In his introduction to the Unpublished Correspondence between William Kirby (1817-1906) and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Lorne Pierce recognizes a curiously close connection between some important events of Kirby’s times and the landmarks of his early life. The year in which Kirby left his native Yorkshire for the United States—1832—was also the year of the first Reform Bill and the death of Sir Walter Scott. "For the rest of his life," observes Pierce, "Kirby sought escape from encroaching reform." It was a quest that took him, after seven years in the United States, to NIagara-on-the-Lake where he was to become the "spokesman, interpreter, and bulwark of the Tory and Loyalist idea" (14, 17). For his most extended poem—The U.E.: A Tale of Upper Canada, published at Niagara in 1859—Kirby’s principal model was Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field, Scott’s most successful poetic foray into the feudal world of the Waverley Novels. "Sir Walter Scott? Everywhere and always" (19) writes Pierce of Scott’s influence on the development of "anything native to Canadian romance" precisely because of its highly successful use of Scott (Klinck, "Literary Activity" 159).
The year in which Kirby arrived in Canada—1839—was the first year of peace after the Rebellions of 1837-38 and also the year of the Durham Report, a document which simultaneously advocated reform in the Canadas and sought "to perpetuate and strengthen the connexion between the Empire and the North American Colonies" (333). The traumatic events of 1837-38 furnish the climactic episodes of The U.E., the final line of which is an imperialistic apostrophe to "England’s proud Empire, One, for ever more." Nor can it be overlooked that according to its preface The U.E. was "written in . . . 1846" (1), the year in which the Corn Laws were repealed and as Kirby says in his Annals of Niagara (1896), Canada was "deprived . . . of the preferential privileges she had enjoyed in Britain" (244; and see Berger 178). As the machinery that would produce Confederation ground forward, Kirby sough a foundation for the future in an idealized past, in a time when "obedience to the teachings of religion and to the law, and respect for the magistrates appointed by the king were marked features of the people who made Upper Canada one of the grandest members of the British Empire" (Annals 268). It is no more surprising that Kirby was presented to the Prince of Wales during the royal visit of 1860 than it is that this brief meeting with the future king made his "happiness . . . complete" (Pierce, intro. to Unpublished Correspondence 22). This was the man who would preface his volume of Canadian Idylls (1884, 1894) with a passage from Tennyson expressing the hope that Queen Victoria would "rule us long, / And leave us rulers . . . / As noble till the latest day!" (5).
The debt of the U. E. to Marmion is immediately apparent in the opening verse paragraphs of the Canadian poem. A definition of his own poetic enterprise in relation to that of Virgil, Kirby’s introduction recalls Scott’s famous introduction to Canto Third, where the poet counters William Erskine’s suggestion that he emulate "those masters, o’er whose tomb / Immortal laurels ever bloom" by insisting on the integrity of his own "theme" and "measure" (6:123-35). The subject of "heroic song" as classically conceived may be absent from Scotland, Scott conceded, but sufficient "poetic impulse" has nevertheless come to him from "mountain tower," "green hill," and "clear, blue heaven." Kirby agrees: "Let others far for foreign grandeurs roam, / Dearer to me the loveliness of home: / Our ocean-lakes . . . / Our boundless woods . . . / And cloudy Cataracts" (7-12). More classical in his orientation than Scott, Kirby invokes a traditional "Muse" at the end of his introduction, but one whose identity accords with the emphasis on place in Marmion:
For me a wreath of modest cedar,
As is apparent from these lines, Kirby chose not to emulate Scott’s "untrimm’d" octosyllabic couplets, preferring instead the more conventionally conservative form of the decasyllabic couplet. A reference a few lines later to the "sweet bard, who sawest with mournful eye / ‘The rural virtues from their Country fly’" (1:13-14) confirms that in formal matters at least Goldsmith was as much a "poetic mentor" to Kirby (Pierce, intro. to Unpublished Correspondence 18, 20) as he had been to Thomas Cary, J. Mackey, Cornwall Bayley, and other early Canadian poets of a conservative disposition. In certain formalistic respects The U.E. resembles Marmion, however; the cantos of both poems are subdivided into numbered sections of uneven length, and both occasionally use alexandrines to emphasis a point or conclude a section.
In its overall structure The U.E. bears a striking resemblance to Marmion. By design a "Canadian Epic Poem" (Annals 85) rather than a mere "Romantic Tale" (Scott 6:5), The U.E. is divided into twelve cantos rather than Marmion’s six, but this is to a degree cosmetic, for the division of Kirby’s poem by subject-matter is into three larger units: (1) the emigration of Walwyn and his two sons, Ethwald and Eric, from Yorkshire to the Niagara region sometime after the war of 1812 (Cantos 1-4); (2) their experience as settlers and their relationship with the old Loyalist Ranger John and his family prior to the Rebellions of 1837-38 (Cantos 5-8); and (3) the involvement of both families in the fighting in the Niagara area in 1837 and at the Battle of the Windmill near Prescott in 1838 (Cantos 9-12). Both Marmion and The U.E. begin with the departure and journey of a hero (Marmion from England to Scotland, Walwyn from England to Canada) and both end with a decisive battle (Flodden Field and the Battle of the Windmill). Of course an initial journey and a climactic battle also characterize the Aeneid, the poem to which Kirby’s twelve-part structure primarily alludes. As Walwyn ascends the St. Lawrence, one of many epic similes likens him to Aeneas when he braved "crumbling streets and blood, and raging fire . . . To found in other climes a happier Troy" (2:205-08). Allusions to the Iliad (1:97) and a heavy use of Paradise Lost in its final cantos deepen the epic resonances of The U.E. without enabling it to transcend its origins in Scott’s "Romantic Tale." It is no accident that the name Constance is shared by the most engaging female character in Marmion and Ethwald’s abidingly loyal fiancée in The U.E. Indeed Kirby’s choice of Constance as the name of his heroine may be allusive as well as emblematic—a grateful nod to the poet and novelist whose vision of a vanished world of courageous patriarchs, contends yeomen, and graceful women so obviously lies in the background of The U.E.
