Sunday, January 27, 2013

Poetry by the river

Archibauld Lampman
I happened to pick up a copy of the New Edinburgh News this morning, the December edition actually, which has an article on Page 3, written by Paula Thompson, about Riverside Poetry in Stanley Park. Reading it, I learned that two plaques inscribed with poems, one in English, one in French, have been erected in Stanley Park near the riverside tennis courts there.

The English poem, entitled To the Ottawa was written by Archibauld Lampman, who died in 1899 aged only 37. He is buried in Beechwood Cemetery.

Here is the poem:
Dear dark-brown waters full of all the stain
Of sombre spruce-woods and the forest fens,
Laden with sound from far-off northern glens
Where winds and craggy cataracts complain,
Voices of streams and mountain pines astrain
The pines that brood above the roaring foam
Of La Montagne or Les Erables; thine home
Is distant yet, a shelter far to gain.
Aye still to eastward, past the shadowy lake
And the long slopes of Rigaud toward the sun,
The mightier stream, thy comrade, waits for thee,
The beryl waters that espouse and take
Thine in their deep embrace, and bear thee on
In that great bridal journey to the sea.
Alfred Garneau
Rigaud is a municipality with a sizeable hill to the west of Montreal. The Ottawa's "comrade river" is the St. Lawrence, of course.

The French poem, La Rivière is by Alfred Garneau (1836-1904), and describes not the Ottawa but the Rideau River:
C’est une forte berge, au large flanc de glaise,
Abruptement taillée ainsi qu’une falaise!
Le Rideau passe au bas, riant sous son flot noir.
D’ici, le long des eaux je puis apercevoir
Les roseaux alignés comme une palissade,
Où crie, à pointe d’aube, un grand héron maussade.
Étroite, la rivière a du moins son attrait
D’onde mouvante, avec, entrant sous la forêt,
Tous ses enfoncements, pareils à des alcôves,
Qu’achèvent de fleurir, au bord, les glaïeuls mauves.
L’on a pour horizon des blés, point de lointain
Que le ciel, et dans l’eau son mirage incertain.

Another thing I learned from Ms. Thompson's article is that there's a 35km long Poets' Pathway around Ottawa with other poems by Canada's (early, famous) "Confederation Poets" on plaques along the way. What a nice idea!

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