Thomas Carys Abrams Plains (1789) and Its Preface"
by D.M.R. Bentley
Abrams Plains by Thomas Cary (1751-1823) is certainly one of the most anthologised and arguably one of the most important of the few poems which were written or published in late eighteenth-century Canada. In 1957 Lawrence M. Lande included several fairly lengthy excerpts from Abrams Plains, which was originally printed at Quebec for the author1 in 1789, in Old Lamps Aglow, his loving Appreciation of Early Canadian Poetry. Since then the complete text of Abrams Plains has appeared, together with its short Preface dated Quebec, 24th Jan. 1789,2 in Three Early Poems from Lower Canada (1969), edited by Michael Gnarowski, and, without its Preface, in the first volume of The Evolution of Canadian Literature in English: Beginnings to 1867 (1973), edited by Mary Jane Edwards.
Yet despite their availability Abrams Plains and its Preface have received scant critical attention. In the Literary History of Canada (1965, 1976) James J. and Ruth Talman offer only a brief biographical sketch of Cary, a few excerpts from his Preface, and the following descriptive paragraph:
Gnarowskis Note on Abrams Plains in Three Early Poems from Lower Canada provides no critical commentary either on the poem or on its Preface but does give a useful account of Carys life based, like that of the Talmans, on the entries in Henry J. Morgan and Marie Tremaine:
Mary Jane Edwards, in her valuable introduction to Abrams Plains in The Evolution of Canadian Literature covers much the same ground as Gnarowski and the Talmans, but provides additional information concerning Carys life and opinions, particularly his strongly pro-British political opinions (of which more will be said in the course of the present discussion) as expressed and embodied in the Quebec Mercury between its foundation in 1805 and Carys death in 1823. To date, the only writers who have discussed Abrams Plains and its Preface in a critical context are Sandra Djwa and J.M. Zezulka, the former seeing in the poem a colonial reflection of the English tradition5 which persists in Canadian poetry until Pratt, and the latter arguing that it partakes of a pastoral vision of Canada which is shared by a substantial number of Canadian poets6, to Klein and beyond. These approaches to Abrams Plains are salutary in that they integrate Carys poem and Preface into the literary history and thematic development of writing in Canada. It will be the aim of the present undertaking to consolidate that integration and, in addition, to examine Abrams Plains and Carys Preface in their own terms with a view to establishing their connection, not only tenth the English and Canadian literary traditions, but also with the historical, political, and social milieu of Quebec in the late eighteenth century.
Abrams Plains is a topographical poem, a poem in which to quote Dr. Johnsons famous definition of local party, the fundamental subject is some particular landscape . . . poetically described, with the addition of such embellishment as may be described by historical retrospection and in cidental meditation.7 Each of the three elements of this definition are amply represented in Carys poem: the particular landscape . . . poetically described is, of course, that of Quebec, particularly the St. Lawrence river system and its environs; historical retrospection is present and directed primarily towards the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, though there are also references to the English-French conflict over the Ohio River basin, to Sir William Johnsons defeat of Dieskau at Lake George and to his victory at Fort Niagara, and to the attempts by American forces under Generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold to capture the fourteenth colony at the time of the American Revolution; and incidental meditation is present in a variety of forms, occasioned mostly by Carys efforts to survey the scenery, inhabitants, wealth, and politics of Britains Canadian colony. The three elements of Carys topographical poem, as well as the various subspecies (picturesque tableaux, descriptive catalogues. and the like) contained within it, are held together formalistically by the heroic couplet, a form which facilitates the integration of digressive matter,8 and structurally by two physical entities: (1) the Plains of Abraham themselves, where the poem begins and ends and where the central event of Lower Canadian history and of the poem, is located; and (2) the St. Lawrence river system, which Cary uses as, so to say, a thread along which to string the various descriptive, historical, and meditative embellishments of the poem.
It is Carys use of the river, more, perhaps, than any other feature of Abrams Plains, which endows the poem with the Janus-like quality of facing in two directions. It looks backwards, through the topographical tradition, to the Thames and Loddon of Popes Windsor Forest (a poem which Cary mentions as one of his models in his Preface and which R.A. Aubin argues may be regarded as a topographical poem9) to the Nile of Claudian, to the Moselle of Ausonius (not to mention the numerous rivers of Draytons Poly-Olbion), and, indeed, to the classical underpinnings of the eighteenth century. And it looks forward, by an extraordinary, intuitive understanding on Carys part of the shape and significance of the St. Lawrence river system, to the Laurentian hypothesis of Donald Creighton who has argued in the (Commercial) Empire of the St. Lawrence that the St. Lawrence was not only the determining factor in Canadian history, but also the shaping force in Canadian society and in the Canadian soul. In its use of the St. Lawrence and as, in part, a river poem,10 Abrams Plains also echoes forward in the Canadian literary tradition to Sangsters The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay and to Lampmans Between the Rapids and, beyond these, to a poem such as F.R. Scotts On the Terrace, Quebec and to the pertinent sections of MacLennans Rivers of Canada.
Here, in lifes vigour, Wolfe resignd his breath, / And, conquring sunk to the dark shades of death . . . (11. 282-283). With this couplet Cary begins his account of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, proceeding first to set it against the historical backdrop of the Seven Years War, the conflict over the Ohio River basin and the exploits of Sir William Johnson, and then going on to describe in some detail the Battle itself. To Cary the defeat of the French on the Plains of Abraham was the outcome of gallic aggression and presumption (1. 300) in North America; and great Wolfe was the patriotic leader of dauntless veterans who won victory at Quebec over a numrous foe (11. 302-306). His description of how Wolfe led his troops, not as a chief, but on foot, of the Generals courageous indifference to his wounds, and of his famous last words (Anxious, he hears the shout they fly, they fly, / Who fly? The foe contented then I die) is a set piece, based, no doubt, on written and, perhaps, oral accounts of Carys day. Over half a century later, in the Death of Wolfe and The Plains of Abraham, Sangster would tell the same tale using many of the same words as the earlier poet; indeed, Sangster would draw much the same moral as Cary concerning the rare, divinest life / Of peace, compared with Strife.11 It is, in fact, Carys moral response to the Plains of Abraham, rather than his description of the Battle itself, which is of most interest to the present discussion and to which we may now turn.
