The Poetical Review: A Brief Notice of Canadian Poets and Poetry

by A. C. Stewart
(Introduced by D. M. R. Bentley)

     Under the name of Alexander Charles Stewart (1867-1944) in the “Scholarship” section of Watters’ Checklist of Canadian Literature and Background Materials, 1628-1960 (2nd. ed., 1972), there occurs the following entry:  THE POETICAL REVIEW.  A Brief Notice of Canadian Poets and Poetry.   Toronto, Anderson, 1896. 24p.  But this work, for which Watters lists only one location, the Toronto Public Library, is not a work of “scholarship” in the usual meaning of that word; rather, it is a satirical poem with some highly amusing, critical, and, occasionally, laudatory things to say about many of the major and minor Canadian poets of the day:  Roberts, Carman, Campbell, Lampman, the two Scotts, Crawford, McLachlan, and several others.  With its waspish attacks on the poets whom Stewart considered to be mere “scribblers” and “rhymers,” and its invocation of Pope as “no painter but a prophet,” The Poetical Review might seem a likely candidate for the title ‘the Canadian Dunciad’ if it were not for the fact that Stewart is no Pope and his victims no dunces. The Poetical Review deserves to be better known, however, and it is for this reason that it is reprinted here in full.

     One need go no further than the “Poetry” and “Fiction” sections of Watters’ Checklist to ascertain that Alexander Charles Stewart was himself the author of several volumes of verse, all published between 1890 and the end of the First World War, and of one work of fiction entitled The Discard, published in Toronto in 1919.  Neither is biographical information about him difficult to find.  W. Stewart Wallace’s Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (3rd. ed., 1963) describes Stewart as a “contractor and poet” who was born on August 16, 1867 in County Down, Ireland — a fact which may explain his fulsome references to the “little isle” and the “Irish race” in The Poetical Review Apparently Stewart “came to Canada when a small child,  and was educated in Pickering township, Ontario.”  “He became a tunnel and bridge contractor at Fort William, Ontario,” his biography continues, “and in the intervals of contracting he wrote poetry.  He died at Port Dover, Ontario, on June 12, 1944.”  Since Stewart lived well into the 1940’s it is intriguing to wonder whether he might have read the satirical poems of F.R. Scott and, indeed, to wonder whether Scott, whose father was one of Stewart’s targets, might have read The Poetical Review.

     As Stewart’s “Preface” states, The Poetical Review was occasioned by the reissuing in 1892, of W.D. Lighthall’s Songs of the Great Dominion (1899) under the title of Canadian Poems and Songs. This volume, in Stewart’s view, “contains so much ridiculous and absurd jingle that the few bright pages it contains are completely obscured.”  To Stewart the jinglers and obscurers are the major ‘Confederation’ poets and a host of minor ones.  In the course of his satirical Review he therefore roundly condemns, not only the “ranting hardship” F.G. Scott and the “specious phrase” of D.C. Scott, but also the “tantramarian nonsense” of Roberts, the “high-tidal verse” of Carman, and the “Tennysonian rant” of Campbell, not to mention the verses of such as Nicholas Flood Davin and Agnes Maule Machar.  Less harshly treated is Lampman who, Stewart opines, “shall outgrow his present rhyme, / And soar to stellar heights sublime. . . .”  Stewart reserves his most unmitigated praise, however, for Crawford, MacLachlan, Pauline Johnson, and his fellow Irishman Thomas D’Arcy McGee.  His championship of these writers is interesting for revealing his tendency, not just to inveigh against those poets whose reputations he considered to be inflated, but to illuminate what he perceived to be the “bright pages” of Lighthall’s anthology with the warm light of praise.

     Poets and poetry are not the only subjects of The Poetical Review, however; towards the end of his satire Stewart moves away from a consideration of the writers in Canadian Poems and Songs to attack the follies and vices of the Canadian literary and political milieux.  Two periodicals, The Week, which, not fortuitously, was edited for a brief period at its inception by Roberts, and Grip, the Canadian equivalent of Punch, are pilloried by Stewart, the former for allowing itself to be perverted and debased by a variety of literary follies and the latter, less severely, for failing to halt the progress of vice in the political arena.  The vision offered by Stewart towards the end of The Poetical Review is of a Canada which, following the era of Mackenzie and MacDonald, has “fallen on evil days.”  Against the political cartoonist, Bengough, who stands on the side of Virtue and “bears a liberal untarnished name” Stewart places “convicted Vice” with the “brazen face” of Thomas McGreevy, the Quebec building contractor and Member of Parliament, who was imprisoned in 1894 for his part in the McGreevy-Langevin scandal but was re-elected to the House of Commons in 1895.   “When such as this is borne without rebuke,” says Stewart, “Dark may the patriot on the future look. . . .”  But Stewart’s vision of Canada’s future is not unrelievedly dark for he looks forward to the time when “Justice at length will surely punish crime. . . .”  “Sacred Truth,” states Stewart, is “immortal still” and “Time” — no doubt with the help of satirists such as himself — will strip “the gilding from emblazoned ill.

     Like all good satirists, Stewart’s aim in The Poetical Review is twofold:  to expose and deride folly and vice and to point the way to corrective action.  Towards the end of the poem Stewart is at pains to establish his satirists’s credentials — to affirm that he is not seeking “a Government reward” for himself and to point out, in the last of his many notes (all of which are integral to the poem), that, while “nearly all our bards occupy positions where Government salaries prevent them speaking,” he himself is “free and will so remain.”  (Perhaps it was Lampman’s ability to express his social and political disaffection in poems such as “To a Millionaire” and “The Modern Politician,” published in The Week in November, 1894 which pace his job in the Post Office, served partly to redeem hid Stewart’s eyes.)  Consistent with the second of the satirist’s aims, to point the way towards corrective action, and consistent with his own estimate of himself as the free servant of “truth and integrity.”  Stewart closes The Poetical Review with two paragraphs of constructive and moralistic “advice” to Canada’s “bards,” advice to abandon “mists and frogs. / Lakes, Loons, Injuns and Acadian bogs,” to leave

            . . . these and kindred themes,
            Your crude philosophy and petty dreams:
            Leave Southern critics to their native songs
            And homage yield where loyalty belongs —
            Content to win your native land’s applause,
            Toil for her glory and support her laws.

