Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets

A Tale In Verse

[hand written: To my dear friend,
W. Sherwood Fox
With the gratitude
And esteem of
Nathanial Benson
Apr. 28. 1933]
[unnumbered page]

A Tale in Verse


Nathanial A. Benson

Illustrated by Walter J. Phillips

[unnumbered page]

[unnumbered page]

“Lorsque des historiens ou des poète aux accents plus
puissant auront enfin fait retenir au déla des bornes de
notre territoire les magnifiques exploits de paladins de la
Nouvelle-France, les peuples ravis confesseront volontiers
qu’ il n’ y a pas d’épopée plus belle, plus haute et plus sublime
que celle de nos temps héroïques.”<?pre>

FAUTEUX [unnumbered page]


We Canadians are neglectful of our national heroes. Why, I cannot say unless it is because we are so close to the heroic days of the pioneer that we cannot see them in perspective. Possibly it may be due to the common human frailty of finding the persons and thing of home dull and uninteresting and of magnifying the glory and possessions of our neighbor. And have not most of our literary heroes been borrowed from other peoples of other times? But the sad irony of it all! It is we, the living, who pay the penalty. We are starving our national soul by stifling our expression of pride in the truly noble deeds of our own compatriots. At best we are enjoying but half a life. In the plainest of English, I mean that Canada sorely needs more narrative poetry about her heroes and their deeds. And only acknowledged heroes are proper subjects; the mediocre and the doubtful must be thrust aside. Of those that are acceptable could any be greater than Dollard? To my mind, Mr. Benson has chosen the most heroic figure in our whole history, one that possessed all the features of the true epic type. But in his noble exploit Dollard is not solely himself; he is also, and chiefly, an ideal representative of a great culture-one of the two dominant cultures of our country. So in singing of him in English Mr. Benson is extolling the highest qualities of one culture in the language of the other. [unnumbered page]M/b>


In this he I but saying what we of the English tradition have in our heart to say but cannot express except through our writers. Such poems as this cannot but bring the people of the two cultures closer together in sympathy and in action. In “Dollard” Mr. Benson has happily wedded two incompatibles-stirring poetry and fidelity to historical details. Indeed, in respect of details no other account of the hero, except that in Les Relations des Jésuites, is more generous. Yet the poem is no recital of mere items; on the contrary, it is an artful blending of details into a picture portraying with singular unity and charm the daily life of the Ville-Marie of 1660. It is this picture that bring out the real national significance of the sacrifice at the Long Sault. To British and Canadian readers I earnestly commend Mr. Benson’s poem both for its own sake and for its national mission. I hope they will read it sympathetically and in a spirit that will encourage a young poet to continue devoting his gift to themes of the same kind.


University of Western Ontario, London April, 1933 [viii]


When Mr. Benson did me the honour of asking me to write an historical preface to his version of the story of Adam Dollard and his companions, I hesitated-not because I was unwilling to go bail for Mr. Benson’s poetic genius (which seems to me admirably exemplified in the pages that follow), or because I had any doubts about Dollard and his companions being a fit theme for heroic verse, but because I wondered whether my dull prose might not be a sorry introduction to Mr. Benson’s splendid poetry. When, however, I reflected that the great Sir Walter had not hesitated to prefix prose introductions to his Lay of the Last Minstel, and his other metrical romances, I came to the conclusion that I had at least a good precedent to follow, and I was emboldened to accept the invitation. The story of “the Canadian Thermpylae”, a the exploit of Dollard and his companions has been well named, has been, with the stories of Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord, one of the chief heroic episode in the traditional version of Canadian history. Dollard and his dauntless seventeen have been described as having sallied forth from the primitive fortalice of Montreal – after having made their will and vowed to die in the defence of New France-to meet the menace of an attack by an overwhelming force of Iroquois warriors; and as having died to a man in carrying out this design, and in their death having saved New France. Told in this way, the story of Dollard and his companions [unnumbered page] has undoubtedly a wonderful appeal; and one would be glad if it had a thoroughly solid foundation. It o happens, however, that historical research has failed to substantiate this account of Dollard’s achievement in some particulars. A careful scrutiny of the existing evidence reveals the fact that Dollard and his companions, when they set forth from the infant settlement of Ville-Marie (or Montreal), were merely bent on ambushing any stray bands of Iroquois whom they might meet, and had no idea they would encounter any army of many hundreds of Iroquois braves. If some of them made their will before departing, this was by no means because they thought they were going out to certain death; and there is no evidence for the statement made that before setting out they took at the altar an oath to sacrifice themselves in the defence of the colony. It is clear that their expedition was frowned upon by some of the most experienced Indian-fighters in Montreal; that Dollard and many of his companions were novices in Indian warfare, and even in the art of handling a canoe; and that the expedition had about it something of the foolhardy. There seem reason even to believe that Dollard was inspired by a desire to wipe out, by a deed of high renown, some stain on his record in France before he came to Canada. With regard to the details of Dollard’s exploit, moreover, there I a good deal of doubt. Our information with regard to the journey up the Ottawa, and the fight which Dollard, his seventeen French companions, and his two-score Indian allies put up in their half-ruined fort at the Long Sault, against the onslaught of seven hundred Iroquois warriors, depends solely on the story told by a solitary Huron who escaped after [page x] the struggle, and carried the new of the death of Dollard and his companions to Quebec. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that critics should find the chronology of the traditional version of the story confused, and some of the details difficult of belief. An attempt has even been made to show that the death of Dollard and his companions was in vain, and represented indeed a useless waste of human life. But this is a one-sided view. It must be freely admitted that Dollard and his companions, when they set out, had no fore-knowledge of the fate which was to befall them; but it must be admitted also that they met their fate with a courage which age cannot whither, nor custom stale. It is true that Dollard was a novice in Indian warfare, and he may even have been actuated by a desire to rehabilitate a shattered reputation; but it is also true that he, like Frontenac, realized the important fact that the best defense against the Iroquois was an offensive. It is possible, indeed, that if his Huron allies had not deserted him, the issue of his defence of the fort at the Long Sault might have been very different. Whether his gallant fight and death resulted in the salvation of New France, is a purely academic question; for no one can tell what would have happened had event taken a different course. It is undoubtedly true, as Mother Marie de L’Incarnation pointed out, that it was the custom of the Iroquois, once they had taken or killed a score of men, to return to their villages to show the results of their prowess; and it is probably also that, even if Dollard and his companion had not gone forth to death, the fortified towns of Quebec and Montreal would have been able to repel the attack even of [page xi] seven hundred Iroquois warriors, But there would seem to be little doubt that Dollard’s stand at the Long Sault effectually diverted the projected attack of the Iroquois on the settlements of New France in 1660, and thus saved the situation, for the moment at least. For us however, it is immaterial what was the actual immediate effect of Dollard’s action. Whether it saved New France from extinction or was entirely futile, is of no account compared with the extraordinary posthumous influence that Dollard has exerted in Canadian history. The tale of his and his companions’ heroic self-sacrifice has been an inspiration to thousands of young Canadians. To them this gallant exploit has been another, and a more credible (because familiar) Thermopylae. Such deeds are predestined themes for our Canadian poets, and Nathaniel Benson is happy to have enshrined a noble action in heroic verse.


