The primary purpose of these Explanatory Notes is
threefold: to explain or identify words and phrases that might be
obscure to modern readers of A Year in Canada, to provide some
context for Knight’s observations of Canada within the travel
literature of the time, and to call attention to words, phrases, and
passages that allude to or derive from the works of other writers. The
notes are intended to complement the Introduction, which strives to
place A Year in Canada within an historical and literary context
and to link the poem not only with other works pertaining to Canada, but
also with the writings and ideas of Knight’s time and earlier. A great
many volumes of travel literature and historical commentary on North
America were in circulation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries. The following works have been cited to provide some sense of
how Knight’s words fit into the discussion of the country and its
inhabitants going on in print at the time: D’arcy Boulton’s Sketch
of His Majesty’s Province of Upper Canada (London, 1805), Patrick
Campbell’s Travels in the Interior Inhabited Parts of North America
in the years 1791 and 1792 (Ed. H. H. Langton. Toronto: Champlain
Society, 1937), Jonathan Carver’s Travels through the Interior
Parts of North America in the years 1766, 1767 and 1768 (Toronto:
Coles, 1974), Adam Ferguson’s An Essay on the History of Civil
Society (1767. Ed. Duncan Forbes. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1966),
Hugh Gray’s Letters from Canada, written during a residence there
in the years 1806, 1807, and 1808.(London, 1809), John Lambert’s
Travels through Lower Canada and the United States of North America, in
the years 1806, 1807 and 1808 (2 vols. London, 1810), Abbé Raynal’s
A Philosophical and Political History of the British Settlements and
Trade in North America (2 vols. Edinburgh: Macfarquar, 1776), John
Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Year’s Expedition, against
the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (Ed. Richard Price and Sally Price.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1988), Isaac Weld’s Travels through
the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada
during the years 1795, 1796, and 1797 (Introd. Martin Roth. 2 vols.
New York: Johnson Reprint, 1968). The quotations from James Thomson’s The
Seasons are from the edition by James Sambrook (Oxford: Clarendon,
1989). After the initial reference to Thomson’s work, quotations are
designated by season ("Spring," "Summer,"
"Autumn," "Winter") and line numbers. The passages
cited from Goldsmith are from volume four of The Collected Works of
Oliver Goldsmith edited by Arthur Friedman (5 vols. Oxford:
Clarendon, 1966). Extensive use has also been made of the Oxford
English Dictionary (20 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1989), Oxford
English Reference Dictionary (2nd ed. Ed. Judy Pearsall
and Bill Trumble. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996), and the Canadian Oxford
Dictionary (Ed. Kathleen Barber. Don Mills, ON: Oxford UP, 1998) in
the compilation of these notes. Bibliographical information for all
other works cited appears in the body of the notes.
raves: "Of the seas,
storms, etc.: To rage; to dash, rush, roar, etc., in a furious
thund’ring tube: An
example of periphrasis common in eighteenth-century English
poetry. Cf. William Wordsworth, Descriptive Sketches (1793)
(Ed. Eric Birdsall. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1984) 60-61: "The
thundering tube the aged angler hears, / And swells the groaning
torrent with his tears." Eric Birdsall points out that in
these lines of Wordsworth’s there is an echo of Alexander Pope’s
Windsor Forest, 2. 129-30: "He lifts the tube, and
levels with his Eye; / Strait a short Thunder breaks the frozen
sky." Pope, Wordsworth, and Knight all lament the "violat[ion]
of peaceful nature" (Birdsall 44).
Healthful thy keenest breeze: Cf.
Thomson, The Seasons, "Winter" 692-96:
. . . now, behold, the joyous
Frosty, succeed; and thro’ the blue Serene,
For Sight too fine, the etherial Nitre flies;
Killing infectious Damps, and the spent Air
Storing afresh with elemental Life.
fleecy shower: Cf.
"Winter" 227: "fleecy World";
"Winter" 229: "whitening Shower."
Caledonia: Scotland. See
John Pinkerton’s Modern Geography (3 vols. London, 1807)
Scotland was first discovered to the Romans by Agricola; and the
luminous pages of Tacitus disclosed the situation and manners of
the country. . . .