It is advice with a curiously modern flavour.

*     *     *

     For the present reprinting, Stewart’s footnotes have been consecutively numbered, and punctuation has occasionally been altered when required by the sense, and typographical errors have been corrected.

by A. C. Stewart

The Rhymers and the Critics then
Leagued in one common cause,
Fell madly on the
bard to prove,
How true his satire was.

The Critic drewe his weapon keene,
And spurred right gallantlie
And though I did not frighten him
He did not frighten me.

*     *     *

When bards unto their noblest rise
scorn the schemes which advertise;
Trust us,
ye poets, we are true;
And in your noblest one with you


That Languishing Cause
The Regeneration of Canadian Poetry

Canadian Bards
If they are True to Themselves and as Lucid in the Future
as they have been Tumid in the Past
will take to be
the Reason of Existence of this Momento


to the Reclamation of Those Scribblers in the
Service of Folly

This Book is

Lighthalls, Dedication improved


     The objects in publishing this memorial are:

     FIRST — To show that the interest in Canadian Poetry is not (as some  of our scribblers complain) dead, but on the contrary, very much alive.

     SECOND — To prove to the self-elected synod of rhymers that their doctrine is a crude and fallacious superstition believed in by no one save themselves.

     THIRD — To inform the said synod that the world fails to weep when its august head, Mr. Roberts, succumbs to poetical hysterics at the sight of a  pumpkin, which, if calmly considered, can in nowise be asserted even by a Professor, to “Rival the Unrisen Sun.

     FOURTH — To notify all and sundry of that honorable body that this  country utterly refuses to endorse nonsense, even should the writers thereof  carry into effect, the harrowing threat, to leave their native land unless the people will read their rubbish.

     FIFTH — That no amount of newspaper controversy can make their productions sell.

     SIXTH AND LAST — That Poets and Poetry have not sunk as yet to that commercial basis above which rhymers have never risen.

     A few explanations are now necessary — The authors immediately under review are those who willingly, or unwillingly, contributed to Lighthall’s compilation, published under the title of “Canadian Poems and Songs in 1892,” London, Walter Scott; Toronto, W.J. Gage, & Co.

     This volume contains so much ridiculous and absurd jingle that the few bright pages it contains are completely obscured.  The general idea prevailing in the Editor’s mind was evidently to draw his selections from those who occupied semi-eminent positions throughout the country, he doubtless thought that the ability of his authors in other walks of life would excuse the wretchedness of their rhyming capacities, while their many friends combined with the excellent binding of the volume would make it a comparatively safe financial speculation.  Of course he used many of the old advertising catches such as patriotism, national life, federation, etc., and the materials combined are in effect a lilliputian tower of Babel.  He arrogates to himself a kind of Divine right as to what is, and what is not poetry; but nothing further is needed to prove the fallacy of his judgment than the compilation that he made.

     It may be claimed that some of the authors mentioned are unjustly treated, but if they had placed much value on their reputation they should have shunned such evil company.

     Meantime if any author satisfactorily proves a forced presence in Lighthall’s volume we will omit him in the next edition in which also we will make addition of those disciples of folly who may consider themselves un justly omitted in this.

Toronto, January 20th, 1896

The Poetical Review

            Oh Shades of Genius in that hoary pile!1
                  The proud possession of our parent Isle,
            Whose dust shall sanctify that spot of earth
                  When time shall give new tongues and empires birth.
            Oh Genius of the isle that nursed our sires!
                  Ye who awakened those immortal lyres 
            Your son who doth revere each hallow’d name,
                  Part of your fond impassion’d fire would claim.

            Is it too much I ask, ye glorious dead?
                  Is all that godlike inspiration fled?
            Must we your sons a lower mean pursue
                  Nor hope to scale the heights our fathers knew?
            Proud of our country, lineage, and name, —
                  May we not hope to emulate your fame?
            And following your footsteps as we ought
                  Obey those precepts you yourselves have taught,
            Yes we may write, although our prosy age,
                  Show not the fire of your immortal page
            Our Muse, alas! may not such strength display,
                  Yet is she worthy this degenerate day.

            Hail, Vice and Folly! you have flourish’d long
                  Twin monarchs of the realms of Law and Song
            Before your throne behold what subjects kneel
                  All anxious to applaud and show their zeal;
            The honored Statesman, Counsels, learned-profound,
                  The worship’d Judge immaculately gowned,
            The trimming Editor, Politic Bard,
                  Whose inspiration needs must claim reward.
            And lo, Religion leaves her high resource
                  To try conclusions in the realms of Force
            The cassock’d devotee with face severe
                  On this arena meets opposing peer;
            In hate arrayed their battle flag unfurl’d,
                  Themselves expose before the jeering world
            But not for me in stem relentless verse
                  To satirize the high religious farce2
            Leave it to die with all the woe it made
                  Guilt, crime and bloodshed, and men’s soul’s betrayed.

            A more immediate theme my muse is thine
                  The poetaster’s poem and scribbler’s line
            The jingling lawyer poetizing clerk
                  And self-applauded bard shall furnish work;
            Here shall they find that fame most justly due
                  Nor be the author of their own review.3
            These Heliconian drunks who vomit rhyme
                  And then applaud it as a thing sublime.

            Attorney Lighthall,4 what a task was thine!
                  To print thy samples far across the brine,
            Raked from each dusty, long forgotten nook,
                  The precious verses swell and form a book;
            A book ye gods! well might old Europe stare,
                  At this collection of poetic ware.
            Haply for babes and sucklings formed to use
                  A glorious supplement to Mother Goose.