Two of the other writers who obviously helped to shape the neo-Loyalist vision of The U.E. are Edmund Burke and Thomas Carlyle. Both are cited approvingly in Kirby’s Annals of Niagara, and with quotations that reflect his particular preoccupations. "The age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded," wrote Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France (86), but the Annals of Niagara he is represented by an excerpt from the debate over the Constitutional Act of 1791 in which he advocates appointed rather than elected councils (92). "Like the Romans, and some few others," wrote Carlyle in Past and Present, "the . . . Epic Poem [of Britain] is written on the Earth’s surface: England her Mark!" (151), but in Annals of Niagara he is represented by some caustic remarks on the United States ("a wretched nation") and George Washington ("a monstrous bore [without] ambition . . . religion . . . or any good quality under the sun!" [37-38]). In Kirby the nostalgia for an honourable past and the reputation of laissez-faire liberalism that are the hallmarks of British conservatism become a celebration of Loyalist Canada and a hatred of American democracy. On the title page of The U.E. are an epigraph and an engraving that typify Kirby’s "Tory and Liberalist" values. The epigraph from The Deserted Village (403-06) lists the "rural virtues"—the components of a happy and cohesive community centred on God, country, and family—that according to Goldsmith emigrated from Britain with the enclosures: ‘Contented Toil , . . hospitable Care . . . kind connubial Tenderness . . . Piety . . . steady Loyalty and faithful Love." The engraving depicts the floral emblems of Great Britain and loyal America (roses, oak leaves, hollyhocks) enshrining a circular bee hive—that is, an interdependent community centred on a queen and diligently engaged in creating sustenance, fertility, and "sweetness" (Duffy 33). Time and again in the body of the poem, Kirby reinforces the analogy between Upper Canada and a beehive: when Walwyn and his sons arrive at Burlington Bay (Hamilton), they see "busy thousands . . . / Like bees . . . adding honey, in the hive" (3:193-94); when they reach Niagara, their house is constructed "by the united help of . . . neighbours" at a raising "bee" (Annals 68-69); and when American forces invade Upper Canada in 1837 they are likened to "a man . . . / Who thrusts his hand for honey, in the hive, / Ere fire and smoke expel the stinging throng, / Who guard the treasure of their homes from wrong" (11:331-34). As peace loving as their apian counterparts (and fellow imports from Europe), the loyal settlers of Upper Canada are also, it transpires, fiercely protective of the home(s) that they have created through "Contented Toil . . . and faithful Love."
During the Atlantic crossing, the heroic self-sacrifice of a sailor provides Walwyn with a pretext for regaling Ethwald with his pacifistic version of Kirby’s neo-Loyalism:
Our first great duty is to God
A celebration of culture centred, not on the individualistic self, but on God, monarch, country, and family, The U.E. is also both implicitly and explicitly a critique of the utilitarian values of the "hard material age" heralded by the "Steamer" on which Walwyn and his sons travel from Montreal to Burlington Bay (3:39-68). As Carl Berger observes, a "rejection of individualism and industrial pervade[s] everything that Kirby wrote," and the "Gigantic power of Steam" (3:49) is a product of an eighteenth-century "rationalism" that "distort[s] the order of creation" (179). For Kirby, as for other anti-modernists, "Science" is the "subtle serpent" in the garden that leaves life cold, joyless, and stripped of moral precepts. "The true Elysian plains" exist only in Heaven and a future age "As yet but dreamt of, by the mind / In secret converse with angelic kind" (3:69-116)—specifically, the mind of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose Arcana Coelestia Kirby apparently encountered in the Cincinnati school of Alexander Kinmont and thereafter cherished until "his dying day" (Pierce, intro. to Unpublished Correspondence 18; and see Silver 22-23 and Block 121). A "golden morn" to come will "Reveal the presence of the Lord of all," proclaim "Salvation and angelic life to man," and "unfold the leaves of Heaven’s argentine gate." In the meantime, another anodyne for the icon age exists in the "golden morn" of Canada’s Loyalists:
Religion was with them more deed
It is a measure of Kirby’s commitment to his Tory vision that when he purchased the Niagara Mail with money from his U.E.L. wife Eliza Magdalene Whitmore in 1850 he chose as a motto for the paper "Non mutat genu solum"—"The race [or stock] alone does not change." Later he took his personal motto "The noblest motive is the public good" (Pierce, intro. to Unpublished Correspondence 20).
The conservatism that Kirby embodied in The U.E. has at least two Canadian antecedents with which he was probably familiar. The less obvious of these is Cary’s Abram’s Plains, a poem that treats of the Loyalists only in passing but continually propounds a conservative vision of Lower Canada. One passage especially in The U.E. ("And Dwarfish Esquimaux, with caution steal, / Their oily prey, and dress their nauseous meal" [2:41-42]) echoes Abram’s Plains ("And Dwarfish Esquimaux, with small pig’s eyes, / At cook’ry sick, raw seal and rank oil prize" [164-65]), and raises the possibility of a debt to Cary at other points in the poem—for example, in Kirby’s account of the death of Wolfe (2:153-68), his reference to the tall-mast trade (2:341-46), and his description of Montreal as "Trade’s potent Queen" (2:370-82). The more obvious and important Canadian source of Kirby’s conservatism is the thought of Sir John Beverley Robinson, "the one time poet laureate of John Strachan’s Grammar School at Cornwall" (Pierce, intro. to Unpublished Correspondence 20) to whom The U.E. is fulsomely dedicated by "HIS MUCH OBLIGED AND MOST OBEDIENT SERVANT." Six years before The U.E. was written Robinson published "a carefully articulated exposition of the well-respected principles of Burkean and Blackstonian conservatism" (Cook 93) in the form of Canada and the Canada Bill, the core idea of which could serve as a summary of Kirby’s beliefs: "immigration, the pyramidal society with its yeoman base, limited commerce, the imperial connection . . . religion . . . the fear of democracy, the elevation of honesty, diligence . . . loyalty, and the admiration for a society ultimately exuding ‘refinement’ and ‘contentment’" (Cook 91, 93). Kirby’s links with Robinson and Cary align him with a Canadian conservative tradition that stretches back beyond Strachan and forward through the likes of George Parkin and Stephen Leacock to George Grant and his followers. By another of those curious coincidences remarked by Pierce, Kirby’s wife died on the same day as Sir John A. Macdonald (intro. to Annals xvi).
"We glory in the gallant deeds of our fathers and dwell with delight in the tales of Detroit and Lundy’s Lane; it gives us a character among nations, and inspires us with courage and energy to fulfil all our duties vigorously as men and citizens" (Kirby, Counter Manifesto 14). So wrote Kirby under the pseudonym "Britannicus" in response to the Manifesto published by the Montreal Annexation Association in October 1849. In the same pamphlet he castigates the annexationists for their "intense selfishness" and compares neo-Loyalists such as himself to "the faithful men of Israel," warning darkly that "the hereditary bitterness of U.E. loyalty is surging up like a volcano—and the old tomahawk of the refugees, which has been preserved in our families, along with the fire-side traditions of Oriskany and Wyoming, is taken from its hiding place" (14). These are fighting words, and they suggest that The U.E. is also a counter manifesto of sorts: a poetic attempt to fan the fires of Loyalism against the proponents of annexation and reciprocity (the latter being achieved in 1854 and persisting for a decade thereafter). "True poetry is more than the truest prose," Kirby would write in Annals of Niagara; "poetry is the chariot of truth, and its winged steeds . . . bring light and life into the thoughts and hearts of men, illumine history with a new radiance and warm the emotions and inner chambers of the mind with nobler feelings than we know of in the dull round of prosaic life" (70). To illuminate the past and fire the reader with the "Tory and Loyalist idea": this is the dual purpose of all Kirby’s writing, not least The U.E. By the lessons of history Canada’s assimilations to the United States will be prevented and her future within the British Empire assured.