The Library, University of Toronto. [page xii]

To Emma and Julian [unnumbered page]

DOLLARD A TALKE IN VERSE [unnumbered page]


Late in the spring three young friends wander up the east bank of the Ottawa River, a short distance from the tiny village of Carillon, Quebec, just below the famous Rapids of the Long-Sault. At dusk they make camp on the sore, and light a fire. Two of them are sitting on one side of the fire, and the tallest alone on the other. Stillness, fire-light, and far away the song of the Rapids. One of the two seated together speaks:

“Now we are camped in sound of the Long-Sault!
Now that we come to that deep-storied shore,
Good friend and poet, now we ask of you
To tell the tale of Dollard, evermore
Linked in remembrance with this holy place,
Upraised forever, a crusading flame
That burns about our night, and lifts our race
With the proud sound of his Canadian name.
Sing us, good friend and poet, sing his deed
As bards of olden time rose up to sing
And clothe in music at a people’s need
The precious tale of an immortal thing.
Speak for us now, in this historic air, 
Our young Dominion’ noblest episode;
Hymn the brave tale in measures strong and fair
And lead us down the old heroic road.” [unnumbered page]


The Poet Speaks

Courage and Death I sing, immortal courage,
Whose never-setting sun streams down the years
In Death’s drear-archèd palace, and the dim
Crypts of antique and all-relentless time.
Courage and Death I tell, of valiant man,
Soldiers of France who saved the new-found world. 
Not that unflinching Spartan warrior-king
Who held against the huge Iranian host
The fatal lane of grim Thermopylae,
Nor that Swiss patriot, bunching foemen’s spears
To impale his body as a living shield,
Not these, nor greater heroes yet unsung
May claim a costlier niche in valour’s hall
Than Daulac, Adam Dollard, whom I sing. [unnumbered page]


     Night on the North Atlantic, long ago
Night on the North Atlantic, that huge waste,
A restless world of waters; seldom keel
Had followed the Norsemen’s sharp-beaked dragon-ships
Since Leif the Lucky steered hi chartless way.
Vaguely the pulses of old Europe beat
Across that trackless watery world to wake
The continent that blotted out Cathy.
The Ocean’s mountains heaved their foamy heads
And whelming rolled beneath the empty sky.
Surging gigantic over the ancient deep.

     Three centuries ago, a little ship,
A ship of France called the “Saint-Nicolas”
Fought westward on her solitary path;
Each rugged day she climbed the tireless main,
Each setting sun she lay a few short leagues
Ahead to westward, nearer Labrador.
Staunchly she ploughed and wallowed in the troughs
Plunging ahead beneath the frosty stars.
A ghost-white moon that filled the silver sky
Found that frail cockle in the spectral realm
Where monstrous icebergs from the awful North
Like shimmering pale cathedrals rode the sea. [unnumbered page]

     High in the bow a gentleman of France,
A soldier, stood, his hand upon his sword,
His lips pressed tight to hide a curious smile,
Hi dark eyes bright with courage, as he watched
The great white beasts of waves leap at the prow
With thunderous snarl and crash, pass on beneath
And shake the vessel as each mountain moved.
The soldier heard the loud fanatic wind
Boom out against the wide full-bellying sails
White in the moon. Lean, sinewy and tall, 
With something of the hawk in nose and chin.
And with the youthful ardour of his face
Tempered and steeled in the maturity
Which speaks of many dangers faced and braved.
Last night he watched the pale wake wash away
The land of France and all rich memories:
Love and adventure, and the gaunt Château
Ormeaux, old Paris and the muddy Seine,
The towers of Notre-Dame, the cobbled streets,
The flash and clang of blades, the running watch-
Now all was done, the splendour with the shame;
Worlds to the East lay France, forever gone.
Into the west he stared and clasped his sword.
He felt the Cross upon its hilt, and felt
Deep in his soul the deep and wordless vow
That in this mighty Kingdom of the West,
Somewhere in this new France, in time to come
Some deed of selfless glory should be done. [page 5]
The tumult and the ardour in his heart
Were answered by the victory in the wind;
The sparkling glints of courage in his eyes
Were kindred with the ever-beckoning stars;
The shadow of a smile played round his lips
As he raised up and kindled his ideal,
And set aflame the past on its dark pyre
With a great torch that tossed its golden hair.


     Weeks later from the waves,
The never-ending bitter waste of waves,
Arose an iron-fanged coast of sterile rock.
Dark lay the reefs and darker robes of pine
Mantled the frowning shores. For days they sailed 
Across the Gulf, to gain the mighty River,
The broad St. Lawrence that goes to meet the sea.
For sport the sailors shot at flight of ducks
And wheeling sea-birds; nightly the soldiers’ wine
Flowed double, and the Breton captain smiled,
For one might cross as well the pathless sky
As that dread vast awash between the worlds.
The rigging ran with song; men born again
And glad of life, danced crudely in high boots.
One played a horn and one a flageolet
While soldiers cleaned their wide-mouthed musketoons.
Steep grew the river-banks; one day arose [page 6]
A kingly Rock. “The Citadel!”   “Quebec!”
Round green island’s length they sailed; at last
Black in the sunset towered the sheltering Height.
Cheer followed cheer on board; across the rail
Men leaned in eagerness. Three lithe craft clove
Then sun-gold waters. – Loud the shout: “Canoes!”
Fingers clutched tight on guns; some ran below;
A pale lad grasped his sword. From Dollard’s lips
Dropped one low word, the whisper ‘Iroquois.’
The captain laughed and swore a Breton oath:
“You greenhorns! these are Hurons, Christain friends!
They come, my fools, to welcome – “ lo, the blades
Of lean birch paddles dripping swept aloft
In bronze smooth-muscled arms. “Saint-Nicolas!
Welcome, the King’s Ship! Welcome to Quebec!”

