primary purpose of these Explanatory Notes is threefold: to help explain
certain words and phrases that may be unfamiliar to the reader of Talbot
Road; to illuminate the historical and mythical milieus in which the
poem is set; and to call attention to words, phrases, and passages in
Burwell's work which allude to or are derived from other writers. In this
latter category, these notes are intended to complement the Introduction
where there is less emphasis on particular verbal and phrasal echoes than
on the larger patterns, assumptions and attitudes that link Talbot
Road, not only to later works in the Canadian continuum, but also with
the writers and ideas of the early nineteenth century and earlier.
Quotations from Milton, Dryden, Pope, Goldsmith, and Thomson are taken
from the following texts: Merrit Y. Hughes edition of Paradise
Lost (New York: The Odyssey Press, 1962); George R. Noyes edition of
Dryden's Poetical Works, Second
Edition, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950); John Butt's edition of The
Poems of Alexander Pope (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1963); Arthur
Friedman's The Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1966); and, James Sambrook's edition of The
Seasons (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981). Other quotations are taken
from standard or definitive editions of the poets' works.
Talbot and the Talbot Settlement have been the subject of a number of
historical and biographical works. Especially useful in compiling these
Explanatory Notes have been Edward Ermatinger's Life
of Colonel Talbot and the Talbot Settlement (St. Thomas, Ont.: The
Home Journal Office of A. MacLachlan, 1859; rpt. Mika Silk Screening,
1972); C.O. Ermatinger's The Talbot
Regime (St. Thomas, Ont.: The Municipal World Ltd., 1904); Fred Coyne
Hamil's Lake Erie Baron: The Story of Colonel Thomas Talbot (Toronto:
Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd., 1955); and Wayne Paddon's The
Story of the Talbot Settlement, 7803-7840:
a frontier history of southwestern Ontario ([s.l. : s.n.], 1975). Also
useful has been James Coyne's two-volume collection, The Talbot Papers (Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1907,
1909) which reprints a number of letters and documents from the Talbot
number of "emigrant guides" and travel books contain accounts of
the Talbot Settlement, and several of these have proved valuable: Isaac
Weld's Travels through the States of
North America,and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada,during the Years
1795, 1796, and 1797, 4th
ed. (1807. rpt. New York and London: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1968),
Michael Smith's A Geographical View
of the Province of Upper Canada, 3rd. ed. (Philadelphia: Printed by J.
Bioren, 1813), a popular account which went through at least six editions
between 1813 and 1816; James Strachan's A
Visit to the Province of Upper Canada, in 1819 (Aberdeen: Printed by
D. Chalmers and Co., 1820; rpt. Yorkshire: S.R. Publishers, 1968); John
Howison's A Sketch of Upper Canada (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd; London: G. and
W.B. Whittaker, 1821; rpt. Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1965); Robert
Gourlay's Statistical Account of
Upper Canada, Vols. I and II, (London: Simpkins and Mashall Stationers
Court, 1822; rpt. Yorkshire: S.R. Publishers Ltd., 1966); E.A. Talbot's Five
Years' Residence in the Canadas (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme,
Brown and Green, 1824; rpt. Yorkshire: S.R. Publishers, 1968); and Anna
Jameson's Winter Studies and Summer
Rambles (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1923), which contains her
experiences in the Talbot Settlement during a visit in 1837 and includes
Talbot's reminiscences about his life in the Settlement.
compiling these notes a great number of reference books were consulted,
including the The Dictionary of
National Biography, The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Sir Paul
Harvey's Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (1937), the Oxford
Dictionary of the Christian Church, F.C. Cross, ed. (London: Oxford
University Press, 1958), Dr. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary
(London: Times Books, 1983) and, of course, the Oxford
English Dictionary. A large number of historical works, national,
regional and local, have also been consulted. Particularly useful have
been: Frederick Armstrong's Handbook
of Upper Canadian Chronology (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1985), Donald
Creighton's Dominion of the North: A
History of Canada (Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada, 1957); Gerald M.
Craig's Upper Canada: The Formative
Years, 1784‑1841 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1963);
E.R. Cruickshank's The Documentary
History of the Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier in the year 1812 (Printed
for the Society, 1899; Welland: The Tribune Office); Edwin C. Guillet's Early
Life in Upper Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963); and
Fred Coyne Hamil's Valley of the Lower Thames (Toronto: University of Toronto Press,
1951) which is an excellent study of the history of settlement in Canada
West, and contains valuable information pertinent to the founding of the
Talbot Settlement. A number of miscellaneous works contributed useful
facts, descriptions, and quotations which help to enlarge the reader's
understanding of the historical, geographical, and political milieus in
which the poem resides. Of these the following were especially useful: Perspective
on Landscape and Settlement in Nineteenth Century Ontario, J. David
Wood, ed., (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd., 1978); Mrs.
Simcoe's Diary, Mary Quayle Innis, ed., (Toronto: Macmillan Company of
Canada, Ltd., 1965); Archibald Blue's Mahlon
Burwell, Land Surveyor (Proceedings of the Canadian Institute, 1899);
James S. Brierley's collection of historical essays, A
Pioneer History of Elgin County (St. Thomas, Ont., 1896; rpt.
Petrolia, Ont., 1971); the PAC, Militia, Reports for Essex, Oxford,
Norfolk, C 703, 1787‑1839); Ontario
Historical Society, Vol. IX (Toronto: Published by the Society, 1910);
American Historical Review, Vol.
17 (1912); The Collected Works of Benjamin Franklin (New
York: Haskell House, 1970); and Margaret Ann Doody's The
Daring Muse: Augustan Poetry
Reconsidered (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985); Carl
F. Klinck's Literary History of
Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965) has been
indispensable as a broad overview of pre-Confederation literary history.
