Like Roger Viets's Annapolis-Royal (1788), The Beauties of Belleville: a Poem (1864) by T.J. Breeze is a celebration of a particular Canadian town—Belleville, Canada West (Ontario)—that places special, indeed, almost exclusive, emphasis on the community's religious life.  But whereas the religion celebrated in Viets's poem is the Church of England, the principal focus of The Beauties of Belleville is Methodism, its benefactors, its ministers, and its architectural homes—"churches" where "God's truth" is preached "To guide to that city of glory and light / Those hearts that kind Heaven succeeds to make right" (242-43).  The churches of other denominations in Belleville are treated with due courtesy and respect—even the Roman Catholic church of St. Michael's is credited with "towers and spires. . .[of] beauty and grace" (391)—but the poem leaves no doubt whatsoever that Methodism stands at the top of Breeze's hierarchy of faiths.  Methodist churches and ministers are thus given primacy in the survey of Belleville's religions in which Breeze salutes the town for devoting its "wealth. . .to raise up on high / Pure altars to worship the God of the sky" (230-31), and the poem as a whole is fulsomely dedicated to Billa Flint (1805-1894), the member of the Legislative Council for the Treat Division since 1863, and, surely at least as important, the founder of a temperance society in Belleville in 1829, a founder of the Canadian Temperance Society in 1845, and "the superintendent [for twenty-one years] of the Bridge Street Methodist Church Sunday School" (Turner 322-23).  In the section of the poem inscribed to "The Hon. Billa Flint," Breeze lugubriously anticipates the time when "A tear of affection from Belleville will fall, / Where slumber the ashes of Flint's relics all," but not before proclaiming that "those mighty walls that do tower on high, / Raising their breastworks aloft to the sky," are a visible declaration of the wealthy businessman's "affection and love to that cause, / Whose most precious treasures are God's sacred laws" (125-26).

Breeze's unstinting praise of Flint's commitment and generosity to Bridge Street Methodist Church confirms the conventional nature of his pretense of relief that Belleville is innocent of ancient architectural structures:

Sweet Ville, thou art but a youth in thy pride,
Just leaving thy boyhood round the sweet silver tide;
The laurels of battle adorn not thy brow,
No glories enwreath it with amaranths now,
No ancient pedestals do rear on high,
Their head proudly pillowing its front in the sky;
No castles that wear the deep stamp of proud time


(The presence of similar passages in John Strachan's "Verses. . .1802" and Cornwall Bayley's Canada (1806) is but one indication of their conventional nature.)  In the absence of "ancient pedestals" and "castles," Breeze lavishes praise on the beauties of Belleville's natural setting at the mouth of the Moira River on the Bay of Quinte (Lake Ontario), but he may well have been pleased by the construction a few years after the publication of his poem of Belleville's City Hall (1872-74), a monumental building in the High Victorian Gothic style designed by John Forin (Kalman 2: 560).

Towards the end of his poem, Breeze lavishes praise on Susanna Moodie who had settled in Belleville early in 1840 after her husband, Dunbar Moodie, was appointed sheriff of the Victoria District of what was to become Hastings County.  Likening Moodie to a "bird. . .of the forest," Breeze asserts that "out of her spirit flow music and love" and urges her to "tell us how. . .we. . .May bloom in rich beauty" through "being governed by righteousness, equity, [and] truth" (510-37).  Despite—even because—of the extravagance of these gestures, it is difficult to believe that Breeze was unaware of the caustic comments about Belleville in Moodie's Life in the Clearings (1853).  Indeed, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that one purpose of The Beauties of Belleville was to counteract the negative assessment of Methodism in the chapter on Belleville in Life in the Clearings:

To the soul-fettering doctrines of John Calvin I am myself no convert; nor do I think that the churches established on his views will very long exist in this world.  Stern, uncompromising, unlovable and unloved, an object of fear rather than of affection, John Calvin stands out the incarnation of his own Deity; verifying one of the noblest and truest sentences ever penned by man:—"As the man, so his God.  God is his idea of excellence—the compliment of his own being." (16)

In her survey of Belleville's religions and churches, Moodie comments only in passing on the Wesleyan Methodist Church (a "large edifice") and the Episcopal Methodist Church ("composed of red brick") and she has harsh words for the Church of England church ("a homely structure; and. . .a great eyesore"), but she has very positive things to say about the Roman Catholic church ("how much its elegant structure and graceful spire adds to the beauty of the scene") and about the Scotch Residuary and Free Church buildings ("very pretty. . .The latter is built of dark limestone quarried in the neighborhood, and is a remarkably graceful structure. . . .[The former] is a small neat building of wood, painted white" (6-17).  These and other observations such as the following in Life in the Clearings throw into stark relief the relative paucity of details about the built environment in The Beauties of Belleville:

Sixty years ago, the spot that Belleville now occupies was in the wilderness; and its rapid, sparkling river and sunny upland slopes (which during the lapse of ages have formed a succession of banks to the said river) were only known to the Indian hunter and the white trader.

Where you see those substantial stone wharfs, and the masts of those vessels, unloading their valuable cargoes to replenish the stores of the wealthy merchants in the town, a tangled cedar swamp spread its dark, unwholesome vegetation into the bay, completely covering with an impenetrable jungle those smooth verdant plains, now surrounded with neat cottages and gardens. (5)

On that high sandy ridge that overlooks the town eastward—where the tin roof of the Court House, a massy, but rather tasteless building, and the spires of four churches catch the rays of the sun—a tangled maze of hazel bushes, and wild plum and cherry, once screened the Indian burying-ground, and the children of the red hunter sought for strawberries among the long grass and wild flowers that flourish profusely in that sandy soil.

Would that you could stand with me on that lofty eminence and look around you!  The charming prospect that spreads itself at your feet would richly repay you for toiling up the hill. (6)

Our first market-house was erected in 1849; it was built of wood, and very roughly finished.  This proved but poor economy in the long run, as it was burnt down the succeeding year.  A new and more commodious one of brick has been erected in its place, and it is tolerably supplied with meat and vegetables; but these articles are both dearer and inferior in quality to those offered in Kingston and Toronto. (30-31)

The Beauties of Belleville is a topographical poem (see Bentley, "Introduction," Thomas Cary's Abram's Plains) and it is written in the decasyllabic couplets characteristic of that genre.  That Breeze repeatedly has recourse to the word "power" as a rhyme word is as much an indication of poverty of his poetic talent as of his admiration for wealth and authority.  The poetic weaknesses of The Beauties of Belleville are all the more surprising in view of the fact that Breeze was the author of at least a dozen other booklets of poetry that included long poems on Toronto (The Poet's Rambles through Toronto [1864]), Kingston (The Poet's Glance of Kingston Scenes [1864]), and his birthplace of Picton, Canada West (The Poet's Memento of Picton [1865]).  The concentration of these poems in 1864-65 suggests that they are part of a planned series and may well account for their poor literary quality.

The Present Text


The present text of The Beauties of Belleville: a Poem is based on the 1864 edition of the poem (Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions No. 41619), which was published in Belleville, probably by one of the newspapers mentioned by Breeze towards the end of the poem (see 470-509).

Works Cited in the Introduction

Kalman, Harold.  A History of Canadian Architecture.  2 vols.   Toronto: Oxford UP, 1994.
Moodie, Susanna.  Life in the Clearings.  1853.  Ed. Robert L. McDougall.  Toronto: Macmillan

of Canada, 1959.

Turner, Larry.  "Billa Flint."  Dictionary of Canadian Biography.  12:321-23.