     And now the broad-bowed wayfarer nosed slow
Along the food of that huge rampart; sails
Boomed taut no more, but gentled in the breeze.
Old hymns of France to Mary-of-the-Seal
Came chanted from the decks. The dark allies
Escorting, answered in the Huron tongue.
Slowly the frigate drifted to the quay
Which jutted from that immemorial Height.
They stepped shore, these new Canadians,
With wonder in their hearts and fortitude,
Up the steep path they stamped; the solid land
Swayed at their feet, for on the heaving deck [page 7]
They had paced so long that now the granite earth
Reeled in their heads with every upward step.
Up the stern path they trudged, till at the Gate
Of old Quebec, the embattled Citadel,
They stopped, and marked its worn and regal pride.
Away below the stout “Saint Nicolas”,
So long their gallant home, lay like a toy.
They passed the ancient Gate, down narrow streets
To where the Governor awaited them.
Drumming and colours, cannon and wild huzzas.
On to the barracks, where the soldiery
Held nightly revel. There, between parades
That pranced proud Louis’ power in brave New France,
Gaming and drinking and old amorous tales,
Since soldiers have been soldiers, passed the hours.
Dollard’s quick blade won honour in fencing-bouts,
But few could understand the reason why
Dollard, well-born, though little of the great
Around, and asked fresh tales of Maisonneuve,
The oaken veteran of unnumbered frays
With those red human wolves, the Iroquois.
Wide-lipped and eager-eyed, he heard strange tales
Of Ville-Marie’s four hundred pioneers,
That little outpost of the Fleur-de-Lys
Where painted Death lurked round each forest-tree.
There Maisonneuve, a pistol in each hand,
Stood off the hideous storm of Senecas
And single-handed slew their yelling chiefs [page 8]
While harried settlers fled within the gates.
Two names sang loud for Dollard: ‘Ville-Marie’
And her valiant governor and guardian,
‘Paul Chomédy, the Sieur de Maisonneuve,’
Who vowed he would hew out that little town
‘Though every tree should be an Iroquois.’

     Dollard heard pious Jesuits tell the tale
Of Jean Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant
And Isaac Jogues, who lifted God on high
‘Mid the crude Hurons, till the Iroquois
Blasted their villages in blood and flame.
There the dread Mohawks t the torture-trees
Charred out the Word of Christ and burned His saints
In the searing night-long fires of Saint-Ignace.
He shuddered at the blazing agonies
Suffered by Christ’s true soldiers at the stake
Writhing in flames that burnt through every nerve.
He felt the very faggots roast his limb,
And swore that God should rain His succour down
Through his, through Dollard’s sword, until the Cross
Shone in white vengeance o’er the vengeful tribes!

     Up the broad River, in the pearl-grey dawn
A small flotilla moved toward Ville-Marie.
The Huron paddles cut with soundless strokes
Through still grey waters, and the lithe canoes
Glided like gulls across the grey-white waves.
Lonely the reaches, dark the shore-line lay. [page 9]
Round dim pine-hooded headlands all the day
They passed till night fell huge. O’er portages,
Where like white hound the rapids foamed and roared,
Grimly they tramped, and once again launched forth
On the board bosom of the grey St. Laurence.
They voyageurs, pipes stuffed with strong tabac,
Shouted and sang to the paddles keeping time.
They lynx-eyed Hurons ever on the watch
Scanned the far reaches and little hidden bays
For hostile prows. – Once the flotilla stopped. 
Three lean canoes slipped round jutting cape.
Then gun and bow were snatched; but far a cry
Crossed the still water and paddles swept aloft.
The Huron chief to Dollard smiled and said:
“Algonquin hunters headed for the north.”
With one last hail the three canoes bound east
Passed on, and melted slowly from the sight,
Until they vanished down the darkening shore. 

     The sun uprose, and warmed with ruddy gold
The chill pale river-reaches; now the shores
Seemed green and fresh; the sky was iris blue
And fair New France put on her emerald robes.
The paddles plunged and fell in tireless arms,
And as the traveler passed each little cove,
An odour, warm and sweet, blew off from shore,
In waves of balmy incense that the old
Explorers thought was born of luscious fruits.
The Huron chief told Dollard what it was: [page 10]
The aromatic breath of spruce and pine
Warmed into ripeness by the noonday sun.
That fragrance lingered in the morning air
Like blessing from the lips of pious priests
And breathed its joy in these adventurous hearts.
They felt the virgin beauty of a land
Unworn by history and the tramp of war,
Illimitably vast, untrodden still
Save by the swiftly-slipping moccasins
Of light-foot savages who left no mark.
Uprose the suns and fell, cold countless moons
Waxing and waning over old Quebec,
Silvering Cap Diamant and the proud Chateau,
Westward and on would roll; beneath them far
The virile march of lake and lordly river
Swept out beyond the Mighty Falls, beyond
The last lone post of Michilimackinac.
Northward the death-deep forests darkly-sealed,
Chocked and uncharted, where the muskeg’s mould
Sucked down both man and tree to mossed decay.

     As though he heard some unimagined tale
Whispered from deep within a continent’s heart,
Dollard’ dark eyes were radiant with that gleam
Which lights the dimmest undiscovered land
And bares its wonder to a marveling world.
	“None but the brave unlocked this country’s heart, 
None but true warriors, men of steadfast soul
Who grappled death and danger to their breasts, [page 11]
Who lived with fear and misery until these,
Pale Hunger, the blinding white of winter-cold,
The molten sun, the torture-fires’ red flame
Lit up the incomparable way to God.”
Then, as this vision of the hero-priests
Fired his young blood, proud Adam Dollard thought
Of poor court popinjays who preened in France
The draggled plumage of the shabby pride, - 
And then he thought of that grim priest Laval,
Vicar of God, worthy of Him he served;
Of Jean Brébeuf, the Bull, whose giant voice
Out of the heathen flame at St. Ignace
Shouted to God his faith, while torturers
Feared him immortal for that tragic strength;
Of Gabriel Lalemant, the gentle scholar, -
Burned all that night the breaded Bull lay dead, -
Whose tortured spirit praised his God till dawn;
Of Isaac Jogues, the Mohawks’ captive-slave,
Meek s his Saviour, mighty in His strength,
Chanting his faith through all the captive years,
Who came to France, and, mutilated, knelt
Unrecognized before his captain-priest.
“What news of Isaac Jogues?” The kneeling man
Lifted his ruined face and jointless hands
And humbly answered: Father, I am he.”
Queens kissed his scars, kings honoured him, but he
Returned, foreknowing, to the forests grim
To endure again, to suffer, and to die. [page 12]
     And now the new adventurer in their train
Gripped the thin thwart, and silent stared ahead;
France was well lost indeed; this rugged land
A fresh unsullied gazed on young Dollard,
“This is a man,” he said, and briefly turnd
Again to paddling. - Wild, romantic, free,
He had the old world’s courteous ease and grace,
The fire, the dash and daring of the new.
Proud, but no longer vain, though swift to hate,
Boyish and tall, with mastery in his face;
Features both keen and bold, a restless mouth,
Dark eyes and curled black hair, a little beard,
The quick fine hands that marked the swordsman born, -
This was Dollard in sixteen fifty-eight
Who rode the broad St. Lawrence to death and fame.