Finally, the notes from two previous editions in the Canadian Poetry Press
series have also been helpful in preparing the explanatory notes for this
edition: Thomas Cary's Abram's
Plains: A Poem, ed. D.M.R. Bentley (London, Ont.: Canadian Poetry
Press, 1986) and J. Mackay's Quebec
or Canadian Scenery, ed. D.M.R. Bentley (London, Ont.: Canadian Poetry Press,
other region- or district-poems written in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, the title of Talbot Road:
A Poem refers to that particular region or area which the poet has
chosen to praise. "Talbot Road" designated a large tract of land
which stretched along the north shore of Lake Erie, from present-day
Norfolk County in the east, to Essex County in the west; and bordered by
Lake Erie on the south and the River Thames in the north. In 1803, Colonel
Thomas Talbot's land application to the British Government was successful,
and he received a "field officer's grant" of five thousand acres
of land in Upper Canada, as well as the settlement rights. Talbot's
foresight, ingenuity, and political savvy helped to develop the area into
the most successful settlement projects in the country. Its praises were
sung far and wide, but Talbot Road is
the only known poetical account of the region. The following prose
description is taken from John Howison's account in his Sketches
of Upper Canada after a visit to the Settlement in 1818-1819:
"The Talbot Settlement . . . commences about thirty miles beyond Long
Point, and forms the only monument of the colonizing exertions of an
individual, that Upper Canada exhibits .... It shews how much can be
accomplished by the well-directed energies of an enterprising person, and
. . . it is the land of promise to which emigrants, native Americans, and
Canadians, are daily flocking in vast numbers .... The Talbot Settlement
lies parallel to the shore of Lake Erie, and consists of two great roads,
which extend seventy or eighty miles, besides back settlements. The object
in giving it such a longitudinal form was, that a road might be opened to
the head of Lake Erie, and this has consequently been effected, much to
the advantage of the Province in general .... The settler is obliged to
clear ten acres of land, to build a house of certain dimensions, and to
open one half of
road in front of his farm, within the space of three years; regulations
equally beneficial to the country in general, and advantageous to the
occupier of the lot" (Howison, Sketches
of Upper Canada, pp. 168-169).
1830, Talbot and his settlers had cut a road almost three hundred miles
long. The Talbot Road was the connecting link that ran the length of the
Settlement and it was the key to the Settlement's success. The interior
lands of the Talbot Settlement could only be opened up if a road was built
which would connect the settlers with each other and the rest of the
country. The road provided a quicker route through the province and
complemented the shipping routes, thus enabling the area to become a
viable participant in the world of commerce and trade. The Talbot Road,
however beneficial, was also the source of much of Talbot's political
woes. Gerald Craig explains: "In theory, local roads were to be built
under the direction of District officials, particularly the Justices of
the Peace, relying heavily on statute labour . . . .Members of the
Assembly early turned to efforts to get provincial funds for roads in
their communities, with the result that road-building and political
manoeuvring were soon closely intermixed" (Craig, Upper
The Formative Years, 1784-1847,
p. 53). Surveyed, to a great extent, by Mahlon
Burwell, elder brother to the poet, Talbot Road was opened up by the
statute labour of the settlers, who were required to clear, not only their
own lots, but also a road allowance in front of their lots. "If a man
failed to obey Talbot's regulations," writes Craig, "he was
summarily dispossessed and his land given to someone else" (Craig, Upper Canada, p. 143). The Talbot Road became revered throughout the
country and in England, where it was lauded as one of the best roads in
the colonies. Even an ardent critic of Upper Canadian roads, Anna Jameson,
complimented the state of the roads in the Settlement: "The roads are
good all round; and the Talbot road, carried directly through the town
[St. Thomas], is the finest in the province . . . .The goodness of the
road is owing to the systematic regulations of Colonel Talbot"
(Jameson, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles, pp. 159-160).
and Pope (amongst others) appended "Arguments" to their major
works (see, for example, Paradise
Lost and Essay on Man), outlining what was to come, as though assisting the
reader in following the "story." The ordered arrangement
suggests a parallel between the order which Burwell seeks in his poem, and
the order imposed on the wilderness by settlement and civilization. The
Argument also provides a topographical and historical survey of Talbot
Road, as well as a shorter version of the journey in the main body of the
poem. Inherent in this "journey" is a moral and spiritual
assessment of man as revealed by the sequential depiction of human
activites in the settlement and the influence of events upon him.
dedicates the poem to Talbot who, at the time, was in England attempting
to lobby for political support in the British Government (Talbot left Port
Talbot in November 1817 and returned in June 1818). At the time, the
Provincial Government was complaining that Talbot had too much power over
the settlement and was ignoring its directives as to how land was to be
granted. In Talbot's absence, the Government sent agents to inspect the
settlement and its inhabitants, hoping to find an excuse for curtailing
Talbot's growing independence. In light of this fact, and judging by the
echoes from Milton's Paradise Lost and
Pope's Essay on Man, Talbot Road can
be viewed as a "justification [or "vindication"] of the
ways" of Colonel Talbot. Since Burwell is not mentioned in any of
Talbot's papers (nor is Talbot referred to again by Burwell) the nature of
their relationship beyond what is implied in Talbot
Road remains unknown.
Awake my muse! awake the tuneful lyre Cf.
Psalm 57:8-9: "Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp:
I myself will awake early. / I will praise thee, O Lord, among the
people: I will sing unto thee among the nations." See Burwell
poem, "Take, O take the martial Lyre," (Appendix B), 53:
"Wake, O wake the trembling wire"; and 67: "Wake
then, wake the martial lyre." See Pope, Essay on Man, 1: "Awake my St. John! leave all meaner things .