As is the case with most topographical poems, the historical retrospection and incidental meditation which are occasioned by Carys survey of the Plains of Abraham and of the St. Lawrence river system, are subordinated in Abrams Plains to a controlling moral vision12 based, in this instance, on a perceived need for peace, harmony, freedom and moderation. A recognition of the presence of this moral vision in Abrams Plains, as well as of the historical events which occasioned it, is essential to an understanding of Carys reason for giving his poem the title he did, for employing the Plains of Abraham as a central, unifying locale, and, indeed, for writing and publishing the piece at all. By insisting at the end of his Preface on the place and date of his poem as Quebec . . .1789, and in entitling it Abrams Plains, Cary demands that it be read as, in part, a commemorative tribute to Wolfes victory on the Plains of Abraham precisely thirty years earlier, in 1759. While this explains the prominence given to Wolfes victory and death in the central section of the poem (11. 282-361) it also raises the question of why Cary chose to begin the poem as he did, by having his poet/speaker describe in detail the Plains as they are in 1789:
The answer to the question of why Cary chose to begin his poem with this apostrophe to and description of the Plains of Abraham is that he intended the Plains, once, in 1759, the scene of conflict, discord, and death, now, in 1789, the embodiment of peace, harmony, and health, as a metaphorical microcosm of a Quebec enjoying the benefits of the British civilization which, he says later in a key couplet, has In Circes glass bid moderation reign / And moral virtues humanize the plain (11. 62-63). It is worth emphasizing, too, that Abrams Plains was written in the aftermath, not only of the Seven Years War, but also of the American War of Independence. This fact leads Cary, after paying tribute to Wolfe, to render praise to the prudence and saving wisdom of those who defended Quebec against American invaders in the winter of 1775/76. It also lends a double emphasis to his obloquies against wild-wasting war / Destructive War and to his fervent hope that never more may hostile arms distain, / With human gore, the verdure of the plain (11. 51-52, 340-341). In effect, Carys hope for lasting peace makes explicit what is implicit in the beginning of the poem: the topographical poets characteristic salutation to a stable present . . . his attempt to project that stability into the future.13 The argument, then, is that Carys moral vision of the British presence in postconquest Quebec is deeply present in the opening lines of the poem and that, like the description of the forest at the beginning of Windsor Forest (also written, note, in the aftermath of conflict, in Popes case a Civil and a European war14), Carys description of the Plains is to be taken both literally and metaphorically. With this in mind, it is worth looking closely and in detail at the opening lines of Abrams Plains.
What is most obviously remarkable about the opening of Carys poem is the way in which the description brings together and fuses the old world, neo-classical conventions with the new world, Canadian environment. We notice immediately that the muse is an inspirational presence on the plain and are not surprised to discover, when Cary uses the classical muse machinery at one of several points later in the poem, that she is a muse of peace, possessing as Her only weapon . . . a grey goose quill with which she draws peaceful parallels (11. 459-460) and which she will use to fight only in the cause of liberty against tyranny. Present, too, are the learned dead, no doubt the blest dead the classical, heroes, philosophers, politicians, and poets who humanized the world in James Thomsons The Seasons (another poem mentioned admiringly in the Preface to Abrams Plains) with whom the Canadian poet, like his English predecessor, holds converse.15 But juxtaposed with the balmy breeze of the classical Zephyrus (the West Wind, traditionally associated with health and renewal) is the bleak northern and Canadian gale. These two very different winds are sought out by a Cary who, now markedly less sedentary than the reposeful figure who had earlier courted his peace-loving muse and conversed with the learned dead, likens himself to an unbroken steed an image surely of the vital and healthy exercise of (British) liberty or freedom. The implication of Carys opening lines is that peace and freedom, together with the accoutrements of classical civilization and the invigorating qualities of Canadian nature, are to be found on the Plains of Abraham, and to be enjoyed under circumstances of utter and complete harmony:
Here Cary is at pains to demonstrate the harmonious life that exists on the plains. His tranquil landscape contains no hint of conflict or antipathy; indeed the poet / speaker (which is to say European man) is in a state of concord with the creatures of Britains Canadian colony: he is accepted alike by the domesticated grazing herds and by the shy and shyer animals of the forest who perceive him, he speculates, either as an animate native of the wood or as an inanimate block cast ashore from the St. Lawrence. It is more than possible that Carys use of the word block brings with it to this context a double valancy and two meanings, one deriving from its traditional (Shakespearian, Popian) usage as an image of inertia and senselessness, the other deriving from the implication that his Canadian block is a piece of flotsam from Quebecs burgeoning timber industry, described by Cary in some detail later in the poem. If this possibility is granted, then it would appear that Carys doubly suggestive block serves to reconcile old world concepts with new world realities and, beyond that, to show, like the entire context in which it appears, that on the Plains of Abraham there is to be found in 1789 a peaceful and harmonious relationship between man (even man with commercial connections) and nature (even wild nature). Although, as we shall see, Cary at several points later in the poem betrays a typical conquerors sense of contempt for the defeated French Canadians and a typical colonists sense of superiority over the indigenous Indian culture, these attitudes, regrettable as they may seem today, must be understood as aspects of a moral vision based on a belief in the civilizing power of the British presence in Quebec.
If the opening lines of Abrams Plains were apparently intended to body forth the peace, harmony, health, and freedom which have humanized the Plain since the fall of Quebec, then the penultimate paragraph of the poem must certainly be seen as a statement of the moderation, the uia media and the beatus vir that stem also from the British presence in Quebec:
It is now possible to recognize that, like the Plains of Abraham, the waters of the St. Lawrence river system provide, not merely a unifying device for Abrams Plains, but a metaphor for the moderate good life bestowed by British rule in Quebec and, beyond that, for an eighteenth-century civilization in the colony that is rooted in the classics, founded on Christianity and dedicated to the maintenance of peace, harmony, and moderation. Near the beginning of the poem Cary had invested the St. Lawrence first with classical overtones, by making it the home of Naiades (11. 18, 43, 252), and then with Christian overtones, by referring to its canonizd name (1. 84). Later, he had used the slow-moving, fertilizing waters of the St. Charles River as an emblem of wise caution which slow, yet sure . . . influence widely spreads (11. 400-405) and offered as a contrast rushing floods which, in his view, deprive the meadows of their needful dews and, hence, are emblematic of a headstrong, thoughtless, useless, and easily cheated mentality. By the time we get to the penultimate paragraph of the poem, quoted above, the St. Lawrence has taken up a central position in Carys moral vision, lying at the very heart of his view of the good and, in the fullest sense, civilized life that exists in the British colony of Quebec thirty years after the conquest.
