Winter in Lower Canada

 

Thou barren waste, unprofitable strand,

Where hemlocks brood on unproductive land,

Whose frozen air on one bleak winter’s night

Can metamorphose dark brown hares to white!

 

Here forests crowd, unprofitable lumber,

O’er fruitless lands indefinite as number;

Where birds scarce light, and with the north winds veer

on wings of wind, and quickly disappear,

Here the rough Bear subsists his winter year,

And licks his paw and finds no better fare.

 

One month we hear birds, shrill and loud and harsh,

The plaintive bittern sounding from the marsh;

The next we see the fleet-winged swallow,

The duck, the woodcock, and the ice-birds follow;

Then comes drear clime, the lakes all stagnant grow,

And the wild wilderness is rapt in snow.

 

The lank Canadian eager trims his fire,

And all around their simpering stoves retire;

With fur clad friends their progenies abound,

And thus regale their buffaloes around;

Unlettered race, how few the number tells,

Their only pride a cariole and bells!

 

To mirth or mourning, thus by folly led,

To mix in pleasure or to chaunt the dead!

To seek the chapel prostrate to adore,

Or leave their fathers’ coffins at the door!

Perchance they revel; still around they creep,

And talk, and smoke, and spit, and drink, and sleep!

 

With sanguine sash and eke with Indian’s mogs,

Let Frenchmen feed on fricassees or frogs;

Brave Greenland winters, seven long months to freeze,

With naught of verdure save their Greenland trees;

Bright veiled amid the drapery of night,

In Ice-wrought tapestry of gorgeous white,

No matter here in this sad soil who delves;

Still leave their lower province to themselves.

 

-Standish O’Grady

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