On July 30, 1788, the Church of England minister at Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, the Reverend Jacob Bailey wrote to his counterpart in Digby expressing the "great obligations" of the community "to him for his late printed poem on Annapolis, especially the young ladies whose beauty and voices he has highly extolled" (qtd. in Vincent, "Introduction" iii).  Bailey's counterpart was Roger Viets (1738-1811), a Yale-educated Loyalist who had moved from Connecticut to Digby in July 1786, and his poem is Annapolis-Royal, which, Thomas B. Vincent has suggested, was printed in Halifax in "early June. . .1788" and thus qualifies as "the first booklet of poetry to be published in what is now Canada" ("Introduction" iii). 

Like Thomas Cary's Abram's Plains: a Poem, which was published at Quebec a few months later, Annapolis-Royal draws heavily on Windsor-Forest and other works by Alexander Pope to represent the landscape and community that it describes as a realm of "Order in Variety" (15).  More specifically, and in Vincent's words again, Viets's poem consists of three parts, each celebrating the existence of harmony from diversity in a different sphere, first the landscape (lines 1 to 31), then the village (lines 32 to 73), and finally the singing of the "young ladies" of Bailey's congregation (lines 74 to 104).  The movement from the natural, through the social, to the spiritual can only have pleased the audience for whom the poem was intended, as surely must its Trinitarian structure and its pious hope that "each Musician, and Musician's friend" in Annapolis-Royal may "Attain to Hymns divine, which never end" (103-04).

As envisaged by Viets some five years after the bloodshed of the American Revolution and the migration of some 30,000 Loyalists to Nova Scotia, Annapolis-Royal is a site of almost paradisial peace and "harmless Bliss (48). *"  Along the nearby Annapolis River, "The Air, at once, both Health and Fragrance yields, / Like sweet Arabian or Elysian Fields" (25-26) and at its spiritual centre stands a minister – Bailey – who has "Retir'd from worldly Care, from Noise and Strife," to "spend. . .his Life" in "sacred Thoughts and Deeds" (68-70).  Surrounded by "Creation's Glory, and. . .Beauty" and sharing in their minister's "Pray'rs,. . .wants,. . .[and] Happiness" (12, 67), the people of Annapolis-Royal inhabit a "romantic Village" whose physical location and architectural structures proclaim the presence of a community that has successfully reincarnated the social and religious values of eighteenth-century, middle-class, Anglican England to the bank of the Annapolis River:


Betwixt the Royal Port and humble Mead [,]

The decent Mansions, deck'd with mod'rate Cost,

Of honest Thrift, and gen'rous Owners boast;

There Skill and Industry their Sons employ,

In Works of Peace, Integrity and Joy. . . .


            *   *    *


A Spire majestic rears it's solemn Vane,

Where Praises, Pray'r and true Devotion reign;

Where Truth and Peace and Charity abound,

Where God is sought, and heav'nly Blessings found.

(43-47, 62-65)


In form, Annapolis-Royal is entirely conventional, but its decasyllabic couplets are a particularly fitting expression of its emphasis on the various types of order that are present and evident in the community that it celebrates.  It may not be fortuitous that Viets twice expands a couplet to a triplet, the first time in proclaiming the Village a "Royal Settlement. . .blest of Heav'n" (28-29) and the second in declaring the "Symphony of heav'nly Song" in Bailey's church a "Celestial Concord. . . / Which emulates the Music of the Spheres" (75-76): in neo-classical verse the formal order of rhyme and rhythm is the equivalent and a reflection of order in other spheres, both human and divine.


* See Appendix for a contemporary description of Annapolis-Royal, its environs, and prospects. [back]

The Present Text

The present text of Annapolis-Royal is based on the first known printing of the poem in a seven-page booklet as reproduced in Thomas B. Vincent's facsimile reprint in the Loyal Colonies Press series.  The first printing either did not have a title page or had one that no longer exists.  Vincent's Introduction contains a discussion of the authorship, dating, and printing of the poem as well as a valuable analysis of its contents and merits.1



For further discussions of the poem's bibliographical aspects, significance, and merits, see Marie Tremaine 264, William F.E. Morley, Thomas B. Vincent, "On the Authorship, Dating, and Printing of the Poem Annapolis Royal," and E.J. Devereux. [back]

Works Cited in the Introduction

Devereux, E.J. "An Early Canadian Imprint."  Rev. Annapolis Royal, a Poem, 1788.  By Roger 

Viets.  Ed. Thomas B. Vincent.  Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews
(Fall/Winter 1979): 122-23.

Hollingsworth, S. The present state of Nova Scotia: with a brief account of Canada and the 

British islands on the coast of North America.1786. 2nd. ed. Edinburgh: William Creech, 1787.

Morley, William F.E.  "Viets' Annapolis Royal: a First for Canada."  Douglas Library Notes 

(Kingston) 20 (Winter 1972): 19-22.

Pope, Alexander.  Poems.  Ed. John Butt.  1963.   London: Methuen, 1965.

Tremaine, Marie.  A Bibliography of Canadian Imprints, 1751-1800.   Toronto: U of T Press, 


Vincent, Thomas B.  "Introduction."  Annapolis Royal, a Poem, 1788.  By Roger Viets.  Ed. 

Thomas B. Vincent.  Kingston: Loyal Colonies Press, 1979.  iii-vii.

Vincent, Thomas B.  "On the Authorship, Dating, and Printing of the Poem Annapolis Royal." 

Canadian Notes and Queries 13 (1974): 13.