Explanatory Notes


The purpose of these Explanatory Notes is threefold: to record infrequent allusions within The Emigrant to various earlier authors and texts; to identify historical persons, places or events to which O’Grady makes reference, and which are unlikely to be familiar to the present-day reader; and to provide probable readings of the most difficult or obscure of O’Grady’s passages. In these efforts I have referred to numerous sources, not all of which can be enumerated here; the most helpful have included the Dictionary of National Biography, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Henry Boylan’s Dictionary of Irish Biography (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1978), and the Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography, for identifications of the Irish and North American personages referred to in The Emigrant; the Oxford English Dictionary, for denotations of unfamiliar words and for unfamiliar connotations; Donald Akenson’s The Church of Ireland: Ecclesiastical Reform and Revolution (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971), and Sean Connolly’s Priests and People in Pre-Famine Ireland, 1780-1845 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982), for my understanding of conditions in Ireland, and of O’Grady Bennett’s place as a tithe-collector, prior to his emigration; William Forbes Adams’s Ireland and Irish Emigration to the New World from 1815 to the Famine (1932; Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1980), for detailed information on the causes and conditions of Irish emigration in O’Grady’s day; Stanley B. Ryerson’s Unequal Union: Roots of Crisis in the Canadas, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Progress Books, 1973), for the causes of the Rebellions of 1837, and Joseph Schull’s Rebellion: The Rising in French Canada 1837 (Toronto: Macmillan, 1971), for details of the military operations against Papineau’s revolt; G.C. Bolton’s The Passing of the Irish Act of Union: A Study in Parliamentary Politics (London: Oxford, 1969), G. Locker Lampson’s Consideration of the State of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century (London: Constable, 1907), Kevin Nowlan’s The Politics of Repeal (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965), and D.J. Hickey’s and J.E. Doherty’s Dictionary of Irish History Since 1800 (New Jersey: Barnes and Noble, 1980), for information on Irish agitation, the Act of Union of 1800 which attempted to respond to it, and the Repeal movement which sought to obliterate the Act of Union; and finally Walter S. White’s A Few Pages from the History of Sorel 1642-1958 (Québec: Walter S. White, 1958) and Abbé Couillard-Despres’s Histoire de Sorel (Montréal, Imprimerie des Sourds-Muets, 1926) for glimpses of the social and economic history of O’Grady’s day which contributed to my sense of his predicament have been noted in the Introduction, as has the important contribution of Charles Batten’s [page 123] Pleasurable Instruction to my understanding of O’Grady’s attempted structure.
     Apart from these central sources, I have had brief recourse to more reference texts than may be mentioned here in my second effort to clarify O’Grady’s allusions to people and events of his day. Regrettably, my best efforts have not allowed me to claim that absolute success, and one or two of the following notes do no more than record my bafflement at O’Grady’s reference. A similar bafflement may have led me, with regard to the third purpose of these notes, to reach at times beyond the bounds of caution in my desire to clarify particularly obscure and garbled passage; I will rely on the reader’s innate skepticism as a counterbalance to such moments of injudicious editorial enthusiasm.



The purpose of O’Grady’s Preface is twofold: to defend the quality of his poem by reference to the mean “locality of subjects” of which he “had to treat,” and to distinguish the qualities of Lower from Upper Canada in relation to a happy subsistence for the emigrant and a happy inspiration for the poet. Although little of the bitter experience to be revealed in the later parts of the poem is acknowledged in the Preface, we may still remark the poet’s claim that the faults of his verse are to be blamed on locale, not on genius, and recognize that the “finer prospect” he foresees in the “Upper Province” has in no way pre-empted the acidic outbursts on emigrant experience that punctuate the poem. His life is Sorel has convinced him that only French Canadians are suited to the rigours of that climate, needing as they do no more than “a tolerable diet.” The advantages of the Upper Province include, besides the favourable climate, a “mutual intercourse” (that is, Anglophones with Anglophones, Protestants with Protestants), a “richness of soil” which we certainly cannot associate with Sorel after reading the poem, and (most interestingly) a “corresponding scenery,” which will arouse in response an “energy correspondent” with that scenery. O’Grady presumes that the more hospitable topography of the Upper Province will generate poetry more sympathetic, mellifluous and contemplative than he has thus far produced, a claim which demonstrates that he conceives of the poem as a mirroring of nature rather than an exchange of spontaneous inspiration with it. His reader must be careful, therefore, not to confuse his idea of an “energy correspondent with a richness of scenery” with a Romantic orientation; as the Introduction has noted (pp. xxiv ff.), O’Grady’s approach to the Canadian scene is typically neoclassical, and he shows no understanding of what M.H. Abrams, following Wordsworth (Prelude, I, 35), has called “the correspondent breeze” that wafts the Aeolian strings of Romantic inspiration.
     Otherwise significant is the defensive third paragraph of the Preface, in which O’Grady claims to be no “enemy to emigration”; a reading of The Emigrant will make perfectly clear to the reader why he should have feared to be thought so. Attention should be drawn to the curious wording that follows this claim: the natural [page 124] phrase, which O’Grady must have intended, would be, of course, “nothing, from my heart, do I desire [less],” that is, than to be thought an enemy to emigration. In various readings we might treat the phrase as a joke: he means here “emigration from Canada,” and that he desires indeed; or as a grateful acknowledgement: having come to Canada he “desires nothing more”; or as a careless double negative: “he desires nothing more than that none imagination him. . . ,” and so on. In any case, the confusion generated reveals the falsity of the initial claim: O’Grady is indeed an enemy to emigration, and will conclude his poem with (among other things) an exhortation to his fellow Irishmen to stay at home and suffer the worst rather than come to Canada. The confusion may have something to do with his perceived audience: he opens the Preface by speaking to Canadians, but concludes by promising new “detail” “for the instruction of my trans-atlantic friends.” As I have argued, such dualism is typical of O’Grady, who could only address the issue of emigration with great difficulty.
     Since O’Grady dated his Preface in November, 1841, the original edition of the volume must have appeared very late in that year (if not early in the next). That he was still in Sorel at that time suggests that he had decided to spend a sixth winter there, and did not leave until the spring of 1842 or later. He probably came to Montreal in 1842 to arrange for the re-issue of The Emigrant under his own imprint, but may have kept his establishment in Sorel while doing so. That he turns up in Lachine in early 1843 suggests, however, that his 1842 trip to Montreal was a permanent move, part of a slow drift westward begun after the publication of the volume. He must at any rate have seen Montreal prior to the 1841 publication, since he refers to it in detail in his Notes; indeed, his recognition in this “Preface” of the advantages of the Upper Province may suggest that he had traveled to present-day Ontario at some time between 1836 and 1841, perhaps during the Rebellions of 1837.


The tone of O’Grady’s Dedication is more in character than that of his Preface. The bitterness underlined by a dedication to “Nobody” ( a joke for which we may presume him to have gone to Homer’s Odyssey, Book IX) is evidenced throughout the poem, which bespeaks in anecdote, in complaint and in metaphor the devastating isolation of its author. The creative impotence and anxiety resulting from that isolation of its author. The creative impotence and anxiety resulting from that isolation are scathingly symbolized in the anecdote of Swift in this Dedication; the hapless poet who was “rectilinearly” erased by the Dean felt no doubt something like the anguish of O’Grady, whose own creative productions received, if we take him at his word, no encouragement in the hostile atmosphere of colonial Quebec.
     O’Grady’s reader quickly learns, however, not to take him at his word. In The Emigrant he expresses gratitude for the support of many kind friends in and around [page 125] Sorel, from the Doctor Carter who attended him in his sickness to John Colborne, Baron Seaton, colonial administrator in the Canadas from 1829 to 1839. Either such kindnesses were imagined or O’Grady’s Dedication, written after the intervention of some years, has forgotten former benefactors. The author’s reference to his “kind subscribers” also suggests that his creative efforts were, at least, noticed as warmly as circumstances permitted; that these subscribers were indeed plentiful and “respectable” is proven by the review of The Emigrant that appeared in the Literary Garland, 3 (August, 1841), p. 432, which refers to the “highly flattering notes addressed to the author” by the said persons. (None of the copies I have encountered includes such a list, unfortunately, and O’Grady’s promise to “enumerate [them] in the precise order as [he] received them” must have been kept on a separate sheet which was not included by his printer.) His friendship with the Sorel poet Ethelind Sawtell might well have encouraged him to issue his own volume. The present Dedication, then, contradicts the frequent expressions of gratitude in the poem as well as its own acknowledgement of community support, and so cannot be construed as an accurate statement of O’Grady’s sufferings. To some extent those sufferings were enlarged upon by the capacity of his imagination, and the difference between the real experience and O’Grady’s dramatic presentation of it must be foremost in the reader’s mind as he or she approaches the poem.
     I can offer no source for “the old man in the fable,” so it is difficult to explicate O’Grady’s own “dissimilarity of character”; but his colourful summation of his own meaning makes the point of the allusion sufficiently clear.


The Emigrant


O’Grady takes his epigraph form Horace’s Epistles xi, line 27 (his two lines composing one in the original): “They change their clime, not their mind, who rush across the sea” (translated by Rushton Fairclough in the Loeb Classical Library edition of Horace’s Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica). The epigraph is fitting, for The Emigrant quickly reveals, not always wittingly, the tendency of the human mind to dwell on familiar debates, crises and conflicts when overwhelmed with new and unfamiliar catastrophes which it cannot absorb. Horace continues in a revealing passage which O’Grady avoided: “What you Bare looking for is here, it is at Ulubrae, if there fail you not a mind well-balanced.” Translate the Horatian “Ulubrae” as O’Grady’s “Erin” and you have an expression of his dearest prejudice: that he ought never to have left Ireland in the first place, that Ireland could still fulfill his real needs if he returned to her in the correct mood. The loose paraphrase of the Horatian epigraph that follows in O’Grady’s text is probably his own; it can be found in no translation of Horace that I have encountered, and it bears the hallmarks of his [page 126] diction and style.

The Poem


the Ocean, and the Bolivar According to the entry in the Quebec Gazette for May 24, 1836, the Ocean and the Bolivar left Waterford together on April 8. The ships were indeed commanded by two brothers, as O’Grady claims in his Note 6; these were the captains Bellard, he of the Bolivar commanding the ship for Nelson & Jones of Waterford, he of the Ocean for W. Price and Co. of the same city. The Ocean carried thirty-five emigrants; O’Grady was one of this number, and his reference in Note 6 to dining with the two captains, if reliable, suggests that he was distinguished by them as a gentleman.


O’Grady’s Note sufficiently locates Cape Clear for the reader. The poem has begun in its emigration-narrative mode, but quickly asserts its conventional right to digress into satire, political and religious reflection, meditation on God and the soul and so on. The emigrants gaze at the last part of Ireland visible as they leave for the New World; O’Grady’s response to the sight is a first lamentation for the “good old times” in Ireland. Far from concluding such thoughts as Cape Clear disappears, he will extend them for three of his pages as if to hold on to the last of Ireland, and will continue to indulge such memories at points of moral and emotional crisis throughout the composition of The Emigrant.


mystic O’Grady uses the word pejoratively for the most part, as in “deliberately obscure or unnecessarily complex”; the OED licenses this pejorative flavour only to “mystical,” meaning obscure in speech and style.


scrivener A scribe, or notary, whose duty it was to record legal transactions in (to O’Grady) “mystic” language, in contrast to the gentlemen’s agreements of the past.


crowner Coroner.


snow white steed (italics) There is no discernible pattern in the use of italics in The Emigrant. Although occasionally italics are suggestive of quotation and allusion, they will also be used with any part of speech, with words of any origin, with words and phrases strongly emphasized or entirely unremarkable.


truant debtors The first examples of the travel-narrator’s dwelling on debts, debtors and payments brought to issue in Chancery decisions. Such a preoccupation is no doubt related to Bennett’s difficulty with the collection of his tithes (see the Introduction, pp. xvii-xix).


kind insolvent debtor’s laws A reference to the Debt Act of 1827 and the Judgments Act of 1838. The former abolished imprisonment on a debt of less than £20, and required a sworn affidavit from the complainant; the latter abolished arrest for debt of any amount in all intermediate stages of a complaint, leaving ultimate imprisonment for debt to a few rare cases. These laws were “kind” to the debtors, for which they receive O’Grady’s sarcasm; [page 127] as a long-suffering creditor (for which see his Note 8, and the Introduction, pp. xvii-xix), he would find the changes to the law an impingement on his rights. Government “commissioners” had a new “bankrupt trade” (24) because of the new bureaucracies required to administer the law of debt.


the well-known kite O’Grady alludes to “kiting,” the acquisition of money by various deceitful and speculative means.


After the passage of the Act of Union in 1801 (for which see note to 349ff. below), the Lords Chancellors of Ireland were no longer appointed for life (see O’Grady’s Note 5) but for a period according with the pleasure of the Cabinet.


box rule The OED offers no assistance with “box rule,” but in the context one may assume it refers cryptically to the sway of democracy over authority and order, a sway exerted at the ballot “box” and in “motions” before the House.


presidents Presiding judges.


to let The manner in which a small unpaid debt could increase because of the legal costs incurred in claiming it before the court was notorious in O’Grady’s time; the eventual “nullifying of the debt” by excessive “costs” precisely summarizes the evaporation, for instance, of the legacy in Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, the subject of bitter contest through the novel until its disappearance into the vortex of British justice. “To let” in this context refers to the debtor’s possessions being placed “in receivership”—that is, liquidated at auction. But given the rigours of this system, O’Grady may well be punning on another sense of “to let”: that is, to let blood, which the debtor must eventually have felt invited to do.


train This word, meaning a set or class or group of persons, was a favourite eighteenth-century poeticism. See 541, below.


her half domain Referring either to “half of Ireland” or to the whole of Ireland, a “half domain” since the Act of Union of 1801; seen note to lines 349ff.


Grim as the situation of the Irish tenant-farmer or peasant was in the years prior to O’Grady’s composition of The Emigrant, the causes of emigration were primarily a matter of land-tenure: the rights of landlords to evict for non-payment of exorbitant rents, the impossibility of leasing land for more than a year at a time, the consequent over-cultivation of exhausted land, and so on. By 1845, such relatively remediable problems exploded in the horrors of the Famine, at which time emigration became less a matter of economic hardship and more a desperate flight from a land without daily bread. O’Grady left in a period of uneasiness but not of desperation, a period which saw predominantly Protestant emigration from a land which no longer privileged them utterly over their Catholic neighbours. With the Famine, the percentage of Catholic emigrants rose sharply, and grumblings like [page 128] O’Grady’s about non-payment of tithes from such Catholics would have seemed inhumanly irrelevant. These differences between emigration in the 1830s and in the 1840s usefully illuminate many of O’Grady’s sentiments about his own departure as a possible error of judgment: he left more from discomfort and displeasure than from necessity.


ties on friendship wait “Ties [that] wait on friendship,” ties that are typical of true friendship.


promiscuous In the older sense: without discrimination or method; done or applied without respect for kind, order, number.


Ye Irish soldiers.


must ye Ye must: an inverted declarative, not an interrogative.


ill blend your hate After emigration, “blend” your “hate” of British oppression with the hatred of other enemies of Britain; or, more mildly, “defeat Britain” by “blending your hate” with “other climes.”


thy wooden barrier’s sleep A cryptic synecdoche, apparently in reference to the possible sinking of Britain’s navy after Irishmen desert her for North America (?)


Ye mighty pause O’Grady’s meaning is very obscure. Possible readings are: Britain gives other nations “pause”; a comma is missing after “mighty,” and “pause” is an imperative to the “mighty” of Britain; “pause” is a misreading of “power” in the manuscript.


Ierne’s host Erin’s host; the spelling is a poeticism.


thy generous race The Irish.


Still canst thou aid . . . Nor spurn “Still” means “simultaneously”: O’Grady informs England that her own security and the well-being of her poor are not mutually exclusive objective.


annals of thy poor Cf. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” 32: “the short and simple annals of the poor.”


Thy desert tracts . . . a world defy The desert tracts would appear to be untended lands, commons and wildernesses in the British Isles, since O’Grady has prefaced this point with a lament that Irishmen must leave their “native land” (54). He means, then, that once Britain “links nature’s bonds” with her Irish subjects—by restoring their independent parliament, as the following lines suggest—it will be possible to make the wildernesses of England and Ireland suffice. Only with such a consolidation of purpose and horticulture will Britain be able to “defy a world” with any degree of security.  


that boon The return of an independent Irish parliament, lost in the Act of Union, 1801; O’Grady’s major political concern in the poem is the means and the dangers of its restoration. See 349 ff., below.


The transition here from ship of state to ship at sea is probably intentional, especially given that O’Grady wants to emphasize, by way of ironic contrast, the efficiency and smooth sailing of the latter. Not the pun on “hand” that [page 129] binds the two passages.


This passage will only be intelligible in light of the note to 4, above: O’Grady refers to the Ocean’s and the Bolivar’s being commanded by two brothers, the Bellards.


Each favourite object That is, the brother’s ship.


lubber As in “land-lubber,” a sailor’s word for a clumsy seaman; an unseamanlike fellow.


squidhounds A little-remarked sea-fish, akin to the Striped Bass (OED); before O’Grady, the only use of the word noted by the OED was Southey’s, in his Omniana (1812), but there is no reason to suppose that O’Grady knew the book.


mighty monarchs Whales.


all attention crave Demanding our full attention.


Old Ocean In Greek mythology, the god Ocean surrounded the flat disc of the earth with his figure and costume; thus he dwelt “on high” even as one sailed across the waters of his embrace.


shone forth The shift in tense here is a common habit of O’Grady’s; it reflects the tension, discussed in the Introduction, between a fiction of travel-in-process and a recollection of past emigration experience.


The lines are difficult. The logic seems to be that as “each world has its day’ in an astronomical sense—has a period of sunlight—so the moon, who is “the Queen of Heaven” once the “sun [is] set,” “has its day” in the figurative sense—receives her just deserts, is “queen for a day.” Thus the stars in the sky pay her “strict obedience” during the night.


By invoking in these lines a dichotomy between the “high tinctured glow” of make-up (“blush”) and the truer loveliness of “pale soft nature,” O’Grady uses an eighteenth-century commonplace: that Nature needs no artificial decoration to be beautiful, and that human efforts to “improve” upon Nature lead to distortion, hypocrisy and deception.


O’Grady’s acknowledgement in these lines that when the sun goes down in the British Isles it begins to light other nations , the “antipodes,” reveals what we would today call an increasingly global consciousness, a result perhaps of his enforced departure from those Isles.


that rosy roving sot A description of the sun suitably only to doggerel. “What Poets say,” apparently, it that the sun does not “go down” but merely “goes beneath the horizon,” a more relativistic version of the phenomenon. O’Grady’s implicit self-distinction from the traditional poet is disarmingly candid.


Neptune Roman god of the sea; to the Greeks, Poseidon.


Aurora Roman goddess of the dawn; to the Greeks, Eos.


antipodes Three syllables, to rhyme and scan with “palinodes”: the lands (and figuratively the peoples) at a point on the globe diametrically opposed to [page 130] our own.


Vesper The “evening star.”


Newton Sir Isaac Newton, 1642-1727, pre-eminent British scientist. Lines 127-128 may have been suggested by Thomas Campbell’s The Pleasures of Hope (1813): “Lo! Newton, priest of Nature, shines afar, / Scans the wide world, and numbers every star. . .” (127-128); see also O’Grady’s apostrophe to Hope at 1634-1653.