In Annals of Niagara Kirby cites with approval a quotation likening the time of the Loyalists to "‘the days of Abraham’" (66) and at several points in The U.E. he treats the representative founding fathers of Upper Canada—Walwyn and Ranger John—as the Canadian equivalents of the great patriarchs of the Old Testament. As the narrative opens, the "aged sire" Walwyn (1:35) looks back past the death of his son Ethwald at the Battle of the Windmill (1:47-60) to his family’s "ancient homestead" on "the grassy banks of winding Swale" in Yorkshire (1:137-38). Widowed by his wife Hilda and impoverished by the depression that followed the Napoleonic Wars, Walwyn had seen no future in England for his "rising boys" and so had elected "For their dear sakes . . . [to] leave [his] native shore" (1:212, 227-28). Because he had to leave his beloved Constance behind, the decision to emigrate was also "painful" for the sixteen-year old Ethwald, but the bitter pill was sweetened by Walwyn’s conviction that in Canada the family is going to a place "Where freedom, peace, and plenty all combine, / And still rejoice ’neath England’s rule benign" (1:207-08). To describe the departure and crossing of his proto-loyalists, Kirby draws principally on Joseph Pickering’s Inquiries of an Emigrant (1831), which was published the year before his emigration from Yorkshire at about the age of sixteen. (As Riddell suggests, "Ethwald seems to have been drawn in part from Kirby himself" [Kirby 37].) To suit his own heroic and epical purposes, Kirby embellishes Pickering’s account of the Atlantic crossing with the exemplary story of the self-sacrificing sailor (1:485-554) and invests the "old ocean" with suggestions of Scandinavian mythology ("Midgard’s hoary serpent") derived, very likely, from the first volume of Benjamin Thorpe’s Northern Mythology ( 1:31, 49-50; 1:356-60). Like their counterparts in The Emigrant’s Informant and Acadia (and, according to Annals of Niagara, Kirby entertained Howe in 1853 ), Walwyn and his sons are torn by "conflicting passions" of "hope . . . and fear"—"alternate" feelings which the concluding lines of Canto 1 warn the reader to respect because "’tis such as these, / That bear the seeds of Empire o’er the seas" and "In farthest lands, plant Britain’s mighty name, / Spread her dominion, and exalt her fame!" (1:591-604).
Since Pickering landed in New York, he necessarily disqualified himself as a source for Kirby’s account of the emigrants’ journey up the St. Lawrence and along Lake Ontario to the Niagara region. With supplements from Cary and perhaps Charles Sangster (Kirby’s Cape Tourment is "The Titan of the lofty Capes" [2:77]), the principal prose sources for Canto 2 and Canto 3 of The U.E. are first George Heriot and then Joseph Howison, the former for the area below Quebec City and the latter for the final stages of the journey. "After . . . exhibiting a grateful variety throughout its course," observes Heriot, the Montmorenci River "is precipitated in an almost perpendicular fashion . . . falling, where it touches the rock, in white clouds of rolling foam, and . . . in numerous flakes like wool or cotton, which are gradually profound abyss, below" (76-77). "O’er precipices thrown, / A white cascade rolls like a curtain down," writes Kirby; "O’erhanging trees, half seen ’mid clouds of spray, / Spring from the rocks that wall the narrow way . . . Deep in its rocky bed, the boiling mass / Of waters rushes through the narrow pass" (2:117-24). No O’Grady bent on down-playing the size and effect of Montmorenci Falls, Kirby agrees with Heriot that their "cloud[s] of vapour" (2:113; 61, 77) are an impressive feature of a traveller or emigrant’s first view of Quebec City (the equivalent in The U.E. of Marmion’s first sight of Edinburgh in Scott’s poem). Nor, later in the poem, does he contradict Howison’s notion that in the Thousand Islands "Nature seems . . . to have thrown sportively from her hand a profusion of masses" reminiscent of "the Happy Island in the Vision of Mirza’s dream, / And sportive Nature revels wild and free,," he exclaims as the "rapid Steamer glides" towards Kingston (3:1-6). Kirby then contributes some fanciful touches of his own on the basis of Howison’s speculation that the Thousand Islands will achieve a "fairy loveliness" when embellished by "art and architecture" (32). "Could it be / That nature formed this sweet epitome / For Oberon and all his elvish clan to colonize . . . ?" he wonders, adding that here "The restless tribes of airy Fancy . . . Upon their prancing steeds might urge the race, / Or backed on hummingbirds the gad-fly chase" (3:15-22). Since Kirby was as familiar with Moore’s Canadian poems as he was sympathetic to the Irishman’s disillusionment with American culture (Annals 121-29), these last lines may also be indebted to the passage in "To the Lady Charlotte Rawdon" where the Puckish Indian Spirit "mount[s] . . . the plum / Of [a] Wakon-Bird" and "chase[s]" a humming bird "Through his rosy realm of spring" (Poetical Works 127).
Appealing as they are, however, the natural sights of Canada are less engaging to Kirby than the evidences of "Man and his labours" (2:54). The most prominent of these is Quebec City, where the "cross-topped spires," "quays . . . roofs," and "anchored fleets of commerce" create a "glorious sight" beneath the high centre of British Imperialism in Lower Canada: "proud Cape Diamond towers above them all . . . Till on the loftiest point where birds scarce rise, / Old England’s standard floats amid the skies" (2:135-52). After celebrating "gallant Wolfe" and "noble Montcalm" as heroes who died in "the consciousness of duty done" (2:153-68), Kirby praised the "hardy raftsman from the upper floods" as "Bough pioneers who lead the sylvan war . . . And scatter . . . The seeds of cities, and the homes of men" (2:225-30), a militaristic conception of pioneering that anticipates the sentiments and activities of Max Gordon in Isabella Valancy Crawford’s Malcolm’s Katie. Quebec City also affords Kirby the opportunity for brief but sympathetic vignettes of the French-Canadians and the Hurons. In accordance with a well-entrenched stereo-type, the habitants are an "amiable people" because of their lack of ambition, their "contented mind," their "gentle manners," and their combination of piety and sociability (2:231-52). In contrast, the Hurons are "The last poor remnant of a race gone by"; "Heirs of a Continent," they have been forced off their "rightful soil" by the "force or guile" of "intruders" and reduced either to selling "venal trinkets" or to outright begging (2:252-78), an observation that seems less constant with the state of the Native peoples in Quebec shortly after the War of 1812 than with their deteriorated condition in the late thirties when Kirby was given a tour of the city by John Neilson and others (Riddell, Kirby 7-8). Only marginally less attractive than Quebec for its combination of "Commerce" and religion, Montreal occasions dark thoughts of political "factions" and "civil discords" that, again, seem more apposite to Kirby’s than Walwyn’s time and indeed may indicate that this portion of the poem was written after the Counter Manifesto to the Annexationists of Montreal. Kirby’s parting advice to "estranged" Montrealers is to "Think . . . of the day" when French and English Canadians fought "side by side in woody Chateauguay . . . and . . . rolled invasion off [their] native plains" (2:365-414).
