Joseph Howes longest and most ambitious poem, Acadia, has had a brief publishing history. After reposing in manuscript for forty years, the poem was first published by John Lovell of Montreal in 1874, a year after Howes death, in a volume of his selected verse and prose entitled Poems and Essays which his son, Sydenham Howe, had seen through the press.1 For almost a century this was the only edition of the poem. Then, in 1972, David Sinclair included the complete poem in his anthology Nineteenth-Century Narrative Poems, presenting it in a thoroughly modernized text.2 A year later a facsimile of the 1874 text appeared in a reprinted edition of Poems and Essays, with an Introduction by M.G. Parks.3 In addition, selected passages from the poem have been included in several anthologies of Canadian literature. A.J.M. Smith chose one hundred and thirty-one linesthe account of the Indian raid on a settlers homefor his Book of Canadian Poetry (1943, 1948, 1957);4 Carl F. Klinck and Reginald Watters selected a total of two hundred and thirty-two lines of short passages for their Canadian Anthology (1955, 1966, 1974);5 Bliss Carman, Lorne Pierce, and V.B. Rhodenizer included a much smaller sampling of thirty-seven lines in their Canadian Poetry in English (1954).6
For many years critical comment on Acadia was restricted to a few passing observations in surveys of Canadian literature. Both J.D. Logan in Highways of Canadian Literature (l924)7 and V.B. Rhodenizer in Handbook of Canadian Literature (1930)8 mention Howes love of his native province of Nova Scotia as the dominant note of Acadia. R. E. Rashley looks more closely at Acadia in his Poetry in Canada: the First Three Steps (1958), finding in it a greater amount of detail than in Oliver Goldsmiths The Rising Village, an attempt at greater range, and a pronounced infusion of sentiment; he summarizes the themes of Acadia, comments on the poems style, and stresses that Howe . . . shares with Goldsmith the desire to show his Canadian life as a civilized life, to show that the sentiments which are the flower of civilization blossom also in a land which is therefore no longer a primitive wilderness.9 Fred Cogswells brief comments on Acadia in the Literary History of Canada (1965) are evaluative: the moralizing at the beginning and end of the poem is conventional and dull, but the central narrative differs from those [sic] of Goldsmith by its vigour and fast pace.10
In the last two decades an increased interest in colonial and early Canadian poetry has led to a more sharply focused study of Acadia. M. G. Parks Introduction to Poems and Essays singles out the poem for special attention and briefly attempts to balance its strengths and weaknesses.11 George Woodcock, in an article on nineteenth-century narrative poetry, concludes that the natural vigour of the poet, his zestful interest in scenes of action, his sharp feeling for the physical beauties of his native Nova Scotia, emerge to redeem the poems formal lameness and sameness. Woodcock also touches on one of the most controversial aspects of the poem, Howes presentation of the Micmac.12 J. M. Zezulka, in the course of discussing the pastoral vision in nineteenth-century Canadian literature, gives considerable attention to Acadia.13 The poem has finally received close scrutiny in three articles published in the early 1980s in Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews. In The Composition and Text of Joseph Howes Acadia, M. G. Parks fixes the approximate date of composition on the evidence of Howes letters and manuscripts, discusses the two known manuscript versions of the poem and compares them with the first edition, and then comments on Howes difficulties with integration in the latter part of Acadia.14 In A Reading of Joseph Howes Acadia S. G. Zenchuk sees the poem as an object lesson, arguing that Howes purpose in writing Acadia was to show his countrymen, particularly those in positions of authority, the errors which had led to the corruption and bloodshed of the past, thus enabling them to avoid future conflicts, and stressing that Howe has illustrated that through greed, ignorance and a failure to understand cultural tradition, the history of Nova Scotia has been one of bloodshed, sorrow, and loss of freedom and country. Zenchuk concludes that, because Howe feared that the injustices he perceived in the provincial life of the 1 830s might eventually lead to civil unrest if corrective measures are not taken, he advocated in Acadia certain of these measures which he considers necessarya turning away from corruption and greed, a repentance, and a return to a more honest way of life accurately reflecting British principles of justice.15 Susan Gingell-Beckmann, in Joseph Howes Acadia: Document of a Divided Sensibility, argues that the poem exhibits a lack of unified sensibility in its treatment of theme, approach to subject matter, and style. In this context, she pays particular attention to Howes characterization of the Indian, to his patriotic admiration for Britain, and to his diction; her conclusion is that Acadia is . . . badly flawed aesthetically and its thematic treatment [is] often trite, despite occasional passages that reflect genuine feeling and significant thought.16
Although Acadia, like many of the poems in Poems and Essays, bears no date of composition, it can be approximately dated on the basis of external evidence.17 The two known manuscripts furnish the first clue.18 They are both written in the script characteristic of Howe in the 1820s and 1830s. Because by the 1840s his handwriting had become markedly differentmuch bolder, coarser, and more expansivethe manuscripts of the poem indicate that it was composed some time before the 1840s. Another more definite piece of evidence appears in a letter that Howe wrote to his wife when he was travelling through Nova Scotia on one of his annual summer excursions as owner and editor of the Novascotian. In a letter written at Kentville on July 3, 1832, he relates that he had set out to walk the twenty-five miles from Windsor to Kentville on the previous day but had been forced by heavy rain to take refuge at an inn and to spend the night there. Then comes the crucial statement: I amused myself as well as I could reading a number of the Atheneum which I had in my pocket, and in the evening made a commencement, and wrote about twenty lines of my poem, and should opportunity occur I think I see my way clear through a hundred.19 Since Howe wrote relatively few poems of over one hundred lines, and since almost all of them are dated, most of those that might be my poem are readily eliminated. In fact, all except one of Howes long poems belonging to the 1830s can be safely excluded: Sable Island dates from 1831, To the Shubenacadie Canal from 1835, and To the Town Clock from 1836. There remains only the one-hundred-and-eight line poem entitled To My Wife. It might naturally be assumed that this poem, which Howe dated July, 1832, must indeed be the one referred to in his letter of July 3, but it too is eliminated by a subsequent letter. Writing form Pictou, Nova Scotia, on August 9, 1832, Howe tells his wife,
This poem, then, was begun on Howes passage to Prince Edward Island on August 3 and 4 (he says in a previous letter that it had taken him two days and two nights to cross to the Island in a schooner because of calms and head winds) and completed on August 5 in Charlottetown, where he arrived on a Sunday morning and had time on his hands until he could transact business the next day. Because the poem mentioned in the letter of July 3 had been begun on July 2, it cannot be the same one that Howe started to write on the schooner and completed at Charlottetown. Howes remarks identify this second poem as almost certainly To My Wife, especially the phrase to write you some lines and his doubt that what he has written is worthy of the subject. Howes dating of To My Wife in July, 1832 is therefore a slip of memory, for his own on-the-spot evidence denies it. It is clear that the poem begun on July 2, 1832, could not have been To My Wife or any of Howes other long poems. Only Acadia remains unaccounted for, and that certainly must be the poem to which he refers. By July 9 he reports that he had completed another twenty lines of this poem, making a total of about forty lines21probably the first forty-two lines ending with Take, my Acadia, those I twine for thee. The villainous weather of which he complained on this summer tour would have given him many opportunities to work on the poem.