The moon’s attraction A reference perhaps to the slight gravitational pull of the moon (in comparison with that of the sun?); although one would think that O’Grady’s ocean setting would remind him of the influence of the “moon’s attraction” on tides.


gibbous said of the moon between half and full phases; an accurate usage, since O’Grady’s moon is “one third decreased.”


cornuted Horned.


The fool’s speech is tangled in O’Grady’s syntax. He asks, “what do they do with the old moon when it is wor[n] out?” He then adds, “The astronomers have perhaps cut it up into stars.” That the astronomers “make repairs” is either a result of the fool’s clouded understanding of their celestial task, or a reference to their “repairing to” the stars for their information.


Georgium Sidus The planet Uranus, so named in 1781 by Sir William Herschel, in honour of George III.


O’Grady’s treatment of George III here smacks of irony, but that is a result of carelessness, as his Note 11 makes clear: “Never was there a more glorious reign than that of George the Third. . . .” His astronomical apotheosis of the monarch here is intended, clearly, as a serious piece of poetical business.


the Bull and Bear Taurus, the Bull, and Ursa Major, the Great Bear.


Mars Roman god of war; to the Greeks, Ares.


satellites O’Grady puns on the word in its oldest sense of attendants or retinue; the astronomical and the geo-political usages were also common by the turn of the nineteenth century.


When the astronomers publicize their latest interpretations of the universe, the planet Uranus (“Great George”) will have new satellites. In fact two of the moonsof Uranus, Titania and Oberon, had been discovered by Herschel in 1781. O’Grady’s prediction was to come true in 1851, when two more, Ariel and Umbriel, were discovered by William Lassell, and again in 1948, with the discovery of Miranda by G.P. Kuiper.


The shift of tense here returns us to the travel-narrative, and closes the astronomical meditations; see note to 103 above.


O’Grady lists in these lines eleven of the twelve houses of the zodiac: “Justice,” Libra; “Archer,” Sagittarius; “lion,” Leo; “scorpion,” Scorpio; “Leda[‘s] . . . valorous sons,” Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini; “the [page 131] Ram,” Aries; “the Goat,” Capricorn; “the Virgin,” Virgo; “The Crab,” Cancer; “a pair of Fishes,” Pisces; “Waterman,” Aquarius. The missing sign is Taurus; since O’Grady was traveling between April 8 and May 24, 1836, he would have spent most of the last four weeks of his voyage with the sun in Taurus. He might conceivably have left Taurus aside because of his reference to it at 140, but that would rather defeat the purpose of the present passage, which is to scan the panorama of the zodiac and render poetic versions of the twelve houses. His exclusion of the sign of the zodiac relevant to his own voyage is close to a riddle, and the next four lines, in which he leaves the names of other “bright companions” to be “discerned” by those “Who read the classics,” are something of a taunt to the reader. This is typical of O’Grady’s ambivalent strategy: while creating the effect of a voyage in process, he constantly intrudes upon his material to rearrange it, comment upon it and distance himself from it.


confiding O’Grady intends the verb to mean “giving confidence to”; the OED licenses no such usage. Perhaps an Irishism; he will use the word idiosyncratically several times in the poem.


the lurching vessel heaves The throes heave the lurching vessel. Clearly the vessel is the direct object of the “heaving” action of the waves’ “throes,” so “heaves” should be “heave” to agree in number with its subject; I have left it as in the original edition because of its necessary half-rhyme with “waves” in 168.


sea sick crew The passengers; as line 183 below makes clear, the sailors are delighted by the weather and are fast asleep.


bound Remembering that O’Grady was sixty at the time of his voyage, we should take such nimble heroics with a grain of salt.


Note the elaborate consonantal patterns in the lines. In the first two, a simple repetition of [g] (“giddy,” “guide”) and [m] (“moves,” “majesty”) creates a sense of ordered calm; in the next two a greater complexity, as the [g] and [w] reverse themselves from “glittering wave” to “watery grave.” O’Grady is in ample control of his phonetic effects, and uses them to reflect the sudden transition from clam to terror that the swelling sea forces upon the observer.


Here begins the vehicle of one of O’Grady’s epic similes, in which the child’s initial fear of his cradle’s motion is compared to the “landsman’s” persistent fear of the ship’s motion. Typically, O’Grady undermines his own comparison: the child may grow accustomed to the rocking motion, but “Not so the landsman, ah!”


The narrator wishes to appear superior to “the affrighted novists,” clearly; but as this was O’Grady’s only Atlantic crossing, one presumes that he also made the miscalculations of a novice. Again, the poet is torn between a precise recollection of events and a nostalgic transformation of those events in [page 132] a process of self-distinction.


novists A spelling and pronunciation obsolete by the obsolete by the seventeenth century but perhaps persistent in Anglo-Irish.


The storm which was earlier a figment of the passengers’ imaginations here emerges as a serious threat to the ship. The tension between imagined fears. Imagined safety and actual danger is exploited repeatedly by the poet in the ensuing lines, as when the poet’s dog smells land before the sailors spy the rocks ahead, and when the poet seizes the helm and saves the ship from those rocks, and when the ship is made “secure” in lines 261-264 immediately before the masts “shiver” and the sails sweep the decks of a number of passengers.


dogs long passed That is, “[had] long passed.”


O’Grady’s attack on canine folly is ironic, since Rollo saves the day in the ensuing incident; presumably he means ironically to emphasize the folly of humans (with a play on “sea-dogs”?), who are even more “unwise” than “dogs with instinct.”


borrowed light this is the third time the poet has referred to the moon’s luminosity with this phrase; see above, 103 and 112. It has by now earned the flatness of a formula.


plain Note that this conventional metaphor turns the ocean into dry land, which is no doubt what he passengers would like to do.


he Rollo; a typically obscure pronoun reference.


dropped his stern One of the attractive and enduring qualities of O’Grady’s creativity is his ability to be both tragic and ironic at once. This comic image of Rollo intrudes on the high drama of a near-shipwreck with refreshing unexpectedness.


rugged rocks Since O’Grady is not too far from his entry into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, perhaps these rocks are supposed to lie on the coast of Newfoundland. The poet’s story of his rescue of the ship from such rocks has, as earlier noted, a distinct smack of the literary and fanciful, and they need not be located.


helm a-lee Steering her towards the sheltered side of the ship (the “leeward” side).


O’Grady’s self-image here is far-fetched, to say the least. Once again he “springs aloft” to look for danger (at the age of sixty, it bears repeating); and, having seen the danger, he “glides” to the helm and seizes it from an experienced seaman. The word “glide” suggests a dream-like movement; the decks in this depiction are curiously empty of activity, and the sailors remarkably willing to surrender complete control of their lives to a landsman, as well. The concluding couplet of the passage, with its unabashed self-aggrandizement, suggests a mind desperate for acknowledgement. See the Introduction, pp. lxii-lxiii. [page 133]


cable 607.5 feet; three cables would stretch 1822.5 feet. The Ocean is about a third of a mile from the rocks.


night now dims O’Grady’s time scheme is haphazard; it has been night since “the sun went down” at 117, and no daylight has intervened.


the convex world The roundness of the globe prevents the voyagers from seeing anything but sea and sky; a flat world would (supposedly) offer glimpses of distant land.


Chaos The formless void of primordial matter, the great deep or abyss out of which the cosmos or order of the universe was evolved. Also the oldest and original of the Greek gods. As O’Grady was apparently a reader of John Milton (see notes to 801, 1311-16, 1560-1 below), perhaps intended with a touch of the personification of Paradise Lost, II, 959-1040.


mystic Now a positive adjective; cf. line 11, above.


their The waves’. This difficult pronoun reference is clarified by O’Grady’s frequent reference to the circular motion of the waves around the ship; see 287, below.


her The moon’s.


A mere ten lines after the poet has rescued the ship, she is in real danger again. This constant alternation between safety and horror is one of the powerful effects of the passages at sea; see the note to 202-204, above.


his Achates Better known as “Fidus Achates” or “faithful Achates,” a reference to the reliable companion of Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid; here, a reliable assistant to the captain of the Ocean.


reefed Rolled and tied, to prevent their shredding in the storm or uncontrolled tossing of the ship.


truss Tackle securing the yard of a square sail to one of the masts of a ship; “Rent yields the truss”: this tackle yields itself to the rending wind, that is, the sail blows free of the mast.


Abaft Rearward.


The on-again, off-again storm has finally claimed its victims; but the literary language employed suggests, once again, a fancied rather than real incident. The Ocean recorded no difficulties in its voyage when it entered the port of Quebec on May 22, 1836.


the gloomy hatch they bind The sailors secure the trap-door over the hatchway between the upper deck and the hold of the ship, to prevent flooding of the ship’s interior by the wash of the sea.


bulwarks Side-long woodwork raised above the deck of a ship.


capstan Winch for furling and securing sails.


commingle Mix together.


The close call of the “rude seaboy” is another example of the literary action of O’Grady’s voyage sequence. The exaggeration of his description (“fearless to the last,” “his glowing hands”) suggests not a real sailor but an [page 134] iconic representation of the “British seaman”; and this particular “youthful tar” merely serves to justify a piece of familiar nautical chauvinism.


Here begins another elaborate epic simile. The vehicle of the figure is inspired by association with the “rude seaboy” above, whose horrible fall to the deck is anticipated by the narrator; this is likened to the imminent plunge of a statue (of Wellington or Nelson) from its “lofty spire.” Although 308 might seem to suggest “the fall” of this statue, we are informed that Providence protects the memorial Peer from a plunge. The figure is not without evocativeness, but O’Grady unfortunately forgets where he began and supplies, at lines 311-312, a new tenor, comparing the unfallen Peer to “the well-ordered ship.” The new comparison is nonsense, except insofar as both statue and ship “all elements defied.” My pedantic untangling of the vehicle and tenor is necessary lest the reader feel that the “fall” of the statue is instead the “fall” and death of the “rude seaboy.”


Wellington Arthur Wellesly, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852); British military hero, conqueror of Napoleon and statesman; Prime Minister of England, 1828-1830. An obelisk has been set up in his honour in Dublin in 1821, and a statue of Achilles in Hyde Park, London, was erected in his honour in 1822. O’Grady probably refers to one of these, since Wellington’s other statues postdate The


Nelson Horation Nelson, Viscount Nelson (1758-1805), conqueror of the French navy at Trafalgar, October 21, 1805, at which battle he died. His well-known statue in Trafalgar Square in London was begun in 1829, but not completed until 1849. He may be more valued than Wellington because of the latter’s passage of Catholic Emancipation for Ireland in 1829, or because Wellington failed to recognize fully the contribution of Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and a potential patron for the poet, at the battle of Waterloo. See also the note to 370, below.


Note that the vehicle of O’Grady’s simile ends here, and not at 303, as the “Thus” of that line might suggest; the “rude seaboy” does not fall, and is not referred to as an “immortal brave.”


Another elaborate epic simile, more complex than the previous one. Here the war between heavens and ocean is compared to the onrushing charges of “Two hosts,” whose “warlike veterans” anticipate the “crush” with “Unruffled” mein. Interestingly, O’Grady blurs the boundary between tenor and vehicle here; instead of the traditional pattern in which vehicle, elaborated at length, precedes tenor, elaborated briefly, O’Grady slips back and forth between the two in a striking manner. At 318, the “veteran” is compared to “the ocean’s breast”; “exulting bands” are like “fierce waves,” and the sea and sky are like the “Chiefs” of a land-battle. In short, he never proceeds to a brief rendition of the tenor of the simile, but weaves it backwards through the vehicle. Having done so, he is in effect forced to the [page 135] sudden break between 324 and 325, his simile having nowhere left to go.


How happy those O’Grady’s convincing rendition of the horrors of sea travel renders the paean contradictory, although he seems perfectly serious in his sudden tribute to Providence.


thee . . . thy God. Clearly the poet refers to one who “guides each wanderer,” which can only be God; but he speaks of God curiously, to say the least. God is realized, particularly in 331-332, as a Divine Pilot who navigates for the soul of men, and who feels an “unaffected pride” in his ability to do so. It is also  curious that none of the pronouns used to refer to this Pilot should be capitalized.


confide As with 163, above, used in an idiosyncratic sense: “whilst all hearts confide [in Thee].” This absolute form of the verb was already obsolete, but may have survived in O’Grady’s eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish.


Belier The original text as “Belieu” here, a word or name which cannot be identified with any celestial body, with any figure of folklore, mythology or religion, indeed with any recognizable word at all. Shifting to emendations like “Beaulieu” and “Belial” offers little help. The best possible emendation, which I have made, is based largely on O’Grady’s tendency, treated in the note to lines 147-162, above, to write in riddles when he refers to the Zodiac. As he mentions all signs of the zodiac save Taurus in the earlier passage, so here I believe he refers to Aries elliptically, by its French name, “Bélier,” which means “ram.” His journey began with the sun in Aries and concluded with the sun two days into Gemini, Taurus having intervened. Working hard against my emendation are three facts: he made his riddle about Taurus in earlier lines, whereas Aries precedes Taurus in the zodiac; the present passage describes a “morn of May,” so no stars would be visible; and the sun leaves Aries on April 19, so the sun would not be in “Bélier” in May. I have made the emendation nevertheless (leaving off the accent, as he no doubt would have done), given O’Grady’s tongue-in-cheek attitude to the zodiac above, and his ambivalent time-structure, discussed in the Introduction, pp. xxxvii-xxxix, xlvii-l, which allows him to treat events of the voyage from within a linear fiction and from outside of that fiction at the same time. (Note that at 508 a second “murky morn appears,” no second night having intervened; therefore Aries might still be visible in this passage, despite the illogical dawn; O’Grady’s time structure is haphazard at best.) I have also made the emendation in order to avoid the alternative, which would be a nonsensical line without the remotest possibility of explication.


this fair auspicious day Note that the return of fair weather and the prospect of a new life in Canada do not lead to thoughts of that future life, imaginations of prosperity or concerns for security; instead the “auspicious day” triggers bitter and regressive lamentations for Ireland. This ironic [page 136] refusal of possibilities, albeit understandable, is typical of O’Grady; his mind is fettered by its experiences and limited by its excessive expectations.


Note the apparent conundrum: the poet bemoans the dearly loved “soil” of Ireland, then launches an attack on the nation of Ireland. O’Grady speaks out of love of an ideal Ireland of the past, separated from political corruption and rooted in the honest labour of a thrifty people governed by a well-intentioned Anglo-Irish administration, and out of hatred for the political realities necessitated by that very vision. The contradiction of these emotions never strikes him in The Emigrant.


rack-rents An annual rent equal to the full value of the land on the market; one of the many economic crosses born by the Irish, particularly the Catholic, peasantry.


bailiffs’ fees Payments made to the agents of an absentee landlord over and above the exorbitant rents; little more than blackmail in practice. It is an irony of Irish political life at this time that the injustices bemoaned by Irish Protestants were identical with those attacked by Irish Catholics, although the activists in each party maintained an acidic mutual enmity.


peelers Policemen, so named for Sir Robert Peel, who organized the first police forces worthy the name in the British Isles; in England more familiar as the “bobbies,” a word with the same etymology.


writs Legal documents enforcing a particular action or demanding the cessation of an action; occasionally, summonses.


absentees Absentee landlords; Britons who own Irish land but life in England, and therefore take little car of the land or those who work it; a favourite target of Irish satirists since the days of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”


commoners each year There are various possible meanings for this phrase, all stemming from the various definitions of “commoner”: a “commoner” was one who had the rights of board as well as room at a University, so O’Grady may be referring to he standard practice on the part of the better landlords of feeding their tenants annually at a single grand feast; a “commoner” was also a Member of Parliament, and these were the most complained-against of the absentee landlords, whose departure “each year” for the sessions of Parliament began another season of local injustice; some landlords, like good “commoners” (that is, burgesses, citizens), gave an annual pittance to local charities while refusing all support to their tenants; some landlords made annual visits of a day or two to their Irish holdings. O’Grady’s phrase may be pregnant withal of these meanings.


The discussion in these lines depends upon a historical event of enormous importance to Protestant Ireland: the Act of Union passed on January 1, 18o1, which amalgamated the formerly independent Irish parliament with the British; Irish statesmen now resided in London and spoke as a small minority [page 137] representing an unpopular interest. The pretext for this amalgamation was Woofle Tone’s United Irish Rebellion of 1798, which led to two failed invasions by the fleet of Revolutionary France, and so indicated to Pitt the Younger (see note to 422, below) that the affairs of the Irish could no longer be controlled by the Irish assembly. As O’Grady admits in his Note 11, England’s concern with the Irish question and the evident violence of Catholic sentiment made the amalgamation inevitable, but such balanced judgment does not prevent him from expressing in these lines his distaste for the results. In their own “senate,” a least in O’Grady’s opinion, the resounding voices of Irish statesmen could be heard with force and pride; in England’s House of Commons they were sneered at and ignored. The amalgamation was profoundly unpopular in Ireland: the Protestants felt cut off from their own administration, and left to defend the Protestant cause without powerful legislative institutions to assist them; the Catholics recognized the amalgamation as another circumventing of the problem of Catholic emancipation and self-government in Ireland. The “Repeal’ movement of the 1830s and 1840s, to which O’Grady refers, was however a largely Catholic phenomenon, led by Irish patriot Daniel O’Connell; although he was an eminently rational and restrained politician, O’Connell’s penchant for stirring up powerful Catholic sentiment led the British administration to look sourly on his activities, and to caricature his intentions as leading to revolution and ample bloodshed. The Protestant minority, although itself anxious for Repeal, vehemently repudiated all means of gaining it except through the British legislative process. Thus  O’Grady’s ambivalence on the issue seems to have been typical of Protestant Irishmen: while on the one hand they sought to regain their administrative independence, on the other they desperately shunned the possibility of a catholic involvement in that independence. If O’Grady expresses contradictions in the liens that follow, therefore, he merely reveals the conventional thinking of a man of his religion and period.


Grattan Henry Grattan (1746-1820), noted Irish statesman and respected orator, opponent of the Act of Union.


Plunket William Plunket, Baron Plunket (1764-1854), Lord chancellor of Ireland 1830-1841, and opponent of the Act of Union.


Burke Edmund Burke (1729-1787), eminent British statesman and author, of Irish birth and descent. The Dictionary of National Biography mentions several Irish Burkes, but O’Grady’s context and his politics imply his interest in the most noted of them.


Bushe Charles Kendal Bushe (1767-1843), Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench of Ireland 1822-1841, and opponents of the Act of Union.


Ponsonby George Ponsonby (1755-1817), Lord Chancellor of Ireland 1806-1807, and opponent of the Act of Union. [page 138]


placemen Men who live to attain “place”; sycophants, the patronage appointees of the day.


Laughlon Since O’Grady refers to the Duke of Wellington first by his title and then by his family name in 370, this Laughlon may be a titled personage whose family name, similarly transmuted, was Laughan. I can find no such personage in Irish or English history, nor in records of Wellington’s successes, but O’Grady’s context suggests that he was an Irishman whose contribution to the English success against France was unrecognized.


Wellesley The Duke of Wellington; see the note to line 297, above. Wellington’s fame and the Irish hero’s lack of it seem to be another source of O’Grady’s faint hostility to the famous Duke; note that he turns the Great Duke from aristocrat to commoner by referring to him first as Wellington, then as Wellesley.