Tacitus discriminates the northern part to Britain from the
southern, by the special and repeated appellation of Caledonia, a
name said to be derived from a Cumraig word signifying woodlands,
forests, or, perhaps, rather a mountainous country. . . .
While there are no direct
references to The Seasons in this section, it may be of
interest to note that in "Autumn" (880-956), the
Scottish Thomson writes of Caledonia, of its landscape and
economic situation, and of certain historical figures.
bothy: "A hut or
shelter" (OED). Both "bothy" and "bield"
are of note for their currency in Scottish or northern dialects.
The OED cites examples of their use from the works of
Robert Burns and Hector Macneill.
Glengary: An alternate
spelling of Glengarry common until Confederation—and employed in
Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s Proclamation of 16 July 1792 which
established the county. For a detailed account of the county, see
Royce MacGillivray and Ewan Ross’s A History of Glengarry
(Belleville, ON: Mike, 1979). One of Ontario’s easternmost
counties, named for a glen in Invernessshire, Scotland, Glengarry
was originally bounded by the Ottawa River on the north, the St
Lawrence River on the south, the border between Upper and Lower
Canada on the East, and, according to the Proclamation, "‘the
easternmost boundary of the late township of Cornwall, running
north twenty-four degrees west until it intersects the Ottawa or
Grand River’" (qtd. in Royce and Ross 3) on the west. In
1798, it was divided roughly in half, the southern portion
retaining the name Glengarry, the northern becoming a new county,
Prescott. The early settlers of the area were largely United
Empire Loyalists, many being Scottish Highlanders who had
emigrated to the Mohawk Valley in New York Province to be tenant
farmers. During the winter of 1775-76, after orders had been sent
out to arrest leading Loyalists, Sir John Johnson, a British
landlord in the Mohawk Valley escaped to Montreal with some of his
tenants. After being given the rank Lieutenant Colonel, he formed
a battalion of refugee settlers, the King’s Royal Regiment of
New York. When the regiment disbanded in 1783, provision had to be
made for the soldiers and their families, and so Governor General
Sir Frederick Haldimand ordered new townships to be laid out along
the St. Lawrence River, and sent the refugees to Pointe Maligne,
in the area of what is now Cornwall, Ontario. Approximately one
thousand Loyalists settled the area in 1784. By the time of the
Knight’s trip to Canada, there had been a further influx of
Scottish immigrants into the region with a large number arriving
from Knoydart in 1786, followed by groups of Highlanders landing
in Canada in 1794 and 1802.
See Campbell 125. During his journey from Montreal to Kingston,
Campbell passes through Glengarry:
From lieutenant Fraser’s I
proceeded to the foot of the river Raisson, where an Italian
Count, on his return from Lake Superior, was encamped. He had
three tents, some baggage, provisions, and a crew of ten or
twelve Canadians in one birch canoe, the largest I ever saw of
the kind. This small river is closely settled for the space of
twenty miles, mostly by Highlanders; and in many parts seven
concessions deep, as they are called here, (i.e.) seven
farms deep, the one behind the other. This is reckoned a very
fine settlement; the soil extremely rich, and the average of the
produce in grain twenty fold. I put up at the house of a Mr M’Donald
formerly from Ardnabee in Glengary.
See also Boulton 25: "Charlottenburgh
[township] is in the county of Glengary. . . . This country must
be admitted to be a very fine one, though being so entirely
confined to Scottish settlers, it seldom attracts other
mazy dance: cf.
"mazy Dance" ("Autumn" 596) "Mazy"
is probably meant in the sense of being "full of windings and
glad strathspey: "A
lively dance or reel for two dancers" (OED) named for
its native place, the valley (strath) of the river Spey.
bright effulgence: Cf.