Always within his controlling vision of the benefits of British civilization for Quebec, Cary has much to say in Abrams Plains about the commercial wealth and potential of the empire of the St. Lawrence. This aspect of the poem becomes its central focus after the opening descriptions of the Plains of Abraham and of the St. Lawrence river system. But it is already implicit in Carys decision to give shape to Abrams Plains, not by following the river upstream in the direction of exploration, but, rather, from West to East which is to say in the direction of the flow of water and staples from the hinterland to the metropolitan centres of Montreal and Quebec City and, thence, down the St. Lawrence estuary and, by extension, across the Atlantic ocean to England. This structuring, commercial movement provides implicit evidence of Carys endorsement of the mercantile system whereby fur, fish, lumber, and grains were exported to Britain, yielding in return income, man-power, and capital to exploit the colonys natural resources.16 Crucial to a flourishing mercantile system were plentiful such natural resources, coupled with a stable peace in which profitably to exploit them. Thus it is that Cary, perhaps remembering the personified figures of Peace and Plenty in Popes Windsor Forest, initiates his comprehensive view (1. 497), his detailed survey, of the commercial empire of the St. Lawrence by arranging for the rivers Naiades to render praise to Ceres, the bounteous goddess of agriculture who later in the poem will pour her grain in golden showers on craving realms (11. 216217) and then himself, consistent, as ever, with the overall vision of the poem, proclaiming the civilizing virtues of the pax Britannica:
(It is incidentally worth noticing that more than the shadows of Popes Peace and Plenty are discernable in this description that Ceres also puts in an appearance in Windsor Forest, as do a vanished Desart and a Fox obscene17). Carys praise for the accomplishments of the pioneers in the description is, of course, typical of Pre-Confederation poetry, as is his endorsement, a few lines later, of pioneering as an activity at once physical and moral, as well as sanctioned by God: How blest the task, to tame the savage soil, / And, from the waters, bid the woods recoil! (11. 54-55). It must always be remembered, however, that whether Cary is praising the pioneer or, as later in the poem, the Tenant and lord, noble and peasant, his larger praise is reserved for the humanizing virtues of British civilization and for the British institutions from which stem smiling peace and laughing plenty. . . / And gay content . . . [to] delight . . . the plain (11. 448-449).
Cary continues his survey of the commercial empire of the St. Lawrence with several lines of pious lucubration on the agricultural and moral advantages of a peaceful and fertile, Christian and British, Quebec for the Indian, whose tomahawks and skalping knives are being beaten into ploughshares and pruning hooks, for the Loyalist, who shelterd from the storm of civil broils, Again, from the unclogd responsive earth, / Calls a new patrimony into birth, and even for the French Canadian, the beneficiary of British magnanimity, who is so Pleasd with the now that he no more regrets the past (11. 60-71). Thus mariners wreckd on some distant shore, he imagines, in an extended and appropriately commercial simile, regret the loss of their ship only until with sad step, they inland bend their way / Where mines of gold their loss amply repay (11. 74-75). Little wonder that, later in Abrams Plains, Cary exorts the French-Canadian peasants to be Grateful for their mended state, / And bless, beneath a GEORGE18 [their] better state (11. 450-451).
The mercantile poets first port-of-call in the British Eldorado of Quebec is the city of Montreal which he apostrophizes as a Great mart! and characterizes as the centre of all the forests spoils, / The furry treasures of the hunters toils (11. 79-80). Although Carys notion that the Indians themselves brought their furs to Montreal for sale Within thy walls, he says, the painted nations pour, / And smiling wealth on thy blest traders showr (11. 82-83) seems to rest on a slight misunderstanding of the mechanism of the fur-trade (generally speaking the Indians sold furs to coureurs de bois, who then brought them to Montreal), he is, of course, quite correct in seeing Montreal, where the North West Company had been operating since the 1770s, as the metropolitan centre of the fur-trade in 1789 that is to say two years after the blest traders Simon McTavish and Joseph Frobisher had established their famous partnership there.19 Montreal, Cary also notes, stands at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, a fact which also contributed to the citys importance as a geographical and commercial focal point for the fur-trade.
From Montreal Cary continues his comprehensive survey of the St. Lawrence river system downward (1. 85) towards Quebec City. En route he notices two additions to the St. Lawrence: waters [of Lake] Champlain, entering the system by the Richelieu river (whose name, perhaps because of its French, political connotations, he omits) and the Maskinonge river flowing into the north-west end of Lac St. Pierre. The former provides Cary the mercantilist with an opportunity to allude, somewhat quaintly, to the pine or tall mast trade which, though relatively insignificant in his day (in 1787, for instance, only sixteen masts were shipped to England from Quebec20), would rise to prominence in the Napoleonic Wars:
By contrast, the latter river, the Maskinonge, merely gives Cary the opportunity to mention the first of many fish inhabiting the St. Lawrence systemthe tyrant pike . . . / To please the haut-gout of the high-fed town (11. 92-93). It is worth noticing that, unimportant as it may first appear, Carys reference to pike as a delicacy contains the message that the high-fed town has moved well beyond the level of mere survival and subsistence to that of refined taste and superabundance. There will be more to say about this message and its cognates later in the present discussion.
For Cary, Quebec City, which had been the centre of the French commercial and military activity in North America, is first and foremost a strong base for the British garrison and a secure harbour for Brittanias navy (1. 138). It is also the recipient of inspired, British engineering expertise which, presumably drawing on the same divine sources as Moses, is able to command the sea to go back:
In addition to its strategic and commercial importance for the St. Lawrence valley, Carys Quebec City has the beginnings of the shipbuilding industry which would become of major importance to the city in the nineteenth century. To describe the launching of a ship in 1789 Cary alludes to the legend of Venus birth out of the sea on a half-shell; his Venus-ship, however, is destined to be the mistress, not, as legend has it, of Mars, the god of War, but, characteristically for Cary, of the god of trade:
For Cary, apparently, not even the classical deities could avoid the long arm of British mercantilism.