            ’Tis he, the author of the “Confused Dawn”
                  Sunk to the neck in literary spawn.
            Compiler, rhymer, author, advocate,
                  Writer of disquisitions on the State.
            Analyist, sketcher, and what not, — besides
                  Accoucher-general to the labouring scribes.
            ’Tis he inspired by drunken folly’s “pluck”,
                  Who, like his pioneer “took the axe and struck”,
            And hewed himself a literary sty
                  Where he and his shall unlamented die.5

            A traveller he in Venice, Florence, Rome,6
                  Yea raves of French fields mad with flowery foam.
            And Mighty Blanc he fears might homage pay,
                  In special robes persuading him to stay,
            Fear not; that mountain did not even pale,
                  When Coleridge sang in deep Chimouni’s vale;
            And greater bards have gazed in silent awe
                  While Blanc proved faithful to creation’s law;
            Then deem not — calm amid eternal snows —
                  A paltry lawyer shakes that deep repose.
            Would he had travelled to Parnassus height,
                  The Genii there had bid him cease to write,
            Or haply shipped him to the stygian shore,
                  Pluto had silenced him for evermore;

            Poor legal limb, devoid of sentiment,
                  Your law demands a motive and intent,
            These you possessed in naked innocence,
                  All that your doggerel lacks is common sense.

            Who first shall claim Attorney Lighthall’s praise?
                  Professor Roberts with his Grecian lays,
            Famed manufacturer both woof and warp
                  Of Mic Mac Hercules, the wond’rous Scarpe,7
            Whose power fantastic claimed no orphean lute
                  To fascinate and feed each savage brute;
            Wolf, panther, bear and rabbit, eagle all,
                  “In long row” marshalled at his magic call,
            While big with fate the prophet strides the shore,
                  As the inspired oft have done before;
            Once dined, they list a pro-ducalion speech
                  That evil utterly are all and each
            That he, the commisary, must depart
                  With other marvels of genetic art,

            Then, lo!  As Clote Scarpe sprites himself away
                  A second babel culminates the lay.8
            Yet this is not the mightiest of his strains
                  Nor lone abortion of his unclean9 brains
            Confederation Ode10 and do Collect,
                  Shall teach us how to pray and what respect
            While the dull humming of his tinsel song
                  Shall cheat the fools of literature along,
            If he must roam on classic westermorland,
                  If he must write of that immortal strand,
            And tantramarian nonsense turn his head,
                  None will complain if he will not be read.

            But his reserved the spoils of glory are,
                  The harnessed bards, draw his triumphal car,
            A stranger pageant than Rome ever knew
                  Here dazzling bursts on the astonished view, —
            Dost ask why he priority can claim;
                  Or exaltation of his unknown name,
            Why every rhymster poetaster bard;
                  Deem themselves honored thus to drag their lord,
            It is because like old imperial Rome,
                  Her second age of barbarism come

            Sunken to savage depths, the gothic rod, —
                  Sways in the stead of the Olympian god;
            He stands in Canada, without a peer,
                  That is if we must credit all we hear,
            If Roberts’ Jingle is the best and first,
                  Shield us ye powers from the last and worst.

            Famed, “intellectual race,” his sister too,
                  Has joined her efforts to the puling crew,
            And babbles trashy gush, at such a rate
                  As is but equalled by her brother’s prate.
            Her verse had “body” Lighthall says discreet,
                  But mentions nothing of its head or feet.

            Up from the marshes swells a loon-like cry,11
                  And cousin Stratton answers “Here am I.”
            He who untrammel’d with his flimsy line,
                  Flings his defiance, to the outraged nine
            And strong maintains, despite of friends or foes,
                  That rhyme improves when it is mixed with prose.
            Who read his “Dream Fulfilled” with broken heart
                  Acknowledge poetry a vanished art,
            His “silver frost” whose “gems of fire” glow12
                  Omits no colors that the dyers know,
            Yet not in vain, his compilation made, —
                   Twill serve as hand-book to the dyeing trade.

            A line for Carman, whose high-tidal verse,
                  Is slightly passionate to say no worse,
            And something foolish is his “long red swan,”13
                  That spectral bark which still keeps driving on,
            Why, Carman, let it serve its own behest,
                  It is not worthy of the wind you waste.

            Ah; mystic mourner all your barren dreams,
                  Are but the dregs of passion’s vanished gleams.
            How could you ever smile; and know your light
                  Was starlike shooting into murky night.
            All this abstract philosophy ne’er may
                  Content the heart that burns itself away
            Cease thy wild dreams of this you may be sure
                  Tis folly all, perhaps she was

            Yet Candor must confess thy rising strain
                  Shows power, thy cousins never shall attain,
            Thou hast the secret of the poet’s art
                  The first grand requisite, a human heart;
            Nor needst to mock the “In Memoriam” phrase
                  Though quite in line, these imitating days.

            Yet sternly just the candid muse must speak
                  Of those who sink to write their own critique,14
            This base resource, must stamp the poet’s name
                  That so descends with an undying shame,
            The mean attempt o’erwhelms them with scorn,
                  And proves such bards were for the bathos born,
            Who values such critiques when authors may
                  Tell the reviewer what his line shall say?
            And with a shameless brow indite such gush
                  As from a stranger ought to make them blush;
            Not all the applause of a crude scheme like this,
                  Can ever save their name from the abyss.
            Poor paltry souls yours is an awful curse,
                  The wild attempt to float a leaden verse.
            The monstrous toil proportions does essay,
                  To which the task of Sisyphus was play.
            Idle your efforts, all your labor vain,
                  Down it shall sink forever to remain.