	Red set the sun, and all the flood grew pale,
Darker the shores - then the deep afterglow
Flowed back from west to east, the crimson train
Of the vanished emperor of joyous day.
A liquid rosy red, the heaven teemed
With splendour flowing, wave on radiant wave,
Welling in beauty from the wilderness,
From those dark forests where the martyrs died,
From the hidden depths whence their full glory surged
Backward in time to light all valorous men. [page 13]



     Around the Island came the swift canoes,
Before them rose the wooded Royal Mount
Crowned by the heavy Cross of Maisonneuve.
Dollard had heard of this same valiant cross
Vowed unto God, when He turned back the flood.
The river had o’erfoamed its natural banks
And brimmed the ditch, lapping the low stockade.
Then at that pregnant hour rose Maisonneuve
Made strong his covenant, and took the vow
That should the perilous river by God’s hand
Be overstemmed, the Governor himself
Would bear aloft a ponderous cross until
Christ’s symbol crowned the Mount of Montreal.
The torrent ceased. The soldiers hewed a road,
And Maisonneuve, the great Rood on his back,
Climbed step by step, and on the summit fixed
The Tree austere, high over the brawling flood. [unnumbered page]
     The thick stockade stood grim; from loopholes thrust
Guns had rained death on ever-deadly foes
And fierce Six-Nations chiefs had fallen slain
At that strong gate, the war-whoop in their throats.
Low clustering cabins, staunch of log and stone,
Squatted like rugged warders on the bank.
Close by the shore three black-mares bombards gaped,
Prepared to speak their iron messages
To all invader on the water side.
That long low barrack, ramparts and bastions round,
Stood stout in stone, and stiffening in the wind
The lilies of France streamed proudly over all.
Thin lines of blue wood smoke hung in the air.
For life went on though death was ever near.
Soldier and Jesuits, wild coureurs-de-bois
Waved from the shore, and as the squadron grounded,
Driving their keels high up the glistening sand,
A hearty cheer of welcoming joy resounded.

     A tall and warlike figure, clad in grey,
Stepped forward. On his face the steely lines
Of strength indomitable and spirit severe.
This man was Maisonneuve who championed long
His God and King in a strange and savage land.
His own especial pride was Ville-Marie;
And long the vicious Mohawk hate fell spent
On that strong fortress dedicate to heaven.
The Governor clasped Adam Dollard’s hand [page 15]
And the young swordsman felt a leader’s power.
He, whose impetuous heart until this hour
Had been his only guide, who never owned
A single rein, brooked no restraining force
Of father, brother, captain, priest or king,
Knew he had found at last the man to follow.
His dark keen eyes looked forth, still half-believing,
Until they met the unimpassioned light,
The calm and steady grey of Maisonneuve’s.
The elder man had guessed young Dollard’s thought
And inward felt a curious glow of pride
When Dollard said; “My captain, I have come.”

     On fate’s grim frontier Ville-Marie was set,
Where life and death were ever-present fare,
And where all hands worked toward the common good.
And on this treacherous brink, where heroes stood
Wrestling an empire with tremendous toil
Out of the desperate quarries of old time,
Here where heroic hands carved history
Each perilous day, life was a simpler truth
Than in older lands where men were born and died. 
Amid storm clouds calamitous, each day
Time surely knit the ties that linked men close,
Bound in fraternal courage, armed with strength
That forced the new world’s frontier deeper still.
And when his martial duties were performed, 
Dollard walked out beyond the palisade, [page 16]
Over the narrow river-skirted farms
Where stalwart hands grew corn for Ville-Marie
There soldiers toiled and swung the busy hoe
And moved their muskets down each furrow’s length,
Dollard scorned not the plough; Réne Doussin, 
A dark and sturdy fellow granted land,
Would ask his help. One day they planted seed
And scarcely noticed how the dusk crept down.
The line of forest stood some years away
And from its depths all day birds sang and flew.
Doussin and Dollard worked until their eyes
Blinked in the dark; one furrow still remained.
The friends stooped low - a sudden frightful yell,
And six red demons racing from the wood.
Quicker than thought the swordsman’s blade whipped out
And slashed an arm that swung a tomahawk.
Swift thrust and sweep, then thrust and cleaving blow-
He leaped to aid, and like a light there flashed
That glittering blade - two Mohawks shrieked and fell. 
A roar and blast of fire - a ringing shout;
“Courage!” And Jean the Armorer was there!
Three labourers ran with Sieur de la Forêt.
A shout for help. René Doussin was down. 
The huge Tavernier swung his ponderous sword.
“For Christ and King, Dollard!” he cheered them on.
Two dark forms rushed away - a musket boomed,
One fell and one was gone. René Doussin 
Bound up a deep-cut arm; to the stockade [page 17]
They bore him.  Doubly grim was Mainsonneuve
To hear the latest raid. He ordered all
To till no arpent of allotted soil
Unless an armèd guard patrolled nearby. 
“Like snakes they strike.” he said. “Dollard, my friend,
Kneel to Our Blessed Lady; make a vow
To Her, for narrowly have you been saved.”
The calm grey eyes were troubled as he spoke:
“Had God and His most Blessed Son and She
Not heard you call, naked you now might stand,
Bound to a stake, beyond all human help,
Writing your life out in a night-long fire.”
Then down knelt Dollard, and this vow he made:
“O Blessed Lady! Saint of Ville-Marie”!
This night hast Thou preserved a worthless life,
And that same life I vow returned to Thee
When, and whenever it shall serve Thee best.
Ask of me what Thou wilt, and humbly giving
I will return Thy favour unto Thee.”
“A strange and pious oath,” quoth Maisonneuve.
“And one, I trust, friend Dollard, may be kept
Long years from this. Pray, be more circumspect.
What boots this splendid vow? Our Ville-Marie
Mounts up on each day’s courage, on small deeds
That build as insects in the warmer seas
An enduring bastion ‘gainst the wash of years.”
Then Dollard spoke, while hot blood burnt his veins:
“My captain, well you know and I know well [page 18]
That Ville-Marie, the power of God and France
Can never store an easy foot abroad
Until these devils burden us no more.”

     And Mainsonneuve was silent, and he turned
Away from Dollard. And the calm grey eyes
Were clouded. “Every life they take,” said he.
“Is one life less to bear the faith of Christ
Forth in these wastes.” Young Dollard touched his sword:
“My master, captain, friend, each life we give
Wins yet another foot and dedicates
That blood-worn foot to both the Kings we serve.”