The remainder of the first part of Abrams Plains, which is to say the part leading up to the description of Wolfes victory and death in the middle of the poem, is an elaboration, with small, but interesting, variations, of the themes just discussed. One such variation occurs when Cary, in what may well be a deliberate echo of and answer to Goldsmiths very negative description of North American nature in The Deserted Village (another poem which he mentions as a model in the Preface to Abrams Plains), turns to describe the Canadian wilderness. After echoing Goldsmiths matted woods with his own, more emphatic, Thick-matted woods (it would take over a century, the Group of Seven, and Emily Carr to realize the aesthetic potential of what Goldsmith and Cary call the rank luxuriance21 of the dense forest), and after noticing the flies, in myriads . . . with tumifying stings (to date only Francis Bond-Head has succeeded in casting Canadas flies in a positive role22), Cary counters Goldsmith on the terrors of the rattle snake by observing that, even in the Canadian wilds, a providential nature good and wise is at work, providing an antidote to the venom of the dark adder in the form of a local herb (11. 120-127). (It almost goes without saying that Carys repeated descriptions of the civilized state of Canadian nature and society, like those in the Canadian Goldsmiths Rising Village, can be read as responses to the gloomy prognostications in The Deserted Village.) A further variation on Carys familiar themes occurs in his description of the immediate surroundings of Quebec City where he likens commerce to a queen ant, an apt figure for the process of diligent, fertilizing colonization. And another is to be found in his description of the logging mill at Malbay (La Malbaie) when he draws upon an Indian legend, albeit one that would have been accessible with minimal difficulty to a European familiar, as Cary very likely would have been, with Ovids Metamorphoses:
Affected as Cary is by the Indian legend, he allows his peace-loving nature and theme to emerge when he refers to the dead warriors as the cold hlooded butchers of a valiant foe.
But the most interesting variation on Carys survey of the plentiful resources of Quebec in the first part of Abrams Plains is his use of a stock-in-trade23 of topographical poetry: the catalogue. If additional and conclusive proof of Carys mercantilism were required, it would be furnished by a comparison between, for instance, the catalogues of flowers, birds, and domestic animals in Thomsons Spring and the commercially-oriented catalogues of wild animals, trees, and fish in Abrams Plains. All these items are catalogued by Cary, not for their natural beauty, but as natural resources for exploitation by colonial traders and for exportation to British markets. Thus the only species of trees worth itemizing are The sturdy oak (in itself an emblem of England) and the lofty mountain-pine (1. 214), the first a main-stay of the ship-building industry, the second of the tall mast trade. Indeed, W.T. Easterbrook and Hugh G.T. Aiken could almost be glossing Cary when they write in their Canadian Economic History that no European nation could hope to retain the status of a first-class power without an assured supply of oak timber and pine masts.24 Wild animals are more extensively and explicitly catalogued as a source of furs for craving realms (1. 217) across the Atlantic:
Carys none-too-subtle point is that furs from Quebec, as much, if not more than items such as silk and gems from elsewhere in Britains mercantile empire, have a useful contribution to make to the military, social, legal, and monarchical institutions of the Mother Country. Moreover, Carys catalogue of furs and their uses not only contains an unmistakeble echo of a rhetorical question in Thomsons Summer Ah! what avail their fatal treasures, hid / Deep in the bowels of the pitying earth, / Golcondas gems, and sad Potosis mines . . .25 but it could almost be a response, couched in terms of Quebecs natural resources, to Thomsons question. Just as Cary begins his business-like itemization of fur-bearing animals with the most commercially important of these, the beaver, so he initiates his catalogue of the finny brood of the sea with salmon [and] cod, a superabundance of which on far worlds plenty redundant showrs (11. 250-270), and goes on to enumerate various other varieties of fish bass, trout, eel, sturgeon, smelt, and so on which are Next most important for home supply. Traceable to Ausonius Mosella, reminiscent of the catalogue of ships in Homer and troops in Virgil, and present, not surprisingly, in Windsor Forest, the catalogue of fish has numerous august and Augustan precedents, all of which serve merely to emphasize the commercial turn given to it by our mercantilist poet. Although Carys catalogue of the other Resources of the St. Lawrence estuary, The heavy porpus and the silly seal (1. 224), the whale (1. 228), the grampus (1. 246), and the sea-cow (1. 248), and his references to Quebecs bounteous . . . granries, with their golden showers of grain for craving realms, (11. 216 217) attest to his balance-sheet or export mentality, he is able to step outside the counting house for a few moments in two descriptions, of ice fishing (11. 266-271) and a whale-hunt (11. 228-245), both of which are surely well-known and justly-renowned enough to escape rehearsal here. Nevertheless, the controlling purpose manifested in the catalogues in Abrams Plains is not aesthetic but commercial; Carys aim is to depict Quebec as rich in exportable staples, as a non-subsistence-level economy with enormous future potential within the British mercantile system. Our infant world asks but times fostring hand, / Its faculties must by degrees expand (11. 220-221), he says, embodying in one succinct metaphor the dependent, but mutually rewarding, relationship between the colony child and the Mother Country.
One further passage in the opening section of Abrams Plains, a Thomsonian digression on culinary taste, may detain us for a moment. The thirty odd lines (11. 162-195) of incidental meditation on food begin after Cary has followed the St. Lawrence out, past the mouths of the Saguenay and Taddusac to its wide-spread Gulph and the distant main, the Atlantic ocean. The butchery of seals in bleak Labrador makes Cary think of the Esquimaux, with small pigs eyes, who At cookry sick, raw seal and rank oil prize, and this unlovely thought prompts a jocular consideration of the relativity of taste. Judgement in eating!, wheres the standard placed?, asks Cary, leavening his answer that it is located in each mans fickle froward taste by comparing the gourmet offerings of various chefs26 with the seal and oil, of [the] Esquimaux. All this could be taken with a pinch of salt, or simply dismissed as in Carys words, at best . . . a joke, if it were not for the fact that the poet widens the compass of his meditative digression on food into a moderates plea for a tolerant acceptance of individual taste and, more important, of differing religious beliefs. Habit forms all, he argues:
In this passage Cary moves beyond comic relief to make a serious point that bears directly on English-French, Protestant-Catholic, relations in post-conquest Quebec, while also reinforcing some of the major themes of Abrams Plains. For his argument that all religious roads lead to the same capacious heaven is, at base, an argument for tolerance between Protestant and Catholic which is consistent with his emphasis on peace and harmony. And his argument that religious belief is merely a matter of social conditioning contains within it the concealed possibility that, when exposed to the rules and great example of Protestant, British society, the French-Canadians will abandon their Catholicism and, perhaps, much else besides. Cary, it appears, would have had his cake and eaten it too, would have tolerated the French Canadians, at least until they were moulded by British religious, social, and cultural institutions. Needless to say, history has proved Cary wrong. But it is hardly surprising to learn that the Quebec Mercury, which, as we know, Cary founded in 1805 and edited until his death in 1823, espoused under his editorship the idea that the English conquest was a blessing for New France and that the Canadiens should forget their language, customs, and religion and become English-speaking, commercially-oriented British North Americans.27
Nor is it surprising to discover in the latter part of Abrams Plains several attacks on the Catholic Church and on the seigneurial system. Carys description of the Church as a lessner of the little of the poor (1. 365) is, of course, aimed at the tithe system, which was retained under the Quebec Act of 1774. His more elaborate depiction of a wayside crucifix is directed at the idolatry encouraged by such displays:
The dismissive note struck by the phrase and other geer, together with the emphasis thrown on the word Persuaded by its initial position in the final line and by the fact that it is the only three syllable word in the latter part of the passage, indicates that, for Cary, the accoutrements of Catholicism are delusive; it may also be that by his emphatically alliterative depiction of the French-Canadian peasant bowing humbly with hat in hand he means also to comment on the repressiveness of the Catholic Church. Be this as it may, Cary was not alone in his condemnation of Catholicism in post-conquest Quebec; his opinions were shared, to a greater of lesser extent, by Frances Brooke, Cornwall Bayley, and J. MacKay not to mention the authors of the Quiet Revolution nearly two centuries later.