The lines refer to the Repeal Movement; see note to 349ff., above. In early 1842 it became generally known that the Repeal movement in Ireland had sought financial support and political encouragement from the United States; perhaps O’Grady in Canada had wind of this “appeal to foreign climes” before British public opinion did, and so made reference to it here, in 1841. If not, the reference is obscure: the Repeal movement made no other such “appeal” at the time.


Another obscure reference to the tactics of the Repeal forces. O’Grady would have the leaders of Repeal ask Britain for liberty “sold” by the Irish Catholics to their foreign sponsors, and so give back the foreign gold thus earned. If my reading of the liens is correct, it is astonishing to find O’Grady counseling yet another appeal to Britain’s sense of fair play, since such request had failed repeatedly since the Act of Union.


Ye alien host Given the later reference to “your nation’s dome” and “tongues to legislate,” probably a reference to the Irish Members of Parliament who “forsook their soil” for the British House of Commons. They are “alien” because resident in a foreign land, not “alien” to Ireland. O’Grady’s apparent point is a curious one: he insists on a legislative resolution to Ireland’s political difficulties, but urges the Irish MP’s who could bring about such a resolution to return to their own “nation’s dome” —which no longer exists as a legislative body.


The Irish contribution to England’s war efforts is a central premise in O’Grady’s argument for an independent Irish parliament. The tone is recriminatory: if we have served you so well and have given our sons to your glory, why have you spurned us in this manner?


Ye venial tribe Now referring to a few members of the “alien host” of Irish MPs in England: those who have betrayed the Irish cause in return for place and recognition in English political circles. The poet’s best example of such toadyism is the Earl of Clare, who receives his roasting at 430 and in Note 11. [page 139]

batten To feed gluttonously on, glut oneself.
fell Fierce, bloody, horrifying.

terms from year to year Annual leases, an innovation of the middle to late 1830s upon leases of greater length. Under the old system a farmer could anticipate a steadily improving lot given hard work and good fortune; under the new system he could be turned away form the fruits of his own labour when his annual lease ran out. Landlords thus increased their annual profits, and farmers lost all incentive to work the land carefully and restrainedly.


No tenures As above; the old system of land tenure gave the farmer an incentive for hard work and prudence: removal of the possibility of tenure made him indifferent to the future of his cultivations.


tithe laws more severe It would be soothing to the modern sensibility to think that O’Grady here refers to the difficulties undergone by Catholic peasants in paying tithe, but he makes no such libertarian point. He refers instead to reforms of tithe law in 1832 and 1834 which reduced the burden of tithe on the yearly tenant (as above) and reduced the over-all tithe yield by forty per cent: in other words, the tithe laws relieved the peasantry but were “more severe” on Standish O’Grady Bennett.


poor laws In 1834 the British Parliament passed the New Poor Law, which provided so-called “workhouses” in which those unable to feed themselves were set to various forms of drudgery. They were clothed in costumes not unlike those worn by convicts; husbands and wives, parents and children were routinely separated; deaths within the workhouses were common occurrences, because of the ill-treatment and worse nutrition. These workhouses became a special target of later Victorian reform. In 1838, a corresponding Irish Poor Law was enacted, which not only set up such workhouses but encouraged emigration among the poor by subsidizing the cost of transportation. In O’Grady’s line, the law ends Parliament’s “burden of debate” because it conveniently removes the poor from the visible surface of society. Again, O’Grady’s distaste for the system probably depends not on his outrage at the workhouse conditions but on his resentment of a “charitable” system of support for the poor which made them a parish, rather than a national, expense, so that his own small earnings were lessened to support the workhouses.


O’Grady’s racist attitude to black emancipation is among his most offensive. He considers it a personal affront that money should have been spent by the British parliament to emancipate the black slaves (in 1833), when the Irish tithe-holders were reduced to extreme poverty. Considering that O’Grady held his tithes as a layman, the attitude is particularly narrow and self-serving. To say that his attitude is typical of conservative reaction in his time does nothing to redeem its distastefulness.


the starving poor As O’Grady’s Note 8 makes clear, his real concern is not [page 140] with the Catholic poor but the Protestant clergy and tithe-holders; the line is a pseudo-liberal flourish.


continental shore If the “Continent” is taken in its usual sense, as a reference to Europe, O’Grady must refer here to the cost of maintaining the British colony and military establishment at Gibraltar, although there were no particular expenditures planned or made at the time of his writing. If he refers to some other “continent,” the possible referents of his phrase are without number.


Castlereagh Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh (1769-1822), Irish Member of Parliament and peer, and engineer of the hated Act of Union; Foreign Secretary 1812-1822, and noted suicide.


Religion scoffed Religion having been scoffed.


Averment Proof of an assertion by argument; here, ironically, proof that religion can be scoffed when necessary for the national interest. Castlereagh was buried in Westminster Abbey; suicides were supposed to be denied Christian interment in consecrated ground.


Anthony or Cesar Marcus Antonius (c. 82-30 B.C.), Roman general and statesman, lover of Cleopatra; Julius Caesar (100-44 B.B.), Emperor of Rome and earlier liver of Cleopatra (his name given a contemporary spelling in O’Grady’s original text). The two are invoked and contrasted because of the former’s suicide and the latter’s murder. Both are, nevertheless, appealed to ironically as great national heroes, at least by comparison with Castlereagh.


Perceval Spenser Perceval (1762-1812), English Prime Minister 1808-1812; assassinated on in the House of Commons by a deranged petitioner.


Pitt William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806), Prime Minister of England, 1783 to 1801, 1804-1806; son of Pitt the Elder (1708-1778), prime Minister of England, 1756 to 1761, 1766-1768, and 1st Earl of Chatham. Pitt the Younger had n elder brother, and so was not himself 2nd Earl of Chatham; his personal debts of £40,000 were paid by the nation at his death.


a Chatham to the grave Since Pitt the Younger was not Earl of Chatham, he did not literally “give a Chatham to the grave” when he died, so the lines are at best loosely metaphoric. The Not e10 anticipated by the text does not appear in any copy of The Emigrant; perhaps it would have elucidated the joke. Pitt’s “nobility” clearly does not redeem him, in O’Grady’s eyes, from the sin of the Union; the poet is notably ironic in his language here, despite the praise of Pitt in his Note 11.

bulwark of a George’s reign Pitt served George III as Prime Minister.

The sense is obscure in these lines. Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850; Prime Minister of England, 1841-1846) gives “peelers’ speeches”—that is, the sort of instructions one might give to policemen, known as “peelers” and “bobbies” after Peel’s creation of the English police force—to “detail” (a detachment of men) who ask, asininely, why Englishmen should put up with [page 141] O’Connell’s “tail”. “O’Connell’s Tail” was a popular phrase for the Members of Parliament, some of them his family members, who closely associated themselves with O’Connell during the Repeal agitations in the House of Commons. Since peel was one of O’Connell’s most vigorous opponents, in that he dedicated himself to the maintenance of the Act of Union, he must be in agreement with these “asses” who also oppose O’Connell, so perhaps O’Grady’s cryptic reference is to Parliamentary tactics among the Peelites intended to circumvent the problem of O’Connell’s vocal “party” in the Commons. Contrast the ironic treatment of Peel here with the praise he receives in Note 11, and compare similar contradictions in O’Grady’s attitude to Pitt (see note to 424-425, above).


Clare john Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare (1749-1802), Lord Chancellor of Ireland 1789-1802; as O’Grady’s Note 11 makes clear, leader of the Irish parliamentarian movement for Union with the English Parliament, and perceived by the opponents of Union as a pawn of the English; a focus, therefore, of Irish nationalist invective, so reviled that dead cats were flung n his coffin by mobs as he was carried to the grave.


Bedford Francis Russell, 5th Duke of Bedford (1765-1802); opponent in Parliament of repressive measures in Ireland.


a self judged felon O’Grady plays on the Latin phrase felo de se, that is, “injurer of oneself”—in the legal sense, a suicide. O’Grady continues his assault on politicians who have been brought to self-destruction by their own weaknesses, but Clare was not a suicide: his self-destruction was metaphoric.


the modern Nero Clare “fiddled” while Ireland burned, as a rather fictionalized Emperor Nero did during the conflagration in Rome. Nero (A.D. 37-68), briefly Emperor of Rome, was thought a suicide in O’Grady’s time; although today the ending of his life is matter for dispute, no doubt the comparison was suggested by O’Grady’s immediate theme of political self-murder.


good queen Victoria, who ascended the throne in 1837. O’Grady’s appeal to her here obscures his time structure: his attempt to relate, in present tense, a voyage made in 1836, is insufficient to his political purposes, and so he must appeal to a queen of 1841 who had not been crowned when he crossed the Atlantic.


I . . . hear not . . . Yet hark! After throwing over the question of political Ireland, and claiming deafness to its troubles, O’Grady particularizes the dispute in the cry of a single Irishman dying on board the emigrant ship. The transition is sensitive and affecting. It is only because of the failures of political Ireland, after all, that this poor “suppliant” must die away from “favouring friends” and “fond connexion.” The dying man’s last thoughts are of “his native shore,” of a purer Ireland than O’Grady has been discussing; his death makes the political difficulties seem distant and ironic, and assists the [page 142] poet in his break from old disputes and his return to present-tense travel narrative.


to his bygone days / Reflects A curious idiom; O’Grady means, who reflects [on] his bygone days.


the deep compassion left her home A bizarre formulation. Does “deep” modify the “compassion” evoked? Or is it “the deep,” that is, the ocean? Did “Compassion” (an allegorical figure) leave her home when the sailor left Ireland? Or has he left a beloved at home, far from the deep, who would now feel compassion at his death? I leave this O’Gradyism to the reader.


No Curfew tolls for him Cf. Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” 1: “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day . . . .”


in Turkish form arrayed A reference, judging by the next line, to the loose (hence shroud-like) clothing worn by Moslems.


unbefriended soul Like many of O’Grady’s anecdotes and memories, the story of this lonely death seems to be told primarily to create feelings of isolation, excommunication and futility. It is an ill omen for the outcome of his journey that a typical Irishman should die before the ship reaches port. The story of O’Grady’s misery in the Canadas makes 463 curiously and painfully prophetic of his own last years.


fear no blustering gale Perhaps a mere boast, but this confidence suggests that the earlier storm was indeed a fantasy.


fantastic groups that light Cf. Milton’ “L’Allegro,” 33-34: “Come, and trip it as ye go / On the light fantastic toe. . .”.


his command Probably Captain Bellard’s, but possibly God’s; see note to 327-334, above.


With these lines O’Grady draws the “iceberg tradition” of Canadian poetry back into literary pre-history. E.J. Pratt’s “The Titanic” (1934) is acknowledged repository of the greatest iceberg imagery, but see also his “Sea Cathedral” of 1932; Sir Charles G.D. Roberts’s “The Iceberg,” an extended free-verse monologue “spoken” by an iceberg, was published  in 1934 as well. O’Grady’s visualization of the iceberg in these lines—among his strongest passages—pre-dates the tradition by a century. The iceberg is a last guardian of the new world; once its “bright bulk” is safely skirted, “Scotia’s land” is “in sight.”

castellated Castle-like.

conglome There is no such word. Perhaps O’Grady is using his poetic license to truncate “conglomerate,” especially in the geological sense: “composed of the fragments of pre-existing rocks cemented together.”


a world at home An inexplicable phrase apparently forced by the poet’s need for a rhyme. Possibly the iceberg adds “fresh wonders” to one’s conception of a world developed at home?


This epic simile has at best a confused relation to O’Grady’s intended [page 143]meaning. His point seems to be that even a “gentle river” can de dangerous in certain seasons, and must be avoided; so much the more must the enormous and threatening iceberg, so apparently untrustworthy, be skirted by the ship. The point of the simile is undermined, however, by the line which follows, boasting of the utter security of the ship.


the rustic plods his weary way Cf. Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” 3: “The plowman homeward plods his weary way.”


A second example of O’Grady’s tendency to speak of God as a trained ship’s pilot. See above, 327-334.


Providence our guide Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost, XII, 647: “. . . Their place of rest, and Providence their guide.”


the murky morn Another example of O’Grady’s temporal inconsistency; when we were last located in time, the morning had already appeared (336). See note to 335.


Scotia A Latinism and poeticism for Scotland, commonly applied in O’Grady’s time to the new world, indiscriminately; not particularly to be applied to the Nova Scotia of today.


vista Not, as to us, a wide view, but more particularly a view glimpsed as through an aperture: a valley spreading beyond a narrow corridor of threes, for instance. O’Grady’s point is that the land seems impenetrable to the eye, a solid and closed mass of disordered growth.


O’Grady’s immediate recognition of the effect of European colonization on Indian cultural pride (which I feel to be implicit in his image here) is appealing, especially since he has shown elsewhere in the poem a disconcern with the other victims of such colonization, for example, the emancipated slaves.


gulph That is, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, flanked on either side by a “teeming” landscape.


Note the immediate gloom enforced by O’Grady’s diction as soon as the Ocean nears its destination: “pathless desert,” “confounds,” “dreary waste,” “solitary grounds,” “weary eye,” ‘cheerless sight,” “restless mind,” “wretchedness.” Were these O’Grady’s emotions at the time? Was his mind so immediately overwhelmed by despair at his entrance into the gulf? Or have these lines been tainted by his later experiences, as so much of this “travel narrative” has been?


O’Grady’s desperate approach to the New World seems to require an immediate love story as a salve to the spirit. The story of Sylvia and Alfred is given no introductory explanation whatsoever; transition is rigorously avoided; the reader is expected to accept this set-piece as a natural development of O’Grady’s arrival in Canada. Compare the story of Flora and Albert in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Rising Village: although just as much a “set piece” inserted into an unwelcoming narrative, Goldsmith’s love story is [page 114] introduced more smoothly: “Among the youths that graced their native plain, / Albert was foremost of the village train . . .”. We do not entirely lose sight of Auburn, the subject of the poem; we merely turn to a single member of the “village train.” At the end of Flora’s and Albert’s story after a suitable moral, Goldsmith returns smoothly to his larger point: “Yet, think nit oft such tales of real woe / Degrade the land . . .”. Goldsmith is aware that he is inserting a story distinct from the flow of his poem; O’Grady seems entirely indifferent to such questions of propriety. Note that O’Grady’s story returns us briefly to Ireland, to begin the love tale, and then takes us back through the emigration process, climaxing (for now) with Sylvia’s and Alfred’s secret flight on board an emigrant ship. O’Grady’s pain at recording his arrival in the New World is briefly eased by this return to Ireland, but the story of Sylvia and Alfred will end in a pain even more severe (because more literary) than his own.


endears As above at 522, the verb is used without either direct or indirect object; a typical example of O’Grady’s tendency to use transitive as intransitive verbs.


“Chaste as the snow” is acceptable, but the idea of a chastity “Congealed to icicle” fails painfully. O’Grady attempts a Canadian metaphor for female sexual purity, and thus reveals his awareness that the New World requires a new poetic diction, as well as his inability to provide a viable one.

ambient Circling, surrounding.

nature unreprest O’Grady emphasizes that Sylvia’s charms arise from “nature” and not (the implied contrast) from “art,” that is, “artifice.” She is not a “terrestrial modern female” (113), but a pure and simple child of Nature. O’Grady relies, as in 111-116, on an eighteenth-century commonplace of feminine accomplishment and virtue.


her lordly train A “train,” as above at 37, is a “group” or “procession”; by using it O’Grady confirms his affinity with such poets as Oliver Goldsmith the elder, who relies heavily on the word in The Deserted Village.


Alfred’s social situation echoes O’Grady’s favoured themes of rejection, isolation and injustice. He smacks faintly of the Rousseauist-Romantic “noble savage” or homme naturel, in that he can “fix the shaft or form the martial steed,” yet lives in “blest retirement”; he is “unversed” in “mysticated lore,” and seeks “no blessings” from society. The Noble Savage is pre-Rousseauist, however; he appears first in classical philosophers, and surfaces in Renaissance responses to the life of the New World, so O’Grady’s tracing the outline of the type here need not indicate any contact with Rousseauist or Romantic ideals of human behaviour.


accents from each Mother’s breast That is, as soon as they could make childish talk they were in love.


the same That is, “was always the same,” was constant. [page 145]


still In the old sense familiar to Shakespeareans: always, continuously.


Sylvia speaks. O’Grady never indicates dialogue with quotation marks, and rarely points out who is speaking.


pomp and glory the vices of Lord Gifford, Alfred’s rival, who appears at 594.


the darlings of our crew A curious blurring between set-piece and narrative occurs with this phrase: O’Grady insists that Sylvia and Alfred were passengers with him on the Ocean. Later a similar blurring will occur, in the second portion of the love story, when the narrator will guide Sylvia’s brother to her lonely shack not far from Sorel. Perhaps these points of narrative contact constitute O’Grady’s attempt to integrate the love story with his narrative proper; but it is not entirely impossible that two young lovers were on board the Ocean, and were indeed the “darlings” of the crew.


Here the narrator intrudes so as to forecast the outcome of the love story. Doing so maintains an aura of gloom over the first portion of the story, which might otherwise seem to end happily when Sylvia and Alfred make their escape.


O! Death where is thy sting? A direct quotation of the King James Version of The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians 15. 54-55.


Since O’Grady fails to clarify the persons involved in this portion of the narrative, a quick sketch may assist the reader. Lord Gifford is the aristocratic suitor of Sylvia, with whom she will have nothing to do because of her love for Alfred. Wilmore is Sylvia’s father, who sanctions Gifford’s suit; he is also the “Patron” of Alfred, and feels that Sylvia’s secret lover is a traitor to his kindness.

Pads A road-horse or an easy-paced horse.    

worthless in the chace The inefficiency of Gifford’s hunting pack allegorically foreshadows his failure in the pursuit of love.


awaits Another transitive verb used intransitively, this time without benefit even of a subject; the general group “awaits’ the outcome of Gifford’s proposal to Sylvia.


Wilmore, Sylvia’s father, speaks.


Gifford speaks.

The syntax of the lines is tangled; their sense is: Wilmore paused in his expression of joy; he thought that Gifford’s dismaying words were part of a fleeting dream.

Wilmore speaks.


Given the similarity between the names “Wilmore” and “Guillamore” (see Introduction, pp. xx-xxii), it is interesting that Wilmore should the hero’s patron; is O’Grady Bennett recalling favours he received from the Chief Baron of Ireland, his second cousin once removed?


Considering the narrator’s claim that Sylvia and Alfred were on board his [page 146] emigrant ship, the similarity between these lines and the opening couplet of the poem is worth remarking: there, “our main sails flutter,” here “The Bark’s sails fluttered.” Revealingly, however, the lovers’ ship appears to depart at night, whereas the poet’s left in the morning.


These ready lines Presumably Alfred’s not to Sylvia, bidding her to the ship; possibly the poem “written by Alfred” contained in O’Grady’s Note 17; possibly the poem was Alfred’s note to Sylvia.


his sister She appears nowhere else in the narrative than in this single line; unless we wish to rely on her as Osmond’s source of information as to Sylvia’s whereabouts later in the poem (see below, note to 1887), her creation is necessitated by the poet’s search for an adequate metre and a possible rhyme.


Fair gentle reader O’Grady only posits a female audience when he is in the midst of his romantic idylls; Note 17, appended to this passage, contains a similar address.