Equally compelling evidence concerning the composition of Acadia appears in Howes references to Lochaber Lake in the thirteenth instalment of his Eastern Rambles. His letters to his wife establish that his first visit to this lake in eastern Nova Scotia occurred in June, 1830,22 and that his description in the Rambles is based upon that visit. His emphasis in that description is on the untouched beauty of the area: The Lochaber Lake owes nothing to the labors of industry and art; its beauties are its own; the scene is essentially the same that it was a hundred, or perhaps a thousand years ago. . . .23 His ride along the lake convinced him that man had not intruded upon this particular spot, except for a few straggling settlers who were so widely separated from each other that some views of great extent may be had, in which not a tree has been felled, or the least sign of cultivation is visible. He ends his reflections on the scene by ruefully predicting that in a very few years the forest will have fallen beneath the axe, and the shores of the lake will be changed into a flourishing farming district.24 When, three years later (in September, 1833), he visited the lake again, he found that his prediction was coming true. In a letter to his wife he remarks You may remember that I was in love with the sylvan appearance of the Lochaber or College Lake when in this country last. Then the ancient woods were scarcely broken upon on either margin, and the whole scene was as beautifully wild as it had been a thousand years before. Now every lot has been taken upclearings are making and log houses are building in every directionand in a few years more there will scarcely be a tree to be seen.25
It is evident, therefore, that the lines in Acadia on Lochaber Lake (ll. 819852) that present it as one of those spots by Art still unprofaned / Where Nature reigns as ages since she reigned (ll. 817818) were written before Howe found such marked changes in 1833. It was true in 1830, but not in 1833, that No axe profane has touched a single bough, / No sod has yet been broken by the plough (ll. 837838). On this evidence alone, it follows that about five-sixths of Acadia had been written before September, 1833, for the Lochaber section of the poem is followed only by the story of the fisherman (ll. 8531030). That remaining section may have been written after 1833, but the existence of the complete text in the first Harvard manuscript copy suggests that no great lapse of time occurred between the composition of the Lochaber section and the concluding episode. Certainly most, if not all, of Acadia was written in 18321833.
Acadia stands squarely in that widely practised literary genre of the topographical poem. Samuel Johnsons much-quoted definition of what he called local poetry sums up the basic aspects of the genre: the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, to be poetically described, with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection, and incidental meditation.26 In Acadia the idea of a particular landscape is retained but extended to the whole province of Nova Scotia, with local particularity being observed primarily in the description of Lake Lochaber; in fact, Acadia falls into a special category of the topographical poem, that of the region or district poem, which describes an extended area from an entire country to a county, river-valley, or lake and its surroundings.27 Historical retrospection becomes much more than an embellishment for Howe, for he devotes several hundred lines to the history of the province, describing at length the life of the Micmac before the arrival of Europeans, the struggle for survival of the early settler in the wilderness, and the bloody strife between England and France for possession of the colony, with illustrative episodes of Madame La Tours defence of her husbands fort, the wreck of DAnvilles fleet, and the expulsion of the Acadians. Incidental meditation in passages of moralizing occurs throughout the poem on various subjectsbesides the hardly incidental subject of love of home and native land, one finds Howe moralizing on the relation of nature and art, the glories of British institutions and civilization, the indifference of the sons of wealth and pride to the hardships and sufferings of the common man, and the bond of love in the lowly cabins of the poor (ll. 921, 972).
Other elements embraced by the amorphous genre of topographical poetry before and throughout its heyday in the eighteenth century also appear in Acadia. The poem begins, intermittently resumes, and concludes with the natale solum motif, love of home and country, that had become a prominent subject of moralizing the English topographical poem from the 1770s until well into the next century.28 The device of a catalogue, which originally derived from Homer and became a settled convention of later epic poetry, soon appeared in other genres, including the topographical, in which lists of flora and fauna seemed obligatory to English poets engaged in natural description; Howes catalogue of Acadian trees, shrubs, and flowers is firmly in this convention. Another much exploited convention was that of the interpolated tale (usually sentimental, frequently historical, sometimes horrific)29 used to illustrate some aspect of the poets meditation; in Acadia the most obvious example is the tale of the fisherman near the end of the poem, which is certainly a sentimental piece proper to the genre. The account of the settler and his family may also be regarded as an interpolated tale as well as a sketch of pioneer lifea tale well-seasoned with sentiment but with an horrific ending. Yet another convention, that of the picturesque (the ordering of the elements of external nature into the composition of a landscape painting), was of course an inevitable development for the descriptive parts of topographical poems, but its emergence as an actual vogue in England from the 1740s made the picturesque a most important concept in poetically describing a landscape. Howes poem displays no extensive set-piece of picturesque landscape painting, but the method is discernible in his brief picture of the smooth lake (ll. 141154) and intermittently in the passage on Lake Lochaber.
The style of Howes poem is as conventional as its adherence to its genre in subject matter: the poem is written entirely in decasyllabic couplets, and it deliberately employs the poetic diction characteristic of much eighteenth-century verse. Howes use of the heroic couplet is by no means as exceptional for a poet writing in 1832 as critics of our early literature have tended to assume and therefore to conclude that Howe was hopelessly old-fashioned. It is simply not true that, after the Augustan Age in England, this verse form gradually disappeared from common use in long poems as pre-Romanticism led poets to prefer blank verse or the Spenserian stanza. In fact, the heroic couplet persisted well into the nineteenth century; a surprising number of long poems published from the 1750s to the 1830s, and especially in the first three decades of the 1800s, are written in that verse form. A few examples will illustrate its persistence: Oliver Goldsmith, The Traveller (1764) and The Deserted Village (1770); William Cowper, Retirement (1782); George Crabbe, The Village (1783) and The Borough (1810); Thomas Campbell, The Pleasures of Hope (1799) and Gertrude of Wyoming (1809); Felicia Hemans, War and Peace (1808) and The Domestic Affections (1812); James Montgomery, The West Indies (1809), The World Before the Flood (1812), and Greenland (1819); John Hamilton Reynolds, The Garden of Florence (1821). To this sampling of poems in various genres one could even add Lord Byrons English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809) and two of John Keatss poems, Endymion (1818) and Lamia (1820).
When one turns to the particular sub-genre to which Howes Acadia belongs, that of the topographical region-poem, the evidence is even more persuasive. According to the approximately complete bibliography of region-poems from the 1650s to 1889 compiled by Robert Arnold Aubin,30 of the two hundred and seventeen region-poems listed with specified verse forms, ninety-seven are written entirely in heroic couplets; the other hundred and twenty are in blank verse, octosyllabic or heptasyllabic couplets, heroic quatrains, Spenserian stanzas, and stanzas of any other sort. Moreover, half of all such poems (one hundred and eight of the total two hundred and seventeen) appeared in the Romantic period from 1798 to 1833, and forty-five of these are in heroic couplets. Thus the notion that Howe, and also Goldsmith in The Rising Village, were gravely out-of-step with formal developments in English poetry in their use of the heroic couplet as late as 1825 and 1832 must be modified,31 as must also the idea that they were writing in a long-outmoded genre.