The General Hospital, which, as readers of Frances Brooke will recall, was founded by Jean de Saint-Vallier, the second bishop of Quebec, situated on the border of the river St. Charles,28 and run by an order of nuns, is subjected to an unequal mixture of praise and blame by Cary. After describing the Hospital as a kind shelter of disease and as a source of cordial comfort for the afflicted (11. 372-375), Cary delivers himself of a lengthy diatribe against the Sequesterd vestals vows of chastity which, in his view, constitute an offense against great natures law equally as serious as the taking of life (11. 376-397). Given Carys almost choric endorsements of fertility and plenty in Abrams Plains it is consistent that he should both condemn laws / To bar fruition (11. 386-387) and praise the impetus given by God To all that live, to propagate their kind (1. 395). Similarly, it is consistent with Carys repeated references to the freedom and liberty conferred on Quebec by British rule that he should condemn what he sees as the tyranny of the seigneurial system:
Although Cary ignores the fact that under the terms of the Quebec Act the seigneurial land-tenure system, far from being abolished, was actually retained and consolidated for the benefit of colonial entrepreneurs, there is no doubting the sincerity of his championship of liberty over tyranny and of equality under the law. A dimension not of his own making is lent to Carys treatment of liberty and equality in Abrams Plains by the events which began in Paris in June/July, 1789, only months after the appearance of his poem. But while Abrams Plains was published before the French Revolution it was published well after the American one, a fact which throws into relief the limitations of the British freedom which Cary, with what looks on occasion suspiciously like a double standard, so fervently endorses.
To this point only passing references have been made to Carys brief Preface to Abrams Plains. Despite its brevity, Carys Preface raises several issues that are of considerable importance to an understanding, not only of Abrams Plains, but also of the milieu from which it sprang and of its position near the beginning of Canadian writing. Since the Preface is so brief, as well as, relative to the poem itself, fairly inaccessible, it is worth quoting here in full to initiate a discussion of its salient features:
One of the issues raised in the opening paragraph of Carys Preface concerns the connection between leisure and literature, a connection which has been investigated by thinkers as diverse as Jacob Bronowski and Joseph Pieper who have pointed out that, to quote the latter culture depends for its very existence on leisure.29 Towards the end of the nineteenth century in Canada the connection between leisure time and literary production was expounded by, amongst others, J.G. Bourinot and G.M. Adam and, more recently, it has been discussed by such critics as Ray Palmer Baker, R.L. McDougall, and S.M. Beckow,30 albeit without reference to Cary. Yet Carys modest description of his little poem [as] the offspring of a few leisure hours is resonant with implications in the direction of the leisure theory of Canadian literature. It is incidentally worth noting that the leisure theory provides one explanation of why so few novels (novels requiring considerable leisure time to write as well as to read) and so many poems (particularly poems of less than a thousand lines) were written at the pioneer and settler stages of Canadian literature. In the light of this, Carys description of Abrams Plains as a little poem written in a few leisure hours could even be read as an oblique apologia for his choice of form.
One of the most important issues raised in Carys Preface concerns the question of audience: to whom is Abrams Plains addressed, or, to put the question differently, what is the readership and community implied by the our in our horizon? Sandra Djwa has suggested that implicit in Carys Preface is the assumption that the Canadian poet is addressing himself to an English audience, a pervasive view of the poets function which would not encourage the development of an indigenous Canadian tradition.31 It is, of course, possible that Cary was writing with one eye on an English audience, that his fulsome descriptions of the peaceful environment and abundant wealth of Quebec were at least partly intended to encourage the flow of British investment and emigration to the new colony. If granted, this possibility would lend Abrams Plains a propagandist quality and place it at the opposite pole from a work such as Susanna Moodies Roughing It in The Bush (1852) which, as everyone knows, was written to discourage potential settlers from coming to Canada.
But against the assertion that Abrams Plains was addressed solely or even primarily to an English audience to the exclusion of a colonial one there stands a crucially important fact, namely that Cary arranged to have his poem published by subscription and sold32 not in England, but in Quebec. This fact alone argues strongly that Abrams Plains was directed mainly towards the literate, English-speaking inhabitants of Quebec.33 While it is true that some of these people were in the colony on fairly brief tours of duty, it is equally true that others, such as Cary himself, who had come from England before 1787, William Brown, the poems printer, who had moved to Quebec from Philadelphia in 1764,34 and others like McTavish, McGill, and the Frobisher brothers who had arrived in the early 1760s,35 were permanent residents of Quebec. The body of the poem, moreover, provides evidence that Abrams Plains was directed towards three specific groups in Quebec the first being the merchants of the metropolitan centres of the colony, particularly Montreal with its McTavishes, Frobishers, McGills, and their like, of whom Cary speaks as blest traders (1. 83) and for whom he includes what must have been, to them, satisfying catalogues of the colonys potential wealth and future prospects; the second being the members of the British garrison and its entourage for whom are included, as we know, numerous paeans to the benefits of British peace and to the power of the British armed forces; and the third being Quebecs colonial administrators, particularly Lord Dorchester (Carleton), to whom Cary, a clerk in one of the government offices in 1789 (and later secretary to Governor Prescott), delivers a flattering panegyric:
Since Lord Dorchester was not only wounded in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, but also one of the saviors of Quebec in 1775/76 and, as Governor-in-Chief of British North America from 1786 to 1796, one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the colonys commercial potential,36 it is hardly surprising that he and his family should be the almost iconic subjects of Carys praise. Towards the end of Abrams Plains, however, Cary directs at the colonial administration, as well as at the other two main components of his colonial audience, the garrison and the traders, a traditional moralists warning against the dangers of pride and power. The soldier, statesman, merchant, wheres the state / Exempt from the vicissitudes of fate?, he asks, cautioning:
Cary, it would appear, was quite capable of mixing moralistic advice with fulsome flattery in addressing the powerful élites of his colonial society.
