misery—you, sordid crime.
I will garner the love that so lately was thine

45
For one who can give me a love true as mine;
But learn ere we part, Edith, peerless and fair,
Uncle John has just died and has left me his heir!
 

 

The Tryst of the Sachem’s Daughter

 

 
In the far green depths of the forest glade,
Where the hunter’s footsteps but rarely strayed,
Was a darksome dell, possessed, ’twas said, [Page 44]
By an evil spirit, dark and dread,
Whose weird voice spoke in the whisperings low

5
Of that haunted wood, and the torrent’s flow.

There an Indian girl sat silent, lone,
From her lips came no plaint or stifled moan,
But the seal of anguish, hopeless and wild,
Was stamped on the brow of the forest child,

10
And her breast was laden with anxious fears,
And her dark eyes heavy with unshed tears.

Ah! a few months since, when the soft spring gales
With fragrance were filling the forest dales;
When sunshine had chased stern winter’s gloom,

15
And woods had awoke in their new-born bloom,
No step had been lighter on upland or hill
Than her’s who sat there so weary and still.

Now, the silken ears of the tasseled maize
Had ripened beneath the sun’s fierce blaze,

20
And the summer’s sunshine, warm and bright,
Had been followed by autumn’s amber light,
While the trees robed in glowing gold and red,
Their fast falling leaves thickly round her shed.

A Sachem’s daughter, beloved and revered,

25
To the honest hearts of her tribe endeared
By her goodness rare and her lovely face,
Her innocent mirth and her artless grace;
Wooed oft by young Indian braves as their bride,
Sought by stern-browed chiefs for their wigwam’s pride.

30

Heart-free, unwon, she had turned from each prayer,
And thought but of smoothing her raven hair;
Of embroidering moccasins, dainty, neat,
With quills and gay beads for her tiny feet;
Or skillfully guiding her bark canoe
35
O’er St. Lawrence’s waves of sparkling blue. [Page 45]

Alas for the hour when in woodlands wild
The white man met with the Sachem’s child,
And she wondering gazed on his golden hair,
His deep blue eyes, and his forehead fair,

40
And his rich soft voice fell low on her ear,
And became to her heart, alas! too dear.

Well trained was he in each courtly art
That can please and win a woman’s heart;
And many a girl of lineage high

45
Had looked on his wooing with fav’ring eye:
Inconstant to all, in hall or in bower,
What chance of escape had this forest flower?

Soon, ah! very soon, he tired of her smile,
Her dusky charms and each sweet, shy wile;

50
And yet it was long ere, poor trusting dove,
Her faith was shaken in the white man’s love;
And now one last tryst she had asked of him
In this haunted glade in the forest dim.

He had lightly vowed, as such men will do,

55
To the place and hour that he would be true;
She had waited since the dawn broke chill,
Till the sun was setting behind the hill;
But for him, amid scenes of fashion gay,
All thought of his promise had passed away.
60

“I will wait for him here,” she softly said,
“Yes, wait till he comes,” and her weary head
Drooped low on her breast, and when the night,
On noiseless pinions had taken its flight,
She looked at the sunrise, with eyes grown dim,
65
And murmured: “I’ll wait here for death or him.”

It was death that came, and with kindly touch
He stilled the heart that had borne so much; [Page 46]
To the Manitou praying, she passed away
With the sunset clouds of another day,—

70
No anger quickened her failing breath,
Patient, unmurmuring even in death.

For days they sought her, the sons of her race,
In deep far-off woods, in each secret place,
Till at length to the haunted glade they crept,

75
And found her there as in death she slept.
They whispered low of the spirit of ill,
And buried her quickly beside the hill.

That year her false lover back with him bore
A radiant bride to his native shore,

80
And, with smiling triumph and joy elate,
Ne’er gave one thought to his dark love’s fate;
But an All-seeing Judge, in wrath arrayed,
Shall avenge the wrongs of that Indian maid.

 

Given and Taken

 

 
The snow-flakes were softly falling
    Adown on the landscape white,
When the violet eyes of my first-born
    Opened unto the light;
And I thought as I pressed him to me,
5
    With loving, rapturous thrill,
He was pure and fair as the snow-flakes
    That lay on the landscape still.