In his use of well-established, indeed stereotyped, poetic diction, Howe is operating on a principle that must be placed in historical perspectivethat is, in the context of the neo-classical aesthetic standards that preceded, and were overturned by, the revolutionary spirit of the Romantic movement, in particular by its conceptions of the imagination, of originality, and of artistic freedom from the trammels of the past. Though he was writing in the 1830s, Howe was little influenced by Romantic conceptions of the proper form, diction, and style of poetry. He accepted without question the stylized poetic diction of his predecessors as eminently suitable for serious poetry, his repeated term for such diction being correctthat is, responsible to the vocabulary and to the standards of his eighteenth-century models in its formality, decorum, and elevation above common speech. For Howe conceived the principle of imitation, the emulation of accepted models embodied in the mimetic theory of art, as governing the poetic process. This frame of mind is well described by a Canadian scholar defending eighteenth-century poetics and poetry from misdirected criticism:
One need add only that Howe, though not actually an eighteenth-century poet, was far from being alone or merely a colonial victim of culture-lag in adhering to this conception of poetry in the early nineteenth century. Like many poets writing in England, he was perpetuating in Acadia the accepted form and style of topographical poetry.
The language of Acadia, like its form, follows the standards of eighteenth-century poetics for didactic and descriptive poetry, including the topographical. The diction is elevated and stylized; it is chosen for its elegance and propriety. Its nature is based upon the conviction that formal poetry requires a special language, a language that is impersonal, public, and unsullied by the vulgar and colloquial. This poetic diction Howe adopts deliberately with complete approval; it is an important aspect of what he conceived as correctness, by which he meant emulation of the style and form of his models. It consists of a well-established store of terms and figures of speech, and also various departures from normal usage in word formation and sentence structure. The most prevalent rhetorical elements of this poetic language are well represented in the poem, specifically anastrophe, apostrophe, elision, syncope, epithets, periphrasis, and personification.33
Howes fidelity to eighteenth-century poetic diction does not, of course, guarantee his judicious use of it. Many lines in Acadia are easy targets for adverse criticism because Howe often falls back upon a verse rhetoric that is simply trite, worn threadbare by too many decades of use. Unlike Thomson, Goldsmith, Gray and the other poets whose idiom he is emulating, Howe is too prone to an automatic repetition of clichéd words and phrases, to a slavish and uncritical use of what he takes to be the correct language of poetry; he is too often a rhetorician writing in verse.34 Yet he has moments of minor poetic triumph. It is noteworthy that the section of Acadia usually singled out for praise, the narrative of the Indian attack on the settlers cabin (ll. 537602), is the least mannered and the least hackneyed in its diction. When Howe meditates and moralizes, he is much more likely to rely too heavily upon his store of borrowed language and ideas; when he is caught up in dramatic action for which there is no particular model, his language is more natural and his rhythm more fluent.
Howe was such a voracious reader of eighteenth-century poetry that the sources and influences behind Acadia are relatively widespread. No particular poem served as his model. In this way Acadia differs fundamentally from Goldsmiths The Rising Village, his fellow-colonists reply to the English Goldsmiths The Deserted Village. Howe seems to have called upon his retentive memory over a considerable range and to have borrowed ideas and themes rather than specific lines or phrases. When he knowingly quotes, as he does from Shakespeare and Thomas Gray, he dutifully acknowledges his debt by using quotation marks. He is indebted in a general way to other poets for some of the didactic passages: to James Montgomerys The West Indies for the opening passage on home and country; to James Thomsons The Seasons for his vignettes of domestic affection, his tale of the fisherman nearly lost at sea, and his moralizing on the indifference of the wealthy to the hardships of the poor; and to Oliver Goldsmiths The Traveller for his lines on the wanderlust of the fishermans son. His practice is to pick up the subject and tenor of these passages, as though he were doing so from memory rather than having the texts before him; occasionally bits of phrasing from his models, such as little think they and luxury and ease (ll. 923, 919) from Thomsons Winter, appear in Acadia. Nevertheless, even in such derivative passages the poem is by no means what D.M.R. Bentley finds Thomas Carys Abrams Plains to be, in many places little more than a pastiche of phrases from Windsor-Forest and The Seasons.35 Though Howe, like Cary, had the vocabulary of eighteenth-century poetry by heart, he appears to have drawn less directly from specific models and to have had recourse to a greater variety of poets.
Howe begins his poem not with a dedication or an invocation to the Muses but with an expansive prologue of meditation on the natale solum motif, love of ones home and native land. Although this had become one of the many conventions employed by writers of topographical poems, and naturally fits the region-poem particularly well, it also had a special relevance for Howe. He had expressed his ardent local patriotism in several shorter poems before 1832, and in his Western and Eastern Rambles the theme is so insistent as to become a recurring text for preachment to his fellow Nova Scotians. It is not surprising, then, that he should have decided to adopt this motif as most suitable for his purposes in the poem and to develop it through the first one hundred lines, for it expressed what he really felt.
His lyrical glorification of his native province in the poem is only slightly more eulogistic than what one finds in the more sober element of Howes prose. As early as 1828 Howe had urged Nova Scotians to indulge the feeling of devotion to their province because it is a tower of strength to the country; tis that must adorn and beautify its bosomtis that must enrich its literature and preserve the purity of its institutions. . . .36 His editorial Our Own Country asserts that Burke truly observes that we see things clearly by contrast; and when we compare Nova Scotia with any portion of the globe with which we are acquainted, we invariably come to the conclusion that we should be grateful,37 and he proceeds through a catalogue of countries, revealing their defects as he goes, concluding that even the United States is not preferable to little Nova Scotia. His attitude is well expressed in an editorial of 1840 in which he recalls his constant efforts to promote love of country in his fellow colonists:
In the poem the universal force of the feeling, that, from pole to pole, / To one dear spot still fondly links the soul (ll. 1718) is exemplified by typical examples Foscari, the Lost Tribes, the wandring Swiss, the Laplander in his cold wastesand the patriotic spirit that the feeling inspires is said to lead to noble endeavours, whether to the unsparing martial bravery of a Nelson or Tell, or to the artistic triumphs of a Burns or Moore. The reference to the two famous poets who have sung of their native lands leads smoothly into Howes own humble declaration of his intention to emulate them by daring to sing of his own more obscure country, Acadia.