. . ." The imperative tone of Burwell's invocation, like
Pope's, indicates the urgency and energy with which the poet
undertakes his poetic task. Cf. Gray, The
Progress of Poetry, 1-2: "Awake, Aeolian lyre, awake, /
And give rapture all thy trembling strings." See also
Thomson, "Winter," 530-533:
|. . . those Shades, whose skilful Touch Pathetic drew
th'impassion'd Heart, and charm'd Transported Athens with the MORAL SCENE: Nor Those who, tuneful, wak'd
invocation also echoes the sentiments of American poet James Kirk
Paulding (1778-1860) who advocated in his poem, The
Backwoodsman (1818), that native poets strive "to rouse
the dozing spirit of the Muse." See also, George Longmore's The
Charivari (1824) for a similar opening used for a more ironic
effect: "Awake my muse, whatever might be my mould" (1).
A lyre, of course, is an ancient musical instrument, possibly
Greek in origin, with strings stretched on a
U-shaped frame. The lyre is synonymous with the lyric tradition in
literature and is characteristic of passionate poetry.
hallowed fire An intense
image of sacred or holy inspiration commonly associated with prophetic vision. The fire is also symbolic of
spiritual purification. See Goldsmith, The Traveller, 219-220: "Unknown these powers that raise the soul to flame, / Catch every nerve and vibrate through the frame." hallowed
warm with new life my heart See
Thomson, "Winter," 550-552:
|Or from the Muses' Hill will POPE descend,
|To raise the sacred Hour, to bid it smile,
|And with the social Spirit warm the Heart.
Hard to accomplish or achieve.
mental worth Intellectual
excellence or virtue.
Pope, Essay on Man, IV, 135-136:
"The good must merit God's peculiar care; / But who, but God,
can tell us who they are?" See also, Milton, Paradise
Lost, III, 183-184: "Some I have chosen of peculiar grace
/ Elect above the rest; so is my will."
fit; bestow or grant.
For Talbot Road, say first, what
master hand . . . Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost, I, 27-29:
|Say first, for Heav'n hides nothing from thy view
|Nor the deep Tract of Hell, say first what cause
|Mov'd our Grand Parents in that happy State.
also Pope, Essay on Man, I, 17-18:
"Say first, of God above, or Man below, / What can we reason,
but from what we know?"
projected Put forth as
a project; planned or devised.
resign To relinquish or
rudest Most harsh and
rugged, uncultivated and wild.
desert A wild, uninhabited
and uncultivated tract of land.
Colonel Thomas Talbot (1771-1853) was born into aristocracy at
Malahide Castle in Ireland. After an exemplary military career in
Europe, including service with the Marquis of Buckingham (a
relative of the family and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), Talbot was
drafted by Lieutenant‑Governor Simcoe as his aide and social
secretary in Canada. On November 11, 1791 Talbot accompanied Mrs.
Simcoe ashore at Quebec and began a relationship with her as her
social companion (see Mrs.
Simcoe's Diary, p. 42). Talbot impressed Mrs. Simcoe with his
knowledge of the country and charmed her with his romantic
boyishness. On one occasion, Mrs. Simcoe writes that "Mr.
Talbot gave a shilling to liberate some wood pidgeons I must
otherwise have seen and heard fluttering most disagreeably" (Innis,
Mrs. Simcoe's Diary, p. 62).
Talbot's penchant for freedom finally found its realization
when he discovered the area that would later be identified with
his name. While on a journey with Simcoe in 1795, Talbot decided
that he would one day return to live on the shores of Lake Erie.
Standing at the mouth of Kettle Creek, Talbot exclaimed to Simcoe,
"Here will I roost and will soon make the forest tremble
under the wings of the flock I will invite by my warblings around
me!" (Ermatinger, The
Life of Colonel Thomas Talbot, p. 15).
Talbot was a gregarious man, yet as
private a man as he was public. After meeting him in 1818, E.A.
Talbot (no relation) described the Colonel as "one of the
most eccentric characters on the whole continent" (E.A.
Talbot, Five Years'
Residence in the Canadas, p. 105). "He not only lives a
life of cheerless celibacy," writes Talbot, "but enjoys
no human society whatever" (p. 105). Talbot has been the
victim of many unfair comments and assessments. People seem either
to have hated and despised him or found him most agreeable and
become loyal supporters. Many of his detractors were members of
the Provincial Government at York (present-day Toronto) who took
issue with his increasing power and independence in one of the
most advantageous areas of Upper Canada. Talbot's political acumen
and aristocratic connections in England helped maintain his power
until 1837, when both the British and Provincial governments
conspired to dethrone him from what, to many eyes, had become his
private principality. Nevertheless, in gratitude for what he had
accomplished, and in honour of his loyal and patriotic
career in Canada, Talbot was retired with a generous pension. He
died in London, Upper Canada, in 1853.
mind See Pope, Essay on
Man, III, 283-286:
|'Twas then, the studious head or gen'rous mind,
|Follow'r of God or friend of human-kind,
|Poet or Patriot, rose but to restore
|The Faith and Moral, Nature gave before.
Motivated by love of one's fellow-man; benevolent and humane.
Battling. A typically Miltonic term from Paradise Lost (see Book II, 424, 905; III, 396; and V, 566).
bank The shore of Lake Erie, the Great Lake on whose north
shore Colonel Talbot first established the Talbot Settlement. By
1818, the Settlement stretched from Long Point in the east to
Essex County in the west so that virtually all of the north shore
was inhabited and under the control of Talbot.
wood See Pope, Windsor‑Forest,
221: "... tow'ring Oaks . . . ."
A strong gust of wind.
Gone by in time.
Pope, Essay on Man, IV, 95-96:
"Who sees and follows that great scheme the best, / Best
knows the blessing, and will most be blest."