I smiled when they spoke of the weary
    Length of the winter’s night,

10
Of the days so short and so dreary,
    Of the sun’s cold cheerless light—
I listened, but in their murmurs
    Nor by word nor thought took part, [Page 47]
For the smiles of my gentle darling

15
    Brought light to my home and heart.

Oh! quickly the joyous springtime
    Came back to our ice-bound earth,
Filling meadows and woods with sunshine,
    And hearts with gladsome mirth,

20
But, ah! on earth’s dawning beauty
    There rested a gloomy shade,
For our tiny household blossom
    Began to droop and fade.

And I, shuddering, felt that the frailest

25
    Of the flowers in the old woods dim
Had a surer hold on existence
    Than I dared to hope for him.
In the flush of the summer’s beauty
    On a sunny, golden day,
30
When flowers gemmed dell and upland,
    My darling passed away.

Now I chafed at the brilliant sunshine
    That flooded my lonely room,
Now I wearied of bounteous Nature,

35
    So full of life and bloom;
I regretted the wintry hours
    With the snow-flakes falling fast,
And the little form of my nursling
    With his arms around me cast.
40

They laid his tiny garment
    In an attic chamber high,
His coral, his empty cradle,
    That they might not meet my eye;
And his name was never uttered,
45
    What e’er each heart might feel,
For they wished the wound in my bosom
    Might have time to close and heal. [Page 48]

It has done so, thanks to that Power
    That has been my earthly stay,

50
And should you talk of my darling,
    I could listen now all day,
For I know that each passing minute
    Brings me nearer to life’s last shore,
And nearer to that glorious Kingdom
55
    Where we both shall meet once more!  

 

c.1852

 

 

The Recollect Church

 

 
Quickly are crumbling the old gray walls,
    Soon the last stone will be gone,
The olden church of the Recollects,
    We shall look no more upon;
And though, perchance, some stately pile
5
    May rise its place to fill,
With carven piers and lofty towers,
    Old Church, we shall miss thee still!

Though not like Europe’s ancient fanes,
    Moss-grown and ivied o’er

10
Bearing long centuries’ darkened stains
    On belfry and turrets hoar—
A hundred years and more hast thou
    Thy shadow o’er us cast;
And we claim thee in our country’s youth
15
    As a land-mark of the past.

Thou’st seen the glittering Fleur-de-lys
    Fling out its folds on high
From old Dalhousie’s fortress hill,
    Against the morning sky;

20
And, later, the gleam of an English flag
    From its cannon-crownèd brow,— [Page 49]
That flag which, despite the changing years,
    Floateth proudly o’er us now.

Thou’st seen the dark-browed Indians, too,

25
    Thronging each narrow street,
In their garb so stangely picturesque,
    Their gaily moccassined feet;
And beside them gentle helpmates stood,
    Dark-hued, with soft black eyes,
30
In blanket robes, with necklets bright—
    Large beads of brilliant dyes.

Thou’st seen our city far outgrow
    The bounds of its ancient walls,
In beauty growing and in wealth,

35
    And free from early thralls,
Till round Mount Royal’s queenly heights,
    That stretch toward the sky,
In pomp and splendor, beauteous homes
    Of luxury closely lie.
40

Within this time-worn portal prayed
    The sons of differing creeds,
And unto God, in various ways,
    Made known their various needs.
Better dwell thus in brotherly love,
45
    All seeking one common weal,
Than stir the stormy waters of strife
    Through hasty and misjudged zeal.

And for many years the exiles lone,
    Who landed upon our shore

50
From Erin’s green and sunny isle,
    Did here their God adore;
And laid their aching sad hearts bare
    To His kind, pitying gaze,
And prayed to Him in this new strange land
55
    For better and brighter days. [Page 50]

And humble Recollect Friars here
    Their matins recited o’er,
And glided with noiseless, sandalled feet
    O’er the chapel’s sacred floor;

60
Again, at the close of day they met,
    Amid clouds of incense dim
And the softened rays of tapers’ blaze,
    To sing their evening hymn.

They and their order have passed away

65
    From among their fellow-men.
Little recked they for earth’s joys or gains,
    On heaven bent their ken.
The lowly church that has borne their name
    So faithfully to the last,
70
Linked with our city’s young days, like them,
    Will henceforth be of the past.
 

 

Sister M.B.’s Arrival in Montreal, 1654

 

 
It is now two hundred years and more
Since first set foot on Canadian shore
That saint-like heroine, fair and pure,
Prepared all things for Christ to endure;
Resigning rank and kindred ties,
5
And her sunny home ’neath France’s skies.

A lonely sight for her to see
Was the wilderness town of Ville Marie!
The proud St. Lawrence, with silver foam,
Touched softly the base of our island home,

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But frowning forest and tangled wood
Made the land a dreary solitude.