The main body of the poem opens with a personal statement of Howes qualifications as a native son to assume his self-appointed task; these are essentially love of his country in storm or sunshine and dedication to her welfare. Then comes a section of nearly one hundred lines celebrating the beauties of Acadia, beginning with that least propitious of seasons, winter. Howe was fully aware of the manner in which Thomsons The Seasons had presented winter, Sullen and sad, with all his rising train / Vapours, and clouds, and storms (ll. 23). For Thomson, the English winter brings
Howe will not be burdened with such sombre thoughts. He admits offhandedly (What though in four lines that the Nova Scotian winter brings hills of snow and many a chilling storm but concentrates the rest of the verse paragraph on a positive view of this hard season. Far from rousing up the seeds of dark disease, these northern winds spread health and vigour; unlike the winds of balmier climates, they carry neither plagues nor the destruction and death of the wild tornado and parching Simoom.
The subsequent portrayal of the Nova Scotian spring is remarkable in several ways. Though not entirely without the fairy zephyrs and teeming vales of English pastoral poetry, Howes landscape is nevertheless thoroughly Nova Scotian, as Janice Kulyk Keefer rightly observes:
The calendar of trees, shrubs, and flowers is also infused with Howes genuine enthusiasm for his subject and so becomes something more than mere convention; it is hardly far-fetched to agree with George Woodcock that this long passage, as it continues with its identification of trees and flowers by specific tint and form, eventually [creates] in the minds eye a landscape of Pre-Raphaelite brightness and immediacy, a landscape glowing from within like the magically perceived landscapes of adolescence.40 All the flowers are lovely and the trees tall and majestic in this idyllic, indeed Arcadian, vision of spring. The final verse-paragraph (ll. 141154) draws the features of the landscape into one composite picture of lake, sea-cliff, green banks, waterlilies, waterfall, and brook. The whole passage is a reminder to his fellow colonists of the heritage of beauty all around them, and at the same time it emphatically corrects outlandish foreign misconceptions of nature in the province.
After this idyllic description of the Acadian spring, Howe glances briefly at the Nature-Art theme. At this point in Acadia, no conflict between the two is even implied: the hand of Improvement has laid a soft impress on the land, has adorned it, and has by culture graced Natures wild beauties. Then, to complete Part I of the poem, there follows the long section on Micmac life in Acadia up to the arrival of the white man.
The account of the Micmac in Acadia has aroused some controversy over what Woodcock has called its dichotomy of attitude to the Indian.41 How, it is asked, could the noble savages described in Part I be the same creatures as the howling fiends who cruelly slaughter man, woman, and children in Part II? Woodcock thus thinks that the transformation is simply from the idealized European stereotype of the noble primitive to the real Indian as he actually was when bent upon wreaking revenge upon the usurpers of his landa natural transformation by circumstance. Certainly in Part I there are not many indications that the Indian is capable of the cruel massacre that occurs in Part II. Yet the potential for such murderous violence is undoubtedly implied in Part Iby the Indians powerful sense of possession of the land (ll. 203-218); by close ties (l. 232) of family and tribe; by the frequency of bloody conflicts between warring groups or tribes (ll. 165-166); by the admission that this noble savage is, after all, as much savage as noble when he fashions arrows that soon may quiver in a foemans heart (1. 258); by the savage joy felt by the warriors as in their dance they re-enact the glory, pride, and triumph of battles against other Indians. Howes Indians, though somewhat idealized, do not lack those elements that can lead to the remorseless destruction of foemen more alien and more threatening than any enemy envisioned by the arrow-maker of Part I. Moreover, Howe is careful to make their motivation clear in the effective passage concluding this section of the poem: the white men, first conceived as possibly gods or spirits, soon declare themselves to the Indians as mortal and as usurping enemies by their building on Indian soil, by their desecration of graves, and by felling trees. The Indian response is a silent declaration of war against the new enemy.
The Indian in Part I is in fact not a mere replica of that product of the European imagination, the noble savage. Commentators on the poem have generally assumed otherwise, perhaps because they have found enough in the text to meet their expectations. It is fair to say that Howe uses the concept but qualifies it. He knew perfectly well that the sixteenth-century Micmac was at least as bloodthirsty and prone to settling disputes by violence and war as white Europeans; both are fallen creatures stained with Edens guilt (l. 230). The main difference that he stresses in Indian life in Part I is its simplicity and closeness to nature, qualities that are contrasted explicitly (ll. 233238, 271278, 284288) or implicitly (ll. 239264) with the art (and artificiality) of European civilization. Other qualities of the Indian much celebrated by European primitivistshis fortitude and stoic endurance, his love of freedom, his contentment with his simple lifeare merely suggested by Howe when he mentions the Indians proud and fearless glance (l. 205), his pride of ownership, his sweet content, / Which thrones have not (ll. 263264). Howes limited idealization of Indian life is seen mainly in what he excludes from his description. He might have described the cruel winters in forest encampments when game was scarce and starvation a reality, the smoke and grime within the outwardly picturesque wigwams, even details of suffering and death in Indian warfare. He chooses, however, to depict Indian life in its mild summer season, when the Micmacs camped by river estuaries along the seacoast and enjoyed their fill of the lobsters and eels mentioned in the poem, as well as clanis, various kinds of fish, and wild berries. His description of Indian life is therefore not false, but it is carefully selective. The closing scene of Part I presents the intrusion of the white man from the Indian point of view. The Indian is certainly justified in resenting the building of dwellings on the sod / Where his father had for ages trod (ll. 335336), but it should be noted that the other actions of the white men seem to be done inadvertently, in ignorance of the Indian way of life, rather than with deliberate antagonism. The white men would probably not have recognized the ordinary beachstones of Indian graves as grave markers or realized at that early date that extensive tree-cuttting was a violation of Indian practices. The Indian, of course, would have interpreted all three as hostile acts, but the actual guilt of the first white men in building shelters on the coast of Nova Scotia is not as unmistakable as it might appear to be. It has been assumed that, in thus profaning these Indian lands, these white men are as guilty of foul oppression as the invading rude Barbarians of early British history to whom Howe refers at the beginning of Part II of the poem, and that he unconsciously sets up a contradiction between his glorification of the British in Part II and his account of these British profaners of Indian soil in Part 1.42 If the white men were not conscious of profaning anything, were acting innocently, then their resemblance to the barbarian invaders of Britain is negligible. Unfortunately, the reader is not given any insight into the motives of the white men in this passage, and one can only assume that Howe realized their unawareness of Indian attitudes. Nevertheless, Howe was a man of his time in his view of Indian rights. From his point of view, the British settlers in Nova Scotia supplanted an inferior, indeed primitive, culture with a vastly superior one. To him, the succession of a superior civilization was an inevitable and ultimately beneficent step in what he often called the march of progress. A decade later, when he was Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the province, he asserted the need for a much more equitable and humane treatment of the Micmacs by the government, but his respect and sympathy for this overwhelmed race did not extend to a conviction that British settlement was an immoral and reprehensible act.