"Summer" 103: "Lost in the near Effulgence of thy
Blaze"; "Summer" 635: "the bright-effulgent
Lybian: A variant
spelling of Libyan. Knight may be using the term to refer to
no wretched Lybian toils:
Knight is making the point that maple sugar is obtained without
the use of slave labour. While the slave-trade had been abolished
in Britain by this time, the use of slave labour in its colonies
continued. The bulk of the country’s sugar came from the West
Indies, the product of "Lybian toil." See Introduction
sun’s refulgent glow:
Cf. "Summer" 2: "Child of the Sun, refulgent SUMMER
the dawn of June’s
resplendent morn: The structure of Thomson’s
"Summer" is that of a summer’s day, from the sun’s
rising to its setting. Knight, too, moves from the time "ere
the dawn" to that of "the moon’s nocturnal rays"
chaplet: "A wreath
for the head" (OED)—in this case a garland of
Mingled the lilac: Cf.
Then seek the Bank where
flowering Elders croud,
Where scatter’d wild Lily of the Vale
Its balmy Essence breathes, where Cowslips hang
The dewy Head, where purple Violets lurk,
With all the lowly Children of the Shade:
Or lie reclin’d beneath yon spreading Ash. . . .
Cf. also "Spring"
528-29: "And in yon mingled Wilderness of Flowers, /
Fair-handed Spring unbosoms every Grace. . ." After these
lines Thomson offers a catalogue of British wildflowers.
Sweet was the blush: Cf.
The meek-ey’d Morn
appears, Mother of Dews,
At first faint-gleaming in the dappled East:
Till far o’er Ether spreads the widening Glow;
And, from before the Lustre of her Face,
White break the Clouds away. . . .
Hark! ’tis their shout: Knight, in her
first note on this section (46; pt. 2, nt. 1), says that she has
contemplated a side of the picture of the Native peoples different
from that of a "late traveller." Lambert could be this
traveller given the following observations which he makes on the
village of Cachenonaga:
We saw very few men, but plenty
of squaws, who were dressed in their dirty
blankets, lugging their children about, or sitting down on the
ground in groups, laughing and chatting with each other. Idleness
reigned in every part of the village, nor could
I find either man, woman, or child, employed at any sort of
work, though I looked into many of their houses.
are dirty, miserable, and destitute of furniture; and the
whole village . . . presents
a most forlorn and wretched appearance. (2: 82-83)
a female train: See Introduction xxviii.
2.61 Daughters of Europe: It is of note that
Knight appeals to the open-mindedness and compassion of women,
whereas Thomson offers only tributes to female beauty and to the
loveliness of female passivity and submissiveness See
MAY my Song soften, as thy
BRITANNIA, hail! for Beauty is their own,
The feeling Heart, Simplicity of Life,
And Elegance, and Taste: the faultless Form,
Shap’d by the hand of Harmony. . . .
(A blazon follows these lines.)
See also "Autumn" 570-78:
BUT if the rougher Sex by this
Is hurry’d wild, let not such horrid Joy
E’er stain the Bosom of the BRITISH FAIR.
Far be the Spirit of the Chace from them!
Uncomely Courage, unbeseeming Skill,
To spring the Fence, to rein the prancing Steed,
The Cap, the Whip, the masculine Attire,
In which they roughen to the Sense, and all
The winning Softness of their Sex is lost. . . .
Though they must bear the
load: Cf. Carver 235: ". . . the men, who are remarkably
indolent, leave to them every kind of drudgery; even in their
hunting parties the former will not deign to bring home the game,
but send their wives for it, though it lies at a very considerable
Cf. Ferguson 83: "It is a servitude, and a continual toil,
where no honours are won."
zone: "A girdle or
belt, as a part of dress. (Chiefly poetic.) Hence, any
encircling band" (OED).
The one—her blanket:
See Introduction li, note 12.
Back o’er her shoulders: See Knight’s
notes (46; pt. 2, nt. 4, 5). Cf. Lambert 1: 374-75:
The women carry their children
behind their back: they are wrapped up in swaddling cloths, and
fastened to a flat board, with a piece of hickery-stick bent over
at the top; upon this, a piece of cloth is fastened, which covers
the child, and preserves it from being plagued by the musquitoes
and flies, or scratched by the bushes when going through the
woods. . . . On Sunday, the Indians are all
drest in their gayest apparel; the women then decorate their
children upon these cradle boards, with a variety of coloured
ribbons and painted cotton clothes. The face of the child is all
that is seen, the arms and feet being confined under the bandages
and cloths, which are wrapped tight round the body, so that is has
a great resemblance to an Egyptian mummy.