As Walwyn and his sons depart Montreal for the "fertile West" the scenery to come is likened to "some vast panorama’a glorious show" (2:417, 427), a comparison which admits the possibility that Kirby at least knew of Burr’s "Moving Panorama" of the scenery along the St. Lawrence River system. Be this as it may, the portion of the poem that follows the steamer’s passage into the "upper land" is of considerable structural importance for its adumbration of things to come both geographically and historically. Not only do the language, laws, and place names of Upper Canada proclaim the province a congenial destination for British emigrants (2:421-24), but so too does the "Hospitality" of the "Glengarry . . . Highland race" remarked by Howison (19-21; 2:487-514). Even the "nobler oaks and spreading maples" of Upper Canada (2:471)—the former an emblem of England (1:145) and the latter a source of "liquid honey . . . / Sweet as the cane that waves ’neath India’s sun!" (3:249-50)—speak of British values and natural bounty. But there are also sights and signs that foreshadow darker things to come. At the "Indian settlement . . . of St. Regis" (Heriot 123), the St. Lawrence River becomes "a mighty barrier" between "rival states" (2:522) and "On Prescott’s soft declivities"—the site of the Battle of the Windmill—"the lithe / And flowing grass waves deep, ripe for the scythe" (2:533-34). Although the Swedenborgian "angels" who "guard" Ethwald and Eric spare the brothers a "prophetic" look into "The future horrors of this lovely scene" (2:531-48), Constance is less fortunate. As the brothers pass Prescott, and before her "holy watchers see her writhe in pain, / Divine the cause and stop delusion’s reign," she is visited in a dream by "spirits" who allow her to glimpse the "battlefield" upon which Ethwald will die "for his country . . . in his bloom of years" (2:549-78). More blatantly than coincidence in a Dickens novel, this Swedenborgian interlude indicates the operation in human life of a "great design" (10:512) that is not entirely inscrutable or ultimately cruel though it can be a cause of destruction and distress.
Past the Thousand Islands on Lake Ontario, Kingston ("Out country’s hope and trust, in danger’s day" [3:138]), is given short shift relative to Toronto ("the rightful Queen" among "rival cities of our land" [3:159-60]), and both are bypassed for "Burlington’s projected strand, / The ancient fastness of our Western land" (3:201-10). Here, Kirby provides a lengthy description of the "rising city" of Hamilton, a busy hive of "Fashion," "industry," and "trade" where "The Indian war-path ran but yesterday / And fox and wolf their nightly discord made" (3:175-98). Here, too, he compares John Harvey’s decisive attack on an invading American force at Stoney Creek in June 1813 to Leonides’ courageous resistance to the invading Persians at Thermopylae in 480 BC (3:203-22). Not far from this hallowed ground is "the detached place / By Walwyn fixed to run his future race": a fertile, well-watered tract of land forested, predictably, with "stately oaks" and "the rich maple" (3:233-80). Initially the "Deep silence" of the forest engenders a "strange and vacant fear," and then its daunting luxuriance provokes a nostalgic yearning for "Swaledale’s meadows" and the "oppressive thought" that, at fifty, Walwyn is inadequate to the task of clearing his land (3:261-96). But an "hour of prayer" dispels these misgivings and, as if in answer to an entreaty, there suddenly appears from the forest the "aged man, of stature large and strong," whose family and future are destined to be intertwined with Walwyn’s (3:303-34).
As intimated by his very apparel—"quilled mocassins," "a wampum girdle," and "A simple suit of home-spun grey" (3:339-41)—Ranger John is the most complex character in The U.E. Modeled in part on Kirby’s father-in-law John Whitmore, a Loyalist who was adopted by "Delaware rebel Indians" following the murder of his family and survived to die at "a great age" in 1853 (Annals 211-13), he also carries the name of John Clement, a Loyalist "who took up a large tract of land in the township [of Niagara]" after being "a most conspicuous and active leader of the Northern Confederate Indians, an embodied force whose services in scouting and hunting down the rebel bands of partizans and Sons of Liberty were a striking feature of the [revolutionary] war." In Kirby’s words still, "Captain John Clement caught and destroyed a large body of partizans under a noted rebel leader, Captain Bull. He acquired the name Ranger John, and as such is referred to in . . . the U.E." (Annals 85). Since the tale of the American Revolution that Ranger John tells in Canto 4 also resembles the stories of two other Loyalists, Daniel and Jacob Servos, whose exploits Kirby chronicles in detail in The United Empire Loyalists of Canada, Illustrated by Memorials of Servos Family (1884), it asks to "be taken as fairly representative of [the experience] of thousands of American Loyalists" (19). As Ranger John himself says at the conclusion of his narrative: ‘Such . . . is my true tale of yore, / And that of many a dweller of this shore" (4:445-46).
At heart Ranger John’s tale is an attempt to correct the Whig or Republican bias of most American interpretations of the events of 1776-83. "No unmilitary excesses were committed by the Loyalists or Indians" at the "alleged massacre of Wyoming" in 1778, asserts Kirby in Annals of Niagara (55). By depicting Joseph Brant as a monster in Gertrude of Wyoming, Thomas Campbell shows himself to be "a bitter Whig partizan" (56). Such men as "Lithe Servos" (4:243) and "Hawk-eyed Clement" (4:247), Sir William Johnson and Sir John Butler (of Butler’s Rangers) were "brave and self-sacrificing" defenders of "the unity of the Empire" (The United Empire Loyalists 19). To judge by Ranger John’s "true tale," they were also driven by the American rebels to acts of spectacular and—this is Kirby’s contention—fully justified savagery. "By nature just . . . kind, / . . . frank . . . truthful," and "noble" (3:355-57), Ranger John was launched on the downward journey to ignoble savagery when, as a tory, he was "Marked out for vengeance by the rebel clan" (4:56). He reaches his nadir when, in a scene reminiscent of the massacre at Fort Michilimackinac, he kills the rebel Woodworth, scalps him, and, "mad with rage and hunger, [takes] . . . bread / Stained with his blood and spitefully" eats it (4:319-20, 335-36). This Wacoustan descent to the lowest of the four stages of social development gains momentum with Ranger John’s discovery of the bones of his murdered father, children, and wife Gertrude. "What could I do?," he asks, "my soul with madness raved";
Revenge, revenge alone, my spirit
Joining forces with "Oneida Joseph" and other Native chiefs, Ranger John is but one of many "white men, who to Indian arts, / United giant strength and steadfast hearts; / Whose butchered kindred . . . cried for vengeance on the traitor race" (4:235-38). So immersed in savagery does Ranger John become that after exacting revenge on the murderer of his family he reenacts his triumph at a war dance, which, like Howe and Richardson, Kirby elaborates from Weld (4:343-88; 2:292-94). "Grief and revenge my childless bosom steeled," recalls Ranger John, "And as I told my tale, my trophy showed, / Nee! Good! in thunder tones, burst from the approving crowd" (4:352-54). Ranger John’s "Grief and . . . childless bosom" attach whatever blame his behaviour merits to the rebels who murdered his family. To borrow a phrase applied to Le Gardeur in The Golden Dog: "he was more sinned against than sinning!" (620).