It must be added that Howes vagueness as an historian at the end of Part I creates difficulties for the reader. According to an earlier passage of the poem, the first Europeans who erected buildings in the wilds of Nova Scotia were the BritishTill oer the main, the adventurous Briton steerd, / And in the wild, his sylvan dwelling reard . . . (ll. 313-3 14). Therefore, although Howe does not say so, one must assume that they are the first white men who land on the shore before the eyes of the concealed Micmac and proceed to clear a space for building a cabin. On this point, Howes reconstruction of history is at fault. Not long after John Cabots voyage of 1497 had established the fact that the coastal waters of the new land were teeming with fish, European fishermen began to make annual ocean crossings to the Grand Banks, filling their holds with well-salted cod, haddock, and pollock for the demanding home market. During the first few decades of the sixteenth century, however, there was little need for these fishermen to spend much time on land along the coasts to the westward of their fishing grounds, for they did not dry their fish and would have sent their boats ashore only occasionally to refill their water casks. Nevertheless, by the time Jacques Cartier make his voyage of 1534 to Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, French fishermen had already landed at some points along the coast and had met the native Indians.43 There is little doubt that by the 1540s French fishermen were pushing westward and becoming familiar with Cape Breton Island and probably other parts of the Nova Scotian coast. When the French turned to the dry fishery, imitating the English who had been drying their catches for many years on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland, they had to look farther westward for beaches and suitable ports for drying their fish. So began the practice of annual landings on the shores of Nova Scotia and setting up summer fishing stations. When a French vessel reached the chosen spot and was anchored in deep water, the whole crew went ashore to prepare the site for the season, their first task being that of cutting down trees for cabins, wharves, and stagings.44 These fishermen, not Howes adventurous Briton, were undoubtedly the first white men to rear their dwellings on the coast of Nova Scotia before the wondering eyes of the Micmacs.45
Part II of Acadia opens with a long verse paragraph (ll. 341366) on the power and greatness of British civilization. The passage acts as an introduction to subsequent passages on the past of Acadia during settlement by Europeans: the history of Britain also had a darker age when lawless power and oppression defiled the land during the early centuries of invasions from the Continent. Now, however, the British flag signifies The hopethe guidethe glory of a world, for not only does Britain wield imperial power on land and sea but is a great civilization rich in knowledge, religion, and art. Howes grandiloquent expression of admiration for, and devotion to, British institutions and British civilization may strike the modern reader as both extravagant and naïve; the history of the last one hundred years has inspired much scepticism about patriotic fervour and much hostility to imperialism of any kind. In the 1830s, however, such an effusion as Howes was by no means exceptional. It is best understood, perhaps, by reference to Howes own explanations in prose. An article by Howe in the Novascotian in 1830 could well serve as a gloss upon the passage in Acadia:
The persistence of this attitude is illustrated by another passage written by Howe eight years later, when, on board the packet Tyrian, he first came in sight of the coast of England:
The history of Acadia, Howe implies, reveals in miniature a similar development form past to present, a similar growth of freedom and civilization. That development is then summarized in the next verse paragraph (ll. 367384) in the contrast of the hardships of the patriarchs with the Peace and Plenty of the present time. Like the biblical patriarchs referred to earlier in ll. 228330, the first settlers live in Spartan fashion, often sacrificed their lives, and laboured for the future of their people. Howe meditates on the same subject in his Rambles:
The lives of the early settlers as described in the extended sketch of the family in the Log House by the water side (ll. 385602) are seen in the same light as in the Rambles passage. Clearing land and planting are beneficent acts, not desecrations of nature. The axe swung by the settler with sturdy stroke, like Maxs axe in Isabella Valancy Crawfords Malcolms Katie, is the subduer of the wilderness and the instrument of civilization; the gun is both the settlers means of obtaining food for his frugal board and his defence against animal or human attackers. That the family is endangered, that the dark night outside the isolated cabin may conceal hostile forces, is emphasized when the anxious parent barricades the door. Howes description of this ideal pioneer family is fashioned to typify the thoughts of British settlers, on the one hand as exiles from their homeland and nostalgic for Albions polishd isle but on the other encouraged by hope for their future in the new land. It also serves to make the impending scene of slaughter more horrible by displaying at length the domestic bliss of the family, the mutual love of man and wife, and the innocence of the children.
Howes account of the Indian attack upon the cabin is undoubtedly the most effectively written segment of the poem. It is well-structured, beginning with the midnight war-cry that awakens the family and starts the raven from the lofty pine (l. 507), pausing to relate how the stealthy ambushers encircled the clearing during the day and lay in wait for darkness, and resuming with a vividly detailed scene of violent assault and slaughter. The immediacy of the drama appears to capture Howes imagination, and both his diction and the movement of his couplets become animated.
Howes sympathy for the Micmac as the victim of invasion and dispossession disappears when the victim turns avenger and vents his rage on those who are seen as innocent of any deliberate affront to the Indian way of life. Here the worst side of the Indian is revealed without any redeeming features. The Indians war-cry conveys incarnate evil; their malignancy is deepened rather than diminished by the prospect of slaughtering the wife and children as well as the father; they are shrieking fiends (l. 574) as they overpower the family; their wanton cruelty (l. 587) knows no bounds as they dash the helpless baby to the earthen floor and trample it to death and then torture the boy by thrusting his hands into the blazing fireplace. When the slaughter is over and the cabin ablaze, they songs of joy and triumph wildly sing / With horrid gesture and demoniac strain (ll. 600601).
Part II, then, presents the harsh reality of Indian savagery as it erupted in the early days of European settlement in Nova Scotia; such scenes were not uncommon. Yet it is probably a mistake to make so much of the alleged dichotomy between the two parts of the poem as to accuse Howe of unpardonable bungling. Part I does not make the Indian incapable of what happens in Part II. It does, however, fail to place enough emphasis on the hard, unpleasant, and cruel aspects of Indian life to prepare the reader for the later massacre. If Howe had enlarged his passing references to Indian warfare in Part I into a detailed sketch of bloody conflict comparable in its intensity to the scene of slaughter in Part II, he would more obviously have achieved historical accuracy and prevented the reader from interpreting Part I as offering just another approving view of the Indian in the state of nature,49 a being whose nobility jars with his savagery as revealed in Part II. The realism of Part I, in fact, is too restricted in scope and emphasis for smooth integration with the realism of Part II.
Having graphically demonstrated the price our gallant Fathers paid / For this fair land (ll. 604605), Howe briefly contrasts that period of peril and fear with the present, when the forest conceals no more dangerous ambushers than timid rabbits (l. 609), frisking squirrels, and melodious songbirds. Then, resuming his survey of the gloomy scenes of darker days (l. 620), he turns to the conflicts between the two European powers, Britain and France, which checked improvement and kept repose at bay (l. 623) as persistently as Indian hostility. Howe wisely makes no attempt to describe in detail this long stretch of history from the establishment of Port Royal in 1605 to the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. Instead, he refers generally to the alternate conquest (l. 641) by which Nova Scotia was passed back and forth from one power to the other, and to the hardships and sorrows of people caught in the local movements of the deadly game played by the mother countries. Howe comments briefly upon only two episodes that his Muse might paint (l. 645) in greater detail. Both are seen as examples of French heroism expended in vainMadame La Tours high-sould valour (l. 648) in defending her husbands fort in 1645 having been betrayed and degraded by the treachery of a rival, the gallant (l. 657) Duc dAnvilles expedition of 1746 undertaken to recapture Louisbourg and Annapolis Royal ending in disaster, decimated by storms and disease. The episode Howe does choose to relate at length as one of the yet sadder scenes of anguish and of woe (ll. 670, 671) during the years of alternate conquest is that of the Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755.