With all a mother’s love:
Cf. Lambert 2: 83: "no mothers can appear more tender of
their offspring than they [Native women] do."
And chase the shades of Superstition:
Cf. Carver 298: "Injuries are felt by them with exquisite
sensibility, and vengeance pursued with unremitted ardour."
Cf. Weld 2: 276-77:
[The] indifference in the mind
of the Indians about taking away the life of a
fellow creature, makes them appear . . . in a
very unamiable point of view . . . [I]n the
opinion of many people, all the good qualities which they possess,
would but ill atone for their revengeful disposition, and for
which . . . they sometimes inflict upon the
prisoners who have fallen into their power in
battle. Great pains have been taken, both by the French and
English missionaries, to represent to them the infamy of torturing
their prisoners; nor have these pains been bestowed in vain; for
though in some recent instances it has appeared that they still
retain a fondness for this horrid practice,
yet . . . of late years not one prisoner has
been put to the torture, where twenty would have been a hundred
years ago . . . but to
eradicate wholly from their breasts the spirit of revenge has been
Has not its tenant’s
hospitable care: Carver writes that the Native peoples are
"sociable and humane to those whom they consider as their
friends, and even to their adopted enemies; and ready to partake
with them of the last morsel, or to risk their lives in their
defence" (410). This observation is supported by other travel
writers such as Weld who remarks that "[t]he Indians are by
nature of a very hospitable generous
disposition . . ." (2: 271).
of a diff’rent mould:
This could refer to a differing pattern or shape, but given Knight’s
use of "earth" in line 150, mould is perhaps meant in
the sense of the "[e]arth regarded as the material of the
human body" (OED). Cf. John Gabriel
Stedman’s Narrative of a five year’s expedition, against
the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (Ed. Richard Price and Sally
Price. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1988.) 618: "We all only
differ in the Colour but we are Certainly Created by the same hand
& After the Same Mould. . . ." Cf. Abbé
Raynal 18-19: "[L]ike the Laplanders, they [Native North
Americans] are of a different species from ourselves." See
Or should the blood-hound:
See Introduction xxxvii-xxxviii.
Ages long lost return: Cf. Raynal 1:
The first priests of the Britons
were the Druids, so famous in the
annals of Gaul. To throw a
mysterious veil upon the ceremonies of a savage worship, their
rites were never performed but in dark recesses, and generally in
gloomy groves, where fear creates spectres and
apparitions. . . . The
altars of a formidable deity were stained with
the blood of human victims, and enriched
with the most precious spoils of
war. . . . The history of
human superstitions affords no instance of
any one so tyrannical as that of the druids.
sons of Doubt: This
formulation is common enough in The Seasons. Examples of
Thomson’s use of it include the following: "sordid Sons of
Earth" ("Spring" 875); "Sons of Art"
("Summer" 1457); "Sons of Glory"
("Summer" 1479); "Sons of Mercy"
("Winter" 378); "Sons of Riot"
Truth sought the land: Cf.
"Summer" 1730-31, 1753-62. Knight is making reference to
Native North Americans, whereas Thomson imagines what humankind
(or perhaps Europeans) would be like without Philosophy; but the
two passages bear some comparison.
WITH Thee, serene PHILOSOPHY,
And thy bright Garland, let me crown my Song!
• • •
TUTOR’D by thee, hence
Her Voice to Ages; and informs the Page
With Music, Image, Sentiment, and Thought,
Never to die! the Treasure of Mankind,
Their highest Honour, and their truest Joy!
WITHOUT thee what were unenlighten’d Man?
A Savage roaming thro’ the Woods and Wilds,
In quest of Prey; and with th’ unfashion’d Fur
Rough-clad; devoid of every finer Art,
And Elegance of Life. . . .
