Lampman Among the Timothy

by Kathy Mezei

The strong sense and spirit of place evoked by Lampman’s poetry continues to arouse responsive chords in the contemporary reader.  However, this locality or ground,1 so characteristic of his verse, was not easily attained; both the revisions of individual poems and the evolution of his oeuvre reveal Lampman’s struggle to capture the essence of this new country.

     The time was ripe to articulate questions about nationhood and to infuse literature with locality for Lampman was composing his poems fifteen years after Confederation.  Like many writers and intellectuals of this period, he found that there was now a country and a need towards which he could direct his loyalty and his eloquence.  In 1891 he realistically described the literary situation in Canada when he stated that “It will probably be a full generation or two before we can present a body of work of sufficient excellence as measured by the severest standards, and sufficiently marked with local colour, to enable us to call it a Canadian literature.”2  In the same essay he concluded, as have many Canadian poets, that the most fruitful source of inspiration lay in nature:

For the poet the beauty of external nature and the aspects of the most primitive life are always a sufficient inspiration.  On the borders of civilization the poet is pretty sure to be the literary pioneer.  For the poet of external nature no country is richer in inspiration than ours.  For the balladist or the narrative writer we have at least as good a field as our neighbours of the United States. 3

     As is well known through the work of R.E. Rashley, A.J.M. Smith, John Matthews, and D.G. Jones,4 for example, Lampman and the other Confederation poets — C.G.D.  Roberts, Bliss Carman, W.W. Campbell, and D.C. Scott — sought a spiritual quality in nature, what Geoffrey Hartman calls “the belief in spirit of place, in a genius loci.”5  In particular, Lampman’s search for an “answering harmony”6 represented a yearning for a sacred marriage or “answer” between poet and place, between poetic genius and genius loci, between the mystery within and the mystery without.  For the Confederation poets, the genius loci as it spoke through the poet and poem was also the voice of the country, its destiny and its past, “intrinsically related to vision and prophecy.”7

     What distinguished the Confederation poets from other poets of their time and from earlier versifiers was this deeper awareness of the spirit residing mutually in the landscape and the self and, consequently, their attempt to create a locality in their poems that would truly reflect the spirit of the place.  In the process of seeking to merge the genius loci with his own poetic genius, the poet was also looking for the language and form that would best image this merging.  Therefore, to achieve locality the poet had to portray the sense of place through language, mood, and form and he had to go beyond mere physical description or local colour to project a psychic as well as a physical place.  D.C. Scott expressed his awareness of this necessity when he wrote in “At the Mermaid Inn” that

in Canada we have a decent, old-fashioned climate, which corresponds in all essential points to that which has bronzed the poets of old England, and our poets can sing of the seasons in their old round and cannot fail to be understood.  Our skies are higher and brighter, the tints of our forest are more varied, our winter comes with greater snows and frosts.8

He stressed that local colour (the sense of place) depended not only upon colloquial, indigenous expressions but also upon the “manner of looking”, upon the formal aspect of writing:

Once and a while the critics across the water may look perplexed and ask our poets what they mean by a “timothy”, or some other colloquial term, but in the main we must depend for local colour on whatever there is of real difference in our manner of looking at the Old World with its changeful beauty.9

Scott’s comments on timothy10 are particularly relevant to a discussion of the evolution of locality in Lampman’s poetry for, as we shall see, Lampman’s use of timothy is indicative of both his poetic dilemma and creative development.

     As Scott suggested, Canadian writers had to create a language and form suitable to their place; however, to find words and images to reflect their own place was not a simple task for Canadian poets of the nineteenth century, hampered as they were, by the models and diction of their continental masters.  Furthermore, the achievement of locality resides not only in nature, as described above by Lampman and Scott, but also in the recreation of history into myth.

     Following in the footsteps of Thomas Carlyle and Francis Parkman,11 Lampman, Scott and C.G.D. Roberts felt that history was composed of notable men and events; in his address on “The Tercentenary of Quebec, 1608-1908” Scott pointed out that the state “would be a poor, dead thing without the memory of great men and great actions”:

Connection with the past by roots of legend and tradition, the record of actual events, struggles, triumphs, varied as the complex interests of men are varied: these give meaning and colour to current life . . . Peculiarly rich is our heritage in the memories of the early navigators and explorers, who groped their way along our coasts and founded our cities unerringly on the points of natural vantage amid the nut trees or the maples. . . .  Is it any wonder that they saw signs and portents in the great deep or the dense forest? . . . We begin to be civilized when we celebrate and cherish the past . . . [centennials] win us away from the local and immediate, and lead us to think of what went before and comes after.12

Often these episodes were moral battles, the outcome of which was inspired by some “divine far off event” and which, therefore, contributed to the ennobling progress of a strong young country.  Repeatedly favoured by the late nineteenth-century writers were the war of 1812,13 the expulsion of the Acadians, and Indian massacres such as the Long Sault in which a heroic Canadian martyr defended his morally superior race against the “savages”.  Indian tales and legends depicting acts of self-sacrifice or inhuman bravery as well as local mythologies were also popular and formed the subject of Scott’s “At Gull Lake: August, 1810” and “The Forsaken” or Roberts’ Clote Scarp (Glooscap) poems, “The Quelling of the Moose” and “The Departing of Clote Scarp”.  In the tales of hardy habitants and lumberjacks or decadent seigneurs, writers discovered another area of romance and nostalgic reminiscence.  The proliferation of this species of tale indicated the attractiveness of French Canada, especially the ancien régime, as a source of topics.  Conscious of this, Lampman wrote that “For the dramatic poet, if a dramatic poet could be produced in our age, there are, I should think, several excellent subjects in [the] history of old French Canada.”14  Out of this interest grew his own “Between the Rapids” and the well known dramatic narrative “At the Long Sault: May, 1660.”