            Hear sacred Campbell15 ranting as he takes
                  The churchman’s holiday upon the lakes,
            Devoid of heart, of soul, of common sense,
                  He makes at poetry a wild pretense,
            Unconscious quite, he loudly halts along
                  And deems his jingle constitutes a song.
            For him undoubtedly his “kettle sings”
                  Divinest music of divinest things,
            For his profession woe that such things be,
                  Limits the reverend gentleman to tea.16
            “Smile with the simple,” Garrick sang of yore,
                  And they obey him who read Campbell o’er.
            The “Poet of the Lakes” some wag once croaked
                  And Campbell wears nor deems the rascal joked;
            A “brutal” joke to use his favorite word,
                  Nothing in titles could be more absurd,
            His “North and Westward”17 ever shall remain
                   A cracked memento of his doting strain,
            A halting mimicked Tennysonian rant,
                  Without his vigor, but with all his cant;
            Behold his soldiers lie with folded arms, —
                  False picture this of thundering wars alarms,
            The leaden death leaves no such as these
                  Where men die racked with mortal agonies,
            Or fading swift the vital flood escapes
                  The quivering form, which writhes in hideous shapes,
            Here is no pause the glassy eye to close,
                  The living think alone of living foes,
            And rushing heed no comrade’s dying groan
                  When, the next moment, death may be their own.

            Next Scott,18 shall lay his dainty “Isabelle”
                  In sleep divine (perhaps hypnotic spell),
            Let him beware, the law is argus-eyed,
                  And specious phrase will save no rhymer’s hide
            The sleeping lady (if she ere awakes) —
                  May much resent the liberty he takes,
            Observe decorum Scott, what e’er you do,
                 And never stay beyond the hour of two.
            How e’er his sleeping “Isabelle” may pass,
                  If he will turn his pegasus to grass,
            That spavin’d jade, may well acquittance plead
                 And let him henceforth, mount the silent steed.

            Oh Scott! if thou would’st rise thy place resign,
                   He knows no master, who would woo the nine,
            No bond official should hold Freedom’s Bard,
                  Enough for him posterity’s reward.
            No poet ever lived, but sank to prose,
                  Beneath the chains that governments impose;
            Burns as exciseman, lost that gifted strain
                  Which lit his soul when furrowing the plain,
            And Wordsworth though his heights he never knew,
                  Sank to the bathos of the laureate too;
            Even Southey might have lived (at least in prose)
                  If he had still preserved his youthful foes,
            While Tennyson had reaped, as much of fame
                  Without Lord Laureate, added to his name.

            Enough of him behold the second Scott19
                  Another pearl of Lighthall’s sample lot,
            Whose “Wahonomin” makes the reader stare
                  To see the folly fondly garnered there,
            Where “buds of spring” their petals sweet disclose
                  Above the drift of “fifty winters” snows,20
            Where empires wide cause England’s throne to fly,
                  Above the clouded mountaintops so high,
            His necromancy makes the grasses wave,21
                  Despite of sense above the new-made grave,
            While presto change! and lo his magic spell
                  Transforms each heart into a “tolling bell.”
            He cannot plead the specious plea of youth,
                  So must prepare himself to hear the truth,
            By the Parnassian Nine it is decreed,
                  If he must write that he alone shall read.
            And never hence vend mutilated verse
                  Lest it return to him a sevenfold curse.

            How sweet to read Llewellyn’s22 holy verse,
                  To divers magazines it finds its course,
            Like paraphrases do his poems run,
                  Read backwards, forwards, and tis all as one,

            His Easter effort, something novel shows
                  An ode quite innocent of rhyme or prose,
            Yet let him rave his soul may reach the sky,
                  But with his body shall his verses die.
            Imrie23 and he shall hands seraphic join
                  And praise each other for a pious line;
            This latter shall produce his pasted24 praise,
                  And boast himself his fifteen hundred lays.
            Long may he lay and hatch them if he choose
                  They’ll ne’er produce him such another goose.
            He who can sing Toronto’s lovely bay
                  Ne’er shipped from Yonge St. in the month of May.
            What devil tempted him this theme to choose
                  Surely his ranting hardship has a nose,
            Yet for the man has nobly worked and striven
                  Depart in peace thy poems shall be forgiven.

            Lo! from the vasty deep, what cloth appear?
                  Davin25 the author of the “Prairie Year,”
            Whose verse is proof for those who make the claim,
                  Genius and madness, are almost the same,
            For none believe a man possessed of wit,
                  Could e’er produce such verse as Davin writ.
            Who print his trash declare themselves his foes,
                  Adjure such folly sir, and stick to prose,
            And should you find this penance too severe,
                  We’ll pardon an oration once a year.

            In Davin’s columns Simpson, shows her “Ben,”26
                  A pearl from unsophisticated men,
            A man, “no orator as Brutus” was,
                  Yet no conspirator against the laws,
            Of folly. Heaven pardon Lighthall’s crime,
                  He knew not what he did this ass sublime.

            “Fidelis,” Empress of the Thousand Isles!27
                   Shall hold her court where nature ever smiles,
            And listening to the whip-poor-will complain,
                  Immortalize his fond and plaintive strain,
            Or pensive dreaming, through the autumn days,
                  Repaint the hackneyed Indian summer haze,
            Yet when not otherwise employed her time
                  She can translate chaste Ovid’s moral rhyme,
            Quo Vadis, Sappho, gentle maid refrain;
                  Not thine to gild the latin poet’s strain,
            Grant though at times he may be pure enough
                  The rascal’s author of much “perilous stuff"”
            Go study Carman, native, young and pure,
                  Aught that’s amiss that poet leaves obscure
            Beneath thy fulvid fungus by the stream
                  Cull the sweet shadows of delusion’s dream.

            And now survey Sir Daniel’s blundering “Scot,”
                  Another raving, versifying sot,
            Who not content to drink “auld Scotia’s” breeze
                  Swallows the landscape, in triumphant ease28
            Immortal juggler, Science could not save,
                  Thy titled head from the compiling slave.
            Position, place, example, nought availed
                  Before the world thy ragged line was hailed;
            The vain compiler deems his power divine
                  Can clothe with wisdom folly’s bloated line.
            He speaks and darkness from the void is hurled
                  From chaos called, behold the second world.

            Where wild Niagara hurls his torrents down
                  A poet dwells who wears a sanguine crown;
            There Kirby29 with his strong and graphic pen
                  Shall rouse the warring legions up again: —
            English and French, and Redmen, marshalled are.
                  And shake the plains, beneath the shock of war,
            Yet not the recking charge and bloody fray,
                  The lingering siege, or the victorious day,
            Alone are his, he can at list digress
                  To plant the thorn that symbol of distress.