When Peace and Love: See Introduction
lii, note 17. Cf. "Summer" 875-80:
. . . the
softening Arts of Peace,
Whate’er the humanizing Muses teach;
The godlike Wisdom of the temper’d Breast;
Progressive Truth, the patient Force of Thought;
Investigation calm, whose silent Powers
Command the World. . . .
from Hoogly’s banks to
Indiana’s shade: Hooghly is "the most westerly of the
rivers of the Ganges delta, in West Bengal" (OERD).
Aside from the obvious connection of Indiana to India, Knight may
be making a reference to the Battle of Tippecanoe. See
Introduction lii, note 16.
Th’ ascending sun: Cf.
NOW, flaming up the Heavens,
the potent Sun
Melts into limpid Air the high-rais’d Clouds,
And morning Fogs, that hover’d round the Hills
In party-colour’d Bands . . . .
Tired of the blaze: Cf.
"Summer" 483-89, part of Thomson’s depiction of nature
at "raging noon" (432):
Now starting to a sudden
Stream, and now
Gently diffus’d into a limpid Plain;
A various Groupe the Herds and Flocks compose,
Rural Confusion! On the grassy Bank
Some ruminating lie; while others stand
Half in the Flood, and often bending sip
The circling Surface. . . .
Rome’s tyrannic day:
Cf. "Summer" 758: "the purple Tyranny of Rome."
Lambert in his chapter dedicated to both the history of Roman
Catholicism and to a discussion of the effects of the faith in
Lower Canada, relates how "the divine precepts of
Christianity . . . were made the horrid and
blasphemous instruments of tyranny . . ." (1:
348-49) by its priests.
Yet frown not here: The
issue of religious tolerance is certainly not unique to Knight. In
his 1799 Travels, Weld simply states, "Every religion
is tolerated, in the fullest extent of the word, in
provinces . . ." (1: 370). According to Hugh
Gray, "nowhere do the Roman Catholics and Protestants live on
better terms than here. They go to each other’s marriages,
baptisms, and burials without scruple; nay, they have even been
known to make use of the same church for religious
worship. . . .There is something truly Christian in
all this . . . (60). But by 1810, Lambert is
feeling the need to remind his readers that "This is the age
of toleration . . ." (1: 353). Indeed he
devotes an entire chapter (vol. 1, ch. 17) of his work to the
French Canadian/ Roman Catholic issue. He suggests, "A
man . . . cannot be said to be accountable for
the errors and defects of that religion which originated centuries
before he was born, and in which he was initiated by his
parents" (1: 355). After all, as he points out, Catholicism
offers no threat to the Protestant, British order, for "[a]t
the present day, the Roman Catholic religion, compared with its
most flourishing periods, is humbled with the dust" (1: 349).
Lambert goes on to assert, "It is not a haughty, supercilious
behaviour that will win the esteem of the Canadians; on the
contrary, they are a people of such polite and easy demeanour
themselves, that they are rather repulsed, than invited by the
manners of some of the English clergy" (1: 358).
With the bold cossack, or the
fierce hussar: Knight is referring to the Turkish light
horsemen who fought with the Russian army and to the light cavalry
regiments in most European armies named for the fifteenth-century
Hungarian body of light horsemen upon which they modelled
Yet here when peals: See Introduction
xlii-xlv. Knight’s attempts to allay the fears of British with
respect to the loyalty of Canada’s francophone population strike
a distinctive note within the context of the travel literature of
the time, although Lambert feels the need to observe that the
French Canadians "have been dutiful and obedient subjects and
when our other colonies shook off the yoke of Great Britain, they
remained true and faithful . . ." (357). Many
British officials in Canada including Sir James Henry Craig
(1748-1812), Governor of Lower Canada from 1806-1811, worried that
sympathies would prove to be divided along linguistic lines. Craig
succeeded only in creating new conflict between French and English
Canadians through his actions in 1809 and 1810. See Craig Brown,
ed. The Illustrated History of Canada (Toronto: Lester,
Mistakenly equating Canadien
aspirations with those of Napoleon, and perceiving them as a
threat to English authority, he [Craig] imprisoned leaders of
the Parti Canadien without trial, twice dissolved the Assembly,
and attempted to stop publication of Le Canadien, founded
four years earlier to defend French-Canadian interests.