     The means by which Lampman imaginatively recreated the geography and history of his place and the evolution of his craft along these lines provide an insight into his developing sense of locality.   Therefore, it is important to discuss first the landscapes and places that inspired him and, second, the moments in our history that he seized upon.  Our main concern, however, is with the forms that he initiated to convey these places and moments and with the language and images that he chose to evoke the sense and spirit of place and to transform history into myth.  Early in his poetic career, Lampman became intrigued by the imaginative possibilities of certain landscapes and colourful episodes in our past and, in 1883, wrote his old school friend, John Ritchie, that

I have been endeavouring to think up some plan for a strictly Canadian poem, local in its incident and spirit but cosmopolitan in form and manner. . . .  I have been dreaming, however, of locating some simple story in the Niagara district among the old farmsteads — something in accordance with the quiet toilsome life there — maybe dated forty or fifty years back in rougher times — making it sober and realistic, so to speak, in the metre of Evangeline.15

The result of this interest was probably the long narrative poem The Story of an Affinity (April 1894),16 set in the Niagara peninsula, “a golden land of fruit and flowers”.  But Lampman, despite his assertion that good subjects for poetry are to be found in the history of Canada, seldom mined this rich field.  Instead, he set many narrative poems and ballads in the classical period (Sostratus, Phokaia, An Athenian Reverie), the middle ages (The Monk, Ingui and Alf), in biblical days (Dauid and Abigail); only “At the Long Sault: May, 1660” explores an historical incident,17 although The Story of an Affinity does have a Canadian locale.  This is not to say that Lampman did not turn his attention to local matters for he attacked Canadian politics in the sonnet, “The Modern Politician”, satirized mores in “Stoic and Hedonist” and “Avarice”, and criticized the excesses of city life and the industrial age in “The Railway Station”.  However, locality in Lampman’s poems derives more from the moods and contours of the natural landscape than from local history or legends.  He often addressed his poems to familiar landmarks — “To the Ottawa”, “In Beechwood Cemetery”.  While some poems recall certain cherished landscapes — “Across the Pea-fields” or “A Niagara Landscape”, others evoke the seasons — “March”, “The Coming of Winter”, “April in the Hills”.

     Lampman’s Canadian landscapes are almost entirely confined to the Ottawa-Gatineau district.  Both the form and content of his verse, especially his earlier verse, tend toward the pastoral — a middle ground between wilderness and city — which provides a calm moment of simplicity and contemplation.18  Lampman himself admits this preference:

The wild scenery of the forest is beautiful, and not less lovely in another way are the fields of our forefathers . . . But these bare and almost desolate forms, where there is neither the wild beauty of the wilderness nor the genial loveliness of old possession, beat down the imagination . . .19

Again, Lampman’s use of timothy in “Among the Timothy” is symbolically appropriate.  Just as poetry performs an important role on the “borders of civilization” (see p. 1.), agriculture, too, works on the edge of civilization between the wilderness and the domesticated world.  Timothy what better symbol of the complex mix of wilderness, cultivation and the Old World that was Canada, was found as a wild plant in woodlands in some late-settled parts of Ontario.  “Apparently it had run ahead of settlement, spreading out from the points where it had been introduced from the Old World.  Presumably it grew wild in the woods in other parts of Ontario.”20

     In his first volume, Among the Millet (1883), the title poem sets the tone of pensiveness and delight in simple beauty that echoes throughout his other volumes:

The dew is gleaming in the grass,
       The morning hours are seven,
And I am fain to watch you pass,
      Ye soft white clouds of heaven.


They called you sheep, the sky your sward,
       A field without a reaper;
They called the shining sun your lord,
       The shepherd wind your keeper.
                                                      (“Among the Millet”, p 3.)21

Heat”, “Among the Timothy”, “Freedom”, “April in the Hills”, “Forest Moods”, “The Meadow”, “Comfort of the Fields” exhibit similar patterns and carry on the pastoral mood.  Often, in these poems the city with its crowds, bustle, and captivity lurks in the background while the hills, wilderness, and freedom beckon distantly in the other direction.  The speaker dwells on the details of the flora and fauna around him, drawing analogies between the moods of nature and his own state of mind.  To the troubled and brooding speaker, this domesticated and peaceful nature is a solace and a retreat.

     Yet Lampman also ventured far beyond the local pastoral landscape into the wilderness on canoe expeditions with D.C. Scott and friends, which were transformed into “Morning on the Lievre” (1886),22 “On Lake Temiscamingue” (1896), “Night in the Wilderness” (1896), “Temagami” (1898), and “In the Wilds”.  In these later poems, Lampman tried to depict the wild spirit of the land and to recreate the echoes that resonated between the sensitive poet and the mysterious wilderness:

                           . . .On every side,
A grim mysterious presence, vast and old
The forest stretches leagues on leagues away,
With lonely rivers running dark and cold. . .
                                                 (“Night in the Wilderness”, p. 294)

In this inspiring wilderness, the ornate frills which we find in the early poems were pared away and the starkness of these lines from “Wayagamack” induced:

Beautiful are thy hills Wayagamack,
Thy depths of lonely rock, thine endless piles
Of grim birch forest and thy spruce-dark isles,
Thy waters fathomless and pure and black,
But golden where the gravel meets the sun,
                                                              (p. 298)

The hackneyed echoes from the English pastoral tradition — “the warm wooing of green kirtled May” (“April”) — and the heavily derivative poetic diction of Lampman’s narratives that resound so insincerely and irritatingly in the earlier verse are happily absent in the sketches of the northern wilderness.  Nevertheless, Lampman wanted to achieve a delicate balance between the regional and the universal; he, therefore, sought ways to universalize local scenes and incidents.