            And spin his little yarn of love betrayed
                  The wife and the seducing maid; —
            Ah! fated concubine thy wicked hand
                  Is doomed to slay thy lover “Bois-le-Grand”
            Vain thy caresses, in his mortal pain,
                  He knows thee not but calls his chatelaine,
            Yet faithful still like Conrad’s Kaled thou
                  Watched to the last and sharest his glory now.
            Such is the story told in time and rhyme
                  That makes ridiculous this antique crime;
            Kirby no more thy leisure hours abuse
                  Collect thy customs but tempt not the muse.

            Oh! Ascher trifling in thy “Youthful prime”
                  And golden hours with a sickly rhyme;
            Since Scott abandoned law, how many more
                  Have deemed they might do what was done before,
            And imitators still, would mock the fame
                  That gilds the memory of that noble name.
            Vain their attempt, thou Ascher shall go down
                  To dark oblivion, nameless and unknown.

            Oh hoary Smith, thou and thy dreadful verse
                  Dragged into prominence sans all remorse;
            Thy sixty years could not exemption plead
                   Lighthall decreed that all the world should read;
            Alas! poor Smith, although thy crime was great,
                  A fearful punishment has been thy fate.30
            Thy “reverence even the head-lugged bear” had spared
                  But this fell Harpy nothing could retard,
            A bloodless Nemesis to punish those
                  Who dare to leave the sober realms of prose
            The follies all of youth or doting age,
                  All are concentrated on his damning page
            And even the tomb is rifled of its dust
                  To gorge his still insatiable lust:

            Fair Crawford,31 she who in her youthful bloom
                  Unnoticed sank to the untimely tomb,
            In mortal slumber on her narrow bed,
                  Recks not how much or little she is read;
            The thrill for glory, the ambitious hope,
                  Are now confined in very little scope;
            Denied in life what she deserved of fame
                  What boots it idly to exhume her name?
            Extol her genius, her intrinsic worth;
                  She sleeps and soundly with her mother Earth,
            Hers was a fate oft paralleled before;
                  Genius neglected for some trifling boor.
            Sad-eyed and listless hidden in the crowd
                  While some vain ass is lauded long and loud;
            Yet better far to never breathe of fame,
                  Than rise to vanish into whence she came.

            Happy our statesmen when as such they fail
                  Thank heaven they still can twist the muse’s tail,
            And fleeing far from the ignoble throng,
                  In lisping strain produce the sparrow’s song.32
            Thrice happy mortals roaming through the woods
                  Or haply boating on the foaming floods,
            Or washing down the miday dish of “fish”
                  With Adam’s ale as much as heart could wish;
            Anon in slumber stretched upon the sod.
                  Forget their plans for circumventing God33
            Soft dreams elesyian on thy beatitude
                  No cankering cares of empire can intrude
            For while the moon sheds her soft glories down
                  The monarch might forget his useless crown,
            Thus Edgar may forget forensic fray
                  And if he choose forget to draw his pay.

            Turn from these triflers to the bright M’Gee
                  Sprung from that clime of genius o’er the sea,
            That little isle which sends its sons afar
                  To shine in council or to lead in war,
            Faithful to that strange destiny which sways
                  The Irish race through wild conflicting ways;
            Weird lights of genius flashing through the gloom
                  To light her heroes to the martyr’s tomb,
            He followed, subject to her fatal laws,
                  A willing sacrifice to honor’s cause.

            Lo from his snug department Lampman34 strays
                  To rant of “Heat” and white and dusty ways,
            And rapt observant with sagacious art
                  Tells how the waggoner walks by his cart
            Yet pause a moment and the cart (how sad)
                  Becomes a wagon, Lampman you are mad.
            Yet claims he some blest power had brought him here
                  Because his thoughts have grown so “keen and clear,

            More blest his brooding soft midsummer seems
                  For there he sinks forgetful into dreams —
            Official cares and the conflicting deeps
                  Have no effect upon the bard who sleeps.

            ’Tis in his April that he rules a king
                  And pours “Libation” to awakening spring,
            ’Tis then he hears — for him — the flute like frog
                  Trill “sweet voiced” tremulous up from the bog,
            Poor innocents sans heed of pain or ill
                  They watch the hours pass and trill and trill.

            Yet truth comes sometimes from the suckling’s head
                  He saw his “soul was for the most part dead,”
            Ingenious youth that truth has long been known
                  Nor new that secret which thou thoughtst thine own.
            Yet Lampman shall outgrow his present rhyme,
                  And soar to stellar heights, alone sublime,
            For even his frogs display a mind that brings
                  Deep contemplation, even to meanest things,
            While the soft cadence of his verse can show
                  A depth these poetasters ne’er can know.

            Lone daughter of the tribes35 to thee was given
                  A ray divine, by the all pitying heaven;
            Fond Nature could not see her children fade
                  Unmourned, unsung, to drear oblivion’s shade,
            And thou wert gifted with a task sublime
                  To make the redman’s last appeal to time;
            Haply thy muse touched by thy people’s doom
                  Will pause beside Thayandanega’s tomb,
            Or view the bronze memorial that wears
                  A native touch of the departed years.
            Sad is thy lot thou spirit formed for tears
                  To view the march of the advancing years;
            Before whose tread like foam upon the brine
                  Are swept the drifting wrecks of thee and thine;
            Oh strange this scene, the pale-faced sons of toil
                  Have swept away the monarchs of the soil,
            And to possession like stern masters come
                  And make the redmen aliens at home; 
            Not aliens long, fate points the certain way
                  Unjust the doom but they must needs obey,
            Yea sad thy lot thou long ill-fated Grace
                  To sing the wild dirge of thy dying race.