On the topic of French-Canadian
loyalties, see Gray 336-37 and 343:
I deny that the descendants of
Frenchmen, retaining the French language, manners, and customs,
and constantly talking of the French as their progenitors, can
ever be good British subjects, or enter heartily into her
interests. The Frenchman’s amor patriae is not easily
rooted out. . . .
[re: military training] The English and Canadians are divided
into separate corps. The Canadians are officered by their
own people; taught their exercise in French; and form a
perfectly distinct body from the English. If brigaded with
English troops, they could not understand the word of command,
nor act with effect. In short, if the governor of Canada had
intended to make them fit materials for Bonaparte to use against
us, he could not have resorted to a better plan than what has
been adopted here. . . .
Dwells there on earth: Cf.
STILL let my Song a nobler
And sing th’ infusive Force of Spring on Man;
When Heaven and Earth, as if contending, vye
To raise his Being, and serene his soul.
Can he forbear to join the general Smile
Of Nature? . . . .
Dwells there on earth: Cf.
. . . Hence!
from the bounteous Walks
Of flowing Spring, ye sordid Sons of Earth,
Hard, and unfeeling of Another’s Woe,
Or only lavish to yourselves; away!
The op’ning beanflower: Cf.
. . . . Long
let us walk,
Where the Breeze blows from yon extended Field
Of blossom’d Beans. Arabia cannot boast
A fuller Gale of Joy. . . .
Plant of the East:
According to The Cambridge World History of Food (ed.
Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas. Vol. 1. Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 2000. 90), buckwheat—which probably originated in
Mancuria and Siberia and was cultivated in China and Japan at
least as early as 1000 B.C.—entered Europe in the late middle
ages. There was, however, a "legend" that the plant had
arrived much earlier thanks to Crusaders who brought it with them
on their return home.
Ah! there a thousand: Cf.
"Spring" 121: "Myriads on Myriads, Insect-Armies
waft" and "Summer" 246-47:
". . . by Myriads, forth at once, / Swarming
they pour. . . ."
fen: "Low land
covered wholly or partially with shallow water, or subject to
frequent inundations" (OED).
The shrinking stream: Cf.
. . . tyrant Heat,
dispreading thro’ the Sky,
With rapid Sway, his burning Influence darts
On Man, and Beast, and Herb, and tepid Stream.
WHO can unpitying see the flowery Race,
Shed by the Morn, their new-flush’d Bloom resign,
Before the parching Beam? So fade the Fair. . . .
But lo!: Cf.
"Summer" 1103-68: "Behold, slow-settling o’er the
lurid Grove / Unusual Darkness broods . . ."
"Atmospheric phenomena were formerly often classed as aerial
or airy meteors (winds), aqueous or watery
meteors (rain, snow, hail, dew, etc.), luminous meteors
(the aurora, rainbow, halo, etc.), and igneous or fiery
meteors (lightning, shooting stars, etc.)" (OED).
And darker glooms: Cf.
LET no presuming impious
CREATIVE WISDOM, as if Aught was form’d
In vain, or not for admirable Ends.
Shall little haughty Ignorance pronounce
His Works unwise, of which the smallest Part
Exceeds the narrow Vision of her Mind?
As if upon a full-proportion’d Dome,
On swelling Columns heav’d, the Pride of Art!
A Critic-Fly, whose feeble Ray scarce spreads
An Inch around, with blind Presumption bold,
Should dare to tax the Structure of the Whole.
And lives the Man, whose universal Eye
Has swept at once th’ unbounded Scheme of Things;
Mark’d their Dependance so, and firm Accord,
As with unfaultering Accent to conclude
That This availeth nought? Has any seen
The mighty Chain of Beings, lessening down
From INFINITE PERFECTION to the Brink
Of dreary Nothing, desolate Abyss!
From which astonish’d Thought, recoiling, turns?