Howes emphasis on the Expulsion is natural, for it was indeed the most tragic episode of the French-English struggle in Nova Scotia and also a most heart-wrenching example of the theme of exile that he had already associated with settlers from Britain and the dispossessed Indian. His sympathy for these Acadian exiles is intense: this is a subject over which the Muses tears in sorrowing gushes flow (l. 672) as Howe describes the wretchedness of exiles in a strange land, their sad procession as they look upon their homeland for the last time and bid farewell to loved ones they may never see again, and their forced departure by sea as their cottages are burnt to the ground. It has been asserted that Howes devotion to Britain leads him to gloss over the British responsibility for the agonies occasioned by the expulsion of the Acadians from their homeland.50 Certainly Howe does not address the causes of the Expulsion or assign guilt to the British government for it. Perhaps, however, what he does should not be interpreted as a glossing-over of guilt so much as a deliberate avoidance of any analysis of this complex matter. It would have been no easy task for him to have turned here to the events, beliefs, and miscalculations that led to the decision to expel the Acadians, and to do so would have greatly altered the tenor and balance of his poem. His declared intention in this part of Acadia is to paint the gloomy scenes of darker days (l. 620), not to analyze them as an historian must do if he hopes to understand the forces that lie behind and urge on events. Howe was well-acquainted with one historians treatment of the Expulsion, that of Thomas Chandler Haliburton in his history of the province.51 Haliburton is sympathetic to the plight of the Acadians and is critical of the governments harsh measures taken against them. Nevertheless, he recognizes that the refusal of the Acadians to take the oath of allegiance to the Crown, and various other disturbing factors, were not unnaturally seen at the time as meaning that the Acadians were a serious threat to the safety and stability of the province, especially since they greatly outnumbered the small British population. Moreover, he understands why the authorities, believing that British control was endangered by an enemy within, thought it was necessary to get rid of that enemy. With the wisdom of hindsight, Haliburton regards the decision as having been wrong politically as well as morally, and quite unnecessary (see Explanatory Notes, 681). Howe probably held much the same view. His high regard for Britain did not prevent him from realizing her faults (l. 799) of commission or omission in colonial policy.
When he has completed the pathetic account of the Acadians sufferings, and so come to the end of his selection of gloomy scenes from the past, Howe pauses as though wondering what should come next. Up to this point, he has kept a firm hand on the structure of his poem. Now he proceeds in spurts and with no fixed principle of integration. A row of asterisks (xs in the manuscript) following line 732 suggests his perplexity as he fails to compose a smooth transition from one section to another. The best that he can do is write a prayer for the future, a prayer that, when he has been laid to rest, his Acadia may still retain its natural loveliness and its learning, and that it may have new poets to celebrate its beauty, its compassionate women, its noble men, its freedom. Then again a row of asterisks after line 754 signifies another break in thought, followed by a statement of the present idyllic peace and happiness of Acadia under the British flag (ll. 755802). The storms and clouds of the dark past have been succeeded by a sweet repose. Howes picture of Nova Scotia in the early 1830s is as uncompromisingly idyllic as his earlier vision of the natural beauty of the province. Here indeed the Paradise Regained motif52 excludes all those signs of the post-Edenic state that Howe recognized and drew to the attention of his readers in the Novascotian. In these verse paragraphs Nova Scotia is depicted as a happy union of its formerly hostile races, a peaceful and happy home for English, Scots, and Irish emigrants, a haven free of injustice, party dissensions, and religious oppression. What is one to make of such an obviously exaggerated version of the mixed reality that Howe knew intimately? The answer lies in the optimistic vision that allows Howe to indulge in such poetic licence without any qualms. As Woodcock has observed, reading Howe, and later reading Sangster and Crawford, one realizes what a splendid and pristine world the poets saw as their habitation; it was a perception proper to the youth of a people in a land yet incompletely possessed by either mind or hand.53 It is well to remember that the same perception informs Howes numerous appeals to local patriotism in his prose. The few lines on Acadias cottage homes (ll. 804808) complete the panegyric by emphasising the agrarian foundation of provincial life that Howe, like many of his contemporaries, regarded as essential for the welfare of society.
The next section takes up a theme common to topographical poetry, that of the relation of Nature and Art in the landscape. Howe has already praised the pioneer for his efforts in imposing order on the wilderness, in making the cleared fields and gardens of civilization the most pleasing aspect of the countryside. Here he asks the old question: has the natural beauty of the Acadian landscape been defaced by a hand too rude (l. 812)? His answer is unequivocal: it has not, for together Art and Nature reign(l. 813); the landscape retains a balance of the two kinds of beauty. Nevertheless, Howe confuses the issue by not paying enough attention to the connotations of his diction. If there are spots by Art still unprofaned (l. 817), there must be other spots that have been profaned; yet he had previously declared that Nature has not been defaced by Art. A neutral word such as untouched would have conveyed what appears to have been his actual intention. The same criticism applies to axe profane (l. 837), for in the context of the smiling fields and crops of gold that are elsewhere in the poem the beneficent results of the axemans sturdy stroke (ll. 379, 380, 385), the axe is no profaner of Nature. Howes perspective shifts momentarily to confuse his declared view of the Nature-Art dichotomy. His difficulty is perhaps accounted for by a phrase he uses in his Rambles, mans devastating improvements.54 The paradox is clear: in improving, Art devastates the original beauty of nature but creates a new and different beauty.
The set piece on Lochaber Lake as the epitome of untouched nature is based on Howes recollections of a visit to the scene in 1830 (see Explanatory Notes, 819848). He also included a description of the lake in his Eastern Rambles of 1831. The personal touches (ere I forget the vivid dream . . . that tranced me as I stood / . . . I see thee yet [ll. 822825]) refer to an actual experience. As his letters and published description reveal, the scene had impressed him deeply. The vision he experienced on that day in June was apparently a vivid dream . . . / Of olden time (ll. 822823), a brief translation into the lulling stillness (l. 830) of the landscape before man had intruded upon it.