Coming into existence by natural processes or changes; as a
quasi-adverb meaning "next." See Sir Walter Scott, Lady of the Lake, I, xxxii: "Till to her lips in measured frame
/ The minstrel verse spontaneous came."
happiest country in the happiest clime In Paradise Lost, Milton uses the adjective "happy" ("happie
seat of man" [III, 66 and 632], and "Eden's happie
plains" [V, 143]) and its comparative form ("the happier
Eden" [IV, 507]) when describing Eden and the situation of
Adam and Eve in the Garden. In Book XII, Milton writes that
"the Earth / Shall be Paradise, far happier place / Than this
of Eden" (463-465), a prophecy which Burwell apparently
assumes to have come true in the
Talbot Settlement. See George Berkeley, "On the
Prospects of Planting Arts and Learning in America,"
5-6 and 9-10: "In happy Climes, where from the
genial sun / And virginal Earth such Scenes ensue" and
"In happy Climes the Seat of Innocence,/ Where Nature guides
and Virtue rules." See also Goldsmith, The
And oft I wish, admidst the scene, to find
Some spot to real happiness consigned,
Where my worn soul, each wandering hope at rest,
May gather bliss to see my fellows blest.
Who can direct, when all pretend to know?
The shuddering tenant of the frigid zone
Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own.
Goodness shown in giving, usually attributed to God, or to the
great and wealthy who have it in their power to give largely and
liberally. Burwell sees Nature as a benevolent female who gives
freely of her ample charms. Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost, V, 329-330: ". . . here on Earth / God hath dispenst his bounties as in
Heav'n"; and, 398-401:
These bounties which our Nourisher, from whom
All perfect good unmeasur'd out, descends,
To us for food and for delight hath caus'd
The Earth to yield.
See also Pope, Essay
on Man, IV, 371: "Earth smiles around, with boundless
climate of Upper Canada is favourable to health and longevity. At
the first settlement, indeed, in common with all new countries,
this was afflicted with the fevers incident to that stage of
cultivation; but those effects ceased with their cause, and the
country is now very healthy. This opinion is founded upon
information of medical gentlemen and others, confirmed by
observation and my own personal experience. I have found
travelling and residing in it, to be salutary and restorative to a
feeble constitution" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 144). See Introduction, p. xxii for a further
discussion of the health of the climate of Upper Canada.
A swaying movement often associated with plants and trees.
Such a motion was deemed picturesque. See Pope, Messiah,
26: ". . . nodding forests . . . ."
Talbot gives the following description of "Talbot
Street" in his account of his trip, taken in 1818:
"About forty miles Westward of Dundas, is the commencement of
a great public road, fifty miles in length: It is called TALBOT
STREET, and runs parallel to Lake Erie. The street passes through
that extensive country designated `the Talbot Settlement,' which
comprises an extent of territory enclosing within its limits about
one million five hundred thousand acres. It is situate between 42
and 43 degrees North latitude, and between 80 and 81 degrees West
longitude" (E.A. Talbot, Five Years' Residence in the Canadas, p. 121).
A "league" is an itinerary measure of distance,
varying in different countries, but usually estimated roughly at
about 3 miles; apparently the term was never in regular use in
England, but it often occurs in poetical or rhetorical statements
of distance. Thus, Burwell would be referring to a distance of
some 180 miles or almost 288 kilometres.
Thames River, formally named by Lieutenant‑Governor John
Graves Simcoe on July 16, 1792, flows some 75 kilometres from
Brodhagen, near Mitchell, Ont., to Lake St. Clair, near Sarnia.
See Dryden's Annus Mirabilis,
925-928 for a similar personification of the English river,
Thames. Both Thomson and Pope describe the waters of the Thames as
having a silver colour (see Pope, "Summer," 2; and, Windsor-Forest,
A common epithet, chiefly poetical, to describe that which is
exceedingly beautiful in appearance. Poets from Milton to
Wordsworth and beyond use this adjective often to describe various
forms of nature. Burwell makes liberal use of the word (see lines
39, 65, 108, 462 and 505).
rills Small streams.
receives the tribute See
note to 62, below.
Creek Also known as Big Otter Creek, this stream flows from
its source near New Durham, for 30 kilometres to Lake Erie, where
it empties into the lake at Port Burwell. In 1815, Mahlon Burwell
sent a description of Big Otter Creek to the Surveyor General's
office with the following comments: "Otter creek discharges
more Water than all the small Rivers which disembogue themselves
into the North side of lake Erie excepting the Grand River. When a
few drifts are cleared out of it, Boats may descend from the Mills
in Norwich to its mouth, at almost any Season of the year. There
are beautiful Groves of White Pine Timber, on each side of the
Creek, interspersed with Groves of other Timber .... It would
appear as if Nature had intended the mouth of Big Otter Creek for
a place of greater importance than any other in the District of
London. [The town which Burwell surveyed at the mouth of Big Otter
Creek was Port Burwell.]" (Blue, `Colonel Mahlon Burwell,
Land Surveyor,' Proceedings
of the Canadian Institute, p. 10).
beauteous scene See note to 33, above. In the following description,
Burwell employs the eighteenth‑century aesthetic of the
picturesque. "Blooming nature" is ordered by vertical
"rising margins," "tow'ring pines" and
"majestic hemlocks," and horizontal streams from "chrystal
fountains" and wafting "summer breezes." To avoid
stasis, Burwell animates the scene with such verbs as
"wave," "bursting," "rippling," and
"purling." For a prose description of the same area, see
Michael Smith, A Geographical
View of the Province of Upper Canada (1813), p. 7: "The
district of London is certainly much the best part of Canada. It
is sufficiently level, very rich, and beautifully variegated with
small hills and fertile vallies, through which flow a number of
pearly streams of almost the best water in the world."
margins Edges, borders or
Talbot writes that "red and white pines (Pinus
Scholeus) frequently attain the astonishing height of 250
feet, but they seldom exceed 18 feet in circumference. They tower
above every other tree in the forest, and exhibit a most
magnificent appearance. It is only, however, in the Western
Districts of Upper Canada, where they grow to such an immense
height" (p. 282). The boughs of the hemlock (Pinus
Canadensis) are used by Canadians, writes Talbot, "as a
substitute for tea" (p. 282).
Clear or transparent. A popular Popean epithet.