There are additional insights into the relationship between the poet and audience of Abrams Plains to be gained from Carys Preface. In explaining that he has written a poem which, he hopes, will not be unpleasing to the lovers of polite learning and that he is addressing a judicious and poetical reader who will be impressed more easily and readily by correct numbers than by poetical fancy and imaginative strength Cary achieves two ends: he succeeds in modestly under-playing his own poetic abilities while, at the same time, flattering his audience (albeit in a somewhat left-handed manner) and implying that he is speaking to and for a cultured, balanced, and rational community. Moreover, Carys preference for an Aristotelian, descriptive poetry that exhibits a picture of the real scenes of nature over poetry of a fabulous and fancifully imaginative kind not only establishes his credentials as a realist but also seems calculated to accord with the preferences of his realistic, no-nonsense readership. It is even tempting to see a correspondence between the mentality of Carys audience of soldier, statesman, [and] merchant and his decision, despite his avowed preference for the blank verse of The Seasons, to write Abrams Plains in the more conventional, structured, and socially-oriented form of the heroic couplet. Be this as it may, the ability of the heroic couplet to create the impression of . . . a public voice and, beyond this, of a significant public milieu37 makes it eminently suitable for Carys purposes. And the point may also be made that in the eighteenth century the heroic couplet was considered to be the proper form for a descriptive poem with classical echoes38 such as Abrams Plains. For any one or all of several reasons, then, it would seem that Carys choice of the heroic couplet form for Abrams Plains was appropriate to his audience, to his subject matter, and to the overall public and social nature of his poem.
Although there will be occasion to turn again before very long to the important issues raised by Carys Preface it is worth taking a few moments now to look in detail at his handling of the heroic couplet in Abrams Plains itself. Of particular interest in this respect is Carys use of one device: the period-stopped, or blocked, couplet (and the series of such) set against a background of relatively enjambed or run-on couplets. Carys handling of this device in response to individual features of his landscape and subject matter is apposite and mimetic enough to indicate the presence of a crude poetic of the Canadian landscape in Abrams Plains.
Taken as a whole, Abrams Plains does not employ period stopped, blocked couplets on an extended scale, a fact which makes Carys use of them in many (though not all) instances of special interest. One such instance occurs near the beginning of the poem; the poet is addressing Lake Superior, one quality of whose waters, he informs the reader in a note, is to be remarkably cold under the surface:
The effect of this system of four blocked couplets, which follows, it is worth noting, a metaphorical and Popian description of the Great Lakes as urns (1. 19), is to mirror a series of circumscribed geographical forms (urn-lakes) in a series of circumscribing poetic forms (period-stopped couplets); Carys sharply individuated couplets are mimetic of the shapes described and, moreover, the additive effect of his series of such couplets reinforces the sense that the Great Lakes are all part of the cumulative water system feeding into the St. Lawrence. The overall effect of the blocked couplet series is one of abstract patterning which, it may be, Cary is only able to achieve because he cannot actually see the Great Lakes from his vantage point on the St. Lawrence. It is arguable that Carys use of blocked couplets in this instance stems as much from the effort of a rational, eighteenth-century mind attempting to discover order in and exercise control over external nature as from a desire to mirror the Canadian landscape in poetic form. That Cary was using the couplet form and its variations to accomplish both these ends seems to be confirmed by the passage which follows immediately upon and contrasts markedly to the one quoted above. Since Cary is now describing the Niagara River and Niagara Falls, it is to be expected that he will use, not blocked, but relatively enjambed couplets
In the first five lines of this passage Cary skilfully employs several techniquescouplet enjambement (run-on couplets seems the more apt term in this context), terminal verbs (pour, bound), trochaic substitution (Dówn thy. . .), spondee and alliteration (próne póur), and even an extra rhyme (bound, round, sound, the only triple rhyme in the poem) to convey a sense of the movement, plangency, and sheer power of Niagara Falls. Of course, Niagara Falls were, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the sublime spectacle par excellence in North America. Although, Cary, like countless others before and after him (with the notable exceptions of Anna Jameson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Oscar Wilde), responds to the sublimity of the Falls with the appropriate awe, the dictates of eighteenth-century rationalism prompt him to control and contain his emotive responses by enclosing it within a blocked couplet. (Similarly, his reference to the Hallelujah chorus of Handels Messiah, a work which, as Christopher Hussey observes, was generally acknowledged sublime39 in the eighteenth century, while consistent with the religious overtones of the sublime experience itself, may be taken as an attempt by Cary to channel his emotive response to Niagara Falls in the direction of the known and safe). On the evidence presented so far, then, it would seem that Cary was in command of his heroic couplet form to the extent that he could use it both to reflect the Canadian landscape and to control his responses to it.
A detailed discussion of further instances of Carys judicious use of the couplet form, particularly of blocked couplets and relatively run-on couplets, in Abrams Plains would be tedious and repetitious. Some of the pertinent passages may be quoted, however, beginning with Carys use of two blocked couplets towards the end of the poem to reflect or, better, fence or frame, as the case may be fields, cottages, and a church:
There is probity, too, in Carys use of static, period-stopped couplets to describe the arresting effects of ice and frost:
and in his use of a period-stopped couplet to achieve the effect of closure in the final paragraph of the poem:
A dying whale, a harpooned grampus, and a trapped sea-cow also demand the stasis conferred by the period-stopped couplet:
And to describe the Battle of the Plains of Abraham Cary marshalls his couplets into an appropriately choppy series of soldierly squares:
As might be expected, rivers and falls call forth relatively run-on and open couplets, as in the following example, one from amongst several that could be quoted:
Instances such as these (and others which the interested reader will be able to discover for himself) provide additional proof that Cary, though clearly no Pope in his handling of the heroic couplet, is a competent and, at times, surprisingly interesting versifier.