            From the dark realms of deep hysteric prose
                  Arises compassed with poetic woes,
            A lady novelist36 whose polished pen
                  Can justly claim to rival Simpson’s “Ben,”
            Yes, let King Roberts heed his proud estate,
                  High though he is, fair Rothwell is as great,
            Her verse transcendent, and her style intense,
                  Her very fault like his the lack of sense,
            Perhaps compromise ’twixt them may atone
                  And yield the king a consort to his throne.

            Fond old McLachlin37 with the heart of fire,
                  Strong without fustian, caustic without ire,
            Simple yet piercing, honest without rant,
                  And nature-loving void of barren cant;
            Sick of this strained and artificial age
                  The reader turns to thy refreshing page,
            And feels the shadow of the solemn woods
                  And sees the sheen of the broad winding floods.
            Thank Heaven thou art no triton of the deep,
                  A birch bark shallop cannot make thee weep,
            But thou canst smile at him who wildly shrieks
                  A worship to the Neptune of the creeks,
            Yes, laugh out-right at those whose fancies rich,
                  See Naiads lave in each Acadian ditch.
            But down, ye scribes before the mighty Week,
                  Malicious vendor of the base critique,
            Lean Egotist, that claims the right divine
                  To whip the slavish scribblers into line,38
            High in its cob-webbed garret’ midst the dust
                  It famished, gnaws its literary crust,
            And apes the journals of a bygone age
                  To damn the poet, or exalt his page;

            Oh! thou dictator’s heart without the brain,
                  On neutral ground I meet thee once again,
            And in thy teeth my gage of battle throw,
                  My one despised — and yes — meanest foe.
            What! though you claim a high ideal to give.
                  False the assertion, you but aim to live,
            You teach no class, you elevate no aim.

                  Your freedom and a slave’s are but the same;
            Crazed vehicle of the ruts your ancient ways
                  Are out of order these progressive days.
            Your Latin’d pedagogues and sages Greek,
                  Thunder, but ah! a foreign39 tongue they speak,
            Athens and Rome, their suns o’er ruins set
                  This last bequeathed what we would fain forget,
            And for the first her lauded tongue and arts
                  Are but a foil to show the scholar’s parts,
            Their statesmen, true we have them here to-day,
                  Can squander revenues as fast as they,

            Oh! soaring journal, what a theme for rhyme
                  When once per year, you swell to the sublime,
            And tales contestant fill the laden air
                  With rhyme and prose sufficient and to spare,
            Oh Pope, no painter but a prophet thou —
                  Those scenes ludicrous are exacted now,
            On Jordan Street the sons of Folly throng,
                  Each with his story or competing song,
            Mad with ambition, nay a passion worse,
                   Mad with the hope to clutch the promised purse,
            Who shall succeed among the motley crew?
                  Avaunt ye classics; it is not for you —
            The daring hero of a cattle boat,
                  Who slushed the scuppers in his home-spun coat,
            And piloted the bulls, across the wave,40
                  O’er glorious him the classic Week does rave —
            While lightly he describes the hoary pile
                   Which holds the honored of our parent isle,
            The Week extends the purse, with weeping eyes,
                  And the rude conqueror carries off the prize.

            Ah, not forgotten, thou delightful Grip,
                  The boast of Canada, her moral whip,
            Lo; with what humor all thy pages teem
                  The idle jargon of an idiot’s dream.
            Thou dull old crow with soul and brain of straw,
                  That knowest no music save thy croaking caw.41
            Doubtless your lash is oft severe enough,
                  Were statesmen “made of penetrable stuff;”
            But dull McGreevy, Connelly, Caron,
                  Pay no attention to your croaking song,
            Vice still progresses, drop thy blunted sword
                  And yield the Week, thy task undone, abhorred.
            Yet Bengough’s genius shall make good his claim
                  To be remembered by recording fame,
            While far above his pencil’s ready art
                  He shall be valued for his generous heart;
            Here is one public man that truth can claim
                  Who bears a liberal untarnished name.

            And thou my country, fallen on evil days,
                  Corruption, bribery, every vice that sways,
            Till those who love thee most their blush may hide,
                  Their shame too great to longer be denied.
            Alas! must Virtue turn with weeping eyes
                   Toward the tomb where just Mackenzie lies;
            Nor find amid the ambitious living none,
                  In truth to rival her departed son,
            Nay old Macdonald, criticise who may,
                  Would scorn the puerile tactics of to-day,
            What though his methods strained at times the laws,
                  Still in the van he placed his country’s cause.
            Dishonored land, unhappy is thy fate
                  When even the Turk42 can sneer at thy estate,
            When common gossip passes thee and thine
                  For vice a byword far beyond the brine,
            Oh sacred truth find champion for her cause
                  To bring back prestige to her trampled laws,
            Restore the nation to a patriot’s hand,
                  And boodlers scourge from the polluted land.

            Behold convicted Vice with brazen face
                  Transferred from jail to fill a stateman’s place
            And hear the filthy rabble’s senseless voice,
                  Shameless proclaim a criminal their choice,
            A seat he takes among the nation’s best,
                  And not a coward who would dare protest.

            Jocond, he enters’ midst his old colleagues
                  Forgets his crime and prison life fatigues;
            Degenerate age, stamped with the brand of shame
                  When truth found none to vindicate her name,
            Nay golden silence gave consent to crime
                  And vilest precedent to coming time,
            And such as this is borne without rebuke
                  Dark may the patriot on the future look —
            If he must judge that future by the past
                   To what vile depths will they descend at last?
            Manipulated by each party tool
                  Till blood-red anarchy at last must rule.
            The country shall assert her latent right,
                  And sweep these vampires to eternal night;
            Vice oft bath flourished ’twas but for a time,
                  Justice at length will surely punish crime,
            Time strips the gilding from emblazoned ill,
                  Alone is sacred Truth immortal still.

