Doric reed Rustic or pastoral
pipe: a musical instrument made from a hollow reed of
grass. See Thomson, "Autumn", 3 (". . . the
Doric Reed . . .") and 890 (". . . my Doric Reed
. . ."), and Sambrook's commentary on "Autumn,"
3: "The Doric dialect of ancient Greece was used by
Theocritus in some of his idylls, and thereafter 'Doric' was
often a synonym for the language of pastoral poetry or of
laurels A crown of laurel is
traditionally bestowed on poets as a sign of distinction.
fam'd Quebec The principal
source of Quebec's fame in Mackay's day was its capture by the
forces of General James Wolfe after the Battle of the Plains of
Abraham in 1759 (see the note to I, 177-180, below).
aspiring heights Rising,
soaring. See Sir John Denham, Cooper's Hill, 18:
". . . Aspiring mountain . . . ."
native Not artificial or
adorned: left or remaining in a plain and natural state.
scatter'd Spread over a wide
Here, woods and waters, wilds and vales
conspire See Pope, Windsor-Forest, 11-12:
"Here Hills and Vales, the Woodland and the Plain, / Here
Earth and Water seem to strive again . . ." and Thomson,
"Spring," 460-461: ". . . by the vocal Woods and
Waters lull'd / And lost in lonely Musing . . . ." Vales:
chiefly a poeticism in Mackay's day (though less so in North
America): fairly extensive tracts of low land between ridges of
swell the cadence Increase the
volume or rhythmical effect.
rustic lyre Like the
"Doric reed" of I, 1 (see the note, above), the
"rustic lyre" is a symbol of pastoral poetry.
The Greeks used a lyre (a stringed instrument resembling a harp)
to accompany songs and recitations—that is, lyric poems.
lawns Open spaces of
glass-covered land; glades.
Virgil Two works by the Roman
poet Virgil (70-19 B.C.) are especially pertinent to Quebec
Hill: the Georgics—agricultural poems that praise the farming life
while also containing a didactic component—and the Eclogues—pastoral
poems in the manner of Theocritus that celebrate the virtues of
rustic life. Both of these collections lie centrally in
the background of Thomson, Pope, and the other poets upon whom
Mackay's poem makes levies. Thomson refers to Virgil
several times in the course of The Seasons (as, for
example, in "Spring," 55). See also the
Introduction, pp. xxx-xxxi.
silvan shade A phrase derived
ultimately from Virgil, Aeneid, I, 164 "silvis scena
coruscis"), but probably adapted by Mackay from a more
proximate source such as Pope's Messiah, 3 ("Sylvan
Shades"). See also Milton, Paradise Lost, IV,
140 ("Silvan Scene") and Pope, Windsor-Forest,
285 ("flow'ry Sylvan Scenes").
choicest colours Favourite or
Mountains, high hills and other elevated objects were a
principal source of sublime feelings (astonishment, awe,
veneration, pleasant horror) in Mackay's day. For a
discussion of the sublime in Quebec Hill, see the
Introduction, pp. xviii-xxii.
numbers Lines, verses.
emulate Imitate; equal.
See Thomson, "Spring," 466-479 on the question of
". . . who can paint / Like Nature?"
clime Poeticism: region, with a
residual (and in Quebec Hill quite pertinent) sense of
the word's original meaning of climate.
The sense of "Order in Variety" (Pope, Windsor-Forest,
5, and see also the note to I, 21, below) in this passage
indicates its general debt to the picturesque aesthetic of the
eighteenth century and, very likely, its particular debt to Windsor-Forest,
especially ll. 11-28 of Pope's poem. For a discussion of
Mackay's use of the picturesque, see the Introduction, pp.
xxii-xxiv. See also Thomson, "Autumn," 950-962
for a description of a "Prospect" seen from a
"Height" that draws upon the picturesque aesthetic and
groves Small groups or avenues
varied hue See Thomson,
"Summer," 247 ("vary'd Hues") and John Dyar,
"Grongar Hill," 9 ("various hues").
hamlets Small villages;
clusters of houses in the country.
swell Rise; stand out.
bow'rs Arbours; shady recesses
made of trees and branches.
unknown to classic lay See
Thomson, "Summer," 653 ("Here lofty Trees, to
ancient Song unknown . . .") and "A Hymn"
(". . . distant barbarous Climes, / Rivers unknown to Song
. . ."). A "lay" here means poem or, more
culture's charms The
attractions of cultivation and, by extension, the amenities of
sweets Attractions, beauties.
bounded Limited; circumscribed
by the horizon.
verdure Green vegetation.
simple grandeur Plain,
unadorned splendour or magnificence, with a suggestion of the
sublime (see the note to I, 9, above).
Admiration Agreeable surprise;
wonder mingled with veneration or reverence. Mackay's use
of such words and phrases as "varied verdure,"
"grandeur," "Admiration" and "the
pleasing whole," in this section of Quebec Hill
echoes back in the eighteenth century to Joseph Addison, who
writes in the second paragraph of his famous essay on the
"Pleasures of the Imagination" in The Spectator,
No. 412 (June 23, 1712) of the "pleasing
Astonishment," "delightful Stillness and Amazement in
the Soul" that can arise from the contemplation of "a
whole view" containing a "Variety of Objects" and
"Grandeur". See also the note to I, 9, above.
For "The country . . . romantic scenery . .
.", see the note to Preface, 21, above. Only if
Canada (Lower and Upper) is conceived as a whole can Mackay's
statement that ". . . the soil is, in general, poor, and
unproductive of corn . . ." be considered accurate.
Cf. American Husbandry, pp. 16-17: "The soil in
Canada is of two sorts, the stoney, and the pure loam . . .;
both are in the world . . . their husbandry is very bad . . .
this . . . arise from nothing but the plenty of land. . .
." As a matter of historical fact, Lower Canada,
where wheat—the basis of the French-Canadian diet—had
been the main agricultural product since the seventeenth
century, became between 1760 and 1807 an exporter of increasing
quantities of "wheat and flour." As Robert
Leslie Jones writes in "Agriculture in Lower Canada,
1792-1815", Canadian Historical Review, 27 (1946),
p. 39: "From 1792 to 1807 the outstanding consequence in
Lower Canada of the European wars was the expansion of the grain
trade. There was a large demand for wheat in Great Britain
in 1793, 1794, and 1795. . . . As a result, more flour and
wheat were exported from the St. Lawrence during those years
than ever before. . . . Slacker British demand and rather
poor harvests were reflected in a reduction of exports from 1797
to 1799. Then, for three years, there was a rapid
increase. . . ." In this note, as elsewhere in the
poem (I, 243 and 276), Mackay uses the word "corn" to
refer to the various types of grain—wheat, oats, peas, barley,
and Indian corn—that were grown in Lower Canada in the latter
half of the eighteenth century. Kalm's Travels (upon
which American Husbandry draws heavily) makes numerous
references to the soil and crops of Canada.
Columbian climes Poeticism:
America, particularly the United States (from the fact that
Christopher Columbus was held to be the discoverer of America;
see the notes to I, 37-40, below).
mazy shade The adjective
"mazy" (having the character of a maze: a winding and
confusing net-work of paths or passages) has sinister, Miltonic
resonances (see Paradise Lost, IV, 239 and IX, 161), but
it is also used several times by Thomson in The Seasons
(see "Spring," 577 and 797, and "Summer,"
See Introduction, p. xii for some speculations
about Mackay's youth and the identity of the "traveller".
ideal Imaginary, as opposed to
real or actual.
Disclos'd Revealed; exposed to
Xerxes The King of Persia from
486 to 465 B.C., Xerxes the Great (d. 465 B.C.), the Ahasuerus
of the Bible and a formidable military leader, invaded Greece in
484-480 B.C., defeating the Spartans at Thermopylae and
occupying Athens. In 480 his fleet was destroyed by the
Greeks at Salamis, and a year later his army, under general
Mardonius, was defeated at Plataea. A further Greek naval
victory at Mycale ended the threat of a further invasion by the
From the end of the fifth century B.C. to the
second century A.D., and especially in the Republican and
Imperial periods from c. 270 B.C. to 65 A.D., the "Roman
state" grew first stronger and then weaker in military
See Kalm, Travels, II, 76-277: "The
Europeans have never been able to find any characters,
much less writings, or books, among the Indians, who have
inhabited North-America since time immemorial. . .