As with the opening of the story, O’Grady avoids all transition between the set-piece and the travel narrative; by bringing Sylvia and Alfred on board the Ocean, at least fictionally, he has tied the two threads together to his own satisfaction.


Ossa . . . Pelion The two mountains piled together by the giants Otus and Ephialtes in their attempt to overthrow Zeus and the Olympic gods, as in Homer’s Odyssey: “They strove to pile Ossa on Olympus, and on Ossa Pelion with its leafy forests, that they might scale the heavens” (XI, 305). The original text has “Peleus” for “Pelion”; whether this betrays a careless compositor or a poet with a crabbed hand, I have corrected the error for clarity’s sake.


Morency The Falls of Montmorency, a favourite tourist spot, apparently, even in O’Grady’s time. The falls are located eight kilometers east of Quebec City, on the north shore of  the Saint Lawrence.


control See the Introduction, pp. lxi-lxiii.


Here rests the Rainbow That is, the rainbow seems permanent, since it is caused by the waterfall’s spray and mist.


kaleidoscope The children’s toy had been invented and named in 1817 by Sir David Brewster. Interestingly, Byron had anticipated O’Grady’s comparison of Rainbow and kaleidoscope in 1819, in the second Canto of Don Juan, XCIII: “. . . and so this rainbow looked like hope— / Quite a celestial kaleidoscope.”


Orleans The Ile d’Orléans, in the Saint Lawrence just below the Quebec City promontory; O’Grady remembers many hours on the island in which he “linger[ed] o’er the bowl” with witty companions (798). In his time the Ile d’Orléans was, according to O’Grady’s Note, a popular resort of fashionable Quebec society. His presentation of it invokes the pastoral tradition (here [page 147] “shepherdesses weep,” and “the shepherd’s song / Cheered th[e] high hills”) for the purposes of nostalgia and poignancy. His sadness at remembering Orléans underscores his distance from the narrative: the various pains and losses of his Canadian experience creep into the poem increasingly from this point forward, forcing it away from the emigration-narrative mode.


Cits That is, citizens, but with an implication of disdain: rough fellows, labourers.


view . . . see . . . fancy Notice that the refusal to choose a verb here reflects O’Grady’s narrative problem: only the poet re-creating the emigration “views” or “sees” the Isle; it is the remembering and hence ironically distant poet who “fancies” seeing it, who evokes it imaginatively and idealizes its memory.


insulted The English word “island” derives from Latin insula, and O’Grady puns on the etymology.


keep The “billows keep” beating in the “loud caverns” on the Ile d’Orléáns.


plaint That is, plaintive.


lambent Flame-like, radiant, luminous.


Interpretation of these lines depends on a successful identification of an antecedent for “thy” in 711. At 696 the island itself was addressed in this second person; if that indicates the present antecedent, these lines would seem to refer to ferries running between the Ile d’Orléans and the mainland, ferries which “strip the tenants” from the island. Why that should require such ominous diction is unclear. Alternately, the “dark domain” may be the river itself, and the “river’s tenants”, that is, the fish, are stripped away by “the angler’s hand.” In this case the antecedent of “thy” is “the Saint Lawrence,” which has not been so personified in the passage. I favour nevertheless the latter interpretation; it has the true O’Grady bathos, and is consistent within itself.


Assist, my Muse O’Grady here invokes the Muse, a device in keeping with the epic flavour of his similes. Why he should do so here, and not, for instance, at the opening of The Emigrant, is less than clear: what great labour of creation does he anticipate at this precise point? Since this is the point at which the poem begins to lose its narrative focus and break down into a series of more or less random memories and meditations, the poet may feel his own lack of control and seek Parnassian protection from it.


kindred glooms The pleasant memories of Orleans paradoxically give rise to “glooms” which just as paradoxically “mitigate [his] woe.” O’Grady’s psychological observation is fairly penetrating here: pleasant memories often invoke a pain which is itself pleasurable, at least in such complex spirits as his. The “woe” is as yet unidentified; it will be associated with “faithless Maria” in the passage to follow, but we may safely assume that it is a more general woe induced by the collapse of his vision of a successful emigration. [page 148]


Maria One has a natural curiosity, given the shrouds over O’Grady’s private life, as to whether this beloved was real or fanciful. Psychologically, O’Grady’s relation of his love affair is convincing; he records a plausible mixture of anger, pain, love and tenderness. But “Maria” is clearly tainted with the hallmarks of literary generation as well: she is the “cruel fair” of the rejected lover, her “breast of snow” is “more lily-white” than snow and so on. Since he is perfectly able elsewhere in the poem to imagine incidents which never occurred, we should probably be skeptical. One possibility worth recording here is that the “Maria” referred to was M. Ethelind Sawtell, the poetess and neighbour of O’Grady in William Henry (Sorel), a friend of Lady Colborne, wife of Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. I cannot discover her first name; but in her volume of poetry, The Mourner’s Tribute; or, Effusions of Melancholy Hours (Montréal: Armour and Ramsey, 1840), M. Ethelind Sawtell published a poem entitled “Forget Her Not,” which begins, “Forget not Ethelind,” and is addressed to an older man who will continue to “breathe [his] lonely minstrel lay” after her departure. The poetess’s use of her own name licenses some biographical guessing; and O’Grady is about to refer to himself as “the aged Minstrel” (786). As later parts of The Emigrant will make clear, the Sawtells were O’Grady’s particular friends in Sorel; perhaps Ethelind Sawtell put him in touch with her literary connections in Montreal when his volume was ready for submission. If Sawtell’s first name was Maria or Mary, I would suggest that O’Grady enjoyed a Platonic intimacy with her which he misconstrued as a more passionate kind of love, and that he felt rejected when she left Canada after her husband’s death; and that “Maria” in this passage is an idealization of her husband’s death; and that “Maria” in this passage is an idealization of the poetess based on affection O’Grady fancied she felt for him.


wave the fairest of thy flowers That is, “Maria” was the fairest flower of the Ile d’Orléans, and now will no longer be so.


a rock upon thy side O’Grady addresses the rocky Isle and seeks a corresponding petrification of his sensitive parts; but his tendency to unclear pronoun references will blur this identification, when he later carves “the cypress with thy name,” that is, with “Maria’s” (as I presume he has no reason to carve the name of the island on a tree).


cypress The tree of mourning; in Quebec, used of the jack-pine, but O’Grady’s image is conventional and literary.


bore but resemblance so O’Grady repeats this idea throughout the ensuing lines (see 735 and 756). His original idea was that Maria’s chaste whiteness merely resembled the cold snow, and could not be identified with it. Now that her chastity has proven inviolable, he finds that her resemblance to snow is more real than he had wished.


the wounded Tree The cypress again, which the poet now searches for after returning to the island; also the “sculptured tree” of 736. Since “tree” is [page 149] capitalized, perhaps also intended to evoke the Cross on which Christ was “wounded,” and thus dramatize the degree of O’Grady’s suffering.


O’Grady gazes into a stream where, perhaps, he and Maria once say their reflections; but the “faithless rill” has now borne away her “resemblance.” The evocation of Narcissus in these lines is probably unintentional, but it is revealing of O’Grady’s self-absorption.


obliterate thy name O’Grady’s prophecy for Maria reflects his own literary insecurity. As ensuing passages make clear, the poet is keenly aware that his own name may be obliterated in the sifting of critical time.


faithful to thy view Perhaps faithful to her own looks, her “resemblance” to the chaste snow? Or faithful to her original intention to leave Canada, and so to her “view” of Canada?


with no resemblance dwell --- This seems to be a curse of sorts: you future flocks of faithless Maria deserve to live with her, who bears “no resemblance” to the real love he thought was in her heart.


But you fond Rollo This most painfully absurd transition in all of The Emigrant. O’Grady’s intention (which only becomes clear two dozen lines later) is to contrast the fidelity of his dog with the infidelity of Maria; but in doing so he reveals the pathos of his own loneliness and desperate need for affection. To add insult to injury, Rollo has died and is now (imaginatively at least) buried on the Ile d’Orléans: the poet is utterly and pathetically alone. The sharpness of the transition has led me to impose a dash, where O’Grady had a comma, between the two passages, but no amount of emendation can save the lines.


bees . . . birds That the “birds” and the “bees” should have disappeared with Maria is probably an accident of diction; if not it is (to say the least) an eccentric means of expressing sexual frustration.


There That is, on Orleans.


replete The original edition has “repleats” here. This obscure word may be an intransitive use of the obsolete transitive verb “repleat,” which means “to fill with something,” but the line would still by nonsense; I have taken it instead as a typographical or autograph error for replete, in which case it modifies the “mind” of Rollo.


youth . . . youthful Despite these claims, O’Grady cannot have been less than forty-three or four when Rollow was a pup, even granting the dog the longest conceivable life; “youthful” is used, then, in  a relative sense.


The lines are badly confused. Their sense seems to be that “Fate” gave Rollo a hard master to follow, a master who gave his “accord” to that hard life by emigrating, and who now provided a “sad record” of the dog in his poem.


the slumbering Lyre The poet’s “lyre” symbolizes his creativity, so the fact that it is “slumbering” here is curious. O’Grady may already be anticipating the imagery of 794-796, in which after his death pilgrims may visit the home [page 150] in which he lived and pay homage to his “lone harp.”


the aged Minstrel Presumably O’Grady himself, but perhaps an oblique reference to James Beattie’s The Minstrel (1771-1774), a popular pastoral narrative which influenced, among others, William Wordsworth. See note to 722, above.


Ida’s top . . . MantuaThe birthplace respectively of Homer (in one tradition) and Virgil, epic poets with whom O’Grady invites comparison.


In these lines O’Grady fancies future visitors to his “mansion.” Although the ostensible recipient of such honours is “some peaceful Bard,” O’Grady’s mentioning his own “lone harp” indicates that he wishes them for himself. From this toughing if rather poignant vision he makes another violent transition: in a typically Canadian outburst he attacks the severity of the Canadian winter. One might argue that the latter outburst is the more genuine note, but the real point is his complete unwillingness to smooth the lacuna in his poetic process; like the sudden invocation to Rollo at 757, the break is an indication of the gathering clouds of incoherence threatening The Emigrant.


The attributes of “truth” are rather obscured here. “She” divests her robes at “midnight,” that is, during conversation “o’er the bowl”; but since “truth” was bestowed by “native naked purity,” one wonders where she got the robes in the first place. The point however seems to be that truth is associated with frankness and candour, and falsehood with robes, coverings and shadows.


native naked purity although not a direct quotation from Milton, this phrase juxtaposes two adjectives which Milton also frequently juxtaposes in Paradise Lost: “. . . with native honour clad / In naked majesty . . .” (IV, 289-90); “. . . native righteousness, / And honour from about them, naked left / To guilty Shame . . .” (IX, 1056-8). O’Grady was apparently a reader of Milton; see below, note to 1309-18.


The victory of “wit” over “judgment” bespeaks, in a man of the Age of Reason, a willing suspension of the traditional hierarchy of human capabilities. According to John Locke, “. . . wit [lies] in the assemblage of ideas, and putting those together with quickness and variety . . . thereby to make up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy; judgment, on the contrary, lies quite on the other dies, in separating carefully one from another idea wherein can be found the least difference, thereby to avoid being misled. . . . This is a way of proceeding quite contrary to metaphor and allusion, wherein for the most part lies that entertainment and pleasantry of with which strikes so lively on the fancy . . . .” (Essay Concerning Human Understanding, II, xi, 2). The “lingering o’er the bowl” of 799 may account for O’Grady’s brief inversion of this implied order.


Bright wit companion “Companion” seems to be an appositive, that is, “Bright wit [which was our] companion ruled the festive board.”


The “Adieu” in these lines is, on the level of recollection and recovery, a [page 151] farewell to the memories of Orleans now explored; on the level of the emigration narrative, a farewell to the site of Orleans itself, and a shift of focus to Quebec proper, which is rendered in 867ff. That it has this dual function is indicative of O’Grady’s persistent blending of the two motives.


Nagle Edward Nagle appears in no study of bardism in Ireland, so O’Grady’s Note is the only information available on him. Observe that O’Grady considers him the superior bard of those mentioned (831). Glanmore, Nagle’s apparent residence, is a lake and small valley in southwest County Kerry (unless this is a typographical error for “Glanworth,” O’Grady Bennett’s place of residence, near Fermoy, Co. Cork, an identification which would explain the poet’s familiarity with the piper).

deplored Missed sorely.

pled The preterite of plead; times that pled were times that powerfully pleaded to the heart’s affections.


Orpheus Mythical Thracian singer-poet. After descending to the Underworld in an unsuccessful attempt to recover his dead wife, Eurydice, Orpheaus was torn to pieces by Maenads (or “Bacchae”), priestesses of Bacchus.


Fitzpatrick Kears Fitzpatrick is to be identified only by O’Grady’s Note: he is an Irish piper and singer of the time of George III.


O’Connor Like Nagle and Fitzpatrick, this O’Connor can only be identified by the information O’Grady provides, and in this case O’Grady offers no Note.


Sullivan Probably Timothy Sullivan (1710?-1800), itinerant poet, singer and bard; he wandered in and around Waterford, County Cork, and died there. Since O’Grady was familiar with Cork he must have known of Sullivan from local reputation.


bend the cypress round The “cypress” (plural) is the subject: “the cypress bend round with looks of sorrow.”


In these lines O’Grady immortalizes Nagle, the “Blest soul of song,” with the assistance of various classical poets and deities: Orpheus (see the note to 824, above); Anacreon (c. 570-c. 480 B.C.), the Greek lyrical poet; Pan, the Greek demi-god, satyr, of various descent (included here for his skill on the Greek pipes); Silenus, the satyr and tutor of Dionysus; and Ossian, properly Oisin, the Celtic poet, English imitations of whose poetry were presented to the public as “translations” by James Macpherson in 1762.


The point of these lines is a comparison between Scotland’s bagpipes and Ireland’s war harps; although both countries have surrendered their youth to battle (“alike thy veterans gone “), it is the Scottish bagpipes that are used to lead Englishmen to battles of the present day, and not the Irish harp, which now “slumbers.” The “Harp of our Isle” is apostrophized, although O’Grady’s grammar may seem to comply a paean to both instruments.


Tara’s hall The Hill of Tara, in County Meath, Ireland, was until the sixth [page 152] century the seat of the High Kings of Ireland; O’Grady here uses it as a Hibernian Valhalla, where the Irish Harp rests in peaceful silence.


yon inlet The harbour of Quebec; O’Grady here renews the emigration narrative, for the last time before a complete abandonment of the structure.


Britain’s glory Ships of the fleet of Britain.


the shanty tribe By the sound of their wanderings, hunters, who “explore” “Through lakes and rivers,” “Surpassing” all “dangers.” Shanties are rough-cut cabins or huts; perhaps O’Grady envisions the temporary lodgings of the fur-trappers.


Ottawa’s beleaguered heights The upper waters of the “Ottawa” (now Outaouais) River.


the vast lake Many could be identified; if one of the Great Lakes, O’Grady probably means Superior, but the Saint Lawrence itself affords a number of large “lakes,” such as Lac Saint-Pierre, not far from Sorel.


Britons ill repay O’Grady’s sympathy with the low market prices for the trappers’ store is no doubt motivated by his resentment of Britain’s ingratitude for Irish sacrifices in her various wars. Cf. 391-393.


the reckless storm takes Because of the broken metre, a monosyllabic word may be missing here which would help the sense. Otherwise, “takes” is another transitive verb used intransitively. “Perchance propelled”: propelled by chance.


Or . . . or Either . . . or.


the lonely Bankrupt An ironic conclusion to the death of the hunters after the destruction of their raft: although they toss in the waves eternally while their families await them, the merchant who is ruined by their failure to appear is given the climactic suffering of financial destitution. Considering O’Grady’s own financial straits, a perhaps understandable irony.


Here O’Grady describes a massive structure of ice which has been piled up at the base of the Quebec promontory by the “Successive tides” of the Saint Lawrence. Sketches and etchings of the period visualize these enormous structures, which must have impressed O’Grady powerfully after his encounter with the ice-berg before entering the Gulf. Although he claims that the ice-pile “spans the breadth which all Saint Lawrence laves,” he must mean that it spans the river and creates “an ice-wrought Bridge.”


explore An imperative to the reader: survey “yonder mass” with your eye.


conglome As above at 482, probably a poetic truncation of “conglomerate.”


innovating Constantly renewing.


yon vista The Plains of Abraham. O’Grady recalls details of the famous battle of 1759, in which General James Wolfe defeated the French colonial forces under the Sieur de Montcalm, but was himself killed.


Montgomery Richard Montgomery (1738-1775), an Irishman in the British [page 153] and then American armies who led an unsuccessful American assault on Lower Town, Quebec, during the American Revolutionary War, and was killed there.


A scanty, sad memento Perhaps not surprisingly, the world’s praise of its great men never seems sufficient to O’Grady, who is determined to see injustice and ingratitude everywhere.


Moore . . . Corrunna’s plain Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore (1761-1809) was killed in the battle of Corunna, in Spain, while fighting the French. His army was victorious after his death, which followed an initial retreat. Interestingly, Ethelind Sawtell was interested in Moore as well; her The Mourner’s Tribute (see above, note to 722) includes a poetic tribute, “The Last Request of Sir John Moore,” pp.29-32 (see below, 1184-1189 and my note). No doubt she and O’Grady discussed their shared hero during their time in Sorel.


O’Grady implies here that Montcalm was buried on the spot where he was killed by a British ball but he information is apocryphal. Montcalm was buried in the Chapel of the Ursulines in Quebec. 


where once At once where—that is, the “shell” killed and buried Montcalm at a single stroke.


O’Grady’s attitude to Montgomery may seem positive at first, “sons of freedom” ringing in modern ears appealingly, but as an American insurgent against British rule he has earned a definite place in O’Grady’s personal Inferno. “Freedom” in the O’Gradian context is usually pejorative, and the next line asserts that Montgomery reached for “rights” to which his country had no “claim.” Line 938, because of O’Grady’s curiously oblique references, would appear to suggest that Wolfe defeated Montgomery, but the “chieftains” referred to are, of course, Wolfe and Montcalm.


The forted city Quebec’s original fortifications had been augmented continually by the British since the Conquest. The five original gates of the city stood until they were demolished in 1871; the Citadel itself had largely taken its present shape by 1832. O’Grady’s impression was of a strong citadel capping a high natural fortress.


This debarkation at Quebec concludes, to all intents and purposes, the emigration narrative. Beyond this point O’Grady will make little effort to relate the incidents of his own emigration, instead choosing a random structure of recollection, meditation, invective and anecdote. We may conclude that “emigration” constituted to him, departure from Ireland and arrival in Canada; the incidents that followed were scarcely worth recording, details of his farm life appearing only briefly in O’Grady’s last Note. See the Introduction, pp. xxii-xxiii.


Decrees submission The subject of the verb, logically, can only be “the conqueror’s hand,” but that destroys any possibility of a discernible syntax in [page 154] the lines. The sense seems to be that the Conquest turned Quebec into a foreign land for the French, thus “decreeing submission” to each “subject” of French Canada. Perhaps therefore “Decrees” should be emended to “decreed,” but the interpretation is inconclusive.


the monument of Brock General Isaac Brock (1769-1812), hero of the War of 1812, largely credited with the rescue of Britain’s North American holdings from American expansion. His monument stood in Queenston, Ontario, where he fell in action against the Americans; it was blown up by the rebels of 1837, and a new one erected only in 1854. O’Grady’s Note 24 records its vandalizing.