Swirling, rippling; undulating; murmuring. This adjective is a
stock eighteenth-century epithet; see, for example, Pope, Essay on Man, I, 204: "The whispering Zephyr and the purling
hills See Pope, Essay on
Man, I, 21-22: "Thro' worlds unnumber'd tho' the God be
known, / 'Tis ours to trace him only in our own."
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV, 247‑248:
"A happy rural seat of various view: / Groves whose rich
Trees wept odorous Gums and Balm."
blooming nature decks the vernal year Cf. Goldsmith's The Traveller, 115-116: "Whatever blooms in torrid tracts
appear, / Whose bright succession decks the varied year." decks
Arrays, attires or adorns. vernal
Pertaining or belonging to the spring; spring-like; early,
youthful, blooming. The phrase, "vernal year," is common
to eighteenth-century poetry; see, for example, Thomson,
"Summer," 129: "From land to land is flush'd the
describes the Canadian deer as able to "leap with great
agility over fences and streams" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 163).
ethereal plume A poetical
image describing Nature as of alight and delicate appearance;
echoes a common eighteenth-century belief (fact?) that the
birds in the Americas were more colourful than those of Europe or
the British Isles. He seems to disagree, however, with the
eighteenthcentury idea that North American birds were less
melodious than British ones. Burwell also disagrees with
Goldsmith's assertion that "the feathery inhabitants of the
temperate zone are but little remarkable for the beauty of their
plumage" (Goldsmith, Natural
History , p. 38). Chateaubriand, after a visit to North
America in 1791, writes that "birds are more diversified and
numerous in America than had been thought at first. So it was with
Africa and Asia. The first travellers had been struck upon their
arrival only by the large and brilliant feathered creatures which
are like flowers in the trees; but in the intervening time, a host
of little songbirds has been discovered whose voice is as sweet as
that of our linnets" (Chateaubriand, Travels
in America , p. 78).
choir A Thomsonian periphrasis for songbirds. Cf. Pope,
"Autumn," 24: ". . . feather'd Quires . . ."
and soft in tone; full and pure without harshness.
soft underlayer of feathers on the bird's breast.
Creek (formerly known as Riviere Barbeau) originates near
Tillsonburg and flows into Lake Erie at Port Bruce.
Thomsonian periphrasis descriptive of the "various
branches" (57), or streams, which are tributaries of Catfish Creek. Burwell
characterizes them as having a frothy appearance, derived, no
doubt, from the action of a narrow, fast moving stream "o'er
pebbly beds" (56).
divides this scene into two perspectives each in turn, according
to picturesque description, into foreground, middleground, and
background. The first looks inland from the "margin"
the "charming plain" (middle ground, 65-68)
the distant "hills and vales" (background, 69-70).
second looks out on the lake from the "billowy surges"
to the "beaten cliffs" (middle ground, 72)
to the "distant skies" (background, 73-76).
at the mouth of Kettle Creek in 1803,
discovered that John Bostwick had already claimed land in the area
(the present-day site of Port Stanley). Talbot moved several miles
to the west and established Port Talbot in adjacent Southwold
Township. Kettle Creek springs from the moraines around St. Thomas
to the north and drains the land towards Lake Erie in the south.
Draytonian periphrasis for the waters of Kettle Creek. Cf.
Drayton, Poly-Olbion, 11,
173:". . . watry tribute . . ." See Pope, Windsor-Forest, 337-338: "Around
his Throne the Sea-born Brothers stood, / Who swell with Tributary
Urns his Flood." Watery tributes are also evident in early
Canadian poetry; see J. Mackay, Quebec
where Erie his wide tribute pours." See note to 36, above.
myriads A Thomsonian
periphrasis for schools of fish. In his Dictionary,
Samuel Johnson defines "myriads" as "proverbially,
any great number." Burwell's reference is to the famous
spring run of smelt, a tasty delicacy, which still attracts
hundreds of enthusiasts to Port Stanley every year. For other
examples of similar periphrasis, see Drayton, Poly-Olbion,
VII, 15:". . . scaly brood
. . ."; Dryden, Annus
Mirabilis, xv: ". . . scaly herd . . ."; and Pope, Windsor-Forest, 139: ". . . scaly breed . . . ."
revolving Occurring in
cyclical fashion, as in the seasons.
countless Numberless. Seen
note to 44, above.
Schools of fish.
Fixed or regular.
beauteous vale See note to
sports fair Flora . . . her fow'ry train In Roman mythology,
Flora is a goddess of flowers and fertility. She had a temple near
the Circus Maximus where games were held in her honour every
Spring. See Pope, Windsor-Forest,
159-160, for a similar description, though of a different
goddess: "Let old Arcadia boast her ample Plain, / Th' Immortal Huntress, and her
Uninterrupted roves the careless eye . . . with the distant skies Cf.
Thomson, "Spring," 518-525:
. . . the hurried Eye
Distracted wanders; . . .
Now meets the bending Sky, the River now,
Dimpling along, the breezy-ruffled Lake,
The Forest darkening round, the glittering Spire,
Th'etherial Mountain, and the distant Main.
a similar scene, depicting the illusory quality of the horizon,
Thomson observes that "the stretching Landskip into Smoke
decays" ("Summer," 1438-1441).
Free from care, anxiety or apprehension.
gay perspective Bright in
appearance; brilliant in colour.
oft the vessel glides . . . for the
fav'ring gales Where boats frequently catch winds which would
be favourable for sailing. Cf. Goldsmith, The
Traveller, 47: "Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy,
Inflating, bellying. See Dryden, Aeneid,
III, 692: "Breathe on our swelling Sails a prosp'rous
picturesque components of this passage echo those in Thomson's
"Spring," 951-953: "The bursting Prospect spreads
immense around; / And
snatch'd o'er Hill and Dale, and Wood and Lawn, / And verdant
Field, and darkening Heath between." Burwell's description is
derived, as were many eighteenth-century poetic landscapes, from
Milton's description of Eden in Paradise Lost. Cf. Milton, Paradise
Lost, IV, 242-243: ". . . but Nature boon, / Pour'd forth
profuse on Hill and Dale and Plain."