. These Indians have therefore lived in the greatest
ignorance and darkness, during some centuries, and are totally
unacquainted with the state of their country before the arrival
of the Europeans, and all their knowledge of it consists
in vague traditions, and mere fables. It is not certain
whether any other nations possessed America, before the
present Indian inhabitants came into it, or whether any other
nations visited this part of the globe before Columbus discovered
it. . . . The history of the country can be traced no
further, than from the arrival of the Europeans; for
everything that happened before that period, is more like a
fiction or a dream, than anything that really happened."
Involv'd Enwrapped; hidden.
and n. Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)
"discovered America" in 1492, landing first, on
October 12 of that year, on an island in the Bahama group and
then, on December 5, on Hispaniola. (This information is
not uncontroversial, and in recent years has been the subject of
heated debate among geographers and historians.) On a
second voyage in 1493, his landfall was made in the Lesser
Antilles and his discoveries included various other
islands. On a third voyage in 1498 he realized that his
expeditions had brought him to the North American continent
rather than to Asia (Mackay's "E[ast] Indies"), a fact
that did not deter him from organizing a final search for a
"western way" to Asia in 1502.
See Kalm, Travels, II, 76-277: "The
Indians have ever been as ignorant of architecture and
manual labour as of science and writing. In vain does one
seek for built towns and houses, artificial fortifications, high
towers and pillars, and such like, among them, which the old
world can shew, from the most antient times. . . .
Travellers do not enjoy a tenth part of the pleasure in
traversing these countries, which they must receive on their
journies through our old countries, where they, almost every
day, meet with some vestige or other of antiquity: now an
antient celebrated town presents itself to view; here the
remains of an old castle. . . ."
Antiquarian Antiquary: someone
devoted to the study of ancient times through their relics; an
archeologist. See The Gentleman's Magazine (1793),
743 for a review castigating an author for using
"Antiquarian" rather than the more 'correct'
Severus Severus or Septimus
Severus (146-211 A.D.) was Emperor of Rome from 193 to 211 A.D.,
during which time he gave expression to his interest in
architecture by adorning his capital city with new buildings,
such as the Arch of Septimus Severus in the Old Forum.
While in Britain between 208 and his death in 211 A.D., Severus
saw to the repair of Hadrian's Wall. The section on
"Rome" in Addison's Remarks on Italy mentions
various edifices built in the reign of Severus.
See the notes to I, 9, 20 and 21, above.
Both the Po and the Tyber (Tiber) rivers are in
Italy and both have been "celebrate[d] by various poets—the former under the name of Eridanus by
Virgil in the Georgics, I, 482 and IV, 372, for example,
and the latter (which, of course, flows through Rome) by Ovid in
the Metamorphoses, II, 259. Pope mentions both
rivers in Windsor-Forest ("Nor Po so swells
the fabling Poet's Lays . . . ; "Tho' Tyber's Streams
immortal Rome behold . . ." ); Denham praises
the Eridanus in Cooper's Hill, 193-194; Dyer refers to
the Tiber at several points in the companion piece to Grongar
Hill: The Ruins of Rome; and Goldsmith mentions the Po at
the beginning of The Traveller. In addition to
these poets, Mackay's "Ye" may well encompass the
Addison of A Letter from Italy who expiates on the "Poetick
fields" (11) and mountains "Renown'd in verse"
(15) of Virgil's native land and mentions "Eridanus
. . . / . . . king of floods" (26) and the "fam'd,"
"gentle Tiber" (37-38) as "streams immortaliz'd
in song" (32). "[O]n classic ground,"
Addison remarks, "ev'ry stream in heavenly numbers
flows" (12, 16).
lakes . . . like to seas See
Carver, Travels, p. 132: "It [Lake Superior] might
justly be termed the Caspian of America. . . ."
Drawing on Carver, Cary in Abram's Plains, 19 describes
the Great Lakes as "fresh seas". See also Kalm, A
Letter, p. 83: "Lake Superior, Lake Mischigan,
Lake Huron, and Lake Erie . . . are rather small
seas than lakes. . . ."
See Carver, Travels, p. 132: "Its
[Lake Superior's] circumference, according to the French charts,
is about fifteen hundred miles; but I believe, that if it was
coasted round, and the utmost extent of every bay taken, it
would exceed sixteen hundred." Of Lake Ontario Carver
writes: "The form of it is nearly oval, . . . and in
circumference about six hundred miles." As Mackay's
figures indicate, a league is approximately three miles.
floods, unknown See Carver, Travels
America, p. 138: "Lake Superior has nearly forty rivers
that fall into it, some of which are of a considerable
Adorn'd by isles See Carver, Travels,
p. 134 (the "many islands" in Lake Superior) and p.
143: ". . .the entrance into Lake Superior, from these
straights (the Straights of St. Marie, near present-day Sault
Ste. Marie), affords one of the most pleasing prospects in the
world. . . . [M]any beautiful little islands . . . extend
a considerable way before you. . . ." Carver also
mentions Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron (p. 146).
lofty groves of various dyes See
Dyer, Grongar Hill, 57-59: ". . .trees unnumbered
rise, / Beautiful in various dyes: / The gloomy pine. . .
." Carver also uses the phrase "various
dyes" (dyes: colours, hues) in Travels, p. 168, but
in reference to his infamous "hissing snake" of Lake
See Kalm, Travels, II, 391-399 for a
detailed description (though at the time of the French Régime) of the process of bartering summarized in
these two lines. Kalm enumerates in detail the
"furs" and "wares" exchanged by the Indians
and the traders, observing that ". . .men, every year
undertake long and troublesome voyages for [this] purpose,
carrying with them such goods as they know the Indians like, and
are in want of." The exchange of raw materials from
the colony for manufactured goods from the mother country is a
principal characteristic of the mercantilist system that
governed the relationship between Canada and Britain in Mackay's
day (see "Introduction," Cary, Abram's Plains,
pp. xix-xx and xxiv-xxv).
downy Feathery soft.
and n. See Carver, Travels, p. 141
"[Lake Superior] is as much affected by storms as the
Atlantic Ocean; the waves run as high, and are equally as
dangerous to ships." A ship called the Mohawk, built
in 1759 and mounting eighteen guns, was lost on the Great Lakes
in 1764 (see K.R. Macpherson, "List of Vessels Employed on
British Naval Service on the Great Lakes, 1755-1875," Ontario
History, 55 , pp. 173-179).
As the notes to I, 65-80, below indicate, Carver's
many descriptions of the predatory and poisonous inhabitants of
the North American forests are pertinent here. But see
also Kalm, Travels, II, 204, describing a botanizing
excursion on the shores of Lake Champlain: ". . . we passed
over mountains and sharp stones; through thick forests and deep
marshes, all of which were known to be inhabited by numberless
rattle-snakes. . . ."
See Carver, Travels, p. 444 on "The
wolves of North America . . ." and Thomson,
"Spring," 342-343 on "The Wolf, who . . . /
Fierce-drags the bleating Prey. . . ."
See Carver, Travels, pp. 479-485 on the
Rattle Snake, especially pp. 480-481 for the comment that the
"rattling [of the snake's] tail" seems to have been
provided by "heaven . . .as a means to counteract the
mischief this venomous reptile would otherwise be the
perpetrator of" since by its "timely intimation . . .
the unwary traveller is apprized of his danger, and has an
opportunity of avoiding it." Carver describes in
detail the nature and effects of a rattle-snake bite. See
also Kalm, Travels, II, 218 for the observation that
"The Rattle Snake, according to the unanimous
accounts of the French, is never seen . . .near Montreal
and Quebec. . . ." and Goldsmith, The
Deserted Village, 354 for the ". . . rattling terrors
of the vengeful snake" which, among other dangers, confront
emigrants to North America.
baleful Deadly or, at least,
gay Attractive; charming.
See Carver, Travels, p. 442 on "The
Tyger of North America"—that is, the Cougar—which "resembles in
shape those of Africa and Asia, but is considerably
smaller. Nor does it appear to be so fierce and ravenous
as they are. The colour of it is a darkish yellow, and it
is entirely free from spots." Goldsmith includes a
North American tiger waiting for its "hapless prey" in
The Deserted Village, 355. See also Thomson,
"Spring," 345 ("the deadly Tyger") and
"Summer," 916-917 ("The Tyger darting fierce, /
Impetuous on the Prey his glance has doom'd").
See Carver, Travels, pp. 442-444 on bears
and their "dens"—"retreats" in "hollow" or
fallen trees in which they hibernate during the winter.