Prevost Sir George Prevost (1767-1816), English general and Governor-in-Chief of Canada (1811-1815). O’Grady’s disdain of his “apathy” has its roots in his botching of a series of campaigns during the War of 1812, particularly on his unnecessary retreat from Plattsburg, New York, for which he was only saved from court-martial by an early death.


Whitbread Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815), British parliamentarian; his “zeal” was for peace with France and (during the War of 1812) the United States; neither attitude, however nobly intentioned, would have impressed O’Grady.


Brougham’s code Henry Peter Brougham, Baron Brougham and Vaux (1778-1863), Lord Chancellor of England and reformer of Parliament. Brougham initiated many judicial reforms and impelled the Reform Bill of 1832 through the House of Lords. The Bill is here referred to as “Brougham’s code,” with the ad hominem distaste usual to its opponents.


Patriots that is, patriots, Lower Canadian rebels of 1837; a term O’Grady uses with distaste. See below, 1166 and 1374.


nature’s law O’Grady’s faith in the instinctive education provided by Nature is strong, and reveals his eighteenth-century conception of an orderly and harmonious Nature reflecting the Providence of a benignant deity. O’Grady’s pleasure in this doctrineless religion is striking; it is certainly not the pleasure of a narrowly Christian spirit. Note the echo of 974 at 1077.


This idyll of Indian social life strongly reflects the pacific communality of the Noble Savage (see note to 546-555, above), but O’Grady will reveal a more realistic and affecting image of Indian life in 1026-1088, where accurate detail and unsentimental candour combine in one of his least literary and perhaps most “Canadian” passages.


our modern virtue Used ironically, to imply a “virtue’ based on the honour and esteem of the individual rather than on the “ties that bind” a community into a sound social unit.


None battle awes . . . Battle awes no one who has been tested by rightful deeds.


No self accusant . . . No confessed criminal sleeps peacefully (?) [page 155]


bill of rights O’Grady’s hostility to this foundation of modern civil liberties is typical of the Tory ideal of time. A just society should need so such artificial goads to kindness and mutual justice; such legislated morality merely limits the freedom of the individual.


sophists Casuists; deceptive orators. Although O’Grady does not make it explicit, these are apparently white men, Irishmen for instance, not Indian sophists contaminating an idyllic culture.


A characteristically ambivalent O’Grady line. He is attracted by the sweetness of a literary idea—“rest” in a pagan wilderness—but immediately undermines it with a more realistic and gritty vision of that wilderness, as a place of freezing winters and lonely death.


mysticated See 11 and 250; O’Grady’s use of the term is idiosyncratic, and here implies confused, misguided, obscured.


It crosses the poet’s mind that emigration to the British West Indies or to Australia might have been more pleasant, certainly warmer, than to Canada.


O’Grady returns briefly to his narrative in order to describe the host of church spires surrounding Quebec. Either the subject of the idiosyncratic verb “explore” is “Each tin clad temple”—that is, the various churches “explore” the wilderness and establish “sites to God’s all seeing eye”—or “explore,” as above at 897, is an imperative to the reader.


their banks The pronoun’s antecedent is unclear; we presume that he means the banks of the Saint Lawrence, but the river is unavailable as an antecedent.


Loretto Now Loretteville, west and slightly north of Quebec City. In O’Grady’s time, Lorette was still largely a settlement of Huron Indians.


Or . . . or Either . . . or, a poeticism used throughout the ensuing passage.


butternut The nut, or (as here) the wood of the North American white walnut tree.


she they best confide Nature is their handmaid, in whom they place their trust; a characteristic use of the verb.


dog with well tried mates That is, sled dogs in a team.


Luth A species of turtle.


Musk The musk-ox.


friends once warm O’Grady never misses a chance to evoke his favourite themes of loss, of untrue friends, and of bereavement.


O’Grady seems to hint here at the Day of Judgment, a new “world” ordained by God for the sifting and separating of humankind. His attention has been seized by the imagery of one polar midnight sun that precedes the passage, and he follows it by association into an apocalyptic peroration for the passage. He thus loses sight, temporarily, of the Indian theme that generated it. (The original edition has at 1051 “life and light”; I have emended this to “light and life” because this seems to be demanded by the rhyme and makes [page 156] no difference to meaning.) “Rife,” often used pejoratively, here implies merely abundant, or fulfilling.


This passage was printed in the Montreal Transcript on February 3, 1842. Unfortunately, the excerpting was done without the provision of any information on the author, so the newspaper appearance is of little help to the O’Grady researcher. Variants between the two versions are all of an extremely minor order, but for curiosity’s sake are listed in the Appendix that concludes this edition.


the keen barbarians place That is, the Indians lay traps (“the trace”) for “birds and beasts.”

1056, 1059

well constructed . . . well directed O’Grady’s adverbs imply his continued favour of the Indian way of life.


the snow which desert feeds The snow  “feeds” the desert when it melts in the Quebec spring. “Which” might conceivably be a typographical error for “white,” in which case the “snow-white desert feeds” “The circling fume” of smoke with its branches and logs. Both readings are no more than imaginative possibilities for a garbled line.


as if for incense The image of incense may be imported here from the Catholic ritual as a means of signaling the Protestant poet’s distaste for the Indian rite, which is otherwise presented with remarkable neutrality. Later he will admit (1086) that it is “unhallowed” incense in order to re-assert his superiority to paganism.


The bear’s. The antecedent of the pronoun is delayed.


O’Grady’s relation of Indian burial rituals and euthanasia is, again, sensitive and approbatory. He is at pains to indicate that “no human power can save” the dying man, that the Indian mourners leave “three days’ store” to their charge even though their own “food be scant,” and that they part after giving “best assurance” to the abandoned elder, and after “vow[ing] their faith.” At such a kindly ceremony, even Nature releases a few “big round drops” from her eye. If the dying man is unable to put a period to his own existence, his fellows will do so for him, with merciful exactitude. Perhaps drawing back from such obvious approval, O’Grady is constrained to point out that their incense is “unhallowed,” but the tone of his depiction is clearly sympathetic.


Because O’Grady supplies no context for this outcry, it is difficult indeed to clarify his meaning. He perhaps refers to fur-trading companies which paid Indian trappers in European currency to bring back more and more pelts from the farthest reaches of their territories, and laments that the Indians grown accustomed to this exchange and to the profits involved, and are eventually forced to become paid mercenaries in the British army. They should instead trap the beaver only for their own clothing (1092-1093) and leave the exchange of specie to white men. If this reading of the passage is [page 157] correct, the final reference to the Britons’ “proving” (testing) the Indians’ “amity and love” by having them “mix in war” is ironic; as with the Irish, the “love you bear a Briton from your heart” (386) should not be tried so often by sceptical British generals.


This return to the problem of the Irish poor is facilitated by the preceding outcry on the Indian. Just as the Indian belongs in his own native land, so do Irishmen, Scots and Britons. The transition typifies O’Grady’s forward motion by free association rather than by linear purpose.


vicissitudes like these Changes of fortune like those suffered by O’Grady—that is, changes of season, climate, politics and economy in the Canadas.


each stately dome That is, each aristocratic manor. Each peasant should have his domicile under the benign control of an enlightened aristocrat.


Winter has become an obsession in the poem: it not only makes for the severe discomfort of the settler, but symbolizes the cold and desolation of an isolated, unformed culture. O’Grady will from now on turn to the Canadian winter when he wants to particularize the worst elements of the colonial experience.


A copy of The Emigrant in the University of Western Ontario Department of Rare Books has had a pair of errata noted in red on the introductory pages. The hand is not O’Grady’s, since the person writing takes issue with the poet in his representation of the fate of Robert Emmet, the Irish patriot. A signature appears above the “Dedication” which is all but illegible, but may be “Thomas L. Selby.” Whoever the owner of the volume was, he felt capable of recording errors in the printed text, and one of his notes suggests that at 116 the word “eager” has been elided between “the” and “eye.” The emendation would complete the metre, but as the source is dubious I have not carried it out in the present edition. See below, 1505 and note.


fresh labyrinths to fly That is, the eye seeks a clear path through the maze of the forest.


Compare this lonely winter death with  similar passing in James Thomson’s “Winter,” 305-317.


O’Grady now warns off the middle-class emigrant, whose sense of his own “consequence” brings with it an attendant “sloth” which makes him a useless member of colonial Canadian society. In doing so he echoes a number of emigrant guide-books of the period (see the Introduction, note 4). O’Grady’s disdain is clear, but his diction is revealing: the “competence” of such men is exactly like the “competence” he brought with him to Canada (see his Note 8). Perhaps in these lines O’Grady reveals some sense of his own responsibility for the failure of his emigration. He goes on to decry the democratization of Canadian culture, where “none in birth exceeds his fellow man.” Although the spirit of liberty may not suit him as a gentleman, [page 158] O’Grady is unwilling to condemn it outright, as his balanced language makes clear.


French taught law In 1774 the Quebec Act tried to fix the judicial procedure of Great Britain’s newly conquered North American holdings, notably permitting the French Canadian colony to maintain its own laws as regards civil matters; British law was applied to in criminal matters. The Constitutional Act of 1791 confirmed the right of the Lower Canadians to such “French taught law,” but established British common law in Upper Canada. O’Grady’s point is that Upper Canada, as he says in his Preface, is as a result a “more desirable emporium” for the emigrant from the British Isles.


O’Grady’s recitation in these lines of the various social burdens of Lower Canadian culture for the anglophone minority speaks, by an irony of history, more tellingly to the anglophone minority of modern Quebec than it must have done to the English colonists of his own day. Only recently has that minority begun to feel “foreign” in the middle of a land that is itself “alien” in the nation.


sanguine Blood-coloured.


mogs Moccasins.


sad soil O’Grady’s must have been particularly bad soil, because he repeats this observation in his Note 40: “The land of William Henry [i.e., Sorel] is a perfect compilation of sand not worth the labouring.” His opinion is confirmed by Henry Taylore, who published in 1840 his Journal of a Tour From Montreal, Thro’ Bertheir and Sorel . . . , and noted that in Sorel “The soil is too light and Sandy … for wheat” (p. 7). Although Taylor goes on to mention a number of inhabitants whom he met in the village, unfortunately  none of them appears to be a penurious gentleman from the south of Ireland.


patriots A pejorative term in O’Grady’s lexicon, because of its association with the hated patriotes of the Rebellion of 1837, of which he will have more to say later, See note to 970, above.


it The pronoun has no clear antecedent, but the implication is clear enough: “it” is a pleasant, profitable and Protestant Lower Canada.


Colborne John Colborne, Baron Seaton, 1778-1863, British soldier and colonial administrator, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, 1829-1839, and Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, 1836-1839; acted as Governor-General for a brief period, 1838-1839. Because the Governor General’s summer residence was in Sorel, Colborne was a centre of the active social life of the village. Ethelind Sawtell (for whom see the note to 722, above) acknowledges in her dedication to The Mourner’s Tribute the kindnesses of Lady Colborne, and so was probably admitted to the vice-regal circle. O’Grady’s references to Colborne, while expressive of gratitude, guarantee no such intimacy for him. [page 159]


Glengare A poeticism for Glengarry, and hence a reference to the Glengarry Volunteers who had fought notably in the Rebellion of 1837. For further praise of the Volunteers’ “trophied emblems,” see O’Grady’s Note 28 and the note to 1450 below.


south A neologic verb. O’Grady refers caustically to the flight of Papineau, leader of the 1837 uprising in Lower Canada, to the United States, still a “new formed state” and thus deserving of O’Grady’s disdain.


ancient . . . modern O’Grady toys with the familiar dichotomy of eighteenth-century literary controversy. The Battle of the Ancients and Moderns was a critical dispute as to whether the ancient classical writers were superior or inferior to the modern writers of the day; the battle may be seen as a struggle between the passionate classicism of the Renaissance and the enthusiastic modernity of the Age of Reason. Colborne’s uniting these two principles reveals him as an ultra-Renaissance man.


Colborne was at Corunna with Sir John Moore, which may account for two Sorel poets’ tributes to the latter general. See above, note to 921, especially Ethelind Sawtell’s “The Last Request of Sir John Moore.” Moore’s last request was in fact a lieutenant-colonelcy for Colborne, to which O’Grady refers at 1189. Corunna’s battle ended successfully for the British after an initial retreat. O’Grady refers to this paradoxically at 1187.


Cochrane Probably Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775-1860), a “colourful” British admiral, or possibly his uncle, Alexander F.I. Cochrane (1758-1832), British admiral and commander-in-chief of the North American navy.


Nelson As above in the note to 298.


Crucial lines for determining O’Grady’s political sympathies. See the Introduction, p. xlvi.


an immortal name That is, the name of a warrior; Colborne is both virtuous and a conqueror, and so fulfills O’Grady’s prescription.


a Diadem A crown; the mere fact of kingship is no guarantee of wise government or greatness.


Here begins and extended meditation on worldly ambition and Stoical detachment, with no clear point of closure. A series of narratives of men with foolish ambition eventually leads to a treatment of Papineau, leader of the patriotes of 1837, who takes over the poem for lines 1371-1450. In its advocacy of an unworldly detachment and contentment, and its mocking of the ambitious folly of the world, and particularly in its adducement of exempla to illustrate the moral, the passage is strongly reminiscent of Samuel Johnson’s “Vanity of Human Wishes” (1749), which O’Grady in my opinion encountered. See below, notes to 1239 and 1256-1266.


Saint Helena’s IsleNapoleon was imprisoned on Saint Helena, a small British-held island in the south Atlantic, after his final defeat at the battle of [page 160] Waterloo.


the pages of romance In fact one of the greatest novels to make frequent and ironically impassioned reference to Napoleon Bonaparte, Le Rouge et le Noir by “Stendhal” (Henri Beyle), had appeared in France in 1831—five years before O’Grady’s emigration.


fickle France France had been fickle, at least in British opinion, to many old loyalties: to the monarchy, which it shattered in the Revolution; to the principles of the Revolution, which it abandoned when Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor; to Napoleon, after his first defeat and imprisonment on Elba; and to its British conquerors when Napoleon returned from Elba. Such shifts of the public mood no doubt lie behind O’Grady’s disdain.


thou parent God, spoken of in a characteristic manner with very tangible attributes: he is a “domestic friend” to the poet, one who has been lavish with his gifts.


ambition’s pride O’Grady now distinguishes the best part of ambition—the search for “virtue, talent, honour, fame”—from the self-seeking ambition of, for instance, Napoleon. Ambition of this better sort raises us to acts of Christian charity, and must not be “spurned.” O’Grady is inconsistent, however; at 1212, “glutted fame” is associated with the worse ambition, so one can only guess at its apparently more noble meaning here.


A tangled line. The sense appears to be, “the soul is taught for the best when eloquence is supplied,” but may be the reverse as well: the soul teaches us best when its eloquence reaches us. At any rate, eloquent teaching is best for (and from) the soul.


The poet’s acknowledgement in these lines that the “crimes” and “vice” of the poor are a direct result of miserliness in the wealthy betrays an attractive Victorian sympathy. Such sentiments motivated the political and economic reform that characterized the middle and late nineteenth century in England and the Empire.


The line is probably corrupt; a disyllable would appear necessary before or after “bosom,” but the slip may be O’Grady’s.


batten As above at 402: to feed gluttonously.


The story of the miser enforces O’Grady’s present theme: that no ambition based on the pleasure of this world—in this case, avarice—can have value in the next. The poet counsels instead a disinterested pursuit of restrained “content.” There is a similarly unhappy miser on his deathbed in Johnson’s “Vanity of Human Wishes” (255-290).


This optimistic paean to providential justice breaks with O’Grady’s theme. He has been recommending a disdain of worldly success, but if Providence eventually provides in “this world” for the “joy” of the “just” and the “woes” of “the guilty,” it might be worth pursuing mundane success as well—albeit in a Christian and God-fearing manner. Whatever its [page 161] contradictions, it is a pity that a vision of an all-providing moral “eye” should descend eventually to the narrow Britishism of the last two lines in of the passage. See the Introduction, pp.li-lii.


The story of Alexander is included because it serves as another example of excessive ambition. Although Alexander has already subdued the “world,” his knowledge of one last “distant realm” which remains unconquered disturbs his contentment. While O’Grady does not make the moral explicit, his reference is probably to Alexander’s Indian campaign, which indirectly led (as exempla should) to his death and the eventual collapse of the Alexandrian empire. O’Grady’s meditation on ambition particularly reflects Johnson’s “Vanity of Human Wishes” in its use of such exempla, and in its emphasis on Alexander’s excessive grasping: compare Johnson’s tale of Wolsey, for instance, whose powers, although infinite, do not satisfy “his restless wishes” (105), and his tale of “Swedish Charles” (Charles XII of Sweden), who cries, “Think nothing gained… till naught remain, / …And all be mine . . .” (202-204).


attaint Dishonour, expose.


the Sage Presumably Aristotle, tutor of Alexander.


to endurance taught That is, who had learned endurance.


Nero See the note to 435, above.


The “noble captive” speaks disdainfully to Nero.

Another metrically mangled line, but as its syntax and sense is clear, the carelessness is probably the poet’s.

one more sad record The anecdote of Nero parallels that of Alexander in that both men are disturbed by one last unconquered spirit—Alexander a distant country, Nero a Stoical captive. The implied moral would have them learn an indifference to such “failures.”


fane Either a banner or a temple; a “wreath” might “gild” either, but since it “waves” here, probably the banner is intended.


matters not the vanquished That is, to the vanquished.


Persian . . . Macedon By Xerxes or by Alexander. The elliptical reference to Xerxes may have been induced by Johnson’s treatment of him in “The Vanity of Human Wishes” (225-240).


How versed However well versed.


In these lines leading up to God, and in the prayers that follow them, O’Grady adopts a Christian resignation analogous to that counseled by Johnson that the end of “The Vanity of Human Wishes”: “Still raise for good the supplicating voice, / But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice. / . . . Implore His aid, in His decisions rest, / Secure, whate’er He gives, He gives the best” (351-352, 355-356).


Here begins O’Grady’s first explicit prayer in The Emigrant. Since the prayer climaxes with a request that God allow his “weary martyr’d spirit” to live [page 162] (1332), we are free to associate its generation with the fact of his serious illness, which he records at 1554-1559 and in his Note 31 and 32.


’Fore time first was Before God had created time.


when time was At the appropriate and fitting time: a pun on the phrase from 1309.


O’Grady would appear to have had in mind Milton’s Paradise Lost. God first gives man “wisdom,” followed by “precepts,” and then presents him with “temptation,” insisting nevertheless that has “free agent” mind is a sufficient guard against temptation. The free will of man is of course the basis of Milton’s “justifying the ways of God,” so O’Grady’s climactic reference to it here reveals at least a Miltonic affinity. See the notes to 249, 472, and 801.


wisdom . . . to fix the wavering mind Cf. Johnson’s “Vanity of Human Wishes,” 367: “With these celestial Wisdom calms the mind.”


when time shall be no more Cf. 1309 and 1310, and notes, above.


thy will be done Obviously, an echo of the Lord’s Prayer in the Anglican liturgy.


take man’s nature That is, to test man’s nature.


centre every bliss from thee Find their bliss elsewhere than in the Lord.


Cf. 596, where similar language exposes Lord Gifford as a false-hearted lover of Sylvia.