The next and last section of the poem, the tale of the fisherman, is also a separate unit not integrated in any way with the Lochaber Lake passage. The first few lines (ll. 853860) on evening appear to be a continuation of the previous passage until we suddenly come upon Acadias hardy son (l. 861) launching his boat and realize that the setting and subject have changed. This tale is intended to present a typical yeoman of Acadia, in this case a fisherman, going about his daily task of wresting a living from capricious Nature. At least it appears to have been Howes original purpose to carry the story no further than the fishermans providential landing on the beach, and to moralize on his lot, for in the Harvard II manuscript the lines generalizing on the hardiness of Acadian fishermen (ll. 933940) are followed by a row of xs to indicate a pause or the end of a section. However, another separate but thematically continuous section of three manuscript pages (ll. 9411030) shows that he changed his mind and decided to depict the fisherman in his cottage with his family. He seems to have planned the continuation as a means of bringing the poem to a fitting conclusion by returning to the primary theme of exile from home with which the poem begins and is frequently engaged. The scene in the cottage repeats the domestic sentimentalism of the earlier settlers cabin before the Indian raid; here too the family is a little happy flock united in love. The main purpose of the lines (9731018), however, is to introduce a wandering boy who, somewhat like Goldsmiths persona in his poem The Traveller (1764), has been Impelld, with steps unceasing, to pursue / Some fleeting good (ll. 2526) but has come to realize, like that traveller, that His first, best country ever is at home (l. 74). The Acadian rover s message to his doting parents, with its implication of eventual return to the family hearth, also allows Howe to indulge in those social and kindly affections of the heart55 that he valued so highly in poetry. Finally, by moving from this particular scene to its general application in the brief epilogue (ll. 10191030), Howe concludes his poem with a parting statement of its dominant theme. Is Acadia, then, truly an unfinished poem? Probably not, if one judges completion solely by the way the ending is related to the whole. If Howe regarded Acadia as unfinished, he was more likely to have been thinking of the fragmentary structure of Part II after line 732, realizing that one quarter of his poem lacked the structural integrity of the rest. The revision was never accomplished, but Howe was too competent a rhetorician to have been unaware of the need for it.
It is not difficult to find many a flaw in Acadia. The poem is the work of a skilful writer and orator whose success in evoking the more elusive Muse of poetry was undeniably limited and fitful. Yet the patronizing tone sometimes assumed by the modern critic of colonial poetry may not always be justified, and his censure may sometimes be misdirected by the biases of his own day. It is unreasonable to blame Howe, or his contemporary Goldsmith for that matter, for not speaking with a new voice when they are transplanting and adapting older literary modes to newer requirements.56 It is equally unreasonable to treat with condescension Howes dual perspective on the Micmac, his enthusiasm for the greatness of British civilization, his blithe confidence in the march of progress, his intense local patriotism. Howes undoubted liberalism was that of his own time, not that of ours, and his spirit was far removed from the disillusionments of the late twentieth century. Close attention to the historical context of Acadia and of its author cannot eradicate its undeniable shortcomings, but it can clear the poem of irrelevant or misguided readings that confuse rather than illuminate. Read in its proper historical perspective, Acadia is an interesting and at times engaging record of a vision now lost but not therefore beyond understanding and appreciation.
The Manuscript Versions of Acadia
Although the manuscript copy of Acadia from which the first edition of the poem in Poems and Essays of 1874 was type-set has not survived, two earlier manuscript versions, in Howes handwriting, do exist. These copies are in the Joseph Howe Papers in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. One, hereafter called HC I (Harvard Copy I), is an early version of the poem and almost certainly the first draft. The other, HC II, is a revised version of HC I produced a little later but still, on the evidence of its handwriting, belonging to the 1830s when Howe had not yet developed the bolder, coarser, and more expansive script that characterizes his letters of the 1840s and later.
HC I is written in nine segments on various sizes and kinds of paper. As discussed earlier, we know that Howe composed at least part of this first version of the poem when he was on the road in the summer of 1832. Passages appearing on separate and partly filled pages indicate intermittent composition as Howe passed from inn to inn, using the writing paper available to him.
The first segment in HC I consists of lines 1218 and 311330 of Part I. Originally Howe had intended to proceed directly form the Othello simile (ll. 213218) to the part beginning For ages thus, the Micmac trod our soil (l. 311), for lines 1218 and 311340 are continuous in HC I. He must have decided, however, that a much fuller and more concrete picture of Micmac life before the coming of Europeans would improve the poem, and so later he inserted ninety-one lines relating the hunters return to his camp and describing the encampment, the activities of the people, and their evening dance. Part I, with the addition of lines 331340 on a separate sheet, was then complete, ending effectively with the Micmacs wonder and eventual hostility at the coming of the white man.
Part II of the poem in HC I proceeds on continuous pages from the beginning (l. 341) to line 732, And seek the hearth where erst they loved to play. From this point Howe appears to have struggled with difficulties of integration. He wrote on separate sheets a prayer for the future of the province (ll. 733754), an idyllic passage on the present peace and happiness of Acadia under the British flag (ll. 755802), a few more lines (803808) on Acadias cottage homes, and several more that do not appear in later versions of the poem. Then his thoughts turned to the idea of settlement defacing Acadias wild and simple charms, the subject of the next separate unit (ll. 809852), which includes the section on Lochaber Lake. The next section (ll. 853940) on the fisherman, which bears no clear relation to the theme of unspoiled nature that precedes it, was originally meant to end when the fisherman lands on the beach, for lines 933940 extolling Acadian fishermen are followed in the manuscript by a row of xs to signify a pause or the end of a section. However, probably because he had hit upon a means of concluding the poem, Howe continued with the fisherman at home in another section of three pages in which he works in the major theme of exile from a beloved home. HC I thus ends in the same manner as the later versions.
HC I is not significantly different from HC II and the first edition, but it does incorporate many minor variants. Howe gave little attention to punctuation when he wrote this version, for most of the lines lack end punctuation and even the internal punctuation is sporadic and carelessly indicated. Capitalization of some common nouns in HC I (plague, fashion, evening, bride) disappears in later versions. Howes use of capitals, however, like his punctuation, is inconsistent. In general, the first edition eliminates much of the eighteenth-century capitalization of HC I and HC II (sixty-five capitalized common nouns in HC II are reduced to twenty-six in the first edition) and so approaches modern usage, but there are incongruities: HC II has health, deer, son, labour, love, commerce, slumber, despair, hate, revenge, murder, wife, diamond, and emerald, but all of these are capitalized, for no apparent reason, in the first edition.