Kalm, Travels, I, 91 recounts the fanciful notion
(discredited by his English editor [91n.]) that a bear kills its
victim by ". . . biting a hole into the hide, and blow[ing]
with all his power into it, till the animal swells excessively
and dies. . . ." By comparison with this, Mackay's
description of the bear 'hugging' its "gasping victim"
has almost the ring of verisimilitude.
amain With full force or at
full speed; violently or quickly.
high-erected crest A crest is
literally an excrescence (such as a comb or tuft of feathers) on
an animal's head. Mackay is referring here to the ability
of the bear to raise itself up on its hind legs.
speckled adder In the section
"Of Serpents" in his Travels, pp. 478-488,
Carver mentions but does not describe the Adder; he does,
however, describe a non-venomous "Speckled Snake" (p.
brutal Inhuman: cruel, fierce,
chequer'd Marked with alternate
light and shade; variegated. See Pope, Windsor-Forest,
17-18: "Here waving Groves a checquer'd Scene display, /
And part admit and part exclude the Day . . ." and Thomson,
"Autumn," 455-457: ". . .the howling Pack, /
Blood-happy, hang at his fair jutting Chest, / And mark his
beauteous chequer'd Sides with Gore."
deep involv'd in woods See the
note to I, 37, above. See also Milton, Paradise Lost,
IX, 75 (". . .Satan involv'd in rising Mist . . .")
and a resonantly Miltonic passage in Thomson,
"Spring," 129 (". . .all involv'd in Smoke, the
latent Foe . . .").
Both Kalm, Travels, II, 139-140 and II,
187-189 and Carver, Travels, I, 328-342 describe in some
detail the supposedly characteristic penchant of the Indians for
"revenge". Carver even goes so far as to assert
that a ". . .diabolical lust for revenge . . .is the
predominant passion in the breast of every individual of every
tribe. . . ." Carver also writes at length (Travels,
pp. 283-293) on the hunting techniques and skills of the
Indians, noting that while they are engaged in hunting they
". . . become active, persevering, and indefatigable"
roe Deer. Mackay has
affixed the name of a European species of deer to a quite
different North American one. Cf. the note to I, 71-72,
darts Arrows or, possibly,
spears. See Carver, Travels, p. 295: "Some
[Indian] nations make use of a javelin pointed with a bone
worked into different forms; but their Indian weapons in general
are bows and arrows. . . ."
pointed Sharp, piercing; and
also directed, aimed.
See Carver, Travels, 283 and 294: "A
dextrous and resolute hunter is held . . . in . . . great
admiration . . ."; and "Such [Indians] as have an
intercourse with the Europeans make use of tomahawks, knives,
and fire-arms; but those whose dwellings are situated to the
westward of the Mississippi, and who have not an opportunity of
purchasing these kinds of weapons, use bows and arrows. . .
." Promiscuously: indiscriminately.
|I, 87(and n.)-89
See Kalm, Travels, I, 181 and 296: "A
KIND of cold fever, which the English in this country [the
Northeastern portion of what is now the United States] call Fever
and Ague, is very common in several parts of the
English colonies. There are, however, other parts, where
the people have never felt it. Several of the most
considerable inhabitants of this town [New York] . . . were of
the opinion, that this disease [probably malaria] was occasioned
by the vapours arising from stagnant fresh water, from marshes,
and from rivers. . ."; ". . . most of these places are
covered with trees, by which means the wet is shut up still
more. . . ." Kalm later observes that
"INTERMITTING fevers of all kinds are very rare in Quebec.
. . . On the contrary, they are very common near Fort St.
Frederic, and near Fort Detroit. . . between Lake Erie
and Lake Huron . . ." (II, 361-362)—which is to say, in what would become Upper
Canada. See also Thomson, "Summer," 292-294
("The hoary Fen, / In putrid Streams, emits the living
Cloud / Of pestilence") and 1028f. (". . . from swampy
Fens, / Where Putrefaction into Life ferments, / And breathes
destructive Myriads; or from Woods . . ." and so on).
The idea that "dread diseases rise from fœtid fens"
and other damp places was common in Mackay's day and can be
traced back to Aristotle and Lucretius.
fœtid fens Stinking marshes.
tribute Offering or gift,
rendered as if through duty.
swelling See the note to I, 13,
See Kalm, A Letter, pp. 79-80: ". . .Niagara
Fall [is] esteemed one of the greatest curiosities in the
World. . . ." By 1797 Niagara Falls had achieved
renown through the accounts of several travellers, including
Father Louis Hennepin, Jonathan Carver, Isaac Weld and, not
least, Peter Kalm. See Charles Mason Dow, Anthology and
Bibliography of Niagara Falls (1921), I, 17-123.
dreadful grandeur . . . appalls See
the notes to I, 9 and 20, above, and Kalm, A Letter, p.
84: "When all this water comes to the very Fall, there it
throws itself down perpendicular! It is beyond all belief
the surprize when you see this! I cannot with words
express how amazing it is! You cannot see it without being
quite terrified; to behold such a vast quantity of water falling
headlong from a surprising height!" Like Mackay's
"dreadful grandeur . . . appalls," this is a fairly
typical response to a sublime sight.
travellers. I, 97-102 Cf. Thomson's description of a
waterfall in "Summer," 590-598:
SMOOTH to the shelving Brink a copious Flood
Rolls fair, and placid; where collected all,
In one impetuous Torrent, down the Steep
It thundering shoots, and shakes the Country round.
At first, an azure Sheet, it rushes broad;
Then whitening by Degrees, as prone it falls
And from the loud-resounding Rocks below
Dash'd in a Cloud of Foam, it sends aloft
A hoary Mist, and forms a ceaseless Shower.
See also Kalm, A Letter, p. 85: "When the water
is come down to the bottom of the rock of the Fall, it jumps
back to a very great heighth in the air. . . ." Kalm
(pp. 85-86) does not find the falls as noisy as he had been led
to believe by Father Hennepin's account.
swells Increases in volume or
See Kalm, A Letter, p. 88: ". . . they
find also several sorts of dead fish [below Niagara Falls]. . .
. Just below the fall the water is not rapid, but goes all
in circles and whirls like a boiling pot; which however doth not
hinder the Indians going upon it in small canoes a
fishing. . . ."
rising mist See the quotation
from Paradise Lost at I, 81, above.
Cf. the quotation from Thomson's
"Summer" at I, 97-102, above and Kalm, A Letter,
pp. 86-87: "From the Place where the water falls, there
rise abundance of vapours, like the greatest and thickest smoak,
sometimes more, sometimes less: these vapours rise high in the
air when it is calm. . . . [Y]out would think all the
woods thereabouts were set on fire by the Indians, so great is
the apparent smoak."
See Kalm, A Letter, pp. 91-92: "The
east side of the river is nearly perpendicular, the west side
more sloping." The illustration of the Falls that
accompanies Kalm's letter in Bartram's Observations shows
the "lofty banks" of the river very clearly.
See Kalm, A Letter, pp. 87-88: ". . .
among the abundance of birds found dead below the fall, there
are no other sorts than such as live and swim frequently in the
water; as swans, geese, ducks, water-hens, teal, and the
like. And very often great flocks of them are seen going
to destruction in this manner: they swim in the river above the
fall, and so are carried down lower and lower by the water, and
as water-fowl commonly take great delight in being carry'd with
the stream, so here they indulge themselves in enjoying this
pleasure so long, till the swiftness of the water becomes so
great, that 'tis no longer possible for them to rise, but they
are driven down the precipice, and perish. They are
observ'd when they draw nigh the fall, to endeavour with all
their might to take wing and leave the water, but they cannot .
. . . [B]esides the fowl, they find also . . . deer,
bears, and other animals are generally found broken to
lave Bathe, wash.
involv'd See the notes to I, 37
and 81, above.
partake Take part in; share in.
Cf. Kalm, A Letter, p. 93: "They have
often found below the Fall pieces of human bodies, perhaps of
drunken Indians, that have unhappily came down the
Fall." Kalm also recounts (pp. 88-91) a story of two
"drunken Indians" who, after great alarm and
"with much working", were able to avoid going over the
Falls by getting "on shore" at Goat Island, from
whence they eventually descended to safety on a makeshift
involv'd See the notes to I,
37, 81 and 111, above.
baleful See the note to I, 68,
prove Learn; find out by
See Kalm, A Letter, p. 82: ". . .the
whole course of the water for two leagues and a half up to the
great Fall [is] a series of smaller Falls, one under another. .