     A Huron stranger pounded at the gate
With trembling hands. He told the Governor
The Sachems and Six Nations chiefs had vowed
A mighty force should blot out Ville-Marie. 
“White brothers, a most bloody host have come!
They winter on the Ottawa, forty score.
Three snow-moons will they hunt, these Onondágas 
Oneidas, Mohawks, Senecas, Cayúgas
And in the spring that savage horde will fall
In blood and fire to crush out Ville-Marie.”
Stern Maissonneuve looked at the runner once,
The terror in whose eyes spoke deadly truth.
“They cannot pierce our walls,” the Governor said. [page 19]
“Your walls are safe from hands - but they brings want
And thrust to hem your standing fortress round;
There will they wait until your corn is gone,
And tarry till the white man’s power lies weak,
Wait till your thunder-speaking guns stand mute,
Until your men and women, helpless, starved,
And hollow-eyes with thirst, unbar the gates-
Then the red torch will come! The ravished town
Will smoke to heaven, one ensanguined pyre,
The torture-stakes set up in every street,
The white-hot hatches—”  “Enough!” cried Maisonneuve.
He saw the fear-pale faces, red and white,
Ringed round him. “Huron, dare you swear to this?”
“May wendigoes devour my father’s bones,
Black winds of plague blast down my tribe’s tepees,
And may the Great White Manitou hurl out
My arrows from the Happy Hunting Ground
If these things be not so — behold my hands!”
He thrust them forth. Both French and Hurons saw
Where thumbs and fingers with blunt knives and stone
Had been hacked off and from their sockets wrenched;
Pallid the dusky Hurons, pale the French-
“By these red witnesses all men may know
I have been captive to the Iroquois.”

     And Maisonneuve was silent. And they knew
That for one instant he had doubt of God.
Was this, His handiwork, so soon to fall [page 20]
Before the hurricane of savage wrath?
Was all of this brave haven in the wilds,
This little bead upon God’s rosary, - 
Was all foredoomed to perish, soon to lie
 A barren heap of ruin, o’er toppled stone,
Charred logs and broken bodies on the ground?
Some fatal morning would the joyous sky,
Which the bright eyes of Ville-Marie beheld,
Vault its fair azure beauty all in vain
Above those eyes, burnt out and black and blind?
“Leave me, my brothers, let me pray, alone.”
Wordless they left him standing wordless there.
And so he stood until the day was gone,
Till the shadows of his chamber pent him round,
Till hope was an abyss and strength a ghost.
A bells’ slow ringing in the quiet air
Awoke him. Toward the silver crucifix
That hung in deepest shadow on the wall
Dumbly he turned. - “Captain.” It was Dollard.

     The youth in Dollard’s handsome face has vanisht;
Blind passion, guideless ardour, and vain pride
Forgotten. Pale he was, and resolute,
In voice and aspect quietude.
Wondering the Governor stood - and then he saw
The fixed intensity of Dollard’s eyes
Burning in stillness rapt, on the peak of vision.
De Chomédy remembered that same gaze, [page 21]
Quiet and awful, that amazing gleam
Which he had seen eleven years ago
In the eyes of that young Jesuit, Lalemant.
“The hour has come,” said Dollard level-voiced,
“To keep my sacred vow, to fill my oath
And to give back the life She gave to me.”
Still Maisonneuve was silent. Said Dollard:
“The strong mans strikes, the weak awaits the blow.
If I go forth with God to meet His foes,
Then He will make my arm invincible.
Give me a score of men and we will fight
Until the warlike Iroquois love peace.
I fear not death in battle; he who fears
The sable Warrior unmans his arm.
Away with thoughts of safety! I will fight
As those wild paynims on Arabian sands
Who harry Death in combat, and who think
With such fair quittance that they lightly vault
O’er the fell chasm to everlasting love.
Sire, if the heathen do not quail or flee,
Why then should I have fear, who serve the Christ?”
“My son,” said Maissonneuve, “He makes us wise
Rightly to value His rich gift of life,
Nor toss it hence like a feather in the wind.”
“I love my life-yet I love honour more!
Here life’s the only purchase we can give
To win back honour. Should we cower within
Like trembling foxes the hunters’ fire [page 22]
Has smoked them out to an ignoble end?
Give me a stricken field and room to play
My sword about me!  Give me twenty men.”
“Dollard, a well-armed group of twenty score
Would be no match to meet these Iroquois
In their own forest warfare. Of your score
How many would we ever see again?”
“Not one - and not a single Iroquois!
We would account for every comrade lost
With twenty barbarous lives and leave the rest
So palsied at the barest thought of war
That Ville-Marie would taste unbroken peace.
I mean to brand the searing stamp of dread
On these cruel devils who have girt us round
With sickly fear. If you refuse me aid
I will enlist my own adventurous souls.”
“Go, and may God go with you, Sieur Dollard.
I cannot give you soldiers whom I need,
But take whatever heroes you may find.”


     Jacques Brassier, veteran youth of twenty-five
Who sailed from France in sexteen fifity-three
And fought with Maisonneuve at Saint-Nazaire
Talked of the matter with François Crusson. 
Said Brassier: “Clever sword, the Sieur Dollard!
I am your man for these same Iroquois.” [page 23]
Young Jacques Boisseau, poor trapper, deadly sure
With knife and gun, came with Christphe Augier;
Alonié Délestres who burnt lime
And looked his thirty-one; Simon Grenet,
A farmer; Josselin, Hébert who came
In ’fifty-three; and young Robert Juri
Who cleared the land next Dollard’s, woodsman-farmer;
Tall Louis Martin, ’Sounder of all alarms’,
And public cowherd, he was twenty-one
and found the bells and beasts were dreary things;
Étienne Robin and Jean Lecompte who landed
In ’fifty-three and were and Saint Nazaire;
Dark Mathurin Soulard, fort-carpenter,
And Jean Valets, who built a splendid house,
Yet would not clear the land until he felt
No redskin devils lurked beneath his eaves;
Young Tiblemount, the locksmith; Nic Duval,
Fort-servant, drunkard, gambler of renown
Who had fled the town and feared the pangs of debt
More than the Iroquois; old Blaise Juillet,
The riches married man inVille-Marie, —
A burgher of importance, he had wed
Toinette de Liercourt, paid the handsome fee
 To Surgeon Bouchard, fathered Huron converts.
The Governor stood sponsor to his son!
Père Blaise had farms and houses, a lovely wife,
A round of children — yet he went away.
Some said his wife had loved young Hughes Picard, [page 24]
But twinkling Blaise informed the Sieur Dollard,
“The hearth and home, they weary; one can grow
Too prosperous, and lose the tang of life.”
Dollard’s two friends, —the sturdy armorer,
That giant Jean Travernier, who had tilled
The soil between his mending of the sword,
Devout and lion-hearted, burly Jean
Whom all men loved and called “Sieur de Forêt’,
And stout René, the Millerwho had stood
With Dollard when the Iroquois came down 
That night. He loved Dollard, and where his comrade
Was fighting, he would fight and with a will!