Like "the old tomahawk of the refugees" in Kirby’s Counter Manifesto, Ranger John’s Native accoutrements are a sign that the Loyalists have neither forgotten nor forgiven the sins of the American rebels and would, if necessary, rise again in defense of the British Empire. Ranger John affirms this at the conclusion of his tale: "if e’er my king / Command the trump of war anew to ring, / These aged hands would still his cause maintain, / And all they did before, would do again!" (4;417-20). Moreover, he asserts, the "loyal spirit of their hardy sires" lives on in the "brave sons and daughters" of the Loyalists (4:447-48). To this Walwyn adds a few cautionary words—"Woe to the State that lets domestic jars / Grow to a head and burst in factious wars" (4:459-60)—which also reflect more recent and current events in Canada. A "Type of the deed of Cain" (4:465), civil war is a continual danger on a continent whose culture has been shaped, in Kirby’s analysis, by bitter opposition between "monarchical and . . . republican tendencies" (The United Empire Loyalists 3). The Wampum belt around Ranger John’s waist is both an aid to memory (Weld 2:249-250) and a support for a tomahawk.
No sooner has the house been built for Walwyn and his sons that the shadow of Cain soon falls ominously across The U.E. A genial wrestling match among "robust swains" (5:14) leads to a conflict between Ethwald and "the youngest-born of Ranger John" by his second marriage, a "burly youth" named Hugh whose "rude," "vagrant," "selfish," "spiteful," greedy and, worst of all, disloyal nature make him an obvious candidate for American citizenship (5:69-114). "I hate my home, my country, kindred, all," Hugh informs a violently irate Ranger John; "To-morrow’s sun will see me leave these woods, / For Southern lands . . . Freed from your kingly rule, I there will roam / In golden paths undreamed of here at home" (5:125, 150-158). Oblivious like most Tories to any conflict between freedom and authority, Kirby depicts Hugh as the repository of the "careless ire" (5:66) that initially manifests itself in filial rivalry and "filial rebellion" (Duffy 56), the far from harmless forerunners of fratricide, patricide, and—an inevitable corollary of Tory paternalism—the justified execution of a rebellious son. Merely in material terms Hugh is also wrong, as becomes abundantly clear when, in a vain attempt to prevent him heading south, Ethwald visits Ranger John’s homestead. An Upper Canada equivalent of the great Tory houses of the English literary tradition, Ranger John’s "vast" and "spacious house of solid timbers" is the patriarchal centre of a "rural paradise" of picturesque and "profitable beauty" "where all things goodly gr[o]w for the use of man" (Annals 146; 5:248-90). providing evidence of refinement as well as "plenty" are the "snow-white" walls of the house, the "Parterres of flowers," that surround it, and the cushions that soften its "chairs of solid oaken wood." But this is not refinement at the cost of virtue: within Ranger John’s "Plenteous, cleanly, warm Canadian home," his three "pure," "modest," and "graceful" daughters dutifully spin, cook, and weave in "robes of russet brown, / Whose neatness shame[s] the tinsel of the town" (5:291-334). Homemade curtains, a "well-kept rifle," "The family bible and the book of prayer" further reflect the "daily industry" and "simple truthfulness" of the household. As evident as Hugh’s egregious error in this portion of The U.E. is the extent of Kirby’s longing for the lost paradise of the Loyalists.
In the ensuing canto, Walwyn and his sons set about transforming another portion of the wilderness into a thriving homestead. Frequently Thomsonian in diction and imagery ("Now . . . seven times yellow wreathed with corn in ear, / Had Libra, in her balance weighed the year" [6:27-30]), Canto 6 is structured on the seasonal rhythms that govern all agricultural life. After seven years Walwyn’s "unremitting labours" have pushed back the "woody circle" of the forest to create a "spacious plain" on which "Fair meadows . . . flocks, . . . herds, and yellow harvests . . . bless his labour and restore his fame" (6:33-34). Under the combined tutelage of their father and Ranger John, Eric and Ethwald have grown "to youth and robust manhood," the younger learning to earn the "leisure" of "sylvan sports" through "rural labour" and the older preparing to fetch "His lovely Constance" to a worthy homestead (6:45-106). Both boys are successful in their endeavours because "rural wisdom" and "long experience"—the ability to think and act in accordance with nature’s rhythms and tokens—passes smoothly from wise patriarchs to receptive sons, thus ensuring the continuation through time of a social system that is symbolically connected to the natural order. Some of the flora and fauna in Upper Canada may be strange to natives of Britain and the United States, but for the most part Canadian nature does not belie Walwyn’s agricultural knowledge or Ranger John’s "woodcraft." Wild turkeys are still stupid and easily trapped (6:67-78) and "watery rings" around the moon still hold the "promise [of] rain" (6:259-70). As constant and predictable is human nature: men enjoy a cup of cider and a ribald joke with lunch (6:177-86); women enjoy practicing the arts of seduction at dances (6:409-60); and poets enjoy creating "pretty stor[ies]"—in this case an Ovidian fable about the "divine origin" of maize (Mondamin) based, perhaps, on hints in Henry J. Schoolcraft’s Oneóta ( 82, 210) and material in James Athearn Jones’s Traditions of the North American Indians ( 1:149-72; 6:187-226; and see Duffy 36). Loyalist values and, beneath them, a rural continuity that subsumes change: these are the foundations and bedrock of the "happy land" which Kirby sees stretching "From Labrador to Nootka’s lonely Sound" while "Southern stars grow dim beneath [its] rising day" (6:254-56).