            It may be asked why I should thus presume
                  To drag these shadows from their native gloom,
            I do not seek a Government reward,
                  Not to be branded Honored, Sir or Lord,
            Nor threat to leave this stupid country’s clime,43
                  Unless the people will peruse my rhyme;
            Ye jostling bards, “lay unction to your soul,”
                  Great minds have compassed no immediate goal.
            The barren heights of ultimate success
                  Yield the dark guerdon of a long distress,
            For mountain summits in their gorgeous glow
                   Know not the verdure of the plains below.
            Yield me your thanks ye parasites of fame,
                  Earth but for me had never known your name;
            The fame so long denied is yours at last
                  Broad as the sky and liberal as the blast —
            Without exception, graphic, terse, and true,
                  Nor first submitted to its subject’s view.

            ’Tis said advice is folly, still ye bards
                  Reform your verse if you would win rewards44
            Fame is not bought, nor is the critic’s pen
                  An open sesame to the hearts of men —
            Assumption is not genius, nor is rhyme
                  From known necessities perforce sublime,
            Simplicity and truth need not be great,
                  ’Tis simply true that four and four make eight
            ’Tis oft indeed the versifyers’ curse,
                  That they mistake impression for their verse,
            But oftener far they force th’ unwilling muse
                  Who yields no rapture when she would refuse;
            Reform ye scribblers, leave your mists and frogs,
                  Lakes, Loons and Injuns and Acadian bogs —
            And hang the eternal paddle up to dry;
                  Canoes good sooth; when Pegasus can fly,
            To read our bards the world might well mistake
                  Our wide Dominion for an endless lake,
            Dotted with isles where birch expressly grows
                  The raw material for bark canoes.

            Ye trifling bards, leave these and kindred themes,
                  Your crude philosophy and petty dreams:
            Leave Southern critics to their native songs
                  And homage yield where loyalty belongs —
            Content to win your native land’s applause,
                   Toil for her glory45 and support her laws.


  1. We might have appealed to Parnassus but Westminster was prefered, which, although it contains not the dust of many of our mighty dead, is rightly associated with all that is great and glorious in our history.[back]

  2. Recent developments have proved that The People take but little interest in the religious panic which shakes the Politicians.[back]

  3. This line will possess no obscurity for some of our drivers of the quill.[back]
  4. This gentleman compiled a volume — chiefly rubbish — as indicative of Canadian ability in the art of poetry for the edification of the world at large, as the dedication thereto signifies, which were it not redeemed by selections from Mair, Sangster, McLachlan, and a few others, would not be worth the binding.[back]

  5. William Douw Lighthall, alias Wilfred Cheateauclair, alias Alchemist — which last he had from Ben Johnson, that he might appear learned — is, of all the scribblers mentioned in this book, most to be reprehended, for if his compilation was made in good faith it proves him “an arrant ass.”  But there are some who shrewdly suspect that he basely holds up many of those good people that they may be laughed at.  Has written much, as he himself in the aforesaid compilation modestly setteth forth — published works numerous — but none of them were ever read except by the proofreader.[back]

  6. At Rome

                “End of desire to stray I feel would come,
                 Though Italy were all fair skies to me,
                 Though France’s fields went mad with flowery foam,
                 And Blanc put on a special majesty;
                 Not all could match the growing thought of home.
                 Nor tempt to exile. Look I not on Rome, —
                 This ancient modern mediaeval queen. — ”

    And three dozen additional lines of equal beauty and lucidity.[back]

  7. The departing of Clote Scarpe,” is another “thing of beauty and a lay forever,” which will add to the reputation of our Professor of Folly, Mr. Roberts[back]

  8.             “And when the beam could see his form no more,
                They still could hear him singing as he sailed,
                And still they listened, hanging down their heads,
                In long row, where the thin wave washed and fled;
                But when the sound of singing died, and when
                They lifted up their voices in their grief,
                Lo, on the mouth of every beast, a strange
                New tongue, then rose they all and fled apart
                Nor met again in council from that day.”

    The Departing of Clote Scarpe[back]

  9. Roberts to Carman —

               “With influences serene
               Our blood and brain washed clean.

    But as Thersites saith, “Would it were clear that I might water an ass at it.”[back]

  10. We quote from this ode that the world may see how much it has lost by neglecting to read it.

                “Under this gloom
                A deep voice stirs vibrating in men’s ears,
                As if their own hearts throbbed that thunder forth
                A sound wherein who hearkens wisely hears
                The voice of the desire of this strong North —
                This north whose heart of fire,
                Yet knows not its desire.
                Clearly, but dreams, and murmurs in the dream
                The hours of dreams is done; lo, on the hills the gleam.

    Truly this is mere prose chopped like the honorable Ross’s stump speeches into verse, or what these gentlemen please to call verse for want of a better name.

         The foremost name in Canadian song at the present day is that of George Charles Douglas Roberts, poet, canoeist and Professor of Literature — Lighthall in his introduction.[back]

  11. "Through the darksome splendor break the lonesome cry of loon,”

    — from Stratton’s “Evening on the Marshes[back]

  12.             “Violet, orange, indigo, red,
                Green, yellow and blue from each dimond are shed,
                More beautiful these than the jewels of a throne,
                For the forest is nature’s glory and crown.”

    — from Stratton’s “Hysterics upon Frost

    There is no known law in poetry which can make metre of this poem; if there is, Stratton has the secret.[back]

  13. The “Red Swan” is Carman’s favorite birch bark canoe, so named by him from the phenomenal rosiness of its bark material.”

    Lighthalls Notes

         Carman has made it the subject of one hundred and fifty-four lines of ghostly verse, which something resembles an Irish ballad.[back]

  14. This is Campbells accusation, and the bards concerned, Carman Scott, Lampman and Roberbts were credited with correcting the Munsey reviewer’s proof.  Several ludicrous letters on the subject were published in the Toronto Globe.[back]

  15. Wm. Wilfred Campbell, prolific scribbler — He was mightily offended at and bitterly attacked the bards who displayed so much genius in the conduct of their own review in Munseys Magazine, but it turned out that the real cause of his resentment was his being denied a similar liberty.[back]

  16.             “Marjory, Marjory, make the tea,
                Singeth the kettle merrily.