     This desire to be universally acceptable may be the reason behind his reluctance to change the title of Among the Millet to “Among the Timothy”, as he did in the case of the ninth poem in that volume of poetry.  “Among the Timothy” (pp. 13-16), originally “Among the Millet”, may have been renamed in order to give it a more local and correct flavour (see n. 10).  However, “Among the Millet” was retained for the title poem, as if Lampman wanted to reach British audiences to whom “millet” would be a more familiar expression than “timothy”.23

     Unlike “Among the Millet”, a conventional pastoral poem whose original title, “My Flock”,24 would probably have been more appropriate, “Among the Timothy” attempts to portray the poetic process through the use of place and of natural phenomena.  The poem begins with “a circle clean and gray” cleared by an archetypal mower among the timothy.  Then the poet arrives, overwhelmed by heat, as in the more famous “Heat”.  “Weary of hope” and “weary of song” he lies down not to “think but only dream".  Gradually, however, the act of observing details in the natural world arouses his poetic powers as he compares his thoughts to:

An ant slow-burrowing in the earthy gloom,
      A spider bathing in the dew at morn,
Or a brown bee in wayward fancy borne
      From hidden bloom to bloom. 
                                                         (p. 15)

The process of regeneration continues; his spirit lifts; he notices the daisies, the leaves of the pale poplar.  Finally, an answering harmony between; poet and nature is created.  Then, as the poem closes, the “ever-journeying sun” shines down: “Till flower and blade and every cranny brown, / and are soaked with him” (p. 16).

     It is among the timothy that the poet, in his sacred circle, has his poetic inspiration restored to him.  Although certain lines, through too much generalization and too many literary allusions, are overwrought — for example, the poplar leaves that are “like sleepy maenads, who in pale surprise, / Half-wakened by a prowling beast, have crept, / Out of the hidden covert . . .”  — many are powerful and concrete, such as the image of dreams “all gone lifeless now, like those white leaves.  / That hang all winter, shivering dead and blind / Among the sinewy beeches in the wind, / That vainly calls and grieves”.  In the contrasting effects of these two images we can see Lampman being torn between his wish to pay respect to his literary heritage and his desire to develop a native poetic diction.

     Since Lampman decided to change the poem’s title, it is worthwhile to examine his other emendations to see if they also reflect his concern with locality.  There are two manuscript sources for the poem; one is a fair copy in the 1884-1885 Notebook in Volume 2 of the Lampman Papers in the Public Archives of Canada (pp. 1387-1395); the second are rough earlier drafts and verses scattered through pages 1674 to 1685 in the 1884 Notebook in Volume 3.  The fair copy is dated August 5,1885, and is entitled “Among the Millet”.25  There are few but significant changes from this copy to the published version; they are as follows:

Stanza 1,1.4 in the millet revised to shearing slowly

Stanza 1,1.5 among the millet revised to among the clover

Stanza 1,1.8 dead clover revised to dead daisies

Stanza 5,1.3 slender millet revised to slender blossoms

Stanza 6,1.2 shadowing the millet revised to shadowing the clover.

Thus, Lampman, in his published version, has replaced “millet” with “clover” or “blossoms” or “timothy”.  The earlier drafts also use “millet”.  In general, Lampman’s emendations render an image or thought more concrete, tighten up an abstract or vague phrase, and make his language more precise.  Frequently, too, his changes reflect his desire to improve the rhythm or sound of the line.  An example of his attempt to create a more concrete and rhythmically pleasing image can be seen in stanza 2, 1.2 in which he describes “My heart a heaven, opening like a flower”.   Early version read: “My heart a home of bright imaginings”, “My heart a home of sweet imaginings”, and “My heart a home of fair imaginings”.  With this revision, he has transformed a vague phrase into a concrete simile.

     The clearest example of this development occurs in the fourth stanza which, as described earlier, is the turning point of the poem.  The early, rough manuscript version reads:

And I will strive no more to follow out
       The tangled pathways of unbourned thought
That only lead from barren doubt to doubt
       But let my spirit go as one untaught
To gather nothing; only hear and see
       Or dream itself a bee
And think how sweet it were [?thro’] [???]
Of pale green millet without [?] or care
All the way long to wander here and there
    [?] half-hidden bloom
       From hidden bloom to bloom.
                                            (Ms. p. 1684)

The published version reads:

Ah, I will set no more wine overtaskèd brain
       To barren search and toil that beareth nought
For ever following with sore-footed pain
       The crossing pathways of unbournèd thought,
But let it go as one that hath no skill,
       To take what share it will,
An ant slow-burrowing in the earthy gloom,
       A spider bathing in the dew at morn,
       Or a brown bee in wayward fancy bourne
              From hidden bloom to bloom.
                                                                     (pp. 14-15)

With the addition of the concrete images of ant, spider, and bee, Lampman has personified his spirit or thought.  Such precise pictorial images are more effective in revealing the poet’s mental process to the reader, and the poem is stronger as a result.  One can see, therefore, how Lampman’s revisions of “Among the Timothy” show him to be a poet concerned with creating a sense of place through concrete images and a precise use of language. 