The England to which Ethwald returns to marry Constance in Canto 7 differs from Canada mainly in the depth and extent of its ancient customs and traditions. Several references to Scandinavian mythology near the beginning of this canto (7:23-34; see Thorpe 1:11-19, 82; and Taine 1:42-43) anticipate the journey into Britain’s racial and folkloric past that begins when Ethwald arrives on the island once colonized by warriors from "Scania’s rocky shore." True to their imperialistic heritage the "mighty" descendents of the Scandinavians now carry the "torch," "seeds," and "runes," of British civilization to distant "tribes of men" (7:91-104). Both the natural and the social environments of England are steeped in tradition. The "still enduring oaks of ancient days" under which Ethwald plighted his troth to Constance have "heard the bearded Druids’ mystic lays" (7:115-20). When the couple’s wedding day arrives, "Fresh garlands and green bays the house adorn / As antique custom ordered" (7:180-81). After the wedding, they "scatter . . . mystic cake in fragments on the ground"—"An ancient rite that from their fathers came / When heathen offerings were devoid of blame, / And Freya . . . Propitious smiled upon the vows of love" (7:223-28; see Thorpe 1:23-33, 196-96). The church in which the marriage takes place under the auspices of an "aged Pastor" is itself an "ancient house" hung with "banners and . . . shields" which chivalrically recall the more recent history of the race of "free-born yeom[e]n" at the heart of the Empire (7:191-220).
Kirby’s climactic celebration of the "Connubial love" of Ethwald and constance as a "mystic marriage of the Good and True" (7:237-78) owes little to English folklore and tradition, however; typographically insistent on the allegorical significance of "the Pair" as a receration of "the great Archetype of "MAN," the conclusion to Canto 7 derives almost everything but its versification from Swedenborg. "That the male and female were created to be the very form of the marriage of good and truth" is a precept elaborated at great length, not only in the Arcana Coelestia (nn. 2508, 2618, 2728-29, 2739-41), but also in Amor Conjugialis (nn. 83-92, and passim). "MAN" (homo as opposed to vir) is a central concern of the Heavenly Arcana and Conjugal Love, and "pairs"—inwardly married couples who are received into heaven—are repeatedly discussed in the latter work. "The golden chain of true connubial love / Joins earth with heaven and both with God above," Kirby explains before returning Ethwald and Constance to Canada. "Its links electric with [God’s] grace o’erflow / And bind forever, all they bound below" (7:275-78).
Towards the end of Annals of Niagara, Kirby suggests that the three species of oak found in Canada—"white, black, and red" (35, 268)—typify the country’s three main racial groups. Nowhere in The U.E. is the oak used in this way, but as the Hurons of Canto 2, the Loyal Natives of Canto 4, and the corn legend of Canto 6 indicate, the poem does in places dwell sympathetically on peoples of other than European stock. Reflecting Kirby’s "loath[ing] for slavery" (Pierce, intro. to Unpublished Correspondence 23), Canto 8 is given over almost entirely to the tale of an escaped slave called Mango who, despite his unrealistic florid diction (Riddell, Kirby 32) and unfortunately botanical name (actually a reference to slave-trading: ‘mangonizing’), seems to be based on Johnson Molesby (or Moseby), a slave from Kentucky who sought refuge in Niagara early in 1837 and who later in the same year generated considerable public attention when the African-Canadian population of the town thwarted an attempt to return him to the United States (Annals 230-32; and see the Niagara Reporter [14 September 1837]). Molesby’s "escape . . . to the land of freedom" is embellished by Kirby with an incident apparently drawn from the life of the poet’s father-in-law. Just as John Whitmore had passed up the opportunity to avenge himself on a Delaware chief during the War of 1812 (Annals 213), so Mango forgoes the chance to kill the slave trader who has "bought [his] wife" when an inner voice reminds him, not just of the sixth commandment ("Thou shalt not murder!"), but also of his kinship with the trader ("‘Tis thy brother’s blood’ . . . His sire was mine in sin and shame" [8:306-28]). After overcoming this temptation to fratricide, Mango lies "weak as an infant, till . . . / The heavey dews f[a]ll" and then rises to follow "the polar star" to the "distant North . . . Where equal laws and equal freedom, fall / Like dews of heaven, alike refreshing all’ 98:329-50). Before dismissing this depiction of a black slave born again into freedom and equality in Upper Canada as a manipulative white lie, it should be observed that in the careful symmetry of The U.E. the tales of Mango (Canto 8) and Ranger John (Canto 4) are directly parallel. Differ though they do in importance in the poem, Mango and Ranger John are equally victims of American cruelty and tyranny.
In addition to being a representative Canadian of African descent, Mango is the means by which Ranger John and Walwyn hear news of an impending American invasion to support the Mackenzie Rebellion of 1837. "Say know you not / The secret Councils held in yonder spot?," asks Mango as he proceeds to explain that, before crossing from the United States, he had heard "A band of armed men" planning to "Combine . . . with traitors" in Canada to ignite "Rebellion’s sudden flame" (8:385-86, 397-402). Predictably "The master spirit of th[is] riot crew" (11-6)—the principal devil in Kirby’s version of the "great consult" in the second book of Paradise Lost—is none other than Ranger John’s rebellious son Hugh. Playing Moloch to Hugh’s Satan is Rensselear Van Rensselaer, the actual commander-in-chief of the rebel forces gathered at Navy Island in 1837. When Ven Rensselaer "declare[s] for war" (11:360) after the defeat of the rebels in Toronto, he threatens to undermine Hugh’s council of "wise delay, and ampler power, / A braver leader and a riper hour" (11:321-22), and—true to the Miltonic parallel—calls forth from him the "deeper guile" necessary to bend the "fierce natures" of his fellow "ruffians" to his "iron will" (11:387-92). Also present at Kirby’s "secret Councils" are Miles Gustaf Von Shoultz, the commander of the rebel forces at the Battle of the Windmill, and a Judas among Judases named Roughwood whom Van Rensselaer sentences to death by drowning in Niagara Falls. Not present but angrily denounced in the midst of a catalogue of patriote defeats in Lower Canada is the "Arch-Traitor" Papineau "who began the strife" and then "Fled . . . to save his abject life" (11:417-18). That Papineau shares Hugh’s Satanic associations is a testament to the protean nature of rebellion: as both fictional toad and historical snake, evil has entered the Canadian garden.