    Campbells folk song[back]

  17.             “Only the rifles crack
                And answer of rifle back.
                Heavy each haversack,
                Dreary the prairie’s track,
                Far to the North and the Westward.

    Although these haversacks are so heavy, Campbell has his soldiers starving; probably our reverend friend being a man of peace imagines that the soldier carry their kit in them.[back]

  18. Duncan Campbell Scott, Government official, Indian Department, Ottawa, selfsatisfied writer and aspirant of literary fame.[back]

  19. Frederick George Scott, Reverend, whose sermons must be more orthodox than his verse, else he had long since been convicted of heresy and false doctrine.[back]

  20.             “Great Mother they have told us that the snows
                 Of fifty winters sleep around thy throne,
                 And buds of spring now blossom with sweet breath,
                 Beneath thy tread.

    — Scotts “Wahonomin[back]

  21.             “Wild the prairie grasses wave,
                O’er each hero’s new-made grave.

    Scotts “In Memoriam[back]

  22. Llewellyn Morrison, scribbler of Toronto, who, though not incorporated in Lighthall’s compilation, is as a disciple of folly worthy of that honor.[back]

  23. Imrie is not included in Lighthall’s galaxy, and instead of giving thanks to the gods he was insulted.[back]

  24. Imrie has a modest little hobby of collecting all the press notices of himself, and these he has printed in a neat pamphlet and presents without a blush to whoever will read them.  He claims to be a patriot, too, but is an excellent trimmer.[back]

  25. Nicholas Flood Davin — This gentleman’s weak point seems to be his attempts at poetry; the fact of his being an M.P., can in nowise excuse the stupendous nonsense of The Prairie Year, Lighthall calls it Prairie Transcript, presumedly from the fact that it is similarly monotonous.[back]

  26. It would be hard to decide which was the greater criminal, the author who wrote Rough Ben, or the editor who permitted it to appear; perhaps the Week could tell us.[back]

  27. Fidelis poetically, or Agnes Maule Machar in the vulgar — Novelist, Disputant for the Canadian Poetess’ Palm, inclined to Latin translations.[back]

  28. Lighthall tells us that Sir Daniel Wilson is a reputed scientist, but mathematics alone would teach Sir Daniel that it is impossible to drink a landscape.[back]

  29. Mr. Kirby is a bright star in William Douw’s Heaven, he will live longer probably, than Lighthall himself, Government official, author of Canadian Idylls, writer of some very good verse, and much rubbish.[back]

  30. William Wye Smith, Reverend, who is a man more sinned against than sinning.[back]

  31. The story of this talented lady is but the repetition of that of many proceeding lights and is therefore too old to attract attention.  Her talents were original, and certainly surpass in depth and finish any of our living imitators of Tennyson.[back]

  32. Mr. Edgar, M.P., has felt it his duty to translate the song of that imported nuisance, the English sparrow. [back]

  33. Hamlet — “One who could circumvent God, might it not?” [back]

  34. Archibald Lampman, Civil Service, Ottawa, would assuredly pass for a poet if the human interest was more strongly developed in his verse.  But Maud and In Memonam seem to be the only criterions of poetry with our imitating bards.  What will become of the imitations when the originals are already on the wane.[back]

  35. Pauline Johnson, who occupies poetically the most unique position in history.[back]

  36. Annie Rothwell, whose poetry we hope to see properly appreciated, in point of “poetical Afflatus,” as the professor saith, she is assuredly equal to the Singer of Tantramar, and no doubt Mr. Roberts being a gentleman and a scholar, as well as a “canoeist,” will be ready to acknowledge the extraordinary capabilities of this lady as rivalling his own.[back]

  37. Alexander McLachlin, Poet, requires no introduction to make him known; his honest verses are like the man who writes them vigorous and plain; he does not produce froth, but ideas unaffected and beautifully clothed.  He is the first poet in Canada.[back]

  38. The Independent Week desires a prohibitory tax imposed upon the dime novel.   Surely that most pretentious journal has no ambition to shine in the realm of fiction.[back]

  39. The Week instead of dominating public sentiment has succumbed to that power, and was forced to repudiate its former oracle that egregious Theorist, Dr. Goldwin Smith, who, has joined — in the support of the Olney doctrine — that Triumvirate, of which Michael Davitt, John Redmond and himself are the members.  But we take this opportunity to tell this Dr. of The Depths that there are instincts in the human breast with which even his philosophy is unable to cope.

                “No children are we to be flattered or fear’d
                But bold independence we love and adore,
                And we’ll stand by the column that victory rear’d
                Till the last son of freedom sucumbs in his gore.

    Meantime we can laugh at him and laugh also at Principal Grant who calls it an infringement of British liberty to tell the Dr. of Annexation to shut his mouth.[back]

  40. This was the class of literature that carried the laurel away from all competitors a few years ago, and the award of the Week was the subject of much mirth at the time.   One gentleman, of our acquaintance, supposed that the victor’s prize of $50 probably cost him a hundred.  He had been in the newspaper business himself and “spoke as one having authority and not as the Scribes and ‘envious’ Pharisees.”[back]

  41. The lately deceased Grip may justly deigned this record, that it died in defence of its principles.[back]

  42. A writer, some time since, in Saturday Night, who had travelled in the Balkans is authority for this statement.[back]

  43. One of our bards threatened to voluntarily exile himself because Canadians refused to be charmed with his rhyme; he, however, reconsidered his intention although he is as deep in oblivion as ever.[back]

  44. One of the most ancient perogatives of poetry was to correct, or at least punish, the vices to which it is traditionally opposed; but our gentleman prefer to paddle a canoe, address pumpkins, frogs, or some similar subject to striking those degraded, vicious, and mercenary boodlers who are a blot upon this age and country.[back]

  45. Nearly all our bards occupy positions where Government salaries prevent them speaking; but the author of this poem congratulates himself upon the fact that he is free and will so remain; at the same time he considers it but just to himself to state that truth and integrity are to him of much greater importance than the frown or condemnation of the baset slave or the most illustrious criminal.[back]