. ." And cf. the continuation of the
description of the waterfall quoted above (see the note to I,
97-102) in Thomson, "Summer," 599-606:
Nor can the tortur'd Wave here [below the Fall] find Repose:
But, raging still amid the shaggy Rocks,
Now flashes o'er the scatter'd Fragments, now
Aslant the hollow'd Channel rapid darts;
And falling fast from gradual Slope to Slope,
With wild infracted Course, and lessen'd Roar,
It gains a safer Bed, and steals, at last,
Along the Mazes of the quiet Vale.
glades, unknown to classic song See
the notes to I, 15 and 49-52, above.
boils chaotic See the passage
from Kalm, A Letter quoted above at I, 103-104.
sounding shock A sudden and
violent blow that produces a loud noise.
Great are the treasures Cf.
Thomson, "Summer," 643-644: "Great are the
Scenes, with dreadful Beauty crown'd / And barbarous Wealth. . .
tribute See the note to I, 93,
prosecutes Pursues, follows.
These brightly gleam, and gold bespangles
those Cf. Pope, Windsor-Forest, 144:
"The yellow Carp, in Scales bedrop'd with Gold. . . ."
and Cary, Abram's Plains, 258: "Thee silver white,
and thou bedropt with gold. . . ."
finny race Thomson,
"Spring," 395: ". . .finny race . . ."
Cf. Addison, Letter from Italy, 27-30:
"The king of floods . . . proudly swoln with a whole
winter's snows, / Distributes wealth and plenty where he
swain Farm labourer.
hind Farm labourer or, in
Scotland and Northern England, a skilled agricultural worker for
whom a cottage is supplied. Cf. II, 245-248.
laves See the note to I, 110,
See Kalm, Travels, II, 230-235 and
Campbell, Travels, pp. 118-119 for descriptions of the
size and beauty of the "island of Montreal".
Kalm (II, 230) notes that "The river passes between the
town and this island, and is very rapid", and later (II,
241) observes that "The ice in the river close to this town
[Montreal] is every winter above a French foot thick, and
sometimes it is two of such feet . . . ."
verdant isle Cf. Pope, Windsor-Forest,
26-28 for ". . . fruitful Fields . . , / That crown'd with
tufted Trees and springing Corn, / Like verdant Isles the sable
Waste adorn." The phrase "verdant Isles"
(verdant: green with vegetation) also occurs in Milton, Paradise
Lost, VIII, 631.
See Campbell, Travels, pp. 117-118:
"In the island of Montreal . . . are many spacious and fine
farms, some of which are possessed by Englishmen, who cultivate
and manure their land as is done in that country, and raise
crops which astonish the natives, who now begin to follow their
example. . . ." It may not be coincidental that this
passage follows shortly after Campbell's account of the Mackay
family of Montreal.
commerce Trading. It may
be relevant to note that Campbell, Travels, p. 118
follows the passage just quoted with details of the prices of
wheat and poultry in Lower Canada at the time of his visit in
1791. Kalm, Travels, II, 234-235 speaks of Montreal
as the centre of "commerce" that it was and is.
culture See the note to I, 16,
above: cultivation, not simply manure, as the quotation at I,
147-149 might suggest. Kalm, Travels, II, 236
notices the ". . .excellent corn-fields, charming meadows,
and delightful woods" in the environs of Montreal.
scenes romantic See the note to
Preface, 21, above.
circumvent Encompass, enclose.
Kalm, Travels, II, 242-253 writes at length
about the relatively well populated and cultivated land on
either side of the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec,
noting that "The farm-houses [Mackay's "burnish'd
cot(s)": bright cottages] . . . are generally built all
along the rising banks of the river . . . " (II, 242) and
that "The shores [Mackay's "border(s)"] of the
river are closesly inhabited for about three quarters of an English
mile up the country; but beyond that the woods and the
wilderness increase . . ." (II, 251-252).
|I, 155-156 and n.
While travelling between Montreal and Quebec, Kalm,
Travels, II, 242-243 and 251, comments on the presence of
many Roman Catholic churches and road-side shrines in the
landscape. Cary, Abram's Plains, 362-396, waits
until he is at Quebec itself to reveal the protestant prejudice
that he shares with Mackay by fulminating against the error and
superstition of Lower Canada's Catholics. By
"scrupulously blind" Mackay means ignorant or
unenlightened as a result of a conscientious adherence to the
Catholic religion, and it is worth noting that Kalm, Travels,
II, 204 comments on the relative punctiliousness of the French
Canadians in their religious observances. The
"English bishop" who "of late . . . settled in
Quebec" was Jacob Mountain, who in 1793 was appointed the
Anglican Lord Bishop of Quebec, a position that he held until
his death until 1825. An item in the Quebec Gazette
for June 27, 1793 reads as follows: "It is reported here
(upon what authority we are not very certain) that the Revd. Dr.
Mountain Chaplain to the Bishop of Lincoln, is appointed Bishop
of Quebec, with a salary of £2000 per annum. W. Stanford Reid, The
Church of Scotland in Lower Canada: Its Struggle for
Establishment (1936), p. 35 quotes a letter from Mountain to
Lord Bathurst stating that in 1805 the Bishop's annual stipend
was still £2000. Reid compares this sum with the £50
that the three ministers of the Church of Scotland in Canada
shared between them in 1790 (p. 36). The "two
protestant churches" in Montreal in 1797 were Christ's
Church (Church of England) and St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian
Church (Church of Scotland); the former was dedicated in 1789
and the latter in 1792.
strain Song; poem.
Quebec's firm front See Kalm, Travels,
II, 257: "Quebec, the chief city in Canada, lies on
the western shore of the river St. Lawrence, close to the
water's edge. . . ."
frozen fetters Cf. Cary, Abram's
Plains, 143: ". . . icy chains . . ." and Thomas
Stanley, Psalms, CXL VIII, 8: ". . . cold fetters .
ardent Hot; parching.
Kalm, Travels, II, 136 and 138 comments on
the "excessive" heat of the Canadian summer, and
writes of his difficulty breathing on an especially hot
day. By "inflammable", Mackay means easily
combustible or explosive—that is, ready to burst into the thunder and
lightning storms with which the note concludes. Cf.
Carver, Travels, p. 145 for an inconclusive attempt to
explain the cause of the "continual thunder" in the
Thunder Bay region of Lake Huron.
Cf. Cary, Abram's Plains, 98f. for Quebec,
the centre of French commercial and military activity in North
America before the conquest, as, above all, a "strong
base" for the British garrison and a "secure"
harbour for the British navy.
The phrasing and balance of this line give it a
markedly Popean quality.
finny throng A Thomsonian
periphrasis; cf. the note to I, 137, above.
The division of this passage into foreground (I,
171-172) middleground (I, 173-174) and background (I, 175-176)
is another instance (see the Introduction, p. xxii and the note
to I, 11-22, above) of Mackay's organization of the Canadian
landscape in accordance with picturesque conventions. Kalm,
Travels, II, 251-252 also divides the landscape into
foreground ("the shores of the river . . ."),
middleground (". . .beyond that the woods and the
wilderness increase . . .") and background ("At a
great distance . . . we say a chain of very high mountains,
running from north to south" . . . ["on the north-west
side of the river"]).
arbor Shady retreat; bower.
Mackay is referring, of course, to the Plains of
Abraham, the scene to the south of Quebec of the decisive battle
between the British and the French in North America during the
Seven Years' War (1759-1763). Lasting for less than half
an hour on September 12, 1759, the Battle of the Plains of
Abraham claimed the life of the victorious General Wolfe
(1727-1759), who "clos'd his eyes in death!" after
being assured of the victory of his forces over those of the
French General, Montcalm. See Cary, Abram's Plains,
279-331 for a more detailed account of the battle that includes
reference to ". . . mementos of the soldier's spade . .
."—earthworks related to Mackay's "deep dug
fence Presumably, the
"high wall" (Kalm, Travels, II, 265) that
surrounded the town of Quebec.
From his base on the Île d'Orléans, Wolfe sailed up the St. Lawrence
past Quebec on September 5 and 6, using the cover of darkness to
avoid fire from the bastions ("turrets") that
constituted a formidable part of the town's defenses. In a
note to Kalm, who states that "[I]t seems impossible for an
enemy's ships or boats to come to the town without running into
imminent danger of being sunk" (II, 265), the English
editor of his Travels observes that the
"fortifications of Quebec" were of no avail in
On September 13, Wolfe led his soldiers up the
cliffs between the shore of the St. Lawrence and the Plains of
Cf. Thomson on the career of Sir Walter Raleigh in
"Summer," 1510: " . . . he conquer'd, and .