Supporting Kirby’s fictional Adams in their herioc struggle to save the Eden of Upper Canada are a host of militant Eves (9:51-72) and loyal archangels. Conspicuous among these luminaries are Sir Francis Bond Head (9:43), Sir William McNab (11:366), and James Fitz Gibbon, the officer who received the surrender of the American forces at Beaver Dam during the War of 1812. The actual adjutant general of Upper Canada in 1837, Fitz Gibbon is honoured by Kirby as "The friend of Brock" (10:51), a supremely "noble . . . title" which, like nujmerous other references to the War of 1812 and a subsequent invocation of Brock’s "martial spirit" (10:317-28), serves to indicate that the defense of Upper Canada in 1837-38 is to be viewed as a further manifestation of the Loyalist tradition. "The war of 1812 established forever the position to Canada as a member of the British Empire," asserts Kirby in Annals of Niagara; "it taught us a lesson which will never be forgotten: that a loyal and determined people cannot be conquered" (207). In the War of 1812 a legacy of loss and defeat was augmented by a heritage of military victory and political confidence. Of course the living link in The U.E. between 1776, 1812, and 1837 is Ranger John, the implausibly sprightly incarnation of the Loyalist tradition. "A Chief and Captain" (10:39-58), he surprises a troop of Kentuckians in an ambush consisting of "watchful Iroquois" and "Lincoln’s bold militia" (the First Lincoln Militia: participants in the assault on Fort Niagara in 1813). After the skirmish he proceeds to describe in graphic detail the carnage at Lundy’s Lane (10:89-142). In his "girdle" he carries a "bright tomahawk" (9:80). Later he is dissuaded "with difficulty" (Duffy 36) from burying this "bright hatchet" in the "rebellious head" of his estranged son (10:425-512). Non mutat genu solum.
The fact that Ranger John’s tomahawk is repeatedly described as "bright" and "glittering"‘ accords with Kirby’s very Miltonic association of the Satanic Americans with night and darkness and the angelic Loyalists with light and fire. "Minions of night," Hugh and his "midnight crew" are bent on doing "deeds as black as hell’s obscurest night" (10:284; 9:232; 10:372). In a "pall of blackness" they meet by an "infernal fire" in a "pit of darkness" (10:272; 11:105, 21). Across the river, the members of the First Lincoln Militia are "fiery riders" on "fiery steed[s]," and Ranger John’s success against the Kentuckians gives him a "kindling eye" (9:34, 39; 10:59). When Ethwald joins a fight in which he knows he will meet his own death, his "features gleam" with "light supernal" and Constance assures him that his "bright example" will be a continuing inspiration to their son (9:284, 296). Very much like Eden prior to the Fall in Paradise Lost, Kirby’s Upper Canada is poised between the demonic darkness of the United States and the divine light of the British Empire (in Swedenborg’s terms the darkness [tenebrae] of falsity and the light [lux] of heaven, truth, and the like). The light that emanates from the fire in the American camp is thus a hellish and "fatuous" falsification of the true light (Swedenborg, The Delights of Wisdom 77, 233).
In Kirby’s imperialistic adaptation of Milton’s cosmology, the equivalent of Chaos can only lie in the river that runs between Upper Canada and the United States. Before Ranger John, Ethwald, and their companions cross the Niagara to observe the "great assembly" on Grand Island, they pause for a moment to observe a "wondrous vision":
Niagara’s twin-born Cataracts
Taking his cue from Howison’s perception of Niagara Falls as "a magnificent amphitheatre of cataracts" (93), Kirby likens them to the "Olympic Stadium" during the final round of a chariot race (10:171-74). Probably by way of the footnotes in Thomas Moore’s "To the Lady Charlotte Rawdon," he then borrows from Jonathan Carver’s Travels to invest the "mingling … [and] dividing" of the "transparent" and "dark" waters of the Canadian and American Great Lakes at the Falls with allegorical significance:
There, waves that washed Superior’s
Confirmation of the political implications of these lines comes in the next verse paragraph, where Goat Island is seen as the site of "an eternity of watery wars": "Here, face to face, the sundered torrents pour / In rival cataracts . . . / Mingle their sprays, and with their mighty war / Shake earth’s deep centre with eternal jar" (10:189-200). "Thus every figure to a thinking mind / Shows something more," observes Kirby earlier in the poem, "And Gravity might sit with pondering glance, / Extracting morals from the shifting dance" (6:461-64).
With debts now to Heriot as well as Howison, Kirby looks into the "dread abyss" below the Falls and sees the uneffable "horrors of [a] watery hell":
"Here terror seems to hold his habitation," writes Heriot; "the simultaneous report and smoke of a thousand cannon could scarcely equal [the noise]" (171, 161). And Howison: "the water boils, mantles up, and wreathes in a manner that proves its fearful depth and the confinement it suffers" (89). Like Kirby’s Loyalists, both travellers view the "stupendous scene" (10:213; Heriot 149) from the vantage point of Table Rock, but with quite different results. To Heriot "the effect is awfully grand, magnificent, and sublime. No object intervening between the spectator and that profound abyss, he appears suspended in the atmosphere" (160). To Howison the effect is more complex: after glimpsing the "amphitheatre of cataracts," his view is curtailed by the spray "and the . . . cataracts seem . . . to encompass [him] on every side." Then "a host of pyramidal clouds rose majestically . . . and each, when it had ascended . . . displayed a beautiful rainbow, which in a few moments was gradually transferred into the bosom of the cloud that immediately preceded it. The spray of the Great Fall had extended itself through a wide space directly over me, and, receiving the full influence of the sun, exhibited a luminous and magnificent rainbow, which continued to over-arch and irradiate the spot on which I stood" (93-94). "Oft-times," he concludes, "volumes of snow-whie vapour . . . envelop . . . [the cliffs of Goat island] in the effulgence of Heaven, and, as it were, isolat[e] the terrestrial elysium which they encircle in the bosom of the clouds, lest its delights should become common to the rest of the world" (104). For both Heriot and Howison, as for Weld (to whom they are both indebted), Niagara Falls is the catalyst for an "extatic" experience (10:219) in which the world and the self yield temporarily to a consciousness far greater.
Adding Swedenborgian mysticism to Howison’s Romantic enthusiasm, Kirby finally presents Niagara Falls as more than either a "spot of chaos" or "Creation’s wreck" (10:218). To those whose "vision [is] clear," who can "read . . . the mystic runes of flood and field," the Falls reveal a "marvel":
Amid the droning thunder’s outer
These lines may derive partly from Moore’s conception of Niagara Falls as a haunt of the Indian Spirit in "To the Lady Charlotte Rawdon" and they may also owe a debt to several passages in James Alhearn’s Jones’s Traditions of the North American Indians, where large water falls are said to be the residence of the "God of the Waters" and other "unseen spirits" (1:239; 3:282-85; and see Howison 77). Whatever the sources of the lines, the spiritual significance of Niagara Falls is not lost on Ethwald who, acutely conscious of his own imminent death, quietistically drinks "the vision . . . / Into his inmost soul" (10:234-35).