See note to 27, above.
Unrestrained, effusive, bestowing without measure. Cf. Dryden,
Virgil's Pastorals, VII, 76:
"Lavish Nature laughs, and strews her stores around."
See note to 11. 239-240.
See Pope, Moral Essays:
Epistle to Burlington, 85: "With silverquiv'ring rills
meander'd o'er--" See also note to 43, above.
the epic convention of the catalogue, Burwell presents a list of topographical and natural sights.
See Milton, Paradise Lost, VIII,
261-262: ". . . about me round I saw / Hill, Dale, and shady Woods, and sunny Plains." dales
Valleys. Burwell is referring to the fertile soils of the various river
valleys just described.
Small woods or groups of trees affording shade.
recesses Woody groves. See Milton, Paradise
Lost, IV, 140: ". . . a sylvan scene . . ."
gambols Skips or prances.
deer See note to 48, above. Burwell seems to disagree with
Gourlay, who claims that deer "are gentle in their nature,
and easily domesticated" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 163).
Goldsmith, The Traveller, 299-302:
Thus, while around the wave-subjected soil
Impels the native to repeated toil,
Industrious habits in each bosom reign,
And industry begets a love of gain.
and Burwell's poetic maxims are common to both literature and
Christian teaching. Hard work was also crucial if one was to
survive in the New World. In his report to Robert Gourlay, Mahlon Burwell
observed that "nothing could contribute more to the
improvement of our settlement than their [the farms] being sold to
active and industrious persons" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 169). Burwell's sense of the word
"industry" is in keeping with the eighteenth century
view of useful and productive labour. These lines, along with the
preceeding description, echo Pope's Windsor-Forest,
Here Ceres' Gifts
in waving Prospect stand,
And nodding tempt the joyful Reaper's Hand,
Rich Industry sits smiling on the Plains,
And Peace and Plenty tell, a STUART reigns.
delight That quality which causes pleasure, joy or gratification.
Again, Burwell reiterates that nature's purpose is to provide man
with delight and sustenance.
worth Hard-working. Compare this phrase to the "mental
worth" (8) required by the poet.
Hard-working and industrious.
freemen Those who are politically free and not subject to tyrannical
rule. While many newcomers to the Settlement found a degree of
freedom perhaps not previously enjoyed, many of the new settlers,
especially the Scots, objected to Talbot's patriarchal attitude
and often idiosyncratic rules and regulations.
See Pope, Windsor-Forest,
26: "And 'midst the Desart fruitful Fields arise."
Pierced; penetrated. See Introduction, pp. xx-xxi for a
discussion of the sexual implications of this verb.
geographic night Alluding to the Genesis myth of creation, Burwell
describes Talbot as the "creator" of the Settlement.
While the geographic locations of the townships had already been
drawn up in a
number of previous surveys, it is not until Talbot opens the
townships up to settlement that they are brought into light.
and Mallahide Two of the eastern townships in the Talbot
Settlement. Bayham township contains 56,704 acres and is
approximately 14.5 miles long by 7 miles wide. In 1812, Joseph DeFields
and James Gibbons built log cabins between the Otter Creeks, on
the Talbot Road "which was at that time merely a blazed trail
through the woods" (Brierley, Pioneer
History, p. 21). Following the War of 1812-14, other
settlers followed, including a number of families who, reportedly,
rowed from New Brunswick (Brierley, Pioneer History, p. 21). Many settlers, such as the Burwells, moved
here from the Niagara area. Mahlon Burwell had surveyed this area
prior to the war and had purchased land here. Port Burwell, in
Bayham Township, was later named in his honour. The township of
Malahide received its name from Colonel Talbot's ancestral home in
Ireland (see note to 15, above). One of the earliest settlers in
Malahide was an Irishman, James McCausland who settled near the
present-day site of the town of Aylmer. One local historian
writes this account of Malahide: "Although most of the
settlers came at the time of the war, most of the deeds were given
in 1821 . . . . The farms were given to the settlers with the
payment of 21 shillings, on condition they lived on the farm a
certain length of time, grubbed a street two rods wide, slashed so
many rods, and built a log shanty 16 x 20" (Brierley, Pioneer History, p. 94). Some of the settlers constructed mills
along the banks of Catfish Creek. Around these sprung many of the
first villages and towns. Port Bruce is one such town situated at
the mouth of the Catfish Creek.
to light Again, Talbot is seen in terms of the Genesis myth in
which God both creates light and then brings the world into the
examined and observed thoroughly; surveyed.
E.A. Talbot describes the "White Oak" as "the most useful
timber in the country for general purposes" as opposed to the
inferior "Black, the Yellow, and the Red Oaks" (E.A.
Talbot, Five Year's
Residence in the Canadas, p. 279).
variegated Characterized by variety and diversity of colour.
swarm A description of migration drawn from the insect world, where
such creatures as bees gather in swarms. The OED states that
"swarm" is "to collect, and depart from a hive in a
body to form a new colony; said of bees."
zone. . . A region or tract of the world ("zone")
distinguished by its beauty.
task See Thomas Cary, Abram's
Plains, 54: "How blest the task, to tame the savage soil."
note to 92, above.
Wandering or meandering. See note to 639, below.
smoke See note to line 2, above.