     There strode to Dollard’s quarters that same noon
A tall majestic Huron famed in war,
The Chief Anáhotáha, who had fought
For God against the Mohawks twenty years.
Siletn they watched him take the solemn vow
To give and ask no quarter. Then he spoke:
“Anáhotáha talkes for all his tribe;
My forty braves have held a dance of war;
So lead us on — to front the Iroquois.
We seek no mercy from the southern wolves
Who from my stricken people will have none.
White brothers, let us fight with furious heart
As the she-bear, sore wounded, sure of death,
But sure to rent the hunter ere she dies.
The Algonquin chief, the fierce Mtiwemég [page 25]
With half a score of young men will skilled in war,
Supports our cause and makes us sixty strong.”

     Then answered Dollard: “Mighty Huron chief,
Proud remnant of a valourous people lost, 
And you, my well-loved friends, my heart is full.
I cannot pay you, friends, your kingly due,
For pride and gratitude have stilled my voice.
We seek no wealth in furs, no poor emprise.
No vengeful end, no bloddy mission ours.
But we are sworn to do a holy deed.
Friends, if we die, think what rare blessings live.
For we will raise a living monument,
The peace of Ville-Marie, a lasting peace,
The knowledge that our arms did guarantee
Safety and tranquil joy. We have few sons,
Poor homes, no worldly goods — yet thus we make
Happy a thousand hearths in days to be.
Death were a trifling wafe to purchase this,
For we will fight with the terrific joy 
Of Samson when he dashed the heathen down!
These wolves will find the sheep become so fierce
That they will hol for mercy from the prey.
Beneath black-bannered Death the Iroquois
War in the name of slaughter and of blood,
But on our standard shine the Cross of Christ,
And He will strengthen us a thousandfold!
Now to your homes — we leave three days from this; [page 26]
To-morrow we confess our souls of all
That weighs upon them, that we may go forth
Clean in our hearts.  ’Twere meet ot make your wills.
Myself, I leave but little. Free your minds
From all concern about all lesser things.
Then we will take the Sacrament, and receive
The blessing of the Church, to speed us forth
Bucklered and armoured in the strength of God.”


     Beneath the thick log-roofs of Ville-Marie,
Round every great stone fireplace rose the names
Of Dollard and the valorous nineteen.
Fear of the Iroquois and whispered talks,
The rumoured raid, the name of every man
Who swore to go with Dollard, why each went,
Their chances of return, the Huron band,
The nine Algonquins, were repeated over
Until the coals grew dim and pipes went out.
Then in the silence humble prayers arose
That Christ might succour these intrepid arms.
Next morning in the street one said to Jean:
“Sieur de Forêt, you seek the Iroquoise?”
“And soundly will I thwack their crimson hides!”
That night the burgher Blaise told his young wife,
Who looked on him and wondered, and looked away
To think in silence.  Nic Duval played stakes [page 27]


Higher than ever before and gulped his wine.
The cow-herd saw his beasts as Onondágas
And fancied out the slaughter of the tribe.

     The holy fathers heard the hearts of all,
Granted remission, and unfettered each
With absolution. Pious Maisonneuve
Attended the Communion, and the Church
Was packed with earnest townsmen, as the band,
Bowed at the altar rail, received the Blood
And Body of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The old priest’s voice was trembling as he blest
Those who would never kneel to him again.
A woman sobbed, devoutly prayed the men,
And Maisonneuve’s stern face was lined like stone.
Only Dollard, his eyes upon the Christ,
Stared out beyond this life, and felt that all 
Was sweeping strangely toward the perfect end. [unnumbered page]
     That afternoon, the sly Maître Basset,
Careless, yet crafty in his own behalf,
Heard Jean Valets dictate his proper will:
“Wishing to go in war with Sieur Dollard
To fight the Iroquois, and not full sure
Whether ’twould please my God to bring me back,
In case of death, I do appoint an heir
To celebrate in the parish of Ville-Marie
Four great high masses for the good repose
Of my poor soul.  The sale of all my goods
To pay my debts.  Before Maître Basset.”
To purchase boats and stores and powder-kegs
To Governor gave monies, yet not enough,
And Dollard came to borrow, scrawled his note
To Jean Haubichon, smiling as he wrote:
“I, undersigned, confess myself in debt
For eight and forty pounds, which I will pay
When I come back again to Ville-Marie.
Year sixteen-sixty, April the fifteenth.”
	“I am a gambler, Jean, and so are you.
You have no proof that I will ever return.
Myself, I think not.  Who will pay you then?” [page 29]
     “Dollard, if you come back, then pay the sum,
And if God wills the other, call it paid.”
     “Not so, my friend, I leave no faults behind,
I have done that before and could not sleep;
The sale of my few lands will meet all debts.”

     Around the fort and in the barrack-room
As Dollard packed his stores, that night there clustered
The famous Indian fighters of the time, —
Young Charles Le Moyne, Bélestre, Lambert, Closse, —
To acquaint him with the depths of Indian guile.
“Remember this! said Closse, “remember this!
Trust no Six-Nation Indian on his oath—
And always keep one bullet for yourself—”
He told fresh terrors of the torture-stake
Till bluff Bélestre shouted: “Hé pardieu!
Lambert, my friend, you try to cheer him up?”—
When they had gone and all the place was still,
Dollard sat silent on his rough-edged bunk,
Opened his worn old chest, and searched within,
As one who touches the intangible
That spreads its musty frangrance round old things.
Torn jerkins grey and frayed, a Rhingrave jacket,
His old coiffed night-cap, and his English baldrick,
Some rounds of shot, tight-bundled leather, velvet,
Its crimson faded, and his old black hat
Slashed by a sword-cut, bills for kegs of wine,
A little broken comb of tortoise-shell [page 30]
(The last remembrance of one far away),
And at the bottom that stained battered sword
Best hidden.  Dollard held it in his hand
And flexed his wrist, then thrust it out of sight,
And closed and locked the chest and turned away.

     Dawn came in drizzling rain; the sombre river
Stretched out into impenetrable mist,
Out to the vast unknown, beyound the fog.
Upon the bank the folk of Ville-Marie
Crowded about a group of beached bateaux,
Heavy and dark, premonitory shapes
Like slain sea-beasts dragged high upon the sand.
A dozen war-canoes with painted prows
Rode in the mist off shore; Anáhotáha
Shouted farewell, and the Huron paddles dipped.
Three slimmer craft, the small Algonquin band
Of swart Mitíwemég, his face daubed white,
Streaked outward silently.  The first bateau
Shoved forth; René Doussin was in the bow;
Beside him Nic Duval, his last night’s gain	
Jingling right merrily in his leathern pouch.
The cowherd Louis peered out into the mist,
Fingering his musket.  As the great bateaux
Lurched heavily away, two bearded priests
Invoked the streaming heavens; one presented 
His worn and wooden crucifix to the flood.
Dollard, who will had set these prows ahead, [page 31]
In the last boat to leave immobile sat,
His elbow on his knee, chin on his hand,
His broad-brimmed hat deep-runnelled with the rain.
And as the boat threshed otu toward the unkown,
Silent he stared, until the mist and rain
Enshrouded the tall form of Maisonneuve.