. . he bled."
terrestrial vale Cf.
Shakespeare, Richard II, III, ii, 41: " . . .
There were two hundred and seventy British killed
at the Siege of Quebec, and over twelve hundred wounded.
French casualties are unknown, but have been estimated at over a
thousand killed or wounded.
|I, 187f. and n.
Cf. Cary (who borrows the phrase "Destructive
war!" from Pope's Essay on Criticism, 184),
Abram's Plains, 52-53: "Destructive war! at best the
good of few, / Its dire effects whilst millions daily rue"
and Thomson, "Summer," 1480-1481: " . . .the
Splendor of heroic War, / And more heroic Peace. . .
." Although Mackay's condemnation of "unjust and
savage warfare" and of "undeserving and
barbarous" heroes does not appear to be directed at any
particular war or individual, it should be remembered that in
the winter of 1796-1797, when Quebec Hill was printed and
published (and probably partly written), Napoleon Bonaparte was
engaged in gaining control of Italy from the Austrians and the
repose Rest; particularly, in
this context, the final rest of death.
laurel Like poets of
distinction (see the note to I, 1, above), victorious military
leaders are traditionally honoured with a crown of laurel.
cultur'd field See the notes to
I, 16 and 149, above.
hamlet See the note to I, 13,
covey A family of partridges
(or sometimes other game birds such as grouse). Mackay's
distaste for hunting recalls both Denham and Thomson; see, for
instance, Cooper's Hill, 250-251 (" . . . nor man's
eye, nor heavens should invade / His [the stag's] soft repose .
. .") and "Autumn" 360f. (" . . . the
Sportsman's Joy, / the Gun fast-thundering . . . the circling
Covey . . ."). In Windsor-Forest, 93-110, Pope
compares partridge-hunting with human warfare, as, implicitly,
does Mackay in this portion of Quebec Hill.
Following the bird-shooting passage in
"Autumn" (see previous note), Thomson refers to the
"Song" and "Joy" of his "peaceful
Muse" (379f.). Mackay uses the word "matelots"
(French: sailors) to describe the source of his "voice of
joy and song," but he may well be referring to voyageurs,
romantic figures whose boat-songs were celebrated in the early
nineteenth century by Thomas Moore and others. "Our voyageurs
had good voices, and sung perfectly in tune together" wrote
Moore in a note to "A Canadian Boat-Song. Written on
the St. Lawrence", adding that he ". . . could
understand but little [of their song], from the barbarous
pronunciation of the Canadian." The most famous
"Canadian Boat-Song" was published in Blackwood's
Magazine in September 1829 (see "The 'Canadian
Boat-Song': A Mosaic," comp. D.M.R. Bentley, Canadian
Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, No. 6 [Spring/Summer
1980], pp. 69-79).
barks Rowing boats. It is
possible that Mackay is referring to one of the three types of
boats described by Kalm, Travels, II, 192 as being
commonly in use on the St. Lawrence: " . . . bark boats,
made of the bark of trees, with ribs of wood. . . ."
train A body of persons
plying Busily working, perhaps
with the nautical sense of working up a river or against the
strain See the note to I, 157,
font Fount: spring, rivulet.
See Kalm, Travels, II, 251 and 242
"All the rivulets joining the St. Lawrence . . . are
likewise well inhabited on both sides"; "To some farms
are annexed small orchards . . . ; almost every farmer has a
blanchant Apparently a
portmanteau word based on the English blanched and the French
blanchir: whitened, bleached, or white-washed?
well-fenc'd farm See the note
to I, 245-146, below.
the lark . . . to soar Carver, Travels,
p. 466 mentions but does not subsequently describe the North
American lark—the "alouette" of the
French-Canadian song. The sky-lark (which Mackay seems to
be describing) is not indigenous to Canada, though there are
field larks in Ontario and Quebec. Cf. Thomson,
"Spring," 40: ". . . soaring Lark . . .
" See the Introduction, pp. xv-xvii for a discussion
of the birds in Quebec Hill.
jocund youth and pensive age The
cheerful young person and the thoughtful old one are stock
figures reminiscent of Milton's "L'Allegro" (with its
"jocund rebecks" ) and "Il Penseroso"
(with its "pensive Nun" ).
|I, 225-232 and 229n.
Mackay calls the reader's attention especially to
Jeune Lorette, the village in which the Huron Indians who came
to Quebec in the last half of the seventeenth century,
eventually settled. Frequently referred to simply as
Lorette, Jeune Lorette (now Loretteville) is on the St. Charles
River about twelve kilometres to the Northwest of Quebec.
Cf. Cary, Abram's Plains, 412-417. Kalm, Travels,
II, 308 notes of the Hurons at Lorette that "They all plant
maize; and some have small fields of wheat and rye. Many
of them keep cows." He also comments on the
"indolence" of the Indians in Canada (II, 392) and on
their conversion to Roman Catholicism and attendance of Catholic
church services (II, 307-309 and 320). The "colony of
a similar nature . . . near Montreal" to which Mackay
refers in his note is probably Caughnawaga, where groups of
Mohawks and Oneidas settled in 1716.
huts See Kalm, Travels,
II, 307-308 for an account of the "huts" (Kalm's word)
built after the French style by the Hurons at Lorette.
Cf. Kalm, Travels, II, 307-308 for an
account of the general abstemiousness of the Lorette Hurons in
the context of a predilection that Kalm sees among Indians for
train Surroundings; context.
frantic Wild; uncontrollable.
Cf. Pope, Windsor-Forest, 27: " . . .
tufted Trees and springing Corn . . ." and Shakespeare, Richard
II, II, iii, 53: " . . . tuft of trees. . .
." Scenes composed of grasslands ("lawns")
varied by clusters ("tufts") of trees, particularly
trees bending or inclining downward or forward with a swaying
movement ("nodding"), were considered especially
picturesque in Mackay's day.
See Kalm, Travels, II, 242: "All the
farms in Canada stand separate from each other, so that
each farmer has his possessions entirely distinct from those of
his neighbour. . . ." The original, Swedish version
of Kalm's Travels includes an illustration and a detailed
discussion of the unusual "pointed fence[s]" of the
French-Canadian farms ("pointed" because their posts
rose considerably above their rails), but Forster and later
English editors and translators omit these portions of the book
as being of insufficient interest to a British audience (see II,
304). Could Mackay have known Kalm's work in the original
as well as in translation or, indeed, merely in the original?
hind See the note to I, 140,
pelf Wealth, riches: excessive
competence The condition of
having sufficient, but not excessive, means of living
See the Introduction, pp. xxi and xxxiii-xxxiv and
the notes to I, 155-156 and n. and 225-232 and 229n., above for
commentary on Mackay's religious views. In I, 259-264
Mackay advances his guardedly optimistic and certainly hopeful
analysis of the displacement of Roman Catholicism in Lower
Canada by "true Devotion" (Presbyterianism?).
dome The rounded roof of a
large building, particularly a church.
placid Peace . . . tender Charity Cf.
Thomson, "Summer," 1605-1607: ". . . white Peace,
and social Love; / The tender-looking Charity,
intent / On gentle Deeds. . . ."
Mackay's picturesque description (see the
Introduction, pp. xxii-xxiii and the notes to I, 11-22 and I,
21, above) of the Île d'Orléans, located in the St. Lawrence
about six kilometres downstream from Quebec, is anticipated in
Kalm, Travels, II, 332: "The isle [of Orleans] . . .
is well cultivated, and nothing but fine houses of stone, large
corn-fields, meadows, pastures, woods of diciduous trees, and
some churches built of stone, are to be seen on it."
See also Cary, Abram's Plains, 430-433 for the Île
d'Orléans as ". . . the garden of the blue-eyed train
[presumably the British sailors], / Who wanton sport here e'er
they seek the main" and as a fertile landscape of ". .
. corn and fruits, . . . herbage, roots, and flow'rs. . .
." It is tempting to suggest that Cary's "Here .
. . / Plenty, from her rich cornucopia, pours. / Be thankful
swains . . . Safe is the product of the peasant's toil . .
." (432-434 and 443) finds an echo in Mackay's "Where
smiling plenty crowns the peasant's toil" (I, 270), but, of
course, "plenty" (the personification of natural
abundance) is a stock figure and "peasant's toil" a
recurring phrase in eighteenth-century poetry.
purling streams A Popean
phrase: see, for example, Essay on Man, I, 204
("purling rill") and "An Epistle . . . to Dr.