What is particularly interesting about Carys handling of the heroic couplet form in Abrams Plains is its bearing on what was earlier called a poetic of the Canadian landscape. It is now possible to recognize that in Carys poem there exists a relationship between poetic form and Canadian content which is potentially more subtle and complex than W.L. Mortons provocative contention, in The Canadian Identity, that the art of the baseland is the lyric, while in the art of the hinterland there is a tendency to the heroic and the epic. . . .40 Clearly, a discussion of the various relationships between, on the one hand, poetic forms and kinds and, on the other, varieties of landscape and subject-matter at the different stages in the history of Canadian poetry is beyond the scope of the present undertaking. Yet the preceding discussion of Abrams Plains, together with Mortons baseland / lyric, hinterland / epic hypothesis, raises questions, a sampling of which may be validly asked here. Did Oliver Goldsmith, for instance, choose to write The Rising Village in heroic couplets merely to model his poem on his namesakes Deserted Village, or did he sense as well in the additive nature of the couplet poem, in which each couplet is, so to say, placed on top of its predecessor like the boards of a wooden house, a formalistic equivalent for the building of his archetypal Acadian village? Was the Petrarchan sonnet, a lyric form which, like the couplet, is highly societal in its traditional associations and which, like the blocked couplet, can function as a fencing or framing structure, intuitively perceived by Lampman and Roberts to be the appropriate form for descriptions of the New Brunswick and Ottawa Valley baselandscapes? Does Carys use of blocked couplets to describe the northern Great Lakes help us towards a fuller understanding of Campbells choice of forms for his Lake Lyrics? What do the titles, let alone the contents, of such volumes as Arthur Stringers Open Water and F.O. Calls Acanthus and Wild Grape tell us about the relationship between free verse and the Canadian landscape in twentieth-century Canadian poetry, and, indeed, anterior to that, about the uses of blank and free verse in relation to landscape in the nineteenth century? Such questions and the speculative answers which they invite in the asking serve to show, if nothing else, that the poetics of Abrams Plains, crude yet interesting as they are, have wide-ranging ramifications for the history of poetry in Canada.
It is time now to pick up again the main thread of the present discussion, to return to Carys Preface to Abrams Plains and the issues raised there. In the same article alluded to earlier, Sandra Djwa accuses Cary of providing an attractive, but perniciously colonial, rationale for the general practice of literary imitation41 when he tells us that before [he] began [his] Poem [he] read Popes Windsor-Forrest and Dr. Goldsmiths Deserted Village, with a view of endeavouring, in some degree, to catch their manner of writing; as singers in country-churches in England, to use a simple musical comparison, modulate their tones by the prelusive sound of a pitch-pipe. While it is true that Cary here provides an explanation and exemplification of the process of literary imitation, it is difficult to see why he should be faulted for so doing. The history of Canadian poetry to the present day is in large measure a history of the adaptation (often by means of literary imitation) of inherited poetics and aesthetics, forms and styles, to Canadian content, and vice versa; the study of Canadian poetry must, therefore, be to a great extent ecologicala study of the interrelations, and the pattern of relations, between transplanted organisms and their new environments. One of Carys virtues is that in his references to Pope, Goldsmith, and Thomson in his Preface he admits to a literary descent, asks explicitly to be judged in relation to his models, and by implication and extension provides a literary context for the dynamic of inheritance and adaptation in his own poem, as well as in others such as Mackays Quebec Hill (1797), with its debt to Thomson, or Burwells Talbot Road (1820) and Goldsmiths Rising Village (1825), with their debts to Goldsmith, which draw upon the same models. What is interesting about Carys poem, then, is not its derivativeness per se but the way in which its inherited form and style are adapted to and modified by the Canadian environment. Of course Abrams Plains manifests a typical eighteenth century cluster of peace, prosperity, patriotism, and plenty.42 How could it be otherwise? The real question, which, it is hoped, the first part of the present essay has at least partially answered, is one of how Cary uses such clusters and to what ends. The preceding discussion of Carys handling of variations on the heroic couplet form provides one instance of how potentially productive an ecological study of inheritance and adaptation can prove to be. Another, which we are now in a position to explore is Carys deployment of the eighteenth-century aesthetic and conventions of the picturesque in the picture[s] of the real scenes of nature that comprise a sizeable portion of Abrams Plains.
The picturesque may be simply defined as the capacity among certain writers, particularly of the century from 1730 to 1830 (called by Christopher Hussey the picturesque phase43) to perceive landscape with a painters eye44 and to describe it in a painterly manner; characteristic of the picturesque is an attempt at composing45 landscape scenery in pictorial terms. No doubt the picturesque aesthetic and conventions, pervasive as they were in the latter part of the eighteenth century, were a part of the mental luggage which Cary brought with him to Lower Canada in c. 1787. It is worth noticing, however, that both Windsor Forest and The Seasons contain the characteristics of the picturesque; Morris R. Brownell in his recent study of Pope traces the introduction to England of the picturesque as a significant aesthetic to Windsor Forest46 and Christopher Hussey, in what is still the most valuable47 study of The Picturesque, numbers Thomson amongst the Picturesque poets, stating that for him the reality of nature was a picture.48 It is also worth noticing in passing that of the three most important categories in eighteenth-century aesthetics, the sublime, the beautiful, and the picturesque, the beautiful, which is characterized by smoothness and gentleness, would have been the least applicable to the Canadian landscape in Carys day, while the sublime, characterized by vastness and obscurity, and the picturesque, characterized by roughness, sudden variation, and irregularity,49 would have been easily discoverable in Canada by an eye accustomed to seeking out these aesthetic categories. Thus it is hardly surprising that, as we have already seen, Cary describes Niagara Falls in terms of the sublime or that, as we shall now see, Abrams Plains is redolent with picturesque scenes.