The war-drums thundered round a stricken fort,
And louder than the Long-Sault Rapids’ roar,
Wild war-songs dinned and hideous torture-chants
Rang savagely beyond the palisade.
Through slanting loopholes Dollard saw bright flames
People the forest darkness.  Yelling Mohawks
Danced in the firelight.  Silent was the fort.
With loaded musketoons crouched six grim men
About the firing-slits. The fleur-de-lyes
Fluttered above their heads in the windy night.
Tavernier and two others knelt in prayer,
While frightened Hurons cowered about their chief.
René Doussin’s quick musket spat a flame
And in the glade a rending scream from one
Who crept too near, to fire the fort’s thin wall.
“One more,” cried René, and his leader smiled….
     At Ile St. Paul four Iroquois canoes
Were beached—a sharp and swift and bloody fight,
Two Mohawks taken and the rest destroyed. [page 32]


There Nic Duval had rolled the dice with Death,
Shouting had leapt aboard the first canoe
And gallantly wiped out all debts at last.
To make a decent end was all they wished,
But Mathurin Soulard and Blaise Juillet
Dropped overboard to escape the tomahawks,
And found chill safety in the broad St.Lawrence.
Pére Blaise would worry for his wife no more,
Nor see his river-girdled farms again; …
Up the dark waters, while the ice of spring
Rushed down, they strove.  Knee-deep in numbing shallows
Often they dragged the great canoes ashore,
But always as the weight of tribulation
Mounted, so mounted up their songs to God.
Algonquin vied with Huron in His praise
And savage spring tired boomed at the brawling height.
Chill was that bitter April.  But their Guide
Flamed on before in this new wilderness, [unnumbered page]
Leading His valiant servants ever on.
They passed around great islands, and at last
The swift brown current of the Ottawa
Raced deep beheath them; up the raving stream
Until they heard the dull incessant roar
Where the Long-Sault Rapid roared in April flood.
Quiet they beached in the country of the foe,
The dread Six-Nation’ fatal hunting-ground.
Beside a ruined fort Algonquin hunters
Had left the previous autumn, fleeing south,
They cooked their evening meal in iron pots.
Dollard thanked God for all His care thus far
And raised a tin of water to his lips—
A Huron scout ran crashing through the brush
“They come!  They come!  the Onandágas come!”

     Just as the sixty scattered from the shore
Behind the tottering palisade, a yell
Rang from the rapids as a savage host
Burst into view around the wooded point.
Two hundred tribesmen fired their guns and howled,
And drowned the rapids’ long tumultuous roar.
Driving their war canoes high up the beach,
They sprang ashore and smashed each French bateau
And Indian birch with axe and stone-head club.
They tore the food like beasts from cooking-pots
And slavering bolted down the half-cooked meats,
Then like a ravening pack of blood-mad wolves, [page 34]
Rushed on the fort. —Full thirty muskets crashed
Like one, and as the Indian maize goes down
Before the driving and relentless flail
Of the wild whirlwind’s stinging stroke of hail,
So dropped the Iroquois.  A moment’s hush.
Again they rushed, the living o’er the dead,
And once again the fatal muskets spoke,
Blasting the horde to heaps of riddled flesh,
While the living hundred turned and fled like hares.
Down from the fort Jurieand Martin jumped,
Wading in triumph over the stiffening slain
Until they reached the Sénecas’ high chief
Shot through the heart.  Above him knelt Jurie
And with a hunting knife sheared off his head.
In heavy fire the two regained the fort
And Martin fixed the trophy on a stake.
The daubed dead face grinned out upon his braves
Who howled in frenzy at the bitter jest.
The dark Algonquins jeered, the Hurons mocked,
Until young Martin saw his leader’s face
And dropped the hideous relic to the ground.

     Penned in the palisade, the French built up
The wall with sharpened stakes.  By dark there crept
Two volunteers for water, covered close
From three grim loopholes.  Both men gained the brink
And turned about.  One fell, the other ran.
The musket crashed.  They helped him over the wall [page 35]
And saw dark demons drag the other away.
“God grant him death!” gasped pale René Doussin.

     Through seven nights of deadly leaden hail
The gaunt and hungry keepers of the fort
Prayed night and morning, dug for drops of ooze,
And choking swallowed down coarse sagamite.
Thirst-torn and hopeless, feverish and starved,
They heard the Hurons grumbling to their chief.
The awful stench of putrefying dead
Piled round the wall, the maddening swarms of flies;
For help they prayed who knew no help would come. 
Down by the shore the pained Iroquois 
Strutted with floating scalp-lock, taunting all,
And most the trembling Hurons, with fierce chants
Telling of tortures soon to be endured. 
The Hurons shuddered as those savage tongues
Gloated and sang of heated flaying knives,
The necklace of hot hatchets, branding irons,
Slow-burning fires where men would writhe for days.
The death-chants turned to hymns of brotherhood
That called their Huron kinsmen to desert,
And all at once the Hurons, clutching hope,
Leapt down from death and joined the deadly foe.
Alone the Chief Anáhotáha stood:
“My woman-warriors tell me that there come
Five hundred Mohawks from the Richelieu
Summoned by these,— come by to-morrow’s sun. [page 36]
“My cowards, go,” and Dollard pressed his hand,
“Anáhotáha stayed and dies with you.”

     That all must die—slowly the thought seared deep,
Deep in the heart of Dollard; to snuff out
Forever the fair flambeau of this life!
So grand it was to speak of yielding all
For some rich purpose based on dreams of God—
But to give up this warm and breathing thing,
So sweet to hold, a bitter different gift!
Here in the dark, where thirst, exhaustion, stench
Made life so little, death seemed glorious,
But when remembering, ’twas so much to give!
The precious gleam of heaven, the wealth of sun,
Sorrow and joy, frustration and brief dreams,
Love and denial, the whole amazing play—
To lose this shining world at twenty-five!

     Anáhatáha and Mitiwemég
Waited his words, with comrades sworn to die.
He prayed them not to yield, not yet despair,
And every one upheld his mighty vow.
And now above the midnight of the forest
Loomed Death’s malevolent gigantic shape.
His fetid breath shut out the winds of heaven;
His footfall, hushing and tremendous, moved
Relentlessly upon the doomed stockade.
A sip of muddied water, a scrap of dough, [page 37]
And now and then a musket dully fired
At creeping foes who bore a shaded brand.
The stars seemed pitiless to life’s grim jest,
And there as Dollard squatted in the mud
By an unburied Huron, he remembered
A girl’s sweet voice, the scent of lilac trees,
The Court’s bright glitter, and his swordsman’s pride—
All come to this—death in the stinking mud,
Then to be hacked by filthy human beasts,
Dismembered and defiled—God!  what an end!