Securely keeps As in 701 and 704, used intransitively: “keeps itself secure.”


the monitor’s the breast O’Grady’s faith that a heart well heeded will lead any person to God lies behind his praise of the Indian’s spirituality, noted at 973-974 and 1077.


one Deity to all Lest this idea sound uncharacteristically tolerant for our otherwise conservative narrator, the reader should return to the phrase after reading the ensuing lines. Although a monotheistic cosmos is evident to all, and O’Grady is not narrowly Anglican about it, many religious sects are misguided about the Deity’s nature, and their resulting “dogmas” come in for some sour criticism.

Friend A member of the Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers.

Turk Contemporary idiom for today’s “Muslim.”


Reformer No specific sect, but any of those who sought to reform the Church of England from within.


Methodist One of the most powerful and, for the Anglicans, disturbing of the Dissenting sects; led and inspired by John (1703-1791) and Charles Wesley (1707-1788), the Methodist church advocated a “life and brotherhood in Christ” in which each individual’s relationship with God was mediated by his or her personal interpretation of the Bible; one of the first Christian denominations to encourage preaching by women.


Conybeare John Conybeare (1692-1755), Bishop of Bristol, a popular [page 163] eighteenth-century opponent of English Deism. His Defence of Revealed religion Against the Exceptions of [Tindal] (1732) was a refutation of Matthew Tindal’s Christianity as Old as the Creation (1730), a prominent Deist tract which argued that revelation was inessential to the real value of Christianity, which was instead rational and ethical. O’Grady’s treatment of Conybeare is faintly ironic: he is merely the favourite of “some,” while “others” reach for the volumes of the (supposed) Deists Bolingbroke and Locke.

Bolingbroke Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751), the English Tory statesman and Deist philosopher who was impeached by the new Whig government of 1714 for ostensibly treasonous dealings with the French during negotiations leading to the Peace of Utrecht (1713). A favourite target of anti-Deistic writings of Anglican thinkers, and already well-routed by Burke in his Reflection on the Revolution in France (1791), Bolingbroke needed little further invective from O’Grady.

Locke John Locke (1632-1704) was the empirical philosopher who was continually attacked for his supposititious Deism by the adherents of the Church of England.


Decalogue The Ten Commandments.


Afflicts The subject of the verb is still the Decalogue.


Papineau Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786-1871), leader of the patriote rebellion of 1837 in Lower Canada, is correctly identified by O’Grady as a Deist. Our return to his story confirms that the extended meditation on worldly ambition has not been concluded, merely diverted, by O’Grady’s prayers to God and praise of Providence.

yet left for this That is, who left, in place of liberty, “A floating phantom.”

look to modern France Possibly a printer’s corruption. The sense is that Papineau’s rebellion was fomented by, and if successful would have led to a government after the Revolution.


proclaimed a lance As O’Grady has already noted, the French Revolution deposed a king merely to gain an Emperor in Napoleon. That a soldier (“a lance”) should replace a royal monarch (“a scepter”) on the “throne” of France earns O’Grady’s British sarcasm. The shift to Napoleon is rapid and confusing, and equally sudden shift to some anti-American invective is imminent.


a despot chains Another reference to the imprisonment of Napoleon on Saint Helena; see above, 1202-1205.


wot Know.


Washington George Washington (1732-1799), the American Revolutionary General and first American president. That Washington should receive O’Grady’s favour is curious, in that he was the “Father of the Country” for [page 164] which the poet has little affection.


Kosciuszko Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746-1817), the leader of a brief Polish rebellion against the Russians, Prussians and Austrians (1794), had earlier assisted the American Revolutionary effort. His heroism was much noted in England, and earned him a variety of Romantic tributes, among which was a poem by Keats.


He Papineau; an unannounced return to the Lower Canada rebel.


he fled Papineau fled to the United States well before the collapse of the Rebellion, eventually passing on to France for security, as O’Grady notes below in 1426.


device  Motto, inscription


one look As O’Grady’s note makes clear, he dead are unidentifiable: the various skulls look the same.


O’Grady’s poetical sympathy here for the dead rebel in his grave of snow is not atypical: he can feel simultaneous contempt for the fact of rebellion and admiration for the courage and patriotism that encouraged young men to join in it. The leaders of rebellion always receive his ire; their followers are deluded but heroic.


A sensitive evocation of the dead young rebel concludes in bathetic irony. The “Theatrical” eye which picks up the white skull no doubt intends it for Hamlet.


this vile traitor Papineau, who briefly attempted to enlist American, as well as French and Russian, aid for his failed rebellion.


seeks to save Another transitive verb is misused here. Papineau does not seek to save the followers he left behind.


Columbians Americans. Papineau fled the United States for France, after his conduct was called into question by the remaining patriote leaders, in 1839.


France“Monarchic” because of the Emperor, as above. In 1841, France was “Monarchic” under the rule of Louis-Philippe, King of the French from 1830-1848.


I saw him It is not at all unlikely that O’Grady has a glimpse of Papineau, who was in Sorel briefly in 1837.


bowknife Perhaps a mistake for “Bowie-knife,” the wide, slightly curved blade named for Colonel James Bowie, its American inventor and famous user.

zephyrs Originally the west wind, but poetically a gentle breeze, a soft wind.

Awakes the breeze The breeze awakes.


An undecipherable line. “Tocsins” are alarm bells, which are clearly rung when the rebel assassins are discovered. Thus “mask” would seem to be a direct object of “ring,” but I can find no musical usage of “mask” which would countenance such syntax. If the “masks” are on the faces of the [page 165] assassins, the grammar is nonsensical.


or volunteers The Glengarry Volunteers, as O’Grady’s Note makes clear, also referred to in 1173 above: an assemblage of 1,500 loyal Scots from Glengarry County, Ontario, who smashed a dispirited rebel force near Coteau-du-Lac, Lower Province, on November 10, 1837.


Drew Andrew Drew (1792-1878), the British naval officer who led a British sortie (1837) against the rebel side-wheeler the Caroline, moored on the American side of the Niagara River. Drew’s men set her ablaze and turned her towards the Falls, but (contrary to popular misconception) she ran aground above, exploded and burnt. O’Grady relates this incident in the ensuing lines.


They mount the verge O’Grady suggests that the Caroline went over the Falls, perhaps merely for dramatic effect, but he may have had his facts wrong, since many believed she had indeed plunged into the abyss.


MacNab Sir Allan MacNab, 1798-1862, Canadian soldier and politician who joined Drew in the attack on the Caroline.


chaplet Literally, a garland or wreath for the head; in this case, probably a reference to MacNab’s knighthood.


glory bed Bed of glory; see the poem in Note 28, 3.


ye proud boast Probably the British soldiery, given the reference in 1478.


Egypt’s clime The Egyptian Campaign of 1798-1799 was a major setback for Napoleon, and cheered British prospects for his eventual destruction.

The Turks ye vanquished  Probably a reference to the British, French and Russian defeat of the Ottoman navy at the Battle of Navarino in 1827, a pivotal action in the battle for Greek independence.

The Indian leader Various Indian tribes took part both in the British attempt to quell the American Revolution and in the War of 1812. O’Grady’s later image of a “Rebel” prisoner in Indian hands suggests that he has the former conflict in mind, especially since North American Indians had no part in the suppression of the Rebellions of 1837.


missiles bullets fly   Their missiles fly like bullets.


seeks an Indian’s will   Seeks his good will, because captured; or, alternately, wishes he had the will-power of an Indian.


the horrors of the string   O’Grady’s point seems to be that the Indian allies of the British would only harm their enemies in battle, but would not slaughter their captives, held in fetters; a reference to the Indian clemency referred to previously in his Note 25.

fiercer tribes Mohawk O’Grady’s poor opinion of Mohawk clemency may reflect their alliance, alone of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, with the American rebels in the Revolutionary War. Their attacks on early Jesuit missions and the tortures that ensued for their prisoners must also have been common folklore by O’Grady’s time. [page 166]

self made exile say An imperative to Papineau: say why you have committed treason and created this sad landscape? Possibly O’Grady’s reference is to the corpse-ridden winter landscape described in 1395-1416 and explicitly blamed on Papineau’s evil.


the feeling breast / Who fancied wrongs The rebel soldiers were deluded by Papineau into a belief that they were mistreated by their British governors. A typical indictment of the Rebellion at the time.


high-minded Pole Since he is unnamed, O’Grady’s Note is the only source of information on this rebel. His touching reimbursement of his victims’ families, recorded in the Note motivates the following lines.


Who The antecedent is “the fatherless.” The families of the rebel’s victims mourn his execution because of his contrite liberality to them.


her gallant hero That is, her husband; she too has been compensated by the Pole’s generosity.

the sacrifice he left “He” is now the Pole.

she grieves no more The errata noted in a copy of The Emigrant at the University of Western Ontario (see the note to 116, above) suggests that this should be “she grieves the more,” because she now grieves both for her husbands and for the Pole about to be executed. But “no more” is equally likely, since she is clearly comforted by the Pole’s ministrations. As in the previous case, I have made no emendation, since the source of the errata-list is unknown.


the lonely mourner This woman should not be confused with the widow just treated of; rather she is the “lonely Maid” of 1510, who appears to have been the lover (perhaps the fiancée mentioned in O’Grady’s Note) of the Polish rebel.


tortured bosom bare Unless O’Grady is using “bosom” poetically, as a synonym for “throat” and “upper breast,” this is a highly literary image.


Medusa One of the three gorgons, and the only mortal of the three. Medusa and her sisters were of terrifying aspect, with snakes for hair, and those who looked on a Gorgon were turned to stone. The story of Medusa’s death at the hands of Perseus is told by many classical authors. The “maddening visions glow” as “erst” (once) did Medusa.


Niobe Mythical Queen of Thebes, who boasted that she deserved the honours her people were heaping on Leto, mother of the gods Apollo and Artemis. The latter two descended on her family and slaughtered them all save one. Niobe, as she prayed for her last child to be spared, was turned to stone and placed atop Mount Sipylus in Asia Minor, where she still weeps tears from her stone face.


That is, she feels that another has known her fate—the lover of Irish patriot Robert Emmet, executed in 1803, whose story O’Grady proceeds to relate.


Emmet For more information on Robert Emmet and his glancing relation to [page 167] the life of Standish O’Grady Bennett, see the Introduction, pp. xii-xiii, xx.


She sought new climes O’Grady cites in his note the Sketchbook of Washington Irving, and the somewhat embellished story of Emmet and his beloved contained therein, “The Broken Heart.” As Irving tells it, Emmet’s fiancée, daughter of John Philpot Curran (1750-1817), Irish statesman and jurist, became a world-traveller after his death.


IndusA major river system in south-west Asia, lending its name to the Indo-European languages.


the PoThe River Po, running west to east across northern Italy and emptying into the Adriatic.


His firm response That is, “Record his sentence” and “his firm response thereto.” The following lines are spoken by Emmet after his conviction.


O! plighted love It is difficult to determine the end of Emmet’s “speech,” but since the train of thought that begins with this phrase culminates in a vision of Emmet’s fiancée “weeping” after his execution, it would seem that the narrator has returned to his task at this point.

Seraph An angel of the highest rank.

Awaked to bliss That is, to heaven.


Irving Washington Irving (1783-1859), American author and the source of O’Grady’s take. The original edition has “Ervin” at 1538, which has been emended to Irving in the present text. The mistake is curious indeed, since it is suggestive of dictation to a rather unlettered amanuensis; it would be unlikely for a printer’s compositor to make a typographical error so close phonetically to the intended pronunciation. The attendant Note 30 gives the correct spelling. Perhaps some portion of The Emigrant was indeed dictated, and portions of the manuscript more carefully revised by the poet than others. This would also account for the extremely random punctuation of the text.


the broken heart This is the title of Irving’s sketch. If O’Grady intended to refer explicitly to the title, then the absence of initial capitals in the phrase may again suggest oral dictation of this portion of the poem. He may simply have wished to refer to Irving’s title in an elliptical and suggestive way.


Sawtell Luther Sawtell, O’Grady’s friend and neighbour in Sorel. His wife was poetess Ethelind Sawtell, who perhaps played a more intimate role in O’Grady’s life; see the note to 722, above.


Though vast seemed scanty That is, your vast wealth must have been made scanty by “the aid you give.”


meed Reward.


Blest soul, best taught Cf. 1219: “The soul best taught by eloquence supplied...”


perchance to distant realms I steer Perhaps O’Grady was already contemplating his departure from Sorel; see the Introduction, pp. xiii-xv.


O’Grady’s reference in these lines to a serious illness that he suffered in [page 168] Sorel may clarify the circumstances in which he composed the later parts of the poem. Their incoherence and fragmentation may have been affected by a constrained writing schedule enforced by his need for frequent rests.


Carter Couillard-Després in his Histoire de Sorel mentions a Dr. Edouard Carter as a prosecution witness in a murder trial of 1834 (p. 193); no doubt this is O’Grady’s man.


more intimate with death the “bitter draughts” of 1558 make the poet “more intimate with death” because, by staying alive, he has suffered the death of his friends.


These lines record the death of Sawtell, made ironic in its timing by O’Grady’s recovery from a near-fatal illness. In the Note to the passage O’Grady claims that Sawtell died ”at the very critical period when . . . [the poet] found this tribute incumbent on him. . .”—that is, the apostrophe to Sawtell beginning at 1542. See the Introduction, pp. xxxviii-xxxix.


now must I . . . Commute my strains to elegiac Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost, IX, 5-6: “I now must change / Those notes to tragic. . . .”


deplore Miss; deplore the absence of.


immensurate Unmeasured; immense.


Dear, lonely Fair Ethelind Sawtell.


from whence no travellers return An allusion to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, III, I, 79-80: “the undiscovered country, from whose bourn / No traveller returns. . . .”


save One Christ, who “returned to life” after the Crucifixion when he appeared to the Apostles.


doomed to rise At the Day of Judgment, when the bodies and souls of all humanity shall be sorted, sifted, and consigned to their eternal place in the new cosmos.


not of Theological mind Rare as it would be for a minister of the Church of Ireland to defrock himself, it would surely be even more rare for him to make this rather glib statement after having done so. We are spared the contradiction by the present edition’s identification of a non-clerical poet (see Introduction, pp. xvi-xix). O’Grady claims little interest in theories of immortality of the soul, and in the arguments of the Schoolmen concerning the manner in which body and soul shall be re-knit at the Judgment Day. As he goes on to explain, he hopes for an immortality in verse. 


O’Grady paraphrases himself; see above, 1365-1366.


the muse may spare one sprig There is an appealing mixture of real humility and persistent faint hope in these liens which, if extrapolated into other areas of his personality, contributes to a more kindly image of the poet than one may glean from some of his political and religious dogma. See the Introduction, pp. lvii-lviii.


speed perhaps this should be “sped,” since the passage continues in the past [page 169] tense. The confusion is typical of O’Grady’s ambivalence as to the temporal location of his poem.


fondly Foolishly.


Sweet land Ireland.


youthful happy social hours As a young gentleman of some means, Standish O’Grady Bennett would have a youth of balls and parties to gaze back upon, many of them perhaps with the O’Gradys of Kilballyowen. He is about to name that “kindred” explicitly, at 1654.


what boots What use is it to [do such and such]. But O’Grady seems to mean, why does my anxious will urge me to return?


For the biographer of O’Grady, this is one of the most tantalizing references in The Emigrant. O’Grady’s ironic forgiveness of his “Ungrateful offspring” has the ring of autobiographical truth to the present editor, and there can be no literary reason for his creating a family fantasy at this point in the poem. If it is true, there is a fascinating story behind it, one which has much to do not doubt with his emigration at the age of sixty. Were his children insufficiently welcoming when he sought to live with them in his old age, and was his hurt and bitter emigration a result?


obloquy Blame, slander, abuse.


I brave the ocean’s breast Given the imminent references to “The city’s glare,” perhaps O’Grady has boarded a steamer to Montreal or to Quebec. Or perhaps this is merely a final attempt to return to the travelogue with which he opened the poem, which now seems far away indeed.


of proud desert Deserving well; note the pun on “desert,” as in “wilderness,” in 1620.


the sullen rocks Perhaps suggestive that the “city” is Quebec, a more perceptibly rocky site than the island of Montreal.


hear That is, hear not. The negative is understood.


O, Hope! Compare O’Grady’s apostrophe to Hope with the various cognate passages in Thomas Campbell’s The Pleasure of Hope (1813); see also the note to 127, above.


meteor A quick, flashing idea; a term with a pejorative flavour which somewhat undermines the attempted apostrophe in these lines.

bland Smooth, calm, uncomplicated.    

The point of the lines is that Hope may encourage us to bear better the ills of this world (with its “earthly wings”), or it may “point to blessedness”—that is, give us hope for a better life to come.


Following close upon reminiscences of “youthful, happy, social hours” (1599) and his “Lost home” (1614), this tribute to “De Courcy” and “O’Grady” with whom the poet claims “kindred” is a central plank in the linking of Standish O’Grady Bennett with the noted O’Gradys of Kilballyowen, County Limerick, Ireland (see the Introduction, pp. xx-xxiv). [page 170] The identification of the two men referred to is not easy, as I have already shown, the former because his name is common and may be either a given name or surname, the latter because of O’Grady’s attempt at archaic grammar. What is crucial is that O’Grady uses the passage to establish his kinship with families of importance and significance in Ireland, to show that he is not of common stock, and to remind himself in the midst of Canadian failure that he is of “proud desert,” as he said in 1622. The effect, given what we now know of his last few years, is rather pathetic. 


the tear of sorrow Perhaps  the De Courcy or DeCourcy O’Grady referred to is already dead.


didst Since the poet seems to refer to Viscount Guillamore’s son and not to Guillamore himself, and since none of Guillamore’s sons clarified the laws of the realm as the Viscount did, this second-person archaic should probably be “did”—that is, the Chief Baron “did unmisticate” (made less mysterious) the “subtile laws” of the period, and the poet addresses his son in the second person.


This humble tribute Perhaps the line suggests that the poet sent copies of the volume home to his “kindred.”


Bleak, barren spot Sorel, or Canada in general.


Labour alone . . . surveys The Canadian farm requites no activity but hard labour. One wonders how O’Grady expected to earn his bread in Canada if not by his own labour: perhaps he hoped to find local labour cheaper than he describes it in his Note 26.


Breathes the dull round The dull round of the seasons? Of the day’s work?


prematurely pays / An hard won pittance A reference to the low price obtained for land sold back to the Crown; farm failures were treated with little sympathy. As William Watson noted in The Emigrant’s Guide to the Canadas (1822), “Should an Emigrant be located on a very bad Lot, he must prove it unworthy his attention, or he cannot get it exchanged” (p. 14). If O’Grady was judged to have failed on a decent allotment, he must have exacted a very poor price indeed when he sold the land and left Sorel.


Ungracious sandbank Another reference to the sandy soil around Sorel.


dark brown hares to white! O’Grady not only remarks the camouflage abilities of local rodents but also puns on the human “hairs” that turn from dark to white with the shock of Canadian winter.


As noted in the Introduction, p.xxx, there is a complete and consistent shift of meter in these lines, from iambic pentameter to trochaic tetrameter with an initial unstressed syllable in each line. Although hardly damaging in an absolute sense, the curious break with the rest of the poem reveals on a formal level of the kind of breakdown apparent in the logic and structure of the poem after the emigration narrative is abandoned.