Arbuthnot," 150 ("purling Stream"). Purling:
Rippling, undulating, murmuring.
cuckoo . . . nightingales Carver,
Travels, 466 mentions the cuckoo and the nightingale in
his list "Of the Birds" of North America, and he later
describes the "Whetsaw" as "of the cuckoo
kind" (475). In what is now Quebec there are indeed
cuckoos (both black- and yellow-billed), but no
nightingales. Mackay may be applying the latter word to
one or other of the varieties of the nocturnal, buff-coloured
Goatsucker that are found in Quebec—the Whip-Poor-Will or the Common Nighthawk,
for example. Both of these varieties migrate south in the
winter (see II, 11-12), and the former has a distinctive call
that could have associated it in the poet's mind with the
nightingale. See Introduction, pp. xv-xvii for a
discussion of the presence of the cuckoo and the nightingale in Quebec
noisy mill Probably a flour
Carver, Travels, p. 495 mentions the oak,
the cedar and the pine (see I, 314) in his list "Of the Trees
. . ." of North America.
See the quotation from Pope's Windsor-Forest,
17-18 at I, 78, above.
view'd from far . . . More near, is
seen Cf. Goldsmith, The Traveller, 305:
" . . . But view them closer, craft and fraud appear. . .
tare The tare-vetch (or,
possibly, the tare-thistle, but see I, 292): a plant that grows
as a weed in corn.
crabs Wild or sour
apples. Carver, Travels, 502-503 observes that the
North American crab-apple tree ". . . bears a fruit that is
much larger and better flavoured than those of Europe."
blast Wither; blight.
airy Immaterial; empty.
prospects Views and
Beaupré Beauport, one of the oldest settlements in
Canada, lies to the Northeast of Quebec on the St.
Lawrence. In Mackay's day, it was a bustling market town
and, hence, "profitably gay."
Montmorency's Falls attract the ear
According to Kalm, Travels, II, 358-360, these famous
falls, about nine kilometres to the northeast of Quebec (and
considerably higher than Niagara Falls), could ". . .
sometimes [be] heard at Quebec. . . . At other
times, . . . a good way lower to the north. . . ."
Mackay treats the falls as a sublime (appalling) sight similar
to Niagara Falls; see the notes to I, 9, 20 and, especially, 96,
bending Flexible or, in another
sense, curving downwards.
As discussed in the Introduction, pp. xxvii-xxviii,
Mackay uses "The row of ten mountains" which, in
Kalm's words, lies ". . . on the west side of the river,
and runs nearly from south to north, gradually com[ing] nearer
to the river . . ." (Travels, II, 312-313), as the
occasion for describing an optical curiosity: under certain
atmospheric conditions, the mountains seem both larger and more
distant than they actually are, thus creating problems of scale
and depth-perception which, in effect, violate normal
perspectival expectations. The following explanation of
"Perspective" in the 1771 edition of the Encyclopedia
Britannica is germane: "In describing things at a great
distance, observe the proportion, both in magnitude and distance
. . . which appears from the object to the eye. . . . [A]ccording
as the distance grows greater and greater . . . the colours
[will] be feinter and feinter, till they lose themselves in a
darkish sky-colour"—a progression violated by Mackay's mountains
"richly cloth'd, in the colours of the air". It
is possible that Mackay was moved to his observations by the
following passage in James, Dangerous Voyage, pp. 77-78:
"From a little Hill . . . in the clearest Weather, when the
Sun shone with all the Purity of Air . . . we could not see a
little Island, which bore off us S.S.E. 4 Leag. but if the
Weather was misty . . . then we should often see it, from the
lowest Place. . . . This shows how great a Refraction here
See Introduction, pp. xxix.
Cf. the famous opening stanza of Thomas Gray's
"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," 2-4: ".
. . The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea, / The plowman
homeward plods his weary way, / And leaves the world to darkness
and to me."
yellow Indians The
"yellow" of the Indians may refer to their racial
origins as well as to their colour. Both Kalm (Travels,
II, 280f.) and Carver (Travels, p. 181f.) support the
common view that the Indians of North America came to Canada
from Asia at some point or points in the distant past. Cf.
Goldsmith, The Traveller, 416: " . . . the brown
Indian. . . ."
Cf. Kalm, Travels, 253-254: "They have
a very peculiar method of catching fish near the shore here [on
the St. Lawrence]. They place hedges along the shore, made
of twisted oziers, so close that no fish can get through them,
and from one foot to a yard high. . . . Within this
enclosure they place several wheels, or fish-traps, in the form
of cylinders, but broad below. . . . In some places
hereabouts they place nets instead of the hedges of twigs."
fated Controlled or guided by
brood Young fish or group of
feather'd warblers A
tautological periphrasis; cf. Thomson, "Spring," 729
("feather'd Youth") and "Winter" 793 ("feather'd
matted Tangled and interlaced,
with a possible echo of Goldsmith's description of North
America's " . . . matted woods where birds forget to
sing" in The Deserted Village, 349.
ravish Entrance: fill the
listener with delight.
radiant Phœbus The sun, supposed by the ancient Greeks and
Romans to be the cart of Phœbus ('the bright') Apollo, the god
In the nautical sense, a strong wind; in the literary sense
"a wind not tempestuous, but stronger than a breeze"
(Samuel Johnson's Dictionary).
kindling Growing; rising.
fraught Filled; freighted.
fiery Having the appearance of
fire or (see the note to I, 160n., above) liable to take fire or
sickly dews Rain that causes
sickness or ill-health. See Gray, "The Progress of
Poesy," 49: "Night, and all her sickly dews . . .
." See also the note to I, 87 (and n.)-89, above.
flutt'ring Intermittently and
solar orb A periphrasis for the
smiling Pleasant, agreeable to
sage A wise, discreet,
How chang'd the stream Cf.
Thomson, "Summer," 784: "How chang'd the
dreary Gloomy, uninteresting.
waste A land covered with snow
or, more generally, a wild and desolate region.
spiral Tall and tapering or
pointed. Cf. Richard Savage, The Wanderer: A Vision,
IV, 15: " . . . spiral Firs. . . ."
hardy thorn The hawthorn, which
is hardy in the horticultural sense of being able to grow in the
open air throughout the year. The hawthorn is not,
however, an evergreen as implied here.
Mackay seems to be referring to various shrubs
which are neither so well-known nor so high-standing as the
trees in the previous lines.
bloom Presumably in the sense,
not of flower, but of flourish. Carver, Travels, p.
509 says of the evergreen shrub "Winter Green" that
its " . . . red berries . . . are preserved during the
severe season by the snow, and at that time in this highest
feather'd songsters Another
tautological periphrasis; see the note to I, 341, above.
See the note to I, 273-274 and Thomson,
"Autumn," 844-848 for the migration of various species
of birds to "warmer Climes" during winter.
Mackay's "line" is, of course, the equator.
As noted in the Introduction, p.xxxi, the
repetition of the phrase "No more" in these, and
subsequent lines (II, 29-32), is reminiscent of Goldsmith, The
Deserted Village, 243-245. See also Pope,
culture Cultivation; see the
notes to I, 16 and 149, above.
friendly Helpful; serviceable.
Siberia See Thomson,
"Winter," 902f. for a description of the earth's
coldest inhabited region.
thick'ning floods See the note
to II, 93-102, below.
hind See the note to I, 140,
cheerless plain Cf. Thomson,
"Winter," 41 ("chearless Empire"), 76
("unsightly Plain") and 248 ("joyless
Fields"). See also Savage, The Wanderer, 47:
Mackay's personification of "Winter" as
a "Stern" ruler, complete with an entourage
("train") and "frigid splendours" recalls
Thomson's "Winter," particularly in its opening lines:
"See, WINTER comes, to rule the vary'd Year, / Sullen, and
sad, with all his rising Train; / Vapours, and Clouds,
and Storms." But see also Savage, The
Wanderer, 44f. for a personification of "Frost"
with a "Robe snow-wrought, and hoar'd with Age. . . ."
rigour A sudden chill,
accompanied with fits of shivering or, in another sense, extreme
Cf. Thomson, "Summer," 442-443:
"Echo no more returns the chearful Sound / Of Sharpening
Scythe. . . ."
drooping Lacking in strength,
energy, vigour. Cf. Thomson, "Winter," 63
(" . . . Cattle droop . . . ") and 240-241
("Drooping, the Labourer-Ox / Stands cover'd o'er with snoe
. . . ").
faggots Bundles of sticks,
small branches and the like.
vital heat According to a
theory of the mechanics of life that was common from the
sixteenth to the eighteenth century, the sun (or, to a
Christian, ultimately God) was the source of the spirit or
warmth essential to all life. Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost,
VII, 236 ("vital warmth"), Pope Essay on Man,
III, 118 ("vital flame") and Thomson,
"Winter," 52-53: " . . . vital Heat, / Light,
Life, and Joy, the dubious Day forsake."
|II, 35-44 and n.