     The grudging dawn hung dim above the trees
When suddenly the river seemed to swarm
With long canoes.  A fierce unearthly shout,
And half a thousand savage muskets crashed!
Five hundred Mohawks from the Richelieu
Hungry for slaughter and athrist for blood!
They sprang from their canoes and rushed at once
Upon the fort.  The waiting muzzles blazed
And blazed again.  Cayugas and Oneídas,
And Onondágas tumbled in one ruin!
The palisade held firm.  Fresh dead piled up
Round it’s stark base.

     Three dragging days crept by—within the fort
Hunger and thirst stalked lean; powder ran low.
Still the defenders prayed, rose up and fought,
And weary knelt to pray between assaults.[page 38]
At sunrise came a tall Oneida chief
Waving a leafy branch in sign of truce,
And wary sentinels withheld their fire.
“White brothers, brave Algonquins, I have come
To offer you an honourable peace—”
A dozen Iroguois, each with a branch
Walked up unarmed with the Oneida chief.
The garrison of the beleaguered fort
Crowded together, all intent to hear:
“Honourable peace,
You leave this place, march forth, go safely free.
We leave this land to you, and southward seek
Our own lodge-fires and tribal villages.
We part as brothers, proud to strive in war
With splendid warriors—”  the exhausted men
Within were drinking every welcome word—
“We make exchange of gifts and wampum-belts
For each red brother slain, smoke pipes of peace
And feast together—”  A terrific yell
Behind the French,—And then a barbarous swarm
Vaulted the rear unguarded palisade.
Sword flashing, Dollard dashed to meet the first,
Big Jean Tavernier swung his woodsman’s axe,
The Algonquins fired—a huge Cayuga chief
Jumped from the wall, and at him sprang Dollard,
Parried his hatchet, and then thrust him through.
His pistol dropped another; a rush of feet,
And hand to hand, like a pack of worrying wolves [page 39]
They bit and tore and hacked upon the ground.
Blow upon vicious blow with gun-butt, axe
And huting-knife they swung and slashed and stabbed.

     Torn, wounded, bloody, fighting, to his feet
Dollard arose, and shouted his rallying cry:
“Forward—for Notre Dame de Ville-Marie!”
One horrible encounter—at its end
A score of mangled bodies in the dust.
Death paid the wage of Indian treachery;
The assault had failed with all attackers slain,
But fine Algonquins, Brassier and Crusson,
Valets and Tiblemont, Simon Grenet,
Étienne Robin lay lifeless in the mud.
Louis Martin, his head on Doussin’s knee,
Babbled of cows, face shattered by an axe;
Tavernier knelt and blest the dying boy.
Arm broken, forehead cut, Dollard sank down
Exhausted on the ground.
The swart Mitíwemég hurled his contempt:
“Serpents and snakes who sting the hunter’s back!
You slinking squaws!  You woman-warriors!”
A bullet sang, the swart Algonquin chief
Swayed and pitched forward, dead before he fell.

     Then Frenchmen, four Algonquins listening stood
As Chief Anáhotáha voiced his heart:
“We are dead men, my brothers.  Dare we hope [page 40]
To strive with seven hundred vigorous braves,
Hungry and hopeless, weary as we are?
My life is nothing—I count it as but smoke,
But here are many over-young to die,
In this grim vale, this ultimate abyss
Where now we lie, one trifling hope is left:
This man is half-Oneida; let us send
Him to his people brearing worthy gifts
To beg our lives in honourable peace.”

     With rings and watches in a deer-skin bag
The emissary climbed the palisade,
Slid to the ground an vanished in the woods.
While the defenders knelt in ardent prayer.
Eustache the Indian pleaded to the Saints:
“O blessed dwellers of the lofty sky,
Well do ye know the quest that led us here!
To quell the fury of the Iroquois,
To save our wives and children from the pit
Of heathen bondage, where the love of God,
The promised joys of Paradise, and all
The radiance of Christ were lost forever!
With the great King who orders all our steps,
Compassionate Spirits, interecede and save
Our paltry lives by dint of kindly prayer.
Act in accordance with your perfect will,
For we know not which way salvation lies
And err in wondering.   If we must die, [page 41]
Make up our true accounts, acquainting God
Of our atonement, suffereing for our sins.
Grant that our children die, embracing Christ,
That we may meet them at the last in heaven.”

     The renegade deserters wandered back
With mocking Onondágas to the fort.
They taunted the besieged and bade them yield
In safety ere the torture trees were fixed.
When these poor cowards found their craven words
Unanswered, one cried out: “The French have fled!”
Then Iroquois and Hurons swiftly ran
Straight to the wall to trap the men who fled.
A murderous volley thundered from the breach
And down like leaves the screaming tribesmen fell!
Anáhotáha shouted to Dollard:
“The final hope is gone—see! now they come
Raving in wrath!  My brothers, fight to death!”
The maddened Iroquios rushed forth in scores
Careles of death into the belching guns,
Whooping and roaring, howling as they fell.
Beneath the loopholes demons fresh from hell
Hacked with their quick keep axes at the stakes 
And heaped up brush to burn the palisade.
The firing-slits were useless; Dollard crammed
Two wide-mouthed pistols to the brim with powder
And hurled them down; loud burst the blinding bombs
With deadly blast amid the Iroquois. [page 42]
Laughing and drunk with the wild wine of war,
He helped Tavernier hoist a powder-barrel,
Set it alight and heaved the explosive high;
It struck a tree-branch, bounded on the top
Of the stockade and toppled back within!
A shattering roar, a lightening-sheet of blue,
The whole world rocked, and maimed and eyeless men
Groped choking in an acrid pungent fog.
The bloody Iroquois yelled out with joy,
Seized the loop-holes, and pouring deadly fire,
Shot down the living handful one by one.
Dying, the Huron chief besought Doussin
To thrust his head into the living flame,
That the Iroquois might never boast his scalp.
The hideous foe came clambering over the walls
And brave René Doussin rained blows of mercy
On stricken men to save them from the stake.
Blinded, Dollard fought forth and drew his sword
Whose glittering point blazed like a falling star.
Sightless he staggered, and swept that shining blade
Into a fierce mêlee of savage yells.
Aloud he shouted, fighting as he fell:
“Forward—for Notre Dame de Vill-Marie.
     Above the smoking embers dark with ruin,
The cold bright stars, majestic and serene,
Whelled ever on in white magnificence,
Above the solitary wilderness. [page 43]
The everlasting river sang, and wraiths
Of pale unquiet foam tumultuously
Passed down the shadowy flood until at last
The troubled rapids vanished and were still,
Hushed in superb immeasurable sleep
Upon the deep dark-bosomed Ottawa.


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