Canadians The rhyme with “regions” may imply a pronunciation of this [page 171] word consistent with certain rural dialects of today. But as O’Grady’s rhymes are elsewhere rather idiosyncratic, the pronunciation is not to be ruled upon firmly. At any rate he refers not to English but to French Canadians.


A pair of obscure lines whose sense refers, apparently, to the flash-freezing of fish in winter streams.

Petrifaction Petrification.

Crocodile  Crocodiles, according to myth, had been engendered by the sun’s beating down upon the ooze and slime on the banks of the Nile. Sun which such a creature is unable to bear is hot sun indeed.


There is a whimsy in the line’s rhythm which bespeaks the wandering focus of the poem.


The plaintive bittern sounding Cf. Goldsmith, The Deserted Village, 44: “The hollow-sounding bittern guards his nest. . . .”.


rapt in snow Like the Canadian climate, the passage rushes back to winter after all too short a description of spring and summer. O’Grady’s determination to prove the horror of Canada forced him to elide the possible pleasures of temperate spring and autumn in North America: at 2109, “rude spring” makes “his wished for visit,” but the result is that “teeming earth an hideous form displays” (2110). All of Canada must be painted with the same brush if O’Grady’s idealization of Ireland at the end of the poem is to stand up to the contrast.


Canadian French Canadian.


Apparently a reference to fur coats worn by the Canadiens as they gather around their “simpering stoves,” but most obscurely worded.


how few the number tells Following as it does a reference to French Canadian illiteracy, this difficult phrase may refer to their equivalent ignorance of basic arithmetic.


cariole “A light, open sleigh, drawn by horses or dogs, carrying one or two passengers and a driver” (Colombo’s Canadian References [Toronto, New York: Oxford, 1976], p. 94).


prostrate to adore O’Grady’s language reveals a typical Protestant distaste for the idolatry supposedly innate to the Catholic form of worship.


pageant boards The ‘board” is, poetically, the table laid for a feast, and the “boards” are, historically, the planks of a stage, hence metaphorically the stage itself. But why either of these ought to have been “press’t” with “pillows” is a mystery. O’Grady refers to the all-night revels of the French Canadians, and rather mixes his metaphors in the midst of his distaste.


like Indian race That is, with a central fire in their dwelling, and in clouds of interior smoke.


Thus plot rebellion O’Grady cannot resist another chance to slam the “inherent” disloyalty of the French Canadians, and to exult in the British victory over them, even though the immediate context is not political but [page 172] social and cultural.

wrongs As above at 1497, O’Grady caustically suggests that the “wrongs” suffered by the French Canadians were merely the imaginations of Papineau turned public and violent.

ill the toil repays O’Grady may speak from personal experience, for he too might have had to clear his land before attempting to farm it, unless he had purchased the already-worked land of another emigrant. William Watson, in The Emigrant’s Guide to the Canadas, says that “an American or Canadian, who is expert with the Axe, will in Eight days cut the Timber of an Acre…”(p.15). One wonders what a sixty-year-old Irishman who had never held an axe would manage in the same eight days.


O’Grady now returns to the Irish theme. At this point in The Emigrant, the complete absence of a governing intention is evident. The poem has become a random collection of O’Grady’s thoughts and sentiments, and he has abandoned all pretence of maintaining poetic order or regularity.


bigot Used in the older religious, not the present racial, sense: one who is intolerantly attached to a particular dogmas or creed.


democrats The word is used sarcastically.


Rockite The followers of “Captain Rock,” a composite mythical terrorist who led bands of Irish Catholics in acts of violence against tithe-collectors, Protestant land-owners and so on. The leaders of these bands would refer to themselves as “Captain Rock,” a kind of collective pseudonym, and the threatening proclamations of the bands would be signed with his stark and terrifying name.


my stately dome Probably a poeticism (Latin, domus: house), but if O’Grady was connected to the O’Gradys of Kilballyowen, he would indeed have childhood memories of a very imposing manor.


Here, as the ice-bound rivers The ensuing passage begins with “Here” to enforce a contrast between the lost “stately dome” and the present situation.  But O’Grady’s fuddled focus takes off on a new tangential description of “Here” which has nothing to do with his apparent purpose. Eventually a skilful “Pilot” will be required to deal with the river’s ice-flows, and O’Grady will then lament his country’s lack of such a “Pilot” for its political voyage, but this feels like bad stitching after a temporary loss of warp and woof.


a fadeless line imbue Reveal a ridge of ice imbued with various shade and light (?)


their waters never mix The fascination that this image held for O’Grady may be shared if we take it as a symbol of the persistent dualism of The Emigrant: as Ireland and the Canadas cannot mix, as emigration-narrative and imaginative re-creation cannot mix, as O’Grady the gentleman and the farmer cannot mix, as iambic pentameter and bitter personal experience cannot mix, so the waters of the Richelieu and the Saint Lawrence flow on side by side, [page 173] forming a single river but very apparently incompatible with one another.  


Richelieu A major tributary emptying into the lower Saint Lawrence from the South Shore, near Sorel.


the sainted river The Saint Lawrence.


chid Chided.


Effulgent Brilliant, shining.


Notice that the lines take an extra iamb to form alexandrines.


the pilot boat The “pilot boat” suggests, again, that we are back on board ship, but the narrative support for this is minimal; see above, 1615, where O’Grady claims to “brave the ocean’s breast” once more. Since he refuses to provide particulars, the voyage has a highly literary quality, and seems to be one of O’Grady’s efforts to regain the narrative context of his poem.


duteous to command Obedient, dutiful.


O’Grady’s sentence alignment falters here, but he means that if the Irish resentment of British administration had been responded to with gentle appeasements, then the various rebellions in the country (with probably emphasis on those with which Emmet was involved, in 1798 and 1803) would not have occurred.


more happiness It is now apparently better to be poor in Canada than in Ireland; cf. 1125, where the poet urges the Irish to “keep your hardy venturous sons at home.” O’Grady’s contradictions are increasingly evident. He will compound them yet again, when in 2100 he concludes that it is “Far better still to bear the ills we known”—that is, Irishmen should stay in Ireland. Clearly, the context of any particular Irish meditation determines its import, and O’Grady is entirely uncertain of the value of emigration.


the brave This phrase usually suggests “soldiers” or military heroes, but O’Grady may merely wish to identify himself as one of the old brand of Irishman, now no more.


For what is name . . . ? “Name,” in this context, suggests “a name of note,” “a grand family name.” Is O’Grady hinting at his loosely aristocratic roots in Kilballyowen? Perhaps Standish O’Grady Bennett felt, upon arrival in the Canadas, that it might be to his advantage to drop his own surname and exploit the more powerful associations of his middle name, but quickly learned, to his dismay, that such an appeal to “name” made little difference to his Canadian fate.


new formed groups Each succeeding boat-load of emigrants merely makes “name” less and less important in the Canadas.


propagate Not literally, but metaphorically: our numbers increase.


We here return to the story of Sylvia and Alfred. The present passage describes the hovel in which they have been forced to live with their prodigious brood, and verse paragraphs that follow reveal that Alfred has died, and that Sylvia and the children are close to starvation. These romance [page 174] emigrants are now used to enforce O’Grady’s general theme: that the life of even the most idealized emigrant is one of inordinate hardship and cruelty. His return to them at this point betrays his creative uncertainty; having lost the thread of his original plan altogether, a set-piece presents itself as a final possibility for coherent narrative—whatever its irrelevancy to the present stage reached by the poem.


lave Wash, flow over—a conventional poeticism.


Observe the similarity of architecture between Sylvia’s mud hovel and the Irish hovels described in O’Grady’s Note 38. The poet’s attempt to create a setting of severe colonial poverty reflects, unconsciously I think, his ultimate fixation on his Irish experience.


its wintry charms suffice An ironic statement: the hovel has all the “wintry charms” it needs.


’Masca Yamaska, a small village slightly east of Sorel.


on the tops of trees Although O’Grady or the printer attached his Note 39 to this line, it is best explained by the first paragraph in his Note 40. The actual Note 39 supplied by O’Grady fits best with his (38)—at 1820 in the original—so I have removed the (39) altogether here, and changed the original (38) to (39)—a change corroborated by earlier emendations. I have left (40) where it is (1858) because the second paragraph of Note 40 refers to the sandy soil of Sorel, as does line 1858.


mean mortals well supply A subjunctive appeal to heaven, to “supply mean mortals well.” “Grant” in the next line is also subjunctive, and leads to O’Grady’s intended pun: “passages on high,” here referring to the snow-roads over the trees, also suggests the journey of immortal soul to heaven.


the artist hath no means Since the artist has no means of attaining poetic immortality in a land composed of “sand,” O’Grady ironically pleads with heaven  to give him some other means of attaining immortality, like a high road over “the tops of trees.”


I thought him so As before, O’Grady blends his narrative of “fact” with his narrative of “fiction” by thrusting his own experience through the borders of the set-piece. His participation is unnecessary, and may be the result of his typical need for self-assertion via romantic fictions.


Thus manufactured As described in the last paragraph in his Note 40. The original text’s assignment of (41) to this line is clearly an error; I have removed it and have arbitrarily placed it at the end of  the Sylvia-and-Alfred episode, as that seems to be the “episode” referred to in the Note.


orisons Prayers.


an accident might serve to tell That is, he had as much chance of finding her by accident as by information.


Three years . . . and seven Presumably a total of ten, but O’Grady’s [page 175] separation of the two figures is curious, apparently demanded by the scansion of the line.


For he got tidings O’Grady has not made it clear as yet, but this will prove to be Sylvia’s brother. Alfred’s sister had been told, we recall, so perhaps the brother interrogated her.


chid Chided.


habiliments Clothing.


Scotia’s rills Scotland’s streams. It is curious that an Irishwoman should now have her “native hills” (1895) in Scotland.


light raiment Unless O’Grady wishes to emphasize her poverty, this is odd winter wear.

She struggles with a memory (a “portrait”) of the face now before her.

Canova Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was a late neoclassical Italian sculptor. O’Grady’s next lines describe a statue of someone (presumably a woman, to complete the metaphoric relation to Sylvia) fixed in rapture as Christ is resurrected. The likely allusion is to Canova’s Pietà, in the Tempio in Possagno, one of his last works (1819-1821). In this bronze, Mary holds the reclining figure of the dead Christ in her arms a the foot of the Cross, turns her eyes up to heaven. It is possible, of course, that O’Grady has made his allusion ex nihilo, referring to a sculptor whose name had reached his ears but whose work he had never seen in person. If he had seen the Pietà, on the other hand, he must have made the European tour at some point in his life.


amaze Amazement.


As usual in O’Grady, Sylvia’s brother speaks without acknowledgement or quotation marks.


Sylvia speaks.


Here begins the vehicle of an enormous epic simile which the reader must be careful not to confuse with the narrative itself. Tom Farley in Exiles and Pioneers: Two Visions of Canada’s Future 1825-1975 (Ottawa: Borealis, 1976) was led by this passage to believe that Sylvia had died (p. 40). In fact it is only the “bride” in the simile who dies, as O’Grady makes clear in a bit of doggerel at 1957-1958. The vehicle of the simile only concludes with that doggerel, and after a digression on suicide prompted by the simile.


like Wallace bled William Wallace (1272-1305), Scottish chieftain and heroic opponent, with Robert Bruce, of Edward I’s plans for the suppression of Scotland. Cf. Robert Burns, “Scots Wha Hae,” 1: “Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled. . . .”


poignard Dagger. The Scottish chieftain kills himself after his wife has died of grief and joy.


condemn that creed Suicide was a crime in England until 1961; it remains a sin in Canon Law.

such fell deeds That is, is suicide a kind of courage? [page 176]

O’Grady’s suspicion that the coward in life and the suicide are equally unadmirable is in keeping with traditional arguments in defence of suicide; see S.E. Sprott’s The English Debate on Suicide From Donne to Hume (1961), especially pp. 109-116.


The whimsical tone of this return to his set-piece is strongly suggestive of an author uncertain of the direction of his poem.


With Alfred dead and Sylvia wrapped in winter’s misery, it is difficult not to sense an implicit moral in their story; O’Grady’s narrative appears to punish their filial disobedience and romantic willfulness. Sylvia’s later self-castigation (1997ff.) would not much please, one presumes, her dead Alfred.


Osmond speaks after “To whom.”


Was most thy crime Was your worst crime.


and if to love That is, “and if to love was your worst crime.”


importune Beg, insistently request.


Sylvia speaks from “Oh! That I could call . . . . ,” and continues until 2016.


Sylvia’s last words are curiously equivocal. She asks her brother to tell her of her father’s sufferings on her account, and where his “last contemplations dwell”, but she resists the idea of speaking to him herself, and never clearly assures Osmond that she intends to return with him. The uncertainty is probably O’Grady’s, and is in keeping with his ambivalence about emigration (see Introduction pp. liii-lvi).


the sun’s bright face / Should leave . . . O’Grady’s grammar is increasingly difficult. He means, of course, “As unexpected as the sun would be if it left. . . .”


As usual, O’Grady avoids all transition from the love story back to the main body of his poem, which now returns to its fragmentation. A tempest is the only sign of closure in the story.


Now headlong falls The fall of the squirrel may echo the famous “fall of the sparrow” in Matthew 10. 29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” That providential re-assurance seems unavailable to O’Grady, whose squirrel falls in a naturalistic wilderness with few spiritual reverberations.


the highest mast The highest tree. The nautical image reverberates hauntingly as O’Grady struggles to conclude a narrative that began with a similar storm, at sea, with a “rude sea-boy” clinging to “the highest mast” of the Ocean.


rill Stream.


brake Thicket, undergrowth.

by the tempest stayed The tempest has blown enough trees into the stream to form a dam.

all elements on fire The universality of this imagined conflagration gives to the end of The Emigrant an explosive discontinuity. As if to match the [page 177] fragmentation of his structure, O’Grady creates a last gigantic Canadian tempest to confound the various elements of his experience, to confuse wood with water and water with fire, and to put a convulsive period to his poem. The Emigrant coughs on for another hundred lines, but its inspiration has apparently been burnt away in the general confusion.


nor crave the stranger’s tear Unlike the squirrel and rook, who have somewhere to go after the destruction of their homes and hopes, the Emigrant has no one to whom to appeal, since “All fare alike” in this democratic land.


O’Grady’s typical dualism has survived: poetically he is starving for a “morsel of bread,” but in reality he has had friends to turn to.


and here let flattery paint no picture Is O’Grady aware of previous flattery, perhaps to Colborne, with whom he may have had no acquaintance, or perhaps to the O’Gradys of Kilballyowen, from whose neglect he had suffered?


Harrower There was a Robert Harrower living in Sorel in 1839, and serving as Justice of the Peace; probably he is O’Grady’s supporter.


ne’er studious to refine That is, naturally refined, without the artifice of refinement that one studies in the better circles.


Their safest guardian The lines suggest that Harrower has fought for the British, perhaps against the patriotes. If this was the case, he did so without recognition from the reference sources of today.


O, happy climes! These regions are difficult to identify. The repeated “eternal” of the ensuing lines suggests that we are in the Elysian fields or the Christian heaven, but “the tempered zone” of 2090 suggests something more mundane. The contrasting  “LowerProvince” of 2091 may suggest that the “happy climes” are those of Upper Canada, praised in O’Grady’s Preface. If so, this is an extremely prelapsarian version of Ontario.


Here begins O’Grady’s last address to “Erin.” As noted above, in the comment on 1821 and in the Introduction (pp. lv-lvi), he shifts his ground one more time in the ensuing lines: emigration is now to be avoided by Irishmen, since their government, however “factious” at present, may eventually mend their lot, making Ireland even more preferable to the hardships of Canada. The sad Utopianism of the passage reveals that O’Grady is quite unable to face the political realities that have enforced his own departure from Ireland.


better still to bear the ills we know Another borrowing from Hamlet: “ . . . rather bear those ills we have / Than fly to others that we know not of. . . .” (III, I, 81-82).


Molson’s John Molson (1763-1836), the Montreal brewer and financier, was from 1816 to 1820 a Member of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. In 1826 he became President of the nine-year-old Bank of Montreal, and in 1832 Member of the Legislative Council of Lower Canada.


Tate According to J. Douglas Borthwick’s History and Biographical [page 178] Gazetteer of Montreal to the Year 1892 (Montréal: Lovell, 1892), p. 458, a Thomas Tait was “one of the leading men” of the Eastern Townships, a part of rural Quebec to the near south of Sorel. No other “Tate” or “Tait” of significance is visible at the time.


Torrance Probably John Torrance (1786-1870), a Montreal entrepreneur and director of the Montreal and Quebec Steamboat Company.


The sudden return of the rook from the tempest creates an ironic and probably unintentional juxtaposition of his “contrast visage” with the faces of Lower Canada’s great men.


trump  Trumpet.


The severe sarcasm of these lines underscores the deep scarring of O’Grady’s sensibilities by his Canadian experience. That his “trusty steed” survived—“A Canadian stud horse,” as his Note tells us—suggests that he at least had the means of leaving Sorel, which he did not long after The Emigrant appeared.


the screaming orphan at the breast Presumably to provide milk, but whether to bovine or human child is unclear. Notice the echo of Sylvia’s most recent child, left “a burden on her breast” in 1966.


Diurnal By day and by night.


Rebellion raging Clearly it was not “raging” by the time O’Grady was writing, unless this last portion of The Emigrant was written first. This is probably just another random thought crowding in at the end of the poem as part of a desperate attempt to build to a peroration.


Mackenzie William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861). The Upper Canadian merchant and leader of the so-called “Farmers’ Revolt” of 1837 is included here with Papineau because of their coincident Rebellions in that year.

Gosford Archibald Acheson, the 2nd Earl of Gosford (1776-1849) and Governor-General of British North America (1835-1837), resigned on the eve of the Rebellions of 1837.

Durham John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham (1792-1840), British statesman, was in part responsible for the Reform Bill of 1832. Governor-General of Canada after the Rebellions, he was quickly recalled because of his clemency towards the rebels, which earned him the disdain of conservative English Canadian merchants. Durham was the nominal author of the famous Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839) that proposed a united and English assembly for Upper and Lower Canada (carried out in the Act of Union, 1841) as a means of assimilating the French Canadians and pre-empting nationalist sentiment in Lower Canada (and thus implying a strategy for the future Confederation of the colonies).


their absence best supplies Considering that Gosford and Durham are “chid” by “suffering Britons,” the regret expressed here for their “absence” is curious. Perhaps the sense is, “Their absence best supplies cheering hopes,” [page 179] or, alternatively, “Cheering hopes are best supplied by Colborne,” who will emerge by positive comparison in the next line. Ironically, Colborne was no longer in Canada when the lines appeared to the public in 1841.


In a desperate attempt at closure, O’Grady pays a last tribute to Colborne by likening him to General Wolfe. Notice that the line echoes almost exactly the last line of O’Grady’s song of tribute to the Glengarry Volunteers, included in his Note 28. Given the generally random and ill-conceived conclusion of The Emigrant, O’Grady may well have lifted the line from the earlier poem simply because it closed the poem enthusiastically. In fact The Emigrant breaks away into randomness and obscurity and has, in effect, no end. [page 180]


O’Grady’s Notes to The Emigrant


Note 2

latitat  “A writ which suppose the defendant to lie concealed, and which
summoned him to answer in the King’s Bench” (OED).
dernier resort   “Last resort; originally (in reference to legal jurisdiction) the last
tribunal or court to which appeal can be made; that which has the power of final decision; hence, a last or final resource or refuge” (OED).