     Another means of harnassing language to the yoke of locality is explored in “A Niagara Landscape” where Lampman luxuriated in the rhythmic incantation of names:

Thorold set sultry on its plateau’d hill,
And far to westward, where yon pointed towers
Rise faint and ruddy from the vaporous hue,
Saint Catharines, city of the host of flowers.
                                                                   (p. 273)

Realizing their poetic possibilities, Lampman shaped names of places or names peculiar to places into images and incantations.  Place names — les Emboulements, Wayagamack, Temagami, Temiscamingue, Lievre, Oxbow Bend — as well as indigenous words — “timothy”, “snowshoe”, “moccassin” — dot his poems and take on the function of images by evoking pictures and sounds and a sense of place.  In his sonnet “To the Ottawa”, Lampman deliberately used place names to develop rhythm and to enhance the mood when he described how, over the Ottawa River, he saw

The pines that brood above the roaring foam
Of La Montagne or Des Erables; thine home
Is distant yet, a shelter far to gain.
Aye still to eastward, past the shadowy lake
And the long slopes of Rigaud toward the sun.
                                                                     (p. 297)

Rigaud’ complements the open vowel sound of ‘long slopes’ to create internal rhyme and the sensation of flowing, timeless rivers and descending slopes and suns: the effect is onomatopoeic.  In this way, words borrowed from the French and Indian dialects emit a local flavour and replace the stale Old World romantic diction that pervaded his earlier verse.

     At the same time, however, Lampman was aware of the difficulties of focussing on local scenes and incidents.  In 1895, he wrote to his friend, E.W. Thomson, suggesting “Virgin Limits” as a possible title for a volume of poems, but adding that “it is new and of the soil here, though I supposed it would convey no idea to anyone who did not know something about lumbering.”26  It was, once again, the “timothy”-“millet” dilemma.

     Like D.C. Scott, W.H. Drummond, Isabella Valancy Crawford and the earlier poets, Oliver Goldsmith, Standish O’Grady, and Charles Mair, Lampman immersed himself in the native tradition not only through landscape description and the lyrical litany of place names, but also by celebrating the pioneer or habitant life.  His “The Settler’s Tale”, which Scott retrieved from Lampman’s notebooks and published in 1913, is a ballad in rhyming couplets of love and death in the wilderness, “a product of his contact with pioneer life as one sees it in the unsettled parts of Quebec.”27

     In the voice of a settler who “built me a hut by a northern lake”, the poet described how he lost his wife, child, and his own soul in the harsh backwoods:

You see, I am bred in a bitter school,
I am not as other men are — a pool

That shrieks in the onrush of every blast
But smiles and is still, when the tempest is past.
                                                                     (p. 116)

     Although it presents, as did “The Settler’s Tale”, a picture of life in the past in Quebec, “Between the Rapids” (1886, also called “Once More”),28 is more complex in that it develops a symbolic landscape.  Note, too, that the change in title suggests that Lampman wanted to emphasize the symbolic qualities of place.  In “Between the Rapids” the process of moving through the landscape and of observing it becomes the frame for a personal narrative — a story of the longing for an unretrievable past.  By focussing on the image of a traveller in a canoe, Lampman harked back to the old tales of voyageurs and coureurs de bois, creating a sense of tradition and locality.  The canoe trip also becomes a metaphor of a spiritual journey, a metaphor that has grown into a recurring theme in Canadian literature:

The point is turned; the twilight shadow fills
       The wheeling stream, the soft receding shore,
And on our ears from deep among the hills
       Breaks now the rapid’s sudden quickening roar.

Ah, yet the same, or have they changed their face,
       The fair green fields, and can it still be seen,
The white log cottage near the mountain’s base,
       So bright and quiet, so home-like and serene?
Ah, well I question, for as five years ago,
How many blessings fall, and how much woe.
                                                                  (p. 36)

Inspired by his return to a familiar landscape, the traveller reflects upon his past in the tradition of “Tintern Abbey” and Roberts’ “Tantramar Revisited”.  While in “Tintern Abbey” and “Tantramar Revisited”, the personae are separated from the landscape and their past by a prospect, in Lampman’s poem, the continual movement along the river, the approaching night, and the traveller’s physical separation by water from the shores of his past symbolize the distance and finality of the more idyllic and innocent past.  As the voyageur paddles his canoe down the river, people and places are named, a litany of remembrance:

The shore, the fields, the cottage just the same
       But how with those whose memory makes them sweet?
Oh if I called them, hailing name by name
       Would the same lips the same old shouts repeat?


Wild black-eyed Jeanne whose tongue was never still,
       Old wrinkled Picaud, Pierre and pale Lisette,
                                                                          (p. 37)

Through the evocation of names and places, and the insistent motion of the river, we sense, though we are not told, the story of the voyageur’s restless wanderings and abandoned family.  As in “A Niagara Landscape” and “To the Ottawa”, the inclusion of words and names of French origin serves to develop the sense of locality.