For an instance of the way in which the aesthetic and conventions of the picturesque inform Carys depiction of the Canadian landscape, we may look at his description of the Plains themselves near the middle of the poem:
In this passage Cary creates a vivid sense of the pictorial, locating the reader at the same vantage point as the speaker, and, by means of repeated adverbs of locale such as Here and There (a device caught, in all likelihood, from Popes Windsor Forest50), succeeds in composing the landscape as a painter would a picture space. More specifically, Cary adheres to the picturesque convention, as articulated, for instance, by William Gilpin in his Northern Tour of the Lakes. . . (1786), of dividing the scene into three distances,51 the foreground (hill and dale), the middleground (woods and plain), and the background (the distant wood), and of using the Here / There direction to lead the readers eye from background to foreground and to convey the illusion of three-dimensional space. Cary also adheres to the picturesque convention in remarking the pleasing diversity of the scene, its irregularities of form and texture, and its varieties of colour and lighting. Moreover, it is worth suggesting that Carys use of conventional poetic diction, especially undiscriminating and familiar adjective and noun combinations such as pensile woods, eternal green, russet plain, and babbling brooks, might almost have been calculated to convey the sense that the Canadian landscape contains features which are recognizable, namable, and classifiable, and, therefore, known, comforting, and unthreatening. The reference to the mementos left by Wolfes soldiers, which bridges the gap between Carys description of the Plains and his ensuing account of the Battle, serves further to humanize the landscape by investing it with historical resonance rooted in his awareness of Quebecs heroic past. In effect, then, Cary uses picturesque conventions, stock diction, and historical reference to confer order, familiarity and significance on the landscape of Quebec.
When Cary surveys the communities up and down river from the town of Quebec he again employs the technique and vocabulary of picturesque analysis:
In 1847, over twenty years after Carys death, Hugh Miller would observe in his First Impressions of England that, in a country with a clear atmosphere, picturesque descriptions will tend to become panoramic catalogues52 a factor which does much to explain the panoramic scope of this passage. Again words such as, Here, There, Where, left, Thence, Next, Beyond and behind lend design to the panorama and direct the readers eye from the foreground scene, through the catalogue of communities, to the background, culminating in a loss of focus and control in the surrounding skies, the sublimity of which Cary characteristically contains within a period-stopped couplet. Not only does Cary employ the conventions of picturesque seeing in the passage but he also includes in his landscape animals and scenes which in themselves were held to be picturesque, as well as appropriate to topographical poetry. Cows, Carys milchkine, were considered, because of their shape and colour, to be the most picturesque of animals.53 Dairy cattle also require grazing field[s] and human protection while representing, as well, Natures plenitude (like the bounteous soil, plenteous harvests, and fertile fields later in the passage) and her beneficence to man (to man their milky homage [they] yield). They are thus admirably suited to Carys intention to delineate the picturesque beauty, domestication, humanization, and plenitude of the Quebec landscape. The same may be said of Carys non-specific reference to featherd game. The objects here of a gentlemanly pastime complete with spaniels, of a picturesque genre scene (what Atwood might call a tapestry of manners,54), the gamebirds are emblematic of a landscape and a lifestyle in which leisure and sport have supplanted mere survival. Also emblematic of the state of civilization in Quebec are the peaceful Indians of Lorette, the picturesque copper-tribes, who, though as yet only half tamd, have abandoned their pagan household gods and begun to learn the manners of the polishd town. So consistently does Cary point his moral, not least in the picturesque passages of Abrams Plains, that it is tempting to suggest that, like Pope in Windsor Forest,55 he uses the picturesque convention itself as a framing device to showcase the plentiful benefits of the peace, harmony, and order conferred by British rule.
It must not be thought that Carys pictorialism is entirely derived from Pope. Towards the end of the poem, after he has surveyed the hamlets south of Quebec City, Carys picture[s] of . . . nature take on a decidedly Thomsonian colouring. A vignette of a sleepy pool and its resident frogs, creatures of special significance to later Canadian poets such as Mair, Roberts and, of course, Lampman, is introduced by the emphatic command to See, a device reminiscent of The Seasons, as, in fact, is the vignette itself, with its closely observed, naturalistic details (the green mantle, and green scum of the pool and its spumy spawn), its periphrasis (frogs are the croaking race) and its astronomical-meteorological references ("the blaze of Sirius scorching ray). But it is Carys concluding description of the Canadian winter, a season from whose endless snows the verdant world of spring provides a Delightful and picturesque change, that his debt to Thomson is most evident. Like Thomson, Cary sees the salubrious aspect of the invigorating winds and clear skies of winter, the former sensing through the blue serene, / . . . ethereal nitre, / Killing infectious damps . . .56 and the latter, after referring to the virgin nitre in the Atlantic wind and noticing the completely cloudless sky, ordering the children of disease to Fly, fly far south. . . (toward the United States, note) when the St. Lawrence freezes over (11. 505-511). Cary follows Thomson, too, in depicting the blithesome frolics57 carriole rides and ice skating which the frozen river makes possible. But the most interesting feature of Carys winter is also the least Thomsonian. It is his description of the breakup of the ice on the St. Lawrence and of mans triumph over the awesome conditions of winter:
Nowhere else in Abrams Plains does Cary pay higher tribute to the fortitude and adaptability of the inhabitants of his adopted colony than here, where he offers his readers for contemplation two images of a culture superbly adapted to the Canadian environment: the canoe and the snowshoe, two devices which, to use Harold Innis word, had been elaborated58 from aboriginal and European models to meet the stern needs of a Northern climate and a Northern economy.
If the foregoing discussion has been at all successful, it will have shown that Abrams Plains deserves a place in any anthology of early writing in Canada. No one would wish to claim that Thomas Cary is a great poet or that Abrams Plains is a great poem. But even a poet who would be judged minor in global terms may be a cultural pioneer in the Canadian context and even a poem such as Abrams Plains, with all its deficiencies and shortcomings, may be a significant document in the history of Canadian literature and society. It may be thought that, in some places, Carys topographical poem is merely versified history and geography, that in others, Abrams Plains, veers too much in the direction of the chamber of commerce brochure, or that, on occasion, Cary allows inherited conventions and aesthetics to come between himself and his landscape. Yet in the very documentary nature of Abrams Plains, as much as in the businesslike, mercantile, and colonial mentality of its author, there is, as we have seen, much to learn about life and attitudes in late-eighteenth-century Quebec. And in Carys adaptation of the European poetic and aesthetic forms and conventions of his day to the Canadian environment there are hints in the direction of what remains to be discovered about the patriation and ecology of different forms and conventions throughout history of Canadian poetry. There could be no better way to end the present discussion of Abrams Plains than with the final paragraph of the poem itself where Cary, echoing a European model as so often in the poem (in this instance he has caught the phrase shuts the scene from the conclusion of Thomsons Winter), seems to see in the image of Canadian fire-flies a metaphor for his small but bright colony on the St. Lawrence river, as well as, perhaps, for his own lucid yet mimic poetic efforts:
I should like to thank Professors Donald Creighton, Malcolm Ross, Carl Klinck and W.J. Keith who read and commented upon earlier versions of this paper.