Cf. Kalm, Travels, II, 269: " . . .
[the St. Lawrence at Quebec is] covered with ice during the
whole winter, which is strong enough for walking, and a carriage
may go over it." See also the note to I, 146n.,
above. Impending: overhanging. Cf. James Dangerous
Voyage, pp. 3-4 and f. for the pieces of ice as high and
higher than a ship's mast that found their way into S.T.
Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
frozen fetters See the note to
I, 159, above.
dismantled Stripped of leaves.
|II, 47-54 and 49n.
The following description of noon in Thomson,
"Summer," 432-439 lies centrally in the background of
'Tis raging Noon; and, vertical, the Sun
Darts on the Head direct his forceful Rays.
O'er Heaven and Earth, far as the ranging Eye
Can sweep, a dazling Deluge reigns; and all
From Pole to Pole is undistinguish'd Blaze.
In vain the Sight, dejected to the Ground,
Stoops for Relief; thence hot ascending Streams
And keen Reflection pain. . . .
Sun . . . car See the note to
I, 344, above.
purest Clearest, most
transparent. See the quotation from James, Dangerous
Voyage at I, 317-324, above.
Terrific grandeur! In Mackay's
day, darkness was considered sublime; see the notes to I, 9, 20
and 96, above.
amain See the note to I, 74,
The point of departure for these lines may be
Thomson, "Winter," 943-949: "Immers'd in Furs, /
Doze the gross Race. . . . Till morn at length . . . calls
the quiver'd Savage to the Chace." But see also Gray,
"The Progress of Poesy", 57: " . . . the
shiv'ring Natives dull abode" and Goldsmith, The
Traveller, 65: "The shudd'ring tenant in the frigid
zone. . . ."
shed See the note to I, 226,
upper country Pays d'en haut:
hinterland. Carver, Travels, p. 78 describes the
"more temperate climate" and "small quantity of
snow" in the interior of the continent, noting " . . .
a total disuse of snow shoes by the Indians, without which none
of the more eastern nations can possibly travel during the
greedy wolf See the note to I,
roe See the note to I, 84,
wolverine. Carver, Travels, p. 450 provides the
following description of the "Carcajou": "This
creature, which is of the cat kind, is a terrible enemy of the
preceding four species of beasts [the Deer, the Elk, the Moose
and the Carrabou]. He either comes upon them from some
concealment unperceived, or climbs up into a tree, and taking
his station on some of the branches, waits till one of them,
driven by an extreme of heat or cold, takes shelter under it; [t]hen
he fastens upon his neck, and opening the jugular vein, soon
brings his prey to the ground. This he is able to do by
his long tail, with which he encircles the body of his
adversary. . . ."
See the notes to I, 73-76 and 76, above.
See the note to I, 71-72, above.
Cf. Carver, Travels, p. 444: "When
[the wolves] herd together, as they often do in the winter, they
make a hideous and terrible noise."
ambient Surrounding. See
Milton, Paradise Lost, VII, 88-90 " . . . this which
yields or fills / All space, the ambient Air wide interfus'd /
Imbracing round this florid Earth. . . ."
In this description of the "northern
winds" Mackay could be answering a question posed by
Carver, Travels, pp. 78-79: " . . . may not the
winds that set violently into the Bay of Mexico about the latter
end of the year, take their course over the continent in the
same direction as the Mississippi does; till meeting with the
north winds (that from a similar cause blow up the Boubon from
Hudson's Bay) they are forced across the great lakes, down the
current of the waters of the St. Lawrence, and united, commit
those ravages, and occasion those severe winters, experienced in
[New England and Canada]?" See also the quotation
from Kalm's Travels at II, 125-132, below and the passage
in Thomson's "Winter" referred to at II, 19, above.
Disowns Refuses, rejects.
The stormy ocean ("agitated main") temporarily resists
the supremacy of the ice.
Greenland See James, Dangerous
Voyage, p. 7: "The 4th of June we made the Land
of Greenland; . . . by two in the Morning, we found
ourselves encompassed with Ice . . ." and F. Marten's Voyage
into Spitzbergen and Greenland (trans. 1694; rpt. 1855):
"The ice begirts these countries on all sides. . .
." See also Thomson, "Winter," 887f. on
Greenland and other arctic regions.
Cf. Thomson, "Winter," 913-916:
Ocean itself can no longer resist
The binding Fury; but, in all its Rage
Of Tempest taken by the boundless Frost,
Is many a Fathom to the Bottom chain'd,
And bid to roar no more: a bleak Expanse . . .
In comparison with this, Mackay's description of the process
by which the ocean freezes has a markedly scientific tone (see
Introduction, pp. xxviii-xxix). Perhaps he is responding
to the following passage in James, Dangerous Voyage, pp.
69-71: "In the beginning of this Month, the Sea was all
firmly frozen over, so that we could see no Water any Way.
I hope it will not seem tedious to the Readers, if I here
deliver my Opinion, how this Abundance of Ice comes to be
ingender'd . . . . [By] the latter End of October . . .
the Sea [has been brought] to that Coldness, that as it snows,
the Snow will lie upon the Water in Flakes without changing his
Colour; but with the Wind is wrought together; and as the Winter
goes forward, it begins to freeze on the Surface of it, 2 or 3
Inches, or more, in one Night: which being carried with the half
Tide, meets with some Obstacle, as it soon doth, and then it
crumples and so runs upon itself, that in a few Hours, it will
be 5 or 6 Foot thick. The half Tide still flowing, carries
it so fast away, that by December it is growing to an
infinite Multiplication of Ice. And thus by this Storing
of it up, the Cold gets the Predomination in the Sea. . .
. This may appear by our Experience, though in all this, I
freely submit myself to the more learned."
confess Concede, acknowledge,
frigid fetters See the note to
I, 159, above (and also II, 43).
Thomson's account of a "Swain" getting
lost and dying in the snow in "Winter," 276-321 is
clearly the model for this passage, but, once again (as above,
II, 91-102), Mackay adds a dash of science to Thomson's
sentiment, in this case a description of the effects of intense
cold on the circulation and appearance of its victim (II,
114-117). As W. Derham's note in Physico-Theology; or,
a Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, from his
Works of Creation (12th ed.; 1754), p. 24 intimates,
"Instances of . . . Persons buried under the Snow . . .
which are found uncorrupted in the Summer, when the snow is
melted . . ." were of considerable interest in the
eighteenth century. See James, Dangerous Voyage, p.
86 for a particularly gruesome instance of the disclosure of a
dead body in ice. James (pp. 64-65 and 74) also provides
descriptions of the effects of cold on the extremities of the
Boreas In Greek mythology, the
god of the north wind.
etherial flood In the late
eighteenth century, ether was still considered to be the
ubiquitous fluid through which light and heat were transmitted,
though Mackay's phrase may be merely a periphrasis for
air. Cf. Thomson, "Winter," 155-157: "On
the passive Main / Descends th' etherial Force, and with strong
Gust / Turns from its Bottom the discolour'd Deep."
livid Bluish (as the colour of
sanguine current A periphrasis
obsequious An unusual usage,
but Mackay clearly means helpful or accommodating.
procure Obtain; provide.
frozen corse See the general
note to II, 91-102, above and Thomson, "Winter,"
320-321: " . . . a stiffen'd Corse [ corpse], / Stretch'd
out, and bleaching in the northern Blast."
The passage is a versification of Kalm, Travels,
II, 299: "They reckon the north-east wind the most piercing
of all, here [in Quebec]. Many of the best people . . .
assured me, that this wind, when it is very violent in winter,
pierces through walls of a moderate thickness, so that the whole
wall on the inside of the house is covered with snow, or a thick
hoar frost. . . ." See also James, Dangerous
Voyage, pp. 72-73: "Our House on the Out-side, was
cover'd two thirds Parts with Snow; and on the Inside frozen,
and hung with Icesickles."
domes Houses (from the Latin domus).
confess See the note to II, 98,
pierces walls See the general
note to II, 127-132, above and Thomson, "Winter," 336:
"Sore pierc'd by wintry Winds. . . ."