     Both “The Settler’s Tale” and “Between the Rapids” derived their energy from encounters with the landscape.  But they are not strictly landscape poems.  Narrative in form, these two poems concentrate on the more personal aspect of Canadian history.  In “Between the Rapids” personal history is mythologized by the association of memories and feelings with the landscapes.  “At the Long Sault: May, 1660” (1898), a much later poem, heralds a new direction for Lampman; it is a dramatic narrative taking as its topic one of what he had described as “excellent subjects in [the] history of old French Canada.”  In light of this different poem, Scott remarked that it was “lamentable that his career was cut short just as he was beginning to develop new and freer forms of expression. . . .  It is idle to conjecture what the course of that development might have been, but one can hazard that it would broadly have tended towards the drama of life and away from the drama of nature.”29  In this poem, Lampman achieved a sense of locality by focusing on an historical incident and by carefully moulding form and language to the subject matter.

     The massacre at the Long Sault was a subject that had slowly taken root in Lampman’s imagination.  In the cataloguing of destructive wars through the ages in “War” (p. 243), Lampman leaps from old Japan to

Where a northern river charges
       By a wild and moonlit glade
From the murky forest marges
       Round a broken palisade,
I can see the red men leaping,
See the sword of Daulac sweeping,
       And the ghostly forms of heroes
Fall and fade.30
                                                    (p. 245)

This earlier (February 1895) poem foreshadows “At the Long Sault” which seems to reflect the influence of Scott’s Indian verse, though Scott’s “At Gull Lake: August, 1810” whose title is strikingly similar to Lampman’s poem was published much later in The Green Cloister, Later Poems, 1935 (see n. 36).  Lampman’s interest and research in the subject of this poem are documented in a note in his 1895 scribbler.31

     Through the joint efforts of Scott and E.K. Brown,32 “At the Long Sault” became the title poem of a posthumous edition of poems culled from Lampman’s notebooks.   In the Lampman papers deposited in the Public Archives, there is a fair copy of the poem (Volume 3, folder 11, Notebook 1896-1899 pp. 2420, 2421, 2417, 2418, 2419)33 and also a rough working copy (pp. 2371, 2372, 2373, 2397, 2410, 2411, 2412).  Parts of the rough copy are devoted to correcting and rewriting lines, and the published version is based on the fair copy with the few changes described by Scott.34   In his own revisions on the rough copy and from the rough to the fair copy, Lampman cut out superfluous details and tightened the rhythm; for example, the opening lines in the rough version read:

All the beautiful bright day long and the soft spring night
The rapid plunges and roars
The perfume and murmur of May beyond sight
And up in the woods, an ocean of life without shapes
But the flowers are unpicked in the forest, its floors
And its cavernous depths are alive with a numberless foe
But far in an open glade of the forest set
Where the rapid plunges and roars
Is a little ruined fort with a name that men forget.
A shelterless pen with its broken palisade.
                                                   (Ms. p. 2371)35

These become:

Under the day-long sun there is life and mirth
       In the working earth,
And the wonderful moon shines bright
       Through the soft spring night,
The innocent flowers in the limitless woods are springing
       Far and away
With the sound and perfume of May
And ever up from the south the happy birds are winging,
       The waters glitter and leap and play
       While the grey hawk soars.
But far in an open glade of the forest set
       Where the rapid plunges and roars,
Is a ruined fort with a name that men forget,
       A shelterless pen
       With its broken palisade.
                                                   (II, p. l)

Note how Lampman, by deleting “a numberless foe” in the fair copy, delayed destroying the peaceful atmosphere.

     In another example, Lampman by changing “whom a pack of lean and hunger-stricken wolves” to “whom lean and hungry wolves, a ravening pack”, to, finally, “whom scores of sleepless wolves, a ravening pack,” created a more varied syntax and took rhythmic advantage of alliteration.  He also omitted twenty-nine lines of the rough copy that described the violent attack of the Iroquois on the fort held by Daulac and his little band of men and by this elimination heightened the drama and horror of the incident.

     “At the Long Sault” moves by contrast, the contrast between idyllic nature and the bloody battle, between the besieged, and enclosed Frenchmen defending maiden and child and the threatening silent menace of the Iroquois hordes, and between the opening and flowing descriptive lines and the clipped narrative of men in action:

A shelterless pen
With its broken palisade


The rush and skulk and cry
Of foes, not men but devils, panting for prey.

As in “Among the Timothy” the primary movements and metaphors are those of enclosing circles — fort, wolves around the bull moose, closed lilies — which foreshadow the inevitability of Daulac’s defeat and death.  Yet this metaphor also suggests a return to the earth which is reinforced by the close of the poem describing, once again, after the slaughter, the calm beauty of indifferent nature.  In these lines Lampman reverts to a tidy quatrain form to relay the resultant scene in a rhythmic chant:

       And the lilies asleep in the forest
Are closed like the lilies of France.36

     In “At the Long Sault” Lampman has adroitly developed a sense of physical place — the pastoral beginnings, the threatened fort, the bloodbath described through natural images such as the tired bull-moose dragged down by wolves, and the restored tranquility.  He has tightened the language and form of the poem to focus on the drama of brave men trapped by hostile forces, a drama enhanced by images drawn from nature, particularly those of enclosing circles.  Unlike any other poem Lampman wrote, “At the Long Sault” dramatically presents a historical incident and transforms it into a Canadian myth, thereby sowing the seeds of a Canadian literary heritage.  Tone, form and diction have been combined to shape a poem firmly rooted in local history and geography.  Daulac and the eerie, silent forest become etched in our memory.

     Through both the landscape poems and those that turned to the past, Lampman sought and developed locality.  By mythologizing history, attempting to create a language of place, and using forms as varied as ballads and dramatic narrative, he evoked a sense and spirit of place.  Although his poetry often bore the scars of the battle between the timothy and the millet, between his love of place and his irresistable desire to emulate his English masters, the art of Lampman was to invite the reader into a world that was both recognizable and magical.


