Famous Firesides of French Canada
by Mary Wilson Alloway
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"Beside the dark Uttawa's stream, two hundred years ago, A wondrous feat of arms was wrought, which all the world should know. 'Tis hard to read with tearless eyes this record of the past, It stirs our blood, and fires our souls, as with a clarion blast. What, though beside the foaming flood untombed their ashes lie,— All earth becomes the monument of men who nobly die. Daulac, the Captain of the Fort, in manhood's fiery prime Hath sworn by some immortal deed to make his name sublime, And sixteen soldiers of the Cross, his comrades true and tried, Have pledged their faith for life or death, all kneeling side by side. And this their oath, on flood or field, to challenge face to face The ruthless hordes of Iroquois,—the scourges of their race. No quarter to accept nor grant, and loyal to the grave. To die like martyrs for the land they'd shed their blood to save. And now these self-devoted youths from weeping friends have passed, And on the Fort of Ville-Marie each fondly looks his last. Soft was the balmy air of spring in that fair month of May, The wild flowers bloomed, the spring birds sang on many a budding spray, When loud and high a thrilling cry dispelled the magic charm, And scouts came hurrying from the woods to bid their comrades arm. And bark canoes skimmed lightly down the torrent of the Sault, Manned by three hundred dusky forms, the long-expected foe. Eight days of varied horrors passed, what boots it now to tell How the pale tenants of the fort heroically fell? Hunger and thirst and sleeplessness, Death's ghastly aids, at length. Marred and defaced their comely forms, and quelled their giant strength. The end draws nigh,—they yearn to die—one glorious rally more For the sake of Ville-Marie, and all will soon be o'er. Sure of the martyr's golden crown, they shrink not from the Cross; Life yielded for the land they love, they scorn to reckon loss. The fort is fired, and through the flame, with slippery, splashing tread, The Redmen stumble to the camp o'er ramparts of the dead. Then with set teeth and nostrils wide, Daulac, the dauntless, stood, And dealt his foes remorseless blows 'mid blinding smoke and blood, Till hacked and hewn, he reeled to earth, with proud, unconquered glance, Dead—but immortalized by death—Leonidas of France; True to their oath, his comrade knights no quarter basely craved,— So died the peerless twenty-two—so Canada was saved."

The historian says:—"It was the enthusiasm of honour, the enthusiasm of adventure and the enthusiasm of faith. Daulac was the Coeur-de-Lion among the forests and savages of the New World." The names and occupations of the young men may still be read in the parish registers, the faded writing illumined by the sanctity of martyrdom. The "Lays of Rome" recount among her heroes none of greater valour than these by the lonely rapids in the silence of the Canadian forest.


Near a modern window in the gallery leans an old spinning-wheel, which was found in the vaults. By its hum in winter twilights, a hundred years ago, soft lullabies were crooned, and fine linen spun for dainty brides, over whose forgotten graves the blossoms of a century of summers have fallen. In hoop and farthingale they tripped over the threshold of the old church of Notre Dame de Bonsecours. They plighted their troth as happily before the altar of the little chapel, as do their descendants in the stately church of Notre Dame, with the grand organ pealing through the dim arches and groined roof.

The old, old wheel is silent, and the fingers that once held distaff and spindle have crumbled into dust, but the noble deeds and glorious names of those days gone by are carven deep in the monument of a grateful country's memory.

Over an archway in the picture gallery is an enormous oil painting, dark with age, of the British Coat of Arms, which, it is whispered, was brought over hurriedly from New York during the American Revolution.

The museum of the Chateau is daily receiving donations of interesting relics, and has already a fine collection of coins, medals, old swords and historical mementoes—some of the autograph letters of Arnold, Champlain, Roberval, Vaudreuil, Amherst, Carleton, the de Ramezay family and many others, being of great interest.

These early days have passed away forever. The whirr of the spinning-wheel, or shout of the hunter, no longer sound along the banks of the St. Lawrence. No canoe of the painted warrior now glides silently by the shore; for Montreal with its three thousand inhabitants when Vaudreuil beat his retreat, to its present population of 300,000, has thrown its magnificent civilization around these spots hallowed by the footprints of the great men whose feet have walked her ancient streets.

"She has grown in her strength like a Northern queen, 'Neath her crown of light and her robe of snow, And she stands in her beauty fair between The Royal Mount and the river below."

The two nationalities live harmoniously side by side in commercial and social life, both retaining their racial and distinctive characteristics. The old chansons of Brittany are still heard from the hay-carts and by the firesides, and up and down the rivers ring out the same songs as when the "fleet of swift canoes came up all vocal with the songs of voyageurs, whose cadence kept time among the dipping paddles."

The Chateau de Ramezay has suffered many changes and modifications in the various hands through which it has passed since its foundation stones were laid, but the citizens of Montreal, revering its age and associations, are restoring it as much as possible to its original state and appearance; and the thousands who yearly pass through it testify to the romance surrounding the walls of the old Chateau, Ville Marie's grandest relic of an illustrious past—a past which belongs equally to both French and British subjects, and which has developed a patriotism well expressed in the words of the eloquent churchman, Bruchesi, Archbishop of Montreal, who says:

"I know the countries so much boasted of where the myrtles bloom, where the birds are lighter on the wing, and where gentler breezes blow. I have passed quiet days on the beach at Sorrento, where the Mediterranean rolls its blue waves to the foot of the orange tree. I have seen Genoa, the superb and radiant Florence, and Venice, the Queen of the Adriatic. More than once I have gazed upon the beauty of Naples glittering with the fires of the setting sun. I have sailed upon the azure waves of the Lake of Geneva. I have tasted the charm of our sweet France. My steps have trodden the blessed soil of Rome, and I have trembled with unspeakable gladness. But all these noble sights, all these undying memories, all this sublime poetry, all these enchantments of nature did not take the place in my heart of Canada, my Fatherland, which I have never ceased to regard with enthusiasm and admiration.

What nation can boast of a purer or more glorious origin? May the future of Canada be worthy of its noble past. May charity, true charity, reign among all our citizens as among the children of the same mother. Let us have none of those intestine divisions which enfeeble us,—none of those unhappy jealousies capable of compromising the most sacred interests."

Our fathers' battle-cries are hushed, The ancient feuds are gone; Canadians now and brothers, With God we're marching on. With spears to ploughshares beaten, The furrowed land is won. Through bannered fields of waving corn In peace we're marching on. The North wind through the pine woods Swells out our paean song, To the music of its harping We bravely march along, And join the trampling millions, In chorus deep and strong. To drum-beats of a nation's heart, We proudly march along. O, fair, blue skies, and mountain streams Whose flashing sands run gold, No standard but the Triple-Cross Thy breezes shall unfold. With roaring surge of circling seas We shout our patriot song For Home and Queen and Canada, With God we're marching on. On, marching on, while brave the colours float From sea to sea, with cheer and song, This watchword pass the ranks along, Our Land is marching on!


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