But Ethwald is not the first of the Canadian brothers in blood and loyalty to "leave the strife below." That distinction goes to the second of Ranger John’s four sons, Herman, who receives a fatal wound from his brother Hugh while attempting to save Roughwood from the "dread abyss" of Niagara Falls. This truly, if accidentally, "fratricidal act" (11:174) occasions some of Kirby’s finest poetry: two mournful stanzas culminating "In all the silent agony of [a father’s] grief" (11:237-310) and an extended elegy for Ethwald which ends in a Swedenborgian prayer to the "Angelic ones" whose "fragrant odour of celestial balm" permeates Herman’s death chamber to "Teach me like him to follow where you lead" (11:237-310). The lesson has not long to be learned, for in November 1838 "the swains of Gallic race . . . / Relight the torch of civil war" (12:11-12) and the prophecy of Ethwald’s death fulfils itself in the Battle of the Windmill. At the head of the rebel forces are Von Schoutz and, inevitably, Hugh, the "chosen leader" of the "outlaw hordes" (12:29-30). Among the "hardy yeomen from Ontario’s strand" who once again take up arms "To serve their Queen and country" are Walwyn, Ranger John, and a loyal quadernity of their sons: Ethwald and Eric, Hendrick and Simcoe. On the pattern of Wolfe, both Hendrick and Ethwald die at the moment of the Loyalist victory, the latter with "His head reposing on his father’s knee" (12:220) in a patriarchal version of the Pietà that recalls Benjamin West’s painting of The Death of General Wolfe. Characteristically, Walwyn accepts his son’s death as an act of God to which "Reason submits" (12:288). Just as characteristically, Ranger John sees the deaths of Hendrick and Ethwald as further cause for "vengeance" and, drawing a "tomahawk, already dyed / With crimson stains," hands on to Eric the bloody emblem of "the old traditions of the . . . race" that "time cannot efface" (12:292-296; 12:74-75).
Meanwhile, in the stone windmill that has served as a makeshift fort for the rebels, Hugh has experienced and resisted the belated onset of conscience typical of (melo)dramatic villains as diverse as Edmund in King Lear and Alfred in Malcolm’s Katie: "down! fell conscience! let thy serpents twine / Round other breasts, in vain they gnaw in mine! . . . here at last I stand, / An open traitor to my land, / With scarce a wish beyond the speedy gloom, / And hoped annihilation of the tomb" (12:141-48). Hugh’s resistance crumbles, however, when he is confronted by Ranger John with the fact that he is the murderer of his brother Herman, the one person for whom he "still could feel a human smart" (12:140). Kneeling below his father’s upraised knife and begging for forgiveness, Hugh becomes a type of both Cain, the fratricidal brother, and Isaac, the obedient son. But before the merciless Ranger John can "recall" the "life [he] gave," "God’s compassion" intervenes in the form of "A treacherous shot from Hugh’s retreating band" that stretches the contrite rebel "bleeding on the sand" (12:366, 388-90). Not only does God’s sympathy clearly lie with Ranger John, but it prevents "the noble Patriarch" (preface 10) from perpetrating an act of filicide while also leaving uncompromised his reasons for doing so. Hugh’s final words—"Forgive me! and I’ll take the stroke of death, / And bless thee, Father! with my latest breath . . . Forgive me now!" (12:379-80, 391)—do nothing to sever the close association between God the father and father the God throughout The U.E.
In the closing scenes of the poem, the Loyalist tradition is again passed on when Ranger John hands his tomahawk to his only remaining son Simcoe, whose very name, of course, remembers forward the first governor general of Upper Canada and, in Kirby’s eyes, "the father" of the province (Annals 121). "Thanks my father! look!," exclaims the delighted youth over "The fatal weapon,"
In truer hand than mine it never
With this, father and son leap once more into the fray to loose the "storm of vengeance" on the "outlaw bands." "Thus ended Prescott fight . . . And all was gladness, save where hearts still bleed, / And melting tears fell o’er the honoured dead" (12:439-46).
Of the two remaining verse paragraphs, the first describes Walwyn and Ranger John consoling each other with their "tender memories" and "loyal heritage" (12:447-60) and the second envisages a perpetual and Edenic continuation of the Loyalist line:
Old John sits in his porch, and
This is Kirby’s reassuring answer to the question asked of men such as Ranger John at the close of the poem’s preface: "Cui Pudor, et Justitae Soror, / Incorrupta Fides, nudaque Veritas; / Quando ullum invenient parem?": "When will Honour and Justice’s sister, / Uncorrupted Faith, and naked Truth, / Find anyone equal to him?" (Horace, Odes 1. 24:6-8). "The virtual disappearance of the first-generation Loyalists, [Kirby] implies, does not affect the persistence of the ideology for which they fought" (Berger 93). Presumably the tomahawk is being safely kept nearby.
From an architectural perspective, the most
interesting and significant portion of The U.E. is probably the
description of the construction, surroundings, and furnishings of Ranger
John’s "vast . . . homestead" in Canto
Fifth. A "spacious house of solid
timbers . . . , / With walls
snow-white" (5:287-88), it is set among "orchards"—the
sign of a well-established settlement in early Canadian poetry—and
shaded by "spreading maples" (5:282,289)—a tree already in
1859 well on the way to becoming an emblem of Canada. The fact that the
homestead is also set among raised flowerbeds and green lawns that
"expand . . . round" it (2:289-90;
italics added) recalls not only the "ample circle" that is
laid bare as a site for the "ample cabin" whose construction
is described earlier in the canto (5:20f), but also echoes back to the
expanding circles of settlement in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Rising
Village (1825, 1834) and forward to the circles of corn that
surround the stone house of Malcolm Graem in Part I of Isabella Valancy
Crawford’s Malcolms’s Katie (1884). Kirby’s description of
the contents of Ranger John’s "spacious dome" (domus:
house), with its "well-cushioned chairs of solid oak wood,"
its "massive chimney," and its "Huge antlers"
(5:320-30), makes it sound very like a Victorian hunting-lodge and,
thus, a precursor of the Canadian hunting-lodge style that achieved its
grandiose epitome in Chateau Montebello (1930), which was originally a
private fishing lodge (the Seigniory Club) and is now a Canadian Pacific
hotel. It is important to emphasize, however, that at the heart of the
way of life that Ranger John and his "vast
. . . homestead" epitomize for Kirby are "The
family bible and the [Anglican] book of prayer" that are laid with
"reverent care" on one of its "heavy tables"
(5:331-33). This is a home in which a "household good" (5:321)
is much more than an item of material property.
The present text of The U.E. A Tale of Upper
Canada is based on the first and hitherto only edition of the poem,
which was "Printed at the Mail Office" in Niagara (now
Niagara-on-the-Lake), Canada West (Ontario) in 1859. An earlier version
of the Introduction in the present electronic edition of Kirby’s poem
was published in D.M.R. Bentley, Mimic Fires: Accounts of Early Long
Poems on Canada (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University