Well-disposed, favourably inclined, or gracious.
love Divine or heavenly love. Burwell depicts Talbot's scheme
as being providentially ordained and sanctioned.
emigrant guides contained glowing reports of the Talbot Road
Settlement. See, for example, Howison, Sketches
of Upper Canada, pp. 167, 171-172, 173-174, 176: "The
Talbot Settlement . . . forms the only monument of the colonizing
exertions of an individual, that Upper Canada exhibits. This
settlement is interesting in a double point of view, both as it
shews how much can be accomplished by the well-directed
energies of an enterprising person, and as it is the land of
promise to which emigrants, native Americans, and Canadians, are
daily flocking in vast numbers. The excellence of the soil, the
condensed population, and the superiority of climate, which
characterize this settlement, all combine to render it more
agreeable, and better suited to the lower orders of Europeans,
than any other part of the Province .... Nine-tenths of the
inhabitants were extremely poor when they commenced their labours,
but a few years' toil and perseverance has placed them beyond the
reach of want .... I resided many months in the Talbot Settlement,
and during that time enjoyed abundant opportunities of acquiring a
knowledge of its inhabitants, who form a democracy, such as, I
believe, is hardly to be met with in any other part of the world
.... The utmost harmony prevails in the colony, and the
intercourse of its people is characterised by politeness, respect,
and even ceremony .... The time I lived in the Talbot Settlement
comprehended, I believe, some of the happiest days I ever passed
in the course of my life."
Brassy; shameless and impudent. See Pope, "Messiah,"
60: ". . . Brazen Trumpets . . . ."
Burwell's uplifting description of the emigrant's arrival with John
Strachan's more troublesome account in A Visit
to the Province of Upper Canada in 1819, p. 58: "The
native of this country goes upon new lands without emotion; but to
the emigrant it is, at first, terrific: to place himself in the
midst of a wood--the trees heavy; not a ray of the sun able to
penetrate; no neighbour, perhaps, within several miles, and only
an axe in his hand--he is ready to despair."
land In keeping with his Edenic theme, Burwell uses the common
epithet, "blissful," to describe the new land. See
Milton, Paradise Lost, I, 5:
". . . blissful Seat . . ."; IV, 208: ". . .
blissful Paradise . . ."; IV, 690: ". . . blissful Bower
. . . ." See also, Pope, "Spring," 1-2: "First
in these Fields I try the Sylvan Strains, / Nor blush to sport on Windsor's
picturesque scene is similar to the one described at lines 39-44
(see note to line 39ff., above). Lines 134-136 echo lines 77-79,
See note to line 78, above.
Fragrances (associated with flowers). Cf. Pope,
"Spring," 99100: "The Turf with rural Dainties
shall be Crown'd, / While opening Blooms diffuse their Sweets
purling See note to 43, above.
note to 41, above.
Pope, Eloisa to Abelard, 142-143:
"The moss-grown domes with spiry turrets crown'd, / Where
awful arches make a noon-day night."
Rising or tapering upwards. The pines are imaged as
"stately columns" (139) that rise as spires "to
heaven's blue arch" (140). Burwell's architectural metaphors
emphasize order and solemnity.
blue arch The upper reaches of the sky.
See Pope, Windsor-Forest,
91: "Fair Liberty,
Brittania's Goddess . . . ."
race A Biblical phrase well-suited to Burwell's image of the
Talbot Settlement as a "promised land." See also,
Milton, Paradise Lost, III, 183-184:
"Some I have chosen of peculiar grace / Elect above the
Talbot's speech (lines 97-110), above.
Pope expresses similar sentiments in Windsor-Forest at line 355: "Hail Sacred Peace! hail
Thomson, "Summer," 862-864:
. . what their balmy Meads,
powerful Herbs, and Ceres
void of Pain?
vagrant Birds dispers'd . . . .
Milton, Paradise Lost, IV, 981:
" . . . a field of Ceres ripe for harvest . . . ."
The Roman goddess of fertility and agriculture, Ceres is often
associated with crops and was a favourite of farmers and rural
folk who, in Ancient Rome, celebrated her rites (the Cerealia)
in the spring (April 12-19). See Pope, Windsor-Forest,
39: "Here Ceres' Gifts
in waving Prospect stand"; see also, Gray, The Progress of Poesy, 9: ". . . and Ceres' golden reign . . .
feathered squadron Flock of birds; see note to line 51, above.
Lay siege to.
Diverse and individual.
refers to the different forms of transportation used by the
pioneers. Some used ox-carts, some pulled wagons, some used horses
or cattle, while others used boats, canoes, and barges. Many
simply carried what they had on their backs.
stuff Materials or stores necessary to the home; property of
the household such as utensils and furniture.
hemlock See Pope, "Autumn," 1: "Beneath the
Shade a spreading Beech displays." Gourlay writes: "The
forest trees most common are, beech, maple, birch, elm, bass, ash,
oak, pine, hickory, butternut, balsam, hazel, hemlock, cherry,
cedar, cypress, fir, poplar, sycamore . . . whitewood, willow,
spruce" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account of Upper Canada, 151). Interestingly, none of the
townships in the London and Western districts that constituted the
Talbot Settlement report the hemlock tree in their lists of timber
native to their land. Pine and oak are frequently mentioned,
however. Humberstone Township, which
lies closer to Burwell's birthplace in Bertie Township in the
Niagara district, does report hemlock as being native to the area.
See also note to 41, above.
note to 140, above.
midnight maze The forest is seen as a dark labyrinth, hostile to
man. "Maze" also has Satanic connotations. See Milton, Paradise
Lost, II, 246: ". . . wandering this woody maze . . .
."; and IX, 499: ". . . fold above fold a surging maze .
. . ."
day-star The sun.
Phoebus In Greek mythology, Phoebus ("the bright one") was
an epithet given to Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto. He was the god
of light and youth.