Nor mansion, chapel, nor glinting spire
Reflected the sunset’s fading fire; [Page 51]
The wigwam sent up its faint blue smoke,

15
The owlet’s shrill cry the stillness broke,
While the small rude huts of the settlers stood
Within frail palisades of wood.

Undaunted by fear of the savage foe,
Wild midnight blaze or th’assassin’s blow;

20
Careless of suffering, famine, want,
That haunted the settlers like spectres gaunt,
Sister Bourgeois had but one hope, one aim—
To humbly work in her Master’s name.

Kindly she gathered around her knee

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The dusky daughters, unfettered, free,
Of forest tribes, and, with woman’s art,
Ennobling, softning each youthful heart,
Fashioned them into true womanhood,
Slow unto evil but prompt to good.
30

And their pale-face sisters had full share
In this gentle teacher’s tender care;
And grew up, holding as holy and dear
The sacred duties of woman’s sphere;
Adding the firmness and courage high—
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Chief need of our sex in days gone by.

Sister Bourgeois’ daughters have nobly all
Responded unto her gracious call;
Through sunshine and joy, through storm and pain—
In one unfailing, unbroken chain

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Of teachers devoted—nought left undone
To fulfil the task by their foundress begun.
 

 

Charles VII and Joan of Arc at Rheims

 

 
A glorious pageant filled the church of the proud old city of             Rheims,
One such as poet-artists choose to form their loftiest themes: [Page 52]
There France beheld her proudest sons grouped in a glittering             ring,
To place the crown upon the brow of their now triumphant king.

The full, rich tones of music swelled out on the perfumed air,

5
And chosen warriors, gaily decked, emblazoned banners bear:
Jewels blazed forth, and silver-bright shone armor, shield and             lance,
Of princes, peers, and nobles proud, the chivalry of France.

The object of these honors high, on lowly bended knee,
Before the altar homage paid to the God of Victory;

10
Whilst Renaud Chartres prayed that Heaven might blessings             shower down
On that young head on which he now was chosen to place a             crown.

Fair was the scene, but fairer far than pomp of church or state,
Than starry gems or banners proud, or trappings of the great,
Was the maiden frail whose prophet-glance from heaven seemed

15
            to shine,  

Who, in her mystic beauty, looked half mortal, half divine.

Her slight form cased in armor stern, the Maid of Orleans stood,
Her place a prouder one than that of prince of royal blood:
With homage deep to Heaven above, and prayers to Notre             Dame,
She waved above the monarch’s head proud Victory’s

20
            Oriflamme.  

Then, as the clouds of incense rose, encircling in its fold
That shining form, the kneeling king, the canopy of gold,
It seemed unto the gazers there a scene of magic birth,
Such as is rarely granted to the children of this earth.

Sudden a mystic sadness steals o’er Joan’s features bright,

25
Robbing her brow, her earnest eyes, of their unearthly light:
A voice from Him, by whose right arm her victories had been won,
Had whispered, ‘bove the clank of steel, “Thy mission now is             done,”

Perchance the future, then, was shown to her pure spirit’s gaze,
The future with its sufferings, the shame, the scaffold’s blaze;

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[Page 53]  
The deaf’ning shouts, the surging crowd, the incense, mounting             high,
Foreshadowed to her shrinking soul the death she was to die. The youthful monarch now was crowned, and lowly at his feet
Did France’s saviour bend her form, rendering homage meet.
No guerdon for past deeds of worth sought that young noble
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            heart,  
She, who might all rewards have claimed, asked only to depart.

Oh! France! of all the storied names that deck thy history’s page,
Thy sainted kings, thy warriors proud, thy statesmen stern and             sage,
None, none received the glorious light, the strange Promethean             spark
That Heaven vouchsafed thy spotless maid, immortal Joan of Arc!

40

 

Sea-Shore Musings

 

 
How oft I’ve longed to gaze on thee,
    Thou proud and mighty deep!
Thy vast horizon, boundless, free,
    Thy coast so rude and steep;
And now entranced I breathless stand,
5
    Where earth and ocean meet,
Whilst billows wash the golden sand,
    And break around my feet.

Lovely thou art when dawn’s red light
    Sheds o’er thee its soft hue,

10
Showing fair ships, a gallant sight,
    Upon thy waters blue;
And when the moonbeams softly pour
    Their light on wave or glen,
And diamond spray leaps on the shore,
15
    How lovely art thou then!