A few of the more substantive variants between HC I and HC II are of particular interest. Howes original rendering of line 20, And as the Hebrew sat by Jordans side, blunders badly by placing these typical exiles at home rather than in Babylonia, the place of their captivity; later, realizing his error, he writes in HC II And as the Hebrew by Euphrates side. Lines 28-30 on Laplands rude, untutored child first appear in HC I as Would sigh to leave his cold and dreary wild / And long to press his native lichen bed / Though the grey wolf should howl around his head; in HC II Howe makes this dull passage more colourful by writing With icy pinnacles around him piled, / Slumbers in peace upon his lichen bed, / Though the grey wolf may howl around his head. His tinkering with line 92, however, reduces a vivid image to the blandness of stock pastoralism. This line in HC I was originally And tempests shake my winter hills no more; dissatisfied with that, Howe emended the HC I manuscript to read And tempests shake our forest groves no more, and later, in HC II, changed the line again to read And north winds bend our forest groves no more. Another emendation reveals Howes awareness of the jarring note struck by his first choice of diction. He had first written line 126 as The laurel spreads its lovely flowers of death, missing the incongruity of this image occurring in the midst of a catalogue of native flowers and trees depicting Natures charms. In HC H he reduces the incongruity of his association of beauty with deadly poison by substituting seductive for lovely. In emending line 75, however, Howe was much less successful. In HC I this line reads Or the grey moose in jocund gambol springs. Perhaps because he later realized that the mooses pelt is actually a mixture of grey and reddish-brown, he dropped grey from the line and substituted gay in HC II. The combination of gay with the already questionable jocund gambol intensifies the image of the ungainly moose cavorting in pastoral revelry, but Howe failed to notice the ludicrous effect. At another point in the poem he was betrayed by his immersion in eighteenth-century English poetry into committing another blunder, writing line 564 as The thatch which bears him to the pressure bends, thereby furnishing his settlers cabin in the wilds of Nova Scotia with a most unlikely roofing material. HC II repeats thatch, but eventually Howe noticed his error; in the first edition the inappropriate word is replaced by bark.
The First Edition
The first edition of Acadia appeared in Howes Poems and Essays, the one-volume collection of his verse and literary prose published by John Lovell of Montreal in 1874, the year after Howes death. The poem had remained in manuscript for forty years. Late in his life Howe made an effort to select publishable material from the mass of manuscripts he had accumulated, as one of his early biographers records:
His efforts to cull and classify his papers could not have continued long after the time of J. W. Longleys visit, for Howe was back at his government desk in Ottawa by late October, 1872. Then came Lovells offer to publish the poems, to which Howe responded in a letter of December 16, written from Ottawa:
It is doubtful that he ever prepared such a selection for Lovell, for he remained in Ottawa until mid-April, 1873, and returned to Halifax in ill health and with only a few weeks to live. When, then, did he make the numerous minor emendations in spelling, capitalization, and punctuation that distinguish the text of the first edition of Acadia from the HC II manuscript? The Howe papers do not answer that question. In fact, the manuscript used by Lovell may have been prepared by Howe long before the 1870s. At any rate, it is reasonable to assume that Howe, and no one else, prepared the emended version of Acadia used by Lovell. It is improbable that a publisher would have taken such liberties as to introduce the numerous minor variants between HC II and the first edition. It is equally improbable that Sydenham Howe would have attempted to edit the poem.
After his fathers death, Sydenham sent the manuscripts for the first edition to Montreal, contributing a brief Introduction to what was issued as a volume of a hundred and eighty-one pages of verse and a hundred and forty-eight pages of prose. His Introduction tells us nothing about the state of the manuscripts, and his description of Acadia as some portions of an unfinished poem is misleading. The phrase some portions may be read to imply that other portions remained in his hands, that only parts of Acadia were selected for publication. Moreover, he calls the poem unfinished. Both implication and statement require qualification. Sydenham undoubtedly sent the complete manuscript of Acadia to Lovell, not only some portions, and the poem as it appears in the first edition is as complete as Howe ever made it. Sydenham may have been misled by the several lines of asterisks that occur in Part Second of the poem (after lines 732 and 754, and at the end) to conclude that portions were left out at both interior points and that the asterisks at the end signified incompletion. Actually, the lines of asterisks do not indicate points in the poem for which Howe had written additional passages not inserted in the manuscript. He may have intended to replace the asterisks with new lines, but because the asterisks occur in exactly the same places in the first edition as in HC II, it is clear that he never did so. As for Sydenhams belief that the poem is unfinished, that too is unwarranted. Howe may indeed have been dissatisfied with the ending and may have intended to compose a better one, but the poem does conclude rather than halt in mid-course; it returns full circle to the theme with which it began, love of home and country.
It is unfortunate that nothing can be learned about the editing or printing of Acadia in Lovells publishing house, but there are no known business records of the Lovell & Gibson firms activities during the nineteenth century.59
The Present Text
The copy-text for the present edition of Acadia is necessarily the first edition of 1874, since the only alternate choice, the manuscript from which the first edition was set, is missing. The copy-text has been emended sparingly for this edition.
Many of the errors in the first edition are in punctuation, and when these distort or confuse the reading of the poem they have been corrected. Typical examples of such errors are commas where semi-colons or periods are necessary for the sense; the absence of commas where they are required to indicate definite pauses; superfluous or disruptive commas; the omission of apostrophes where they are required or the incorrect use of apostrophes to indicate the plural when the singular is meant. These changes in punctuation have been introduced partly because Howes manuscripts are simply not punctuated with care, as if he were leaving that task for someone else, and partly because punctuation in the first edition is so much heavier than in HC II that one suspects some of the additional punctuation was the work of an editor or compositor in Lovells printing house. One other emendation in punctuation is the hyphenation of many compound adjectives. Although Howe often neglected to hyphenate these compounds and the printer did not correct the error, hyphenation is supplied in this text for the sake of clarity.
Obvious compositorial errors in the copy-text are corrected, whenever possible, by adopting the reading of HC II. These errors consist mainly of omitted apostrophes, the setting of plural nouns as singular, and misreadings of a few words (ought for aught, dream for deem, dim for din).
All emendations are recorded in the list of Editorial Emendations that follows the poem.
NOTES TO THE INTRODUCTION
Joseph Howe, Poems and Essays (Montreal: John Lovell,
The first edition of Poems and Essays has a title page as follows: POEMS AND ESSAYS, / BY / THE HON. JOSEPH HOWE. / [vignette] /MONTREAL: / JOHN LOVELL, 23 AND 25 ST. NICHOLAS STREET. / [rule] / 1874. There are two issues of this first edition. It seems likely that the second issue was occasioned by the discovery that four stanzas of a poem already printed on page 169 of the volume (A Toast) had been repeated in the prose section, on page 218, instead of the vignette that is placed at the end of all except one of the other prose pieces. Apparently it was then decided that a few more corrections should be made to the text of the first issue. The page dimensions of the first issue are 12cm x 16.8cm, of the second issue 13cm x 20cm. The covers of the two issues are identical in type of cloth, lettering, and vignettes, but they differ in colour as well as in size. Moreover, each issue has colour variations in the cloth binding. Some copies of the first issue are bound in purple, others in green cloth. The second issue appears in three colour variations: brown, green, and blue. The pagination of the two issues shows several variants:
The two issues are also distinguishable by variants in the text. The following list of variants covers only the text of the poem Acadia:
The normal spacing of l. 74 in the 12 x 16.8cm issue establishes that issue as the original setting. The substitution in the second issue of fearful horrors for sickening horrors resulted in disturbance of the normal spacing between words to accommodate the change within the same line-length. The correction of ignominous in l. 655 of Acadia and the deletion of the misplaced stanzas on p. 218 of the volume in the 13 x 20 issue corroborate the evidence of l. 74.