Peter Pindar   John Wolcot (1738-1819), an English satiric poet.

Note 3

Curran   John Philpot Curran (1750-1817), Irish jurist and statesman, is
mentioned in connection with Robert Emmet in O’Grady’s Note 30 as “the immortal Curran.”
Lord Norbury   John Toler, Earl of Norbury (1745-1831), Chief Justice of Ireland
 (1800-1827), was notorious for his severe judgments and ignorance of the law.
white-boys   Loosely organized bands of Catholic males, ranging from common
 thugs to legitimate revolutionaries, who, with the “Rockites” mentioned later (1755, and O’Grady’s Note 34), presented a constant problem to  the British administrations of the late eighteenth century.
the ton   Literally, “the tone,” the thing to do in high society.
shielnygig  Curran’s pun must be based upon an Irish slang word (perhaps a
folk-spirit) like “Shinny-gig” or “Sheeny-gig,” but I have yet to find the term in any reference work of dialect or slang.
the late Earl of Clare   See note to 430.
permanent sergeant A sergeant whose rank is the result of a permanent

Note 4
Four Courts Marshalsea Dublin   The Four Courts are the buildings that
contain the Law Courts of Ireland. This magnificent neoclassical structure stands on the Liffey in Dublin, and was designed by James Gandon. The reference to “Marshalsea” conjoined in a puzzle. Marshalsea Prison was one of the great debtor’s prisons, in Southwark, England, not far from the Thames. Perhaps O’Grady is referring metaphorically to a similar debtors’ prison in Dublin. In any case his patching together of the two references is inexplicable; his “vide” suggests that he is referring us to a book or legal authority, but no such reference has been found. [page 181]


Note 5
the legislative union   See note to 349ff., above.

the last Irish Chancellor   That is, the last intended to hold the office “for life”—a
practice that ended with the Act of Union.
The situation now   That is, the abrupt dismissal and appointment of Lords
Chancellors of Ireland.


Note 6
3rd of April, 1836   The records of the Ocean clearly show that O’Grady sailed

on April 8. Either his manuscript “8” was mistaken for a “3,” and a likely enough error, or he boarded the ship on the 3rd but was held in harbour until the 8th, a not uncommon inconvenience of trans-Atlantic travel at the time. See the Introduction, note 2.
commanded by brothers   O’Grady is quite correct: the Ocean and the
Bolivar were commanded by the Bellard brothers of Waterford, the former ship sailing for W.Price and Co. with thirty-five emigrants, the latter for Nelson and Jones, both shipping firms of Waterford.


Note 8
a grant of twenty millions   Made in 1833, coinciding with the so-called “Tithe

wars” in Ireland, when groups of Catholic peasants refused en masse and with violence to pay their taxes to the Protestant Church of Ireland; the coincidence of the two incidents brings out some unpleasant racist rhetoric in O’Grady, who felt himself hard done by.
one half million  For the loan itself, see the Introduction, pp. xvii-xviii; govern-
ment records indicate that the amount advanced was actually one million pounds.
£382 currency   In fact Standish O’Grady Bennett claimed, in his application for
assistance, tithe-arrears of £405 14s.. Perhaps from the time of his application to that of the present Note he had managed to collect the £23 discrepancy. He received £301 11s. 1d. from the government fund.


Note 11
Duke of BedfordSee note to 432, above.
the ablest minister   Probably William Pitt the Younger, the Prime Minister who

enacted the Act of Union (see note to 422). Castlereagh (see note to 414), who was the instrumental force behind the passage of the Bill, is treated so venomously by O’Grady in the poem itself that he cannot be intended here.
a French invasion   The United Irish rebels of 1798 had sought the military
 support of Revolutionary France, and twice an expeditionary naval force from France had failed to make a successful landing on Irish soil. The horror of this possibility leads O’Grady, in the present Note, to look more favourably on the Act of Union than at any other point in The Emigrant. [page 182]
Sir Robert Peel   See note to 428-429, above.
the proud banners of BritainSince the poem itself calls for “just repeal” and
makes clear its distaste for the legislative union, O’Grady’s conclusion here is a complete about-face. He probably never resolved the issue in his own mind. As remarked in the note to 349ff., Protestant Irishmen resented the amalgamation of the parliaments but desperately feared any Repeal of the Act of Union arising from Catholic demands for political power.


Note 16
the Gros Riviere   The Big River—sometimes “Le Gros Rivière des

 Iroquois”—the first name given to the Saint Lawrence by French explorers of the sixteenth century.
Saint Lawrence, not Sint Lawrence   The relation between this anecdote and
the naming of the river is lost on the present editor. Nor can I find any evidence of “Sint Lawrence” as a former name. Perhaps an ironic joke about the pronunciation of “Saint” by stuffy English colonists? Or possibly the author, correcting his page proofs, wrote in the margin at this point to correct an error of spelling, “Saint Lawrence, not Sint Lawrence,” and the luckless compositor included the whole note into the corrected proof?


Note 17
the fair reader   This phrase, also used in 651, constitutes O’Grady’s only

postulation of a female audience, brought about by his digression into  matters of romance.
Come with me and we will rove   Perhaps an echo of Christopher Marlowe’s
“The Passionate Shepherd To His Love,” 1: “Come with me, and be my love. . . .” Much of Alfred’s poem is apparently influenced by Marlowe’s.


Note 18
two mountains   If O’Grady literally means the Gulf, he may be referring to the

Cape Breton Highlands on his left hand and the Long Range Mountains of south-western Newfoundland on his right; however, if he means the Saint Lawrence River, he may have in mind Mont-Jacques-Cartier and Mont-Barn in the Gaspé, which would be to his left, side by side.


Note 20
Edward Nagle   See the note to 816, above.

Note 22

Sullivan   See the note to 830, above.
music be the food of love   See Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, I, i, 1.
Miss Waller   As noted in the Introduction p. xxiii, Viscount Guillamore, probably

a [page 183] distant relation of the poet, married a “Miss Waller.” The Waller family was prominent and prolific at the time, so this coincidence of surnames is intriguing at best, but it does suggest that O’Grady moved in circles familiar to the most notable members of the O’Grady family.


Note 23
King Brien Borumbe   More accurately, Brien Boroimhe; more commonly,

Brian Boru, Irish king of the eleventh century.


Note 24
The monument of General BrockSee the note to 966, above.

Note 25

the retaliation of our Indian allies   The thirst of England’s Indian allies for

revenge against the American enemy, usually exaggerated by American propaganda and in fact much restrained by the powerful example of Tecumseh, often shocked British public opinion, but did nothing to prevent the use and usefulness of the Indians in the War of 1812. American militiamen had severely mistreated Indian prisoners for the past several decades, and thus confirmed, if not actually initiated, the exchange of savagery between the two peoples.

Mr. Whitbread   See the note to 968, above.

Note 26
The present Mayor   Peter McGill (1789-1860), Mayor of Montreal from 1840

to 1842. A merchant and President of the Bank of Montreal (1834-1860), he was born Peter McCutcheon, but changed his surname in compliance with the terms of a will of which he was chief beneficiary.
little commiseration for the indigent   A direct contradiction of O’Grady’s
earlier claim that “donations are likewise distributed to support the indigent.”
a middling competency   O’Grady’s reference in Note 8 to his arrival in
Canada with a “small competency” suggests that he may be referring to his own class in this statement: certainly the disastrous results awaiting such emigrants match his own apparent experiences.


Note 28
the Glengarry Volunteers   See the note to 1450, above.
The Thistle, Shamrock, Rose uniting O’Grady anticipates in this line

Alexander Muir’s “The Maple Leaf Forever” of 1867, with its refrain, “The Thistle, Shamrock, Rose entwine / The Maple Leaf forever!” The expression, however, was probably proverbial in the early nineteenth century. The Great Seal of Lower Canada had included these symbols of Scotland, [page 184] Ireland and England since 1828, that of Upper Canada since 1817. Muir need not therefore have been a reader of O’Grady.
Whilst Wolfe in Colborne still survives   For Wolfe and Colborne, see the
notes to 914 and 1171, above. As already observed, this line of the Note’s poem is borrowed for the poem’s conclusion (2160).


Note 30
Robert Emmet   Irish patriot (1778-1803). Emmet was not a leader of the

Rebellion of 1798, although he was implicated in it and thus left Trinity College, Dublin to pre-empt his inevitable expulsion. His own rebellion took place in 1803, as a result of which he was executed. For Curran, see the note to Note 3, above. This Note is crucial to the identification of the poet: see the Introduction, pp. xii-xiii.

Vide Sketchbook, written by WashingtonIrvingSee the note to 1519, above.

Note 31
Carter and Mignault   For Carter, see the note to 1554, above. Of a Doctor

Mignault in Sorel I can find no record. Nor doe the phrase “Faculty of Sorel” relate to an academy or college of the period; O’Grady simply uses the word “faculty” to refer loosely to the medical establishment of the town.
slew a whole nation of vermin   Popular legend supposed that Saint Patrick’s
mission to Ireland was inaugurated by his casting out of all the serpents of the Island.


Note 33
The valiant De Courcy   This epic figure is apparently an ancestor not only of

the DeCourcy family (of which the Barons Kingsale are the head) but
also of an extensive antiquity, I will make no effort to particularize O’Grady’s reference. The story of his particular De Courcy clearly echoes the tales of “the sword in the stone” associated with Arthur and with Galahad, and probably has no relation to history. O’Grady’s haphazard punctuation makes it uncertain whether “of Kilballyowen” in the second line modifies “the present O’Grady” or “The valiant De Courcy,” but only the former would have the family seat there. The DeCourcy-O’Grady marriage did not take place until 1751.
the present O’Grady   When O’Grady was writing, “the present O’Grady” was
one Gerald DeCourcy O’Grady II (1795-1862), so named because his grandmother had been a Miss DeCourcy, daughter of the 24th Baron Kingsale. If the paternity of Standish O’Grady Bennett offered in the Introduction is correct, “the present O’Grady” would have been our poet’s second cousin. [page 185]


Note 34
Chief Baron O’Grady   Standish O’Grady, Baron O’Grady of Rockbarton and

Viscount  Guillamore of Cahir Guillamore (1766-1840), famous pros-ecutor of Robert Emmet; for whom see the Introduction, pp. xx-xxi, xxiii. If, again, our poet was the son of James Bennett, Esquire, he would have been Viscount Guillamore’s second cousin once removed.  O’Grady’s references to Guillamore are professional rather than intimate, but an intimate of the family would no doubt feel it impolitic to be too personal in his reminiscences of the great man.
the ends of justice    Note the distinct similarity between this anecdote and the
story of Sylvia  and Alfred in the poem. O’Grady’s creativity found part-icular inspiration in stories of foiled love set right by an intervening Providence.
Baron Smith    Sir William Cusack Smith (1766-1836), Irish judge and Chief
Baron of the Exchequer.
Judge Traverse  Unidentified.
the year of Captain Rock  For “Captain Rock,” see 1755 and note. No
ular year may be associated with the Rockite activities. Their violence spread through the period from the late eighteenth century to about 1835, and persisted in the form of the “Ribbonmen” after that.
O, thogume Smith . . . For a translation of the phrase, see below in O’Grady’s
Chief Baron Yelverton   Barry Yelverton, Baron Yelverton and Lord Avenmore
(1736-1805), predecessor of Standish O’Grady as Lord Chief Baron of Ireland.
Buckly Yelverton’s teacher had in fact been a Mr. Buck, not Buckly. Interestingly
enough, Standish O’Grady Bennett’s teacher had been a Mr. Buckley. The slip here is further evidence, albeit slight, that our poet was indeed Standish O’Grady Bennett, and that Bennett grew up near the O’Grady seat at Kilballyowen, since this Mr. Buckly taught near Kilmallock, as the Note goes on to make clear.
Kilmallock   Kilmallock, County Limerick, the nearest town to Kilballyowen, the
 seat of the O’Grady family; O’Grady’s familiarity with the site of Kilmallock is further evidence of his acquaintance with the family.
Deus nobis haec otia fecit   Virgil, Eclogues, I, 6: “A God gave us this peace.”
a sizarship  An endowed place for the poor scholar.
Inveni portum, Spes et Fortuna valete!   In the original text, printed as “Invini
portum spes atque fortuna valete.” Unlikely as a typographical error, the Latin slip-up is probably O’Grady’s. The line means “I have reached the harbour; Hope and Fortune, farewell!” These words are inscribed on the tomb of Francesco Pucci in the Church of Saint Onofrio in Rome, and  were borrowed by Robert Burton for the Anatomy of Melancholy (1651),  II, iii, mem. vi. Burton quotes Prudentius for the line; but Le Sage, who used to close his Gil Blas (1715-1735), attributes it to a Cardinal La Marck. The [page 186] epitaph is also attributed to one Janus Pannonius, by the Home Book of Quotations (1967).
time or tide wait for no man   A commonplace with many users; the closest
source is Robert Greene’s, in his Disputations (1592): “Time nor tide tarrieth no man.”
there is a tide in the affairs of men   Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, IV, iii, 217.


Note 35
Canadian character and customs   O’Grady’s attitude to the French Canadians

is typically ambivalent: he clearly approves of the simplicity of their lives  and their low expectations of social advancement, he seems to be fond of a society where “fortune is never a consideration,” and he notes their “love of society” with evident warmth; but he despises their methods of fighting one another, mocks their simplicity in front of a perspective-machine, and thinks of them as on a par with “domesticated animals.” Some such mixture of affection and distaste may have characterized his response to the Irish Catholics of his per-emigrant days, and been imported for use in this description of French Catholic life in Lower Canada. 


Note 37
Lake Saint Peter   Lac Saint-Pierre, a sudden widening of the Saint Lawrence

into a “lake” downstream from Sorel.


Note 38
Theopholus O’Flanagan   A scholar of this name enrolled at Trinity College,

Dublin, in 1784, aged 24 (Alumni Dublinenses).
the Gaelic Society   This Dublin group was short-lived; their Transactions
(incorrectly referred to by O’Grady as the Translations) ceased publication after the first volume.
Derdri (not Dartula)   Irish heroine of myth; subject of one of Yeats’s plays
(Deirdre, [1907]). She was called “Dar-thula” by James Macpherson, supposed translator of “Ossian” (Oisin), Irish epic poet, in the eighteenth century (see the note to 841-854, above).
the learned Mr. Leaky   Unidentified; neither the National Union Catalogue nor
the British Museum Catalogue includes a “Mr Leaky” (nor a “Leakey,” “Leackey,” “Leacky,” “Leckie,” “Lecky”) who translated Irish tales at the appropriate period.
three brave sons of Usnagh   A brief sketch of this famous Irish tale will assist

O’Grady’s reader. Derdri before her birth is the subject of Druidic prophecy: she will be intensely beautiful and will be the source of much pain to heroes and kings alike. The King, Conor (or Conchobar), “Nessa’s son,” orders that she be placed with foster-parents and kept from prying [page 187] eyes, but she herself grows up to make prophecies of the character and look of her husband-to-be. When she hears of Naisi (or Naoise), son of Usnagh (or Usnach or Usna), she recognizes the man of her prophecy, and so escapes and travels to his fortification at Emain Macha (“Emman’s plain”). Conor’s wrath at her falling in love leads Naisi and Derdri (and his brothers Ardan and Andle, or Ainnle) to flee to, variously, the kingdom of Scotland or “Alba.” There they serve the king and become his favourites, until word of Derdri’s beauty reaches the local King and he falls violently in love with her. They flee once more, to a lonely island, whence Conor has news of them. He sends the hero Fergus to make peace with them and bring them back to his court; Fergus pledges their safe-conduct with his honour, but he has made another vow never to refuse a proffered feast, and so he is easily diverted by an ally of Conor’s who spreads a banquet for the hero. Thus Derdri and Naisi arrive alone and unprotected from the evil of Conor. Derdri has premonitions of Conor’s treachery, but the brothers will not listen to her, and present themselves to the King. He has them beheaded immediately, and (in most versions) Derdri swoons to death the moment Naisi dies. In O’Grady’s version Derdri lingers long enough to sing this song of reproach to Conor.

to soothe her   That is, Derdri.
the protracted war in EnglandThe wars with Revolutionary France and with
Napoleon (1793-1815).
having disguised myself   This is a tantalizing reference. The disguise was

probably made necessary, not by any dramatic notoriety of the poet but because he was a tithe-holder among Catholics. Such visitors often lost their ears, their wallets and their lives. The poet’s slipping away from the sailors after their applause makes it very clear that he does not want to risk being recognized, and not only out of a sense of social propriety.

Rodney   George Bridges Rodney, Baron Rodney (1719-1792), British
Admiral, present at the relief of Gibraltar in 1759.
Howe   Richard Howe, Earl Howe (1726-1799), Admiral of the Fleet, primarily

active against the American rebels in the Revolutionary War, but also relieved Gibraltar in 1782 from Spanish French blockades.

Jervis   John Jervis, Earl of Saint-Vincent (1735-1823), British Admiral, present
at the first, second and third Reliefs of Gibraltar (1780-1782).
Bridport   Alexander Hood, Viscount Bridport (1727-1814), British Admiral,

present at the Relief of Gibraltar in 1782, and protector of the Channel in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with France.

Duncan Adam Duncan, Viscount Duncan (1731-1804), British Admiral and

participant in the Relief of Gibraltar in 1782. [page 188]

Gibraltar Various British naval expeditions were necessary to secure and

protect Gibraltar. O’Grady probably refers to the famous Siege of Gibraltar by the Spanish and French from 1779 to 1783. The enemy fleets blockaded the Cape, and the British navy sailed repeatedly to the rescue during the Siege, with notable victories in 1780, 1781 and 1782 (the First, Second and Third Reliefs of Gibraltar).

achma   The acme, the high point.
The recent elections in Ireland   A reference either to the victory of Sir Robert

Peel and his newly dubbed “Conservative” party in 1841, or to the municipal elections in Ireland in the same year, which made Daniel O’Connell, Catholic champion and spokesman of the forces for Repeal of the Act of Union, the first Roman Catholic Lord Mayor of Dublin. Given the tone of Note 11, in which O’Grady’s admiration of Peel seems clear, the latter election would have nettled the poet most. Yet typically, O’Grady expresses some distaste for Peel at 428-429.

forty shilling suffrage   The amount of rent paid by a tenant determined his right

to vote. In 1829 the amount was raised from forty shillings to £10, thus disenfranchising large numbers of rural tenants whose votes had traditionally been manipulated by their landlords. The change was intended to correct an abuse, but it had the effect of disenfranchising large number of voters and was extremely unpopular in Ireland.


Note 40
The first paragraph of this note is more appropriate to 1852, which originally

received (39)—now removed. The second paragraph is properly explicative of the liens indicated by (40) in the present text. And the third paragraph is appropriate to line 1870, which was given (41) in the   original text (now removed). The passage indicated by the original (41) in  the present text to the end of the “episode” of Sylvia and Alfred, which O’Grady apparently intended to continue in later Cantos of The Emigrant.

Note 42

The “Shanty Song” which follows his Note has no relation to it; belongs properly
with the “Miscellaneous Poems” with which O’Grady filled the last twelve pages of his volume. Because he or his printer included it in the Notes,  however, probably to fill up his final page, I have included it for curiosity’s sake. [page 189]