Cf. Thomson, "Summer," 939-946:
UNHAPPY he! who from the first of Joys,
Society, cut off, is left alone
Amid this World of Death. Day after Day,
Sad on the jutting Eminence he sits,
And views the Main that ever toils below;
Still fondly forming in the farthest Verge,
Where the round Ether mixes with the Wave,
Ships, dim-discovered, dropping from the Clouds.
Unmindful Careless, heedless,
though Mackay appears to mean forgetful.
drooping See the note to II,
Commerce See the note to I,
147, above. See also Thomson, "Autumn," 118f.
and Cary, Abram's Plains, 107f. for treatments of British
|II, 141-143 and 141n.
The economy of Lower Canada was in a state of
relative depression in the 1790s, with exports of everything
except wheat (that is, furs and timber) either declining or
stagnating from year to year and, thus, providing relatively
little opportunity for businessmen to "acquire opulence and
independence. . . ." The anonymous American author of
American Husbandry, writes as follows of Canada in the
late eighteenth century: "The circumstance that must keep
down this colony, and make it unprofitable to settle in, is the
want of a short and regular navigation", and he adds:
"Whoever has in England, or Scotland, money enough to pay
their passage and expenses to Quebec, to stock a farm, and go
thro' the expenditure of the first year . . . might certainly
employ that money in farming at home to better advantage. . .
. [T]here are certainly men who make money in Canada—but a few instances are not what should . . .
be attended to, but the general nature of the country, and the
situation of the greater number" (pp. 31-33).
ether stream See the note to
II, 113, above and Pope, Essay on Man, III, 115-116:
"Whate'er of life all quick'ning æther keeps, / Or breathes thro' air. . .
|II, 145-150 (and also 141n.)
Thomson, "Winter," 630f. on "Winter-Night"
in the "City" as a scene in which "The Sons of
Riot" turn to gambling and other more-or-less detrimental
mein fantastic Mein: mien, a
literary term for the appearance of a person as expressive of
their character or mood. The expressions of Mackay's
revellers are indicative of their odd and irrational
ideal See the note to I, 30.
scan Estimate or judge by a
certain rule or standard. Cf. Goldsmith, The Traveller,
333-334: " . . . even the peasant boasts these rights to
scan, / And learns to venerate himself as man."
soothing Pleasant; mitigating.
See Thomson, "Winter," 760f. for outdoor
activities during the season and 424f. for winter as a time for
study and, in Mackay's phrase, "mental joys".
cars Presumably carrioles—the light, horse-drawn carriages on runners
that are peculiar to French Canada. Cf. Cary, Abram's
See Thomson, "Winter," 603-608 on "
. . . Hope . . . [for] Scenes / Of Happiness, and Wonder; where
the Mind . . . Rises from State to State, and World to
World" as a respite from Winter.
ardent See the note to I, 160,
Ere radiant Phœbus quits the aërial twins Before the sun (see the note to I, 344, above)
leaves Gemini ("th' aërial twins"), the sign of the
zodiac into which it was observed by ancient astronomers to move
in the Spring, and enters Cancer, the sign into which it moves
at the Summer solstice in June. Cf. Pope, Windsor-Forest,
147: "Now Cancer glows with Phœbus' fiery when
bright Phœbus from the twins invites. . . ."
See also Thomson, "Summer," 43-44: "When now no
more th' alternate Twins are fir'd, / And Cancer reddens
with the solar Blaze. . . ."
balmy Delicately and
deliciously fragrant. Cf. Pope, "Winter": 49:
". . . balmy Zephyrs, silent since her Death. . .
pinions See the note to II, 58,
Philomela In Greek mythology,
the unfortunate Philomela was turned by the gods into a swallow;
however, later tradition had her turned into a nightingale, the
bird probably intended here by Mackay (and see the note to I,
273-274, above). See also (in conjunction with the "whisp'ring
wind" of the previous line) Pope, "Winter,"
78-79: "Such Silence waits on Philomela's Strains, /
. . . when the whisp'ring Breeze / Pants on the Leaves. . .
.", and Thomson, "Spring," 601: " . . . when
listening Philomela. . . ."
alluding to Hinting at.
as climates I compare, / And manners
note See Goldsmith, The Traveller, 75-76:
" . . . if countries we compare, / And estimate the
blessings which they share. . . ." Goldsmith
anticipates Mackay in emphasizing the climates and
"manners" (The Traveller, 239) of the countries
that he compares.
Mackay's paean to Britain has numerous precedents
but probably derives from three principal models: Pope, Windsor
Forest, 91f., Thomson, "Summer" 1595f. (beginning
"ISLAND of Bliss!") and Goldsmith, The Traveller,
317f. (including the lines "Creation's mildest charms are
there combin'd, / Extremes are only in the master's mind . .
Carthage The ancient city state
of Carthage accumulated great wealth beginning in the sixth
century B.C. and lasting, more-or-less, until the city's
complete destruction by Rome in the third Punic War (149-146
luxury Indulgence in the rich
The direction of Mackay's reference to
"artful men, / Fomenting broils" in Britain is
unclear, though a possible butt of his comments are the
worsening troubles in Ireland of his day. In the summer of
1795 numerous outrages were committed in that country against
Protestants by Catholics who despaired of obtaining fair
treatment by the Irish Parliament. Angry Protestants
calling themselves Orangemen retaliated, and early in 1796 the
United Irishmen, a Presbyterian organization committed to
uniting Catholics and Protestants, sent their leader, Wolfe
Tone, to France to urge the Directory established as a result of
the French Revolution to invade Ireland and establish a
republic. The failure of the large French force sent to
invade Ireland in December, 1796 was not followed by an
abatement of Irish violence, which continued into the Rebellion
of 1798 and beyond. And not only in Ireland but also in
England and Scotland, the spirit of revolution emanating from
France led to unrest and defensiveness in the mid-to-late
seventeen nineties. In October, 1795, George III was
surrounded (and nearly killed) by a mob on his way to open
Parliament in London—an outburst which, in turn, provoked William
Pitt's notorious Treason and Sedition Acts.
artful See the note to II, 75,
broils Disturbances; quarrels.
Mackay may be referring here to a variety of
"Disorders" and manifestations of "faction"
in late eighteenth-century North America, from the American
Revolution to the French-English tension that began to mount
after the Constitutional Act of 1791 (and as a result of the
Revolution in France). There were riots along racial and
class lines in Lower Canada in 1794 and 1796, and one
particularly gruesome instance of official retaliation, only a
few months after the publication of Quebec Hill: the
hanging, drawing and quartering for treason of David MacLane in
Quebec on July 21, 1797. Cf. Goldsmith, The Traveller,
345: " . . . Ferments arise, imprison'd factions roar. . .
molest Cause annoyance or
where beasts with men contend See
Goldsmith, The Traveller, 414-416: " . . . tangled
forests, and . . . dangerous ways; / Where beasts with man
divided empire claim, / And the brown Indian marks with
murderous aim. . . ."
novelty Unusual character.
desart Uninhabited or
gayer . . . smiling See the
note to I, 70 and I, 358.
Cf. Goldsmith, The Traveller, 123-124:
"But small the bliss that sense alone bestows, / And
sensual bliss is all the nation [Italy] knows" and (in
conjunction with II, 230: " . . . centre in the
skies") 423-424: "Vain . . . my weary search to find /
That bliss which onl centers in the mind. . . ."
local comforts . . . commix'd with
shade See the quotations from Pope and Goldsmith
at I, 78 (and see also I, 288) and I, 290-291, above. In
his discussions of France, Italy and elsewhere in The
Traveller, Goldsmith's narrator proves himself continually a
man of "alternate passions" (55) as he emphasizes the
positive and negative aspects of each country. Commix'd:
Commingled, mixed together.
In these lines Mackay appears to be modifying the
following passage from near the conclusion of Goldsmith's The
Traveller with his own vision of all earthly life as a
mixture of the good and the bad:
Still, to ourselves in every place consign'd,
Our own felicity we make or find:
With secret course, which no loud storms annoy,
Glides the smooth current of domestic joy.
alloy A substance or quality
that impairs, sullies, or compromises that with which it is
aught Anything whatever.
invoke Call upon.