Till then alone let zealous Praise ascend,
And Hymns of holy Wonder, to that POWER,
Whose Wisdom shines as lovely on our Minds,
As on our smiling Eyes his Servant-Sun.
Cf. also "Summer"
HOW shall I then attempt to
sing of HIM,
Who, LIGHT HIMSELF, in uncreated Light
Invested deep, dwells awfully retir’d
From mortal Eye, or Angel’s purer Ken;
Whose single Smile has, from the first of Time,
Fill’d, overflowing, all those Lamps of Heaven,
That beam for ever thro’ the boundless
Sky. . . .
Lo! in the caves where Ocean’s
waters ooze: Cf. "Spring" 823:
". . . the deep Ooze and gelid
Cavern. . . ."
’Tis hers to mock the storm:
Cf. "Winter" 843-46: "the Sons of Lapland . . . // . . . love
their Mountains and enjoy their Storms."
Successive harvests rose: See Knight’s
note on farming practices (50; pt. 4, nt. 6). Cf. Campbell 114 and
The Canadians are perhaps the
worst farmers in the world. If one of them happens to have a spot
in a field that produces nothing, and has industry enough to drop
a few carts of dung on it, if the plough and harrow do not spread
it, it may lie there for him; he has done his part when he took
the trouble of putting it on the land; spreading it is a labour no
one would submit to undertake.
In the island of Montreal . . . are many
spacious and fine farms, some of which are possessed by Englishmen
who cultivate and manure their land as is done in that country,
and raise crops which astonish the natives, who now begin to
follow their example, and will soon, it is to be hoped, spread
over all the populous and extensive province of Lower Canada.
Cf. also Weld 2: 7-8:
The style of farming amongst the
generality of the French Canadians has hitherto been very
slovenly; manure has been but rarely used; the earth just lightly
turned up with a plough, and without any other preparation the
grain sown. . . . The people are beginning
now, however, to be more industrious and better farmers, owing to
the increased demand for grain for exportation, and to the advice
and encouragement given to them by the English merchants at Quebec
and Montreal, who send agents through the country to the farmers
to buy up all the corn they can spare.
Sweet bard of Auburn: A reference to
Oliver Goldsmith (c.1730-1774) and his poem The Deserted
Village (1770) which begins "Sweet Auburn, loveliest
village of the plain." Auburn itself is fictional (though
some readers wish to view it as Lissoy, the village in which the
poet attended school as a child), but the work deals with what the
poet saw as a very real problem—that of the depopulation of the
country. With common lands becoming private, with small holdings
being consolidated, and with cottages being destroyed to indulge
the aesthetic taste of the wealthy for pleasing views, small
farmers were leaving the country, either to find work in the
cities or to emigrate. The following lines (35-40, 275-76, 281-84)
are of particular relevance to Knight’s poem:
Sweet smiling village,
loveliest of the lawn,
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant’s hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all thy green:
One only master grasps the whole domain,
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain
• • •
. . . The man of wealth and pride,
Takes up a space that many poor supplied;
• • •
His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
Indignant spurns the cottage from the green;
Around the world each needful product flies,
For all the luxuries the world supplies.
Cf. The Traveller (1764)
Have we not seen, round
Britain’s peopled shore,
Her useful sons exchang’d for useless ore?
• • •
Seen opulence, her grandeur to maintain,
Lead stern depopulation in her train,
And over fields, where scatter’d hamlets rose,
In barren solitary pomp repose?
Have we not seen, at pleasure’s lordly call,
The smiling long-frequented village fall?
Knight’s poem, as a whole,
also serves to counteract Goldsmith’s view of North America as
depicted in The Traveller 413-16:
. . . some
Through tangled forests, and through dangerous ways;
Where beasts with man divided empire claim,
And the brown Indian marks with murderous
aim. . . .
and in The Deserted Village
. . . To
distant climes, a dreary scene,
Where half the convex world intrudes between,
Through horrid tracts with fainting steps they go,
Where wild Altama murmurs to their woe.
Far different there from all that charm’d before,
The various terrors of that horrid shore.