  1. Locality is a term derived from William Carlos William’s essay “Edgar Allan Poe” in In the American Grain (New York,1925), Poe’s “whole insistence has been upon method, in opposition to a nameless rapture over nature. . . .  Instead of to hog-fill the copied style with a gross rural sap, he wanted a lean style, rapid as a hunter and with an aim as sure — Find the ground, on your feet or on your belly. . . .  He counsels writers to borrow nothing from the scene but to put all the weight of the effort into the WRITING.” p. 227.[back]

  2. Lampman, “Two Canadian Poets: A Lecture, 1891,” Masks of Canadian Poetry, ed.  A.J.M. Smith (Toronto,1962), p. 27.[back]

  3. Two Canadian Poets,” p. 29.[back]

  4. See R.E. Rashley, Poetry in Canada: The First Three Steps (Toronto, 1958), A.J.M. Smith, “Introduction”, The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (Toronto, 1960), John P. Matthews, Tradition in Exile, a Comparative Study of Social Influences on theDevelopmentof Australian and Canadian Poetry in the Nineteenth Century (Toronto, 1962); D.G. Jones, Butterfly on Rock: A Study of Themes and Images in Canadian Literature (Toronto, 1970).[back]

  5. Geoffrey Hartman, “Romantic Poetry and the Genius Loci” in Beyond Formalism (New Haven, Conn., 1970), pp. 311-336.[back]

  6. Every feeling thus produced has what may be called its musical accompaniment — its own peculiar harmonic nature, and in every poetic soul lies an answering harmony, which may be aroused either by the presence of the impression itself, or by the more potent interpretation of the poet.” “Poet Interpretation”, in Archibald Lampman: Selected Prose. ed. Barrie Davis (Ottawa,1975), p. 87.[back]

  7. Hartman, p. 314. [back]

  8. 6 February 1892.  Arthur S. Bourinot, ed. At the Mermaid Inn, conducted by A. Lampman, W.W. Campbell, Duncan C. ScottBeing Selections from Essays . . . which Appeared in the Toronto Globe, 1892-1893 (Ottawa,1959), pp. 7-8.[back]

  9. Scott in Bourinot, p. 8.[back]

  10. Timothy” according to the OED, short for timothy-grass, is a name originally American, for Meadow Cat’s tail grass (Phleum pratense), a native British grass, introduced into cultivation under this name in the North American colonies in the eighteenth century.  It was used as early as 1760 in J. Eliot’s Essential Field Husbandry, and, though a native British grass, was originated as an agricultural plant by an American, Timothy Hanson, after whom it was named.  Webster’s International Dictionary describes “timothy” as a European grass grown in Northern United States and Europe for hay.  In the Agricultural Returns of the Ontario Bureau of Industries, 1882-1886, subsection for 1882, “St Lawrence and Ottawa Group,” it is stated that “Clover and hay (timothy) may generally be depended upon, but little is usually raised beyond the needs of home consumption.” The term “timothy” is in current usage.[back]

  11. Canadians were challenged most, if not influenced in equal measure by Longfellow and Parkman, to seek in their own historic past, or more particularly in that of their French-Canadian compatriots, for themes that would lend themselves to treatment in a congenially romantic vein.  The spate of histories, in which the example of Parkman’s style and accuracy were not sufficiently emulated was nevertheless a sign that Canadians were seeking to establish the lines of development in their emerging society, and to discover their own place among the nations.  At that date the interest in history was still largely romantic and genealogical . . .”   Alfred G. Bailey, “Literature and Nationalism,” University of Toronto Quarterly, XXV, 4 (July l956), p. 418.[back]

  12. Scott, “The Tercentenary of Quebec, 1608-1908,” The Circle of Affection and Other Pieces in Prose and Verse (Toronto,1947), pp. 154-155.[back]

  13. Then if I were the editor of the magazine I would get a number of the bright young people to write articles on the stirring historical events of Canada.  The war of 1812 alone is a mine of wealth, and in the United States, not to mention Canada there is a vast amount of ignorance regarding the outcome of that historical episode . . . literally the woods are full of incidents like these.” David Barr, The Canadian Magazine, XIV, 2 (December 1899), pp. 130-136.  One of the societies listed in the 1890’s in the Royal Society Transactions and Proceedings was the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society.  Note for example, John Richardson’s Wacousta and Mair’s Tecumseh, based on the War of 1812.[back]

  14. Two Canadian Poets,” p. 27.[back]

  15. Lampman to John Ritchie, summer,1883, in Carl Y. Connor, Archibald Lampman (New York,1929), p. 78. [back]

  16. For confirmation of this, I am indebted to Dr. Margaret Coulby Whitridge.  Note that The Story of an Affinity is in blank verse, not Longfellow’s hexameters.[back]

  17. See Margaret Kennedy, “Lampman and the Canadian Thermopylae: ‘At the Long Sault: May,1660’,” Canadian Poetry, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 1977), 54-59 for a discussion of the historical sources of the poem.[back]

  18. See Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden (London, 1964).  “The distinction between the pastoral and primitive ideals may be clarified.  Both seem to originate in a recoil from the pain and responsibility of life in a complex civilization — from the familiar impulse to withdraw from the city, locus of power and politics into nature.  The difference is that the primitivist hero keeps going, as it were, so that eventually, he locates value so far as possible, in space or time or both, from organized society, the shepherds on the other hand seek a resolution of the conflict between the opposed worlds of nature and art.” p. 22.[back]