Still, as I look, faint shadows steal
    O’er thy calm heaving breast,
And there are times, I sadly feel,
    Thou art not thus at rest;
[Page 54]
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And I bethink me of past tales,
    Of ships that left the shore,
And meeting with thy fearful gales,
    Have ne’er been heard of more.

They say thy depths hold treasures rare,

25
    Groves coral—sands of gold—
Pearls fitted for a monarch’s wear
    And gems of worth untold;
But these could not to life restore
    The idol of one home,
30
Not make brave hearts beat high once more
    That sleep beneath thy foam.

But I must chase such thoughts away,
    They mar this happy hour,
Remembering thou dost but obey

35
    Thy Great Creator’s power;
And in my own fair inland home,
    Mysterious, moaning main,
In dreams I’ll see thy snow-white foam
    And frowning rocks again.
40

 

A Girl’s Day Dream and Its Fulfilment

 

 
“Child of my love, why wearest thou
That pensive look and thoughtful brow?
Can’st gaze abroad on this world so fair
And yet thy glance be fraught with care?
Roses still bloom in glowing dyes,
5
Sunshine still fills our summer skies,
Earth is still lovely, nature glad—
Why dost thou look so lone and sad?”

“Ah! mother it once sufficed thy child
To cherish a bird or flow’ret wild;

10
To see the moonbeams the waters kiss, [Page 55]
Was enough to fill her heart with bliss;
Or o’er the bright woodland stream to bow,
But these things may not suffice her now.”

“Perhaps ’tis music thou seekest, child?

15
Then list the notes of the song birds wild,
The gentle voice of the mountain breeze,
Whispering among the dark pine trees,
The surge sublime of the sounding main,
Or thy own loved lute’s soft silvery strain.”
20

“Mother, there’s music sweeter I know
Than bird’s soft note or than ocean’s flow,
Vague to me yet as sounds of a dream,
Yet dearer, brighter than sunshine’s gleam;
Such is the music I fain would hear,
25
All other sounds but tire mine ear!”

“Ah! thou seekest then a loving heart,
That in all thy griefs will bear a part,
That shelter will give in doubt and fear,
Come to me, loved one, thou’lt find it here!”

30

“Sweet mother, I almost fear to speak,
And remorseful blushes dye my cheek,
For though thou’st watched me from childhood’s hour,
As thou would’st have done a precious flower,
Though I love thee still as I did of yore,
35
Yet this weak heart seeketh something more:

A bliss as yet to my life unknown,
A heart whose throbs will be all mine own,
The tender tones of a cherished voice,
Of him who shall be my heart’s first choice;

40
And who at my feet alone shall bow,
This, this is the dream that haunts me now.” [Page 56]

“Alas, poor child, has it come to this?
Then bid farewell to thy childhood’s bliss,
To thy girlhood’s bright unfettered hours,

45
Thy sunny revels ’mid birds and flowers;
Of the golden zone yield up each strand
To cling to a hope, unstable as sand,
And forget the joys thy youth hath wove
In the stormy doubts of human love,
50
The feverish hopes and wearing pain
That form the links of Love’s bright chain!”
                        Alas! the mother spoke in vain!

The girl’s dream was soon fulfilled,
Her hopes by no dark cloud were chilled;

55
A lover ardent, noble too,
With flashing eyes of jetty hue,
With voice like music, sweet and soft,
Such as her dreams had pictured oft,
Now at her feet, a suppliant bowed,
60
And love eternal, changeless vowed.

Listening, then, with glowing cheek,
And rapture which no words might speak,
She thought, with bright and joyous smile,
They erred who thus could love revile,

65
Or say it had many a dark alloy,—
Had it not proved a dream of joy?

But, alas for her! she learned too soon
That love is fleeting as rose of June,
That her eyes might shine with olden light,

70
And yet be found no longer bright;
That she might devoted, faithful prove,
Yet her lover grow weary of her love.
Many an hour of silent tears,
Of heart-sick doubts, of humbling fears,
75
Of angry regrets, were hers, before
Her heart would say: “He loves me no more.” [Page 57]

Weary of life and its thorny ways,
She sought the friend of her early days:
“Mother, I bring thee a breaking heart,

80
In sorrows deep it hath borne a part;
Speak to me tenderly as of yore,
Let thy kiss rest on my brow once more;
To the joys of my girlhood back I flee,
To live alone for them and for thee! [Page 58]
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