• • •
Where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey,
And savage men more murderous still than
they. . . .
And Error limping from his
shadowy cave: Perhaps a reference to Edmund Spenser’s The
Faerie Queene (The Oxford Anthology of English Literature.
Ed. Frank Kermode and John Hollander. Vol. 1. New York: Oxford UP,
1973. 669-820) in which the dragon Errour resides in a
"darksome hole" (1.1.16), though Spenser’s dragon is
Ontario’s wave: Lake
the bugle’s martial sound:
Knight does not refer to a particular "passing troop,"
but in keeping with the communities she has depicted she may have
had in mind the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles or the Canadian
Voltigeurs. Knight previously wrote of the invasion of Canada in Home:
a Poem. See Introduction xlvii.
Shooting stars. Cf. "Summer" 1700: "lambent
The orchard’s ripen’d
burden: See Introduction xi-xiv.
fameuse: Snow apple.
pommegris: Grey apple,
also known as the French russet.
See earlier note 3.21
Benlomond: Ben Lomond is
part of the Grampian mountain chain in north-west Stirlingshire
and is situated on the east side of Loch Lomond. (See Pinkerton 1:
Lares: "The tutelary
deities of a house" in Roman mythology (OED).
The squirrel bounds: Cf.
BE not the Muse asham’d,
here to bemoan
Her Brothers of the Grove, by tyrant Man
Inhuman caught, and in the narrow Cage
From Liberty confin’d, and boundless Air.
• • •
Spare the soft Tribes, this barbarous Art forbear!
With hearts elate: See Introduction
xii-xiii. Cf. "Winter" 276-79:
As thus the Snows arise; and
foul, and fierce,
All Winter drives along the darken’d Air;
In his own loose-revolving Fields, the Swain
Disaster’d stands. . . .
Curricle: "A light two-wheeled
carriage, usually drawn by two horses abreast" (OED).
However, what Knight describes in this note is a carriole, "[a]
kind of sledge used in Canada" (OED).
Caghnawanga: Probably a variant
spelling of Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), a territory near Montreal first
settled in the late 1660s by Mohawk and Oneida peoples who had converted
Bled: A variant spelling of blé.
George Ogilvie’s Carolina; or, the Planter,
composed in 1776, was published in London in 1790. According to the
reprint of the poem in Southern Literary Journal (Special
Edition, 1986, introduction and annotations by David S. Shields), the
stanza in which these lines appear reads:
Tho’ now, perhaps, the never
Forbears, at length, an hundred fold to yield;
Whilst distant groves invite your wand’ring sight,
Still, still, remember where you first saw light!
Think whence your sire, your grandsire, haply glean’d
Those treasur’d heaps you now profusely spend!
Think the worn lands, like thriftless Timon, crave
One grateful mite of all the wealth they gave;
And will, as conscious of your grateful care,
Exert for you that vigour you repair!
From love of birth-place patriot virtues flow,
As from the central point the radii grow.
Knight is referring here to Abbé Raynal’s A
Philosophical and Political History of the British Settlements and Trade
in North America, from which the following passage is excerpted:
Some of these numerous inhabitants, it
is true, have fled from a new dominion, which admitted no other difference
among men but such as arose from personal qualities, education, fortune,
or the property of being useful to society. But the emigration of these
contemptible persons, whose importance was founded on nothing but
barbarous custom, cannot surely have been considered as a misfortune.
Would not the colony have been much benefitted by getting rid of that
indolent nobility that kept up the contempt for all kinds of
labour? (2: 132)
Gray also refers to Raynal’s
After the conquest, the people of
greatest respectability, both civil and military, retired to France—judges,
counsellors, great landholders, governors, and rulers of all sorts: all
those who, by example, precept, or authority, were qualified to keep good
order in the country, who knew the people, their prejudices, and wants:
almost all such left it. In their room came English governors and judges,
who, though well meaning and just men, yet knew neither the people, nor
their laws, language, nor customs. . . . They could
not, in the nature of things, preserve that check on the people to which
they had been accustomed under the judges of their own nation. (Gray