Erie's wave . . . / . . . the rolling deep Burwell refers to
the unsettled nature of Lake Erie on a number of occasions (see
also lines 444-446 and 569-570) in the poem. Many accounts exist
describing the tempests on the lake and it was generally thought
that because of the lake's shallowness, ships would be in greater
peril during these storms. In his Travels
Through North America, Isaac Weld explains the danger to
marine travel: "Lake Erie is of an elliptical form; in length
about three hundred miles, and in breadth, at the widest part,
about ninety. The depth of water in this lake is not more than
twenty fathoms, and in calm weather vessels may securely ride at
anchor in any part of it; but when stormy, the anchorage in an
open part of the lake is not safe, the sands at bottom not being
firm, and the anchors apt therefore to lose their hold. Whenever
there is a gale of wind, the waters immediately become turbid,
owing to the quantity of yellow sand that is washed up from the
bottom of the lake" (II, 157). Weld also explains "the
frequency of storms on Lake Erie" as a result of "the
very great irregularity of the height of the lands on both sides
of [the lake]" (II, 159). (For a further account of a storm
on Lake Erie, see Weld, II, 298ff.) See also Introduction, p. xxv
for a further discussion of Burwell's debt to Weld.
amain In great haste.
liquid plain The lake. A common periphrasis for bodies of water like
the ocean or sea. See Dryden, Aeneid,
I, 223: ". . . liquid plains . . . ." Cf. Pope, Iliad
(1718), I, 182: "We launch a bark to plough the watery
plains." See note to 51, above.
land Cf. Goldsmith, The
Traveller, II, 121-122: "While sea-born gales their gelid
wings expand / To winnow fragrance round the smiling land."
Sambrook notes, in his commentary on Thomson's "Spring,"
that the word "smiling" is "a common word in
eighteenth-century pastoral .... In Thomson the word often has
devotional overtones, as implying or directly referring to the
beneficient activities of God: `Providence has imprinted so many
smiles on Nature, that it is impossible for a mind which is not
sunk in more gross and sensual delights to take a survey of them
without several secret sensations of pleasure"' (Addison, Spectator,
393; qtd in Sambrook, p. 327). See Thomson,
"Spring," 83-84: "In various Hues; but chiefly
thee, gay Green! / Thou smiling
Nature's universal Robe!" See also Pope, Windsor-Forest,
41: "Rich Industry sits smiling on the Plains"; and Essay
on Man, II, 117: "Love, Hope, and Joy, fair pleasure's
smiling train." For a similar example of the word used in
early Canadian poetry, see J. Mackay, Quebec
Hill, 270: "Where smiling plenty crowns the peasant's
destin'd spot Talbot Road.
See note to 39, above.
Batteaux. Boats or ships.
The source of Otter Creek is near New Durham.
The line or direction of the river's flow.
Norwich, Middleton and Bayham See the note 94, above, regarding the
township of Bayham. Norwich and Middleton (Middle Town) are small
townships which lie north-east of Yarmouth township. In the early
years of the Talbot Settlement, they remained sparsely settled
owing to their isolation from major routes. In his account of the
area, written in 1813, Michael Smith notes that Norwich "lies
west of Oxford on the beautiful river Thames, is very rich and
exceedingly well-watered though tolerably thick set with
timber" (Smith, A Geographical
View, p. 16). Of Middleton, Smith writes that it "lies
north or back of Houghton and Walsingham. In this township there
are many plains and natural meadows--well watered, rich, and clear
of stone, though as yet without improvement" (Smith, A Geographical View, pp. 13-14).
comment on the use of "bounty" and its derivatives, see
note to 27, above.
leagues About 9 miles or 5 kilometres. See note to 32, above.
Street Another name for Talbot Road. "Street" and
"road" are used interchangeably by Burwell, though
"Road" usually has a more rural connotation than the
more urban "street." "Road" implies a
thoroughfare over a great distance; "street" describes a
shorter distance usually marking the length and width of a lot or
block of land. "Street" also suggests the presence of
homes on either side.
Return (from the Latin, repatriare,
meaning "to return to one's own country").
throng Crowd with people.
animating Life-giving; inspiring, encouraging. See Thomson,
"Summer," 239-240: ". . . to the Sun ally'd, / From
him they draw their animating fire."
Introduction, pp. xxviii-xxx, and Strachan, A Visit
to the Province of Upper Canada in 7819, pp. 75-76, for a
description of land-clearing: "The first thing is, to cut
down the under-wood, or, as it is commonly called, brush, as close
to the ground as possible. The trees are then cut down, as much as
can be done in one direction; and they are chopped up into lengths
of eight or ten feet, to enable them to be drawn together in order
to be burnt. Soon after, and sometimes immediately, the brush and
trees are collected into masses, which, being set on fire, the
tops and limbs are commonly burnt, leaving the logs. When the fire
is completely extinguished, the settler goes with his oxen, and
draws all the remaining logs together, a second time, in heaps;
they are again set on fire, and this second burning almost always
consumes them .... The logs are piled during the day, and towards
evening they are set on fire, and are generally suffered to burn,
unattended, in the night; at which time, the burning masses,
through a large extent of country, present a brilliant spectacle:
and when it is considered that these are the first steps towards
reducing a wilderness into a fruitful country, the scenery becomes
note to 41, above.
Talbot writes: "Red and White Elm grow to a most astonishing
size. The former is generally found hollow and of little value;
but the latter is very durable and in much request among joiners
and cabinetmakers" (E.A. Talbot, Five
Years' Residence in the Canadas, p. 279).
note to 101, above for Talbot's remarks on the oak. Regarding the
"lofty ash," Talbot writes that the "Black and
White Ash . . . are used principally for hoops, rails, and
flooring" (E.A. Talbot, Five
Years' Residence in the Canadas, p.. 279).
In Greek mythology, Boreas was god of the north wind.
fell Fierce, savage or dreadful.
Slit or cleft.
amain Violently. For a different use of the word, see note to 179,
timbers Felled trees; shattered or split timber.
Howison, Sketches of Upper
Canada, pp. 247-248, for a description of cabins built
in Upper Canada: "His first object then is to get a house
built. If his lot lies in a settlement, his neighbours will assist
him in doing this without being paid; but if far back in the
woods, he must hire people to work for him. The usual dimensions
of a house are eighteen feet by sixteen. The roof is covered with
bark or shingles, and the floor with rough hewn planks