  19. Lampman,26 March 1892, At the Mermaid Inn, Bourinot, p. 16.[back]

  20. Professor K. Kelly, Department of Geography, University of Guelph, in a letter to me, April 27,1979.[back]

  21. All quotations from the poems of Lampman unless otherwise noted are from the 1974 University of Toronto Press reprint of The Poems of Archibald Lampman (Toronto,1900) and At the Long Sault and Other New Poems (Toronto, 1943), ed.  Douglas Lochhead, introduction by Margaret Coulby Whitridge: The Poems of Archibald Lampman (Including At the Long Sault). [back]

  22. In a letter to Ralph Gustafson, July 1945, Scott discussed these trips north: “I made special reference to the influence that Quebec scenery had upon him.  I introduced Lampman to the immediate north lands of the Gatineau and the Lievre and to camping and canoeing. . . .  This scenery with its romantic appeal had a great effect upon his nature work.” Archibald Lampman, ed. Michael Gnarowski (Toronto,1970), p. 155.[back]

  23. According to the OED, “millet” (panicum milaeum), native of India, is cultivated as a cereal in the warmer parts of Europe. “Millet-grass”, a tall, handsome grass is grown in the northern hemisphere.  Webster’s International Dictionary points out that millet was cultivated in the United States for hay and that millet-grass is a woodland grass.   Lampman is evidently referring to a field of hay, so it is possible that he confused the two “grasses”.  However, it is more likely that, influenced by his readings in British literature, he used the word “millet”.  Then someone pointed out to him that millet is not grown in the Ottawa valley (which I confirmed in the 1881 Agricultural Census; the Agricultural Returns of the Ontario Bureau of Industries, 1882-1886 makes no mention of millet but refers to “timothy meadows”, “timothy and other grasses”, “timothy hay”) and so he changed the word to “timothy” to reflect the locale more accurately.[back]

  24. These earlier titles are to be found in the Lampman manuscripts in the Public Archives of Canada (Archibald Lampman Papers, MG 29, D59).  See also Whitridge’s Appendix A to the Finding Aid 658.[back]

  25. In an August 8,1885 letter to Maud Playter (his future wife) Lampman says he has written a poem called “Among the Millet”, “which when I have done with it, I will copy and send you, tho’ I’m afraid it is very dry” (Lampman Papers, Simon Fraser University Archives).[back]

  26. Lampman to E.W. Thompson, 18 July 1895.   Archibald Lampman Papers, PAC.  Interestingly enough, Scott also wished to use the title “Virgin Limits” for a volume of seventeen poems that would include “Roses on the Portage” and “The Forsaken”.  He eventually titled this volume New World Lyrics and Ballads.  See Scott’s Notebook (1900-1910), D.C. Scott Papers, University of Toronto.  In “Sebastian” or “The Mill Hand” (1893), published in The Week, 17 May 1895, 12, p. 585, Lampman depicts a mill worker who rises above the tumult of his mill and his city through quiet study.  Lampman focuses on the contrast between Sebastian’s quiet mind and the hectic activity of the mill

    . . . . Sebastian turns
    A moment’s space, and through the great square door
    Beholds as in a jarred and turbulent dream
    The waste of logs. . .


    Sebastian grabs his cant-dog with light strength
    Drives into their dripping sides its iron fangs
    And one by one as with a giant’s ease
    Turns them and sets them towards the crashing saws.

    Another kind of lumbering poem, “The Woodcutter’s Hut” (December 29, 1893, pp. 247-250) with its long, slow-moving couplets creates a picture of the movements of a man who lives by chopping wood and exists in harmony with the wilderness. [back]

  27. Duncan Campbell Scott, note to “The Settler’s Tale,” The Canadian Magazine, XIII, 2 (December 1913), pp. 113-116: “Turning over some manuscripts of Archibald Lampman’s the other day, I came upon two that, so far as I know or can ascertain, have never before been published.  One, a lyric, is an early piece, probably written in Toronto, or shortly after Lampman came to Ottawa; the other, this ballad, is much later, a product of his contact with pioneer life as one sees it in the unsettled parts of Quebec.  These poems must have been rejected, with some others, when I was deciding what should be included in the volume of Lampman’s collected works.  I think now there must, or ought to have been, a scruple of criticism against them.  Coming upon them after a long interval, I am rather doubtful of the decision that excluded the ballad.  I fancy it was the gloom and unrelieved sorrow of it telling upon one through a purely conventional story that decided its fate.  But its fate was not then irrevocably cast, and the readers of “The Canadian Magazine” will, I hope, agree that it is wise to make it public.  Its beauties are evident, and they come upon us sadly as manifestations of a genius that, as we humanly think, should yet be vigorous and active in our midst and not utterly quenched.”[back]

  28. Speaking of this poem which may well have inspired his own “Rapids at Night” or “At the Cedars”, Scott noted that: “It is filled with a sense of loneliness which the large vacancies of our country must always give to the sensitive heart.  The wilderness may be enjoyed by men of diverse sensibilities but to those who are capable of fixing their impressions, the sense of loneliness pervades the underlying delight in the beauty and freedom. . . .  “Between the Rapids” was written in June 1886, when the novelty of the northern scenery was fully upon him and when he had experienced his first canoe voyage.   The actual scene is on the River Lievre, near the Iroquois Farm. . . .  Not many poems in the language are so filled with the feeling that may be called native in which the human emotions are so closely woven with the incidents and the landscape that they seem all of a piece.  There is a touch of romance of the old voyageurs in the poem, as if the heart uttering itself had decended from the coureur de bois and had been reared in a tradition of primeval loneliness.” (“An Appreciation”, ms.  in Duncan Campbell Scott Papers, Queen’s University, p. 27; and “Introduction”, Lyrics of Earth, Songs and Ballads (Toronto, 1925), pp. 46-47.) Roberts wrote to Lampman: “Oh would that I done that “Between the Rapids”.  How I envy you that!” (?) 10 1899, Lampman Papers, Simon Fraser University Archives. [back]

  29. D.C. Scott, “An Appreciation,” ms. in the Duncan Campbell Scott Papers, Queen’s University, p. 3.[back]

  30. This verse was an addition as the 1893-97 bound volume in the Simon Fraser Archives shows.  In At the Mermaid Inn, 28 January 1893, The Globe, Scott discussed the history and “picturesque character” of Dollard (another name for Daulac).[back]

  31. Volume IV, folder 2, pp. 2498-9, Lampman Papers, PAC. [back]

  32. Duncan Campbell Scott and E. K.  Brown edited At the Long Sault and Other New Poems; Brown wrote a preface, Scott an introduction.  Scott wrote: “I am very keen about At the Long Sault As I studied it I felt a certain looseness about it which detracted from its force and beauty.  I have ventured to make a very few cuts and re-arrangement of the lines from “So Daulac turned him anew” . . . I used town instead of burg in the 26th line as he uses town in the Iyrics; I didn’t like burg.  I have done nothing I would not have suggested to AL if we had been together.  I think the poem is improved in directness and does not lose anything in other ways . . . if the reader don’t know the incident let him look up Parkman.” Scott to EKB, 31 October 1942, Some Letters of Duncan Campbell Scott, Archibald Lampman and Others.  Ed. A.S.  Bourinot (Ottawa, 1959), pp. 18-19.  “I must say I was relieved to know that you had approved so widely to what I wanted to do.  As for the Bull Moose section — The phrase.  And he sinks outworn, is very weak; you cannot place it anywhere after such a strong line.  His mighty strength gives way; that is the end of the Moose and the wolves get him.  He sinks outworn is applicable to an old poet attacked by a formidable critic but not to a Bull Moose.  In the next section I have put back the ands and closed the gap between that and the next section.  If you could give up one of the ands where I have marked a ? I would prefer the line They fell one by one and the word & co. I would excise ‘from their eyes’.  I don’t quite like the physical reference there.  Passed like a dream and was naught, seems to my ear beautifully simple . . . No italics for the last lyric.” Scott to EKB, 13 November 1942, Some Letters, p. 20.  Scott’s and Brown’s correspondence over this volume may be found in the E.K. Brown Papers and the Duncan Campbell Scott Papers, PAC, Ottawa.  See also Stan Dragland, “Duncan Campbell Scott as Literary Executor for Archibald Lampman: ‘A Labour of Love’,” Studies in Canadian Literature (Summer 1976), 143-157.[back]

  33. For a discussion of Lampman’s writing habits see Bruce Nesbitt, “Lampmania: Alcyone and the Search for Merope.” Editing Canadian Texts.  (Toronto, 1975), pp. 33-48.  I am greatly indebted to Dr. Nesbitt for his assistance with manuscript material.  In his rough notebooks Lampman would correct lines on the verso and also sometimes, as in the fair copy of  “At the Long Sault”, begin from the back of the notebook.[back]

  34. See n. 31. Other revisions, besides punctuation and spelling, include:

    l.  6 the perfume of May revised to perfume of May
      13 a little ruined fort revised to to a ruined fort
      27 far back revised to far away
      44 again and yet again revised to again and again
      54 but he with many a revised to but with many a
      56 Tosses revised to He tosses
      74 triumph-epics revised to triumph-songs.
    Lampman had deleted “songs” to “epics” above the line.

    The greatest changes occur, as Scott said, in lines 61-72.  The fair copy reads:

    And his comrades stood
    With their backs to the pales and fought
    Till their strength was done,
    And the world that had seemed so good
    Passed like a dream from their eyes and was naught
    at last, at last!
    The thews that were only mortal flagged and broke
    Each struck his last wild stroke and passed
    And then they fell one by one
                         (ms.  p. 2418)

    The published version reads:

    And his comrades stood
    With their backs to the pales, and fought
    Till their strength was done;
    The thews that were only mortal flagged and broke
    Each struck his last wild stroke,
    And they fell one by one,
    And the world that had seemed so good
    Passed like a dream and was naught.
                           (II, p. 3,11. 65-72)[back]

  35. On ms. p. 2372 which is the verso of 2371, Lampman has added the lines “The innocent flowers” . . . to “And the grey hawk soars” as well as a new version of the first four lines of the poem which later became the fair copy and published version.  The only difference between this version and the fair copy is that it has “And the grey hawk” which is later revised in the fair copy to “While the grey hawk”.[back]

  36. For a discussion of this form, see my unpublished Ph. D. thesis, “A magic space wherein the mind can dwell: Place and Space in the Poetry of Archibald Lampman, Emile Nelligan, and Duncan Campbell Scott,” Queen’s University, 1977, p. 206, n. 63. See also Leon Slonim, “A source for Duncan Campbell Scott’s ‘On the Way to the Mission’”, Canadian Poetry 3 (Fall Winter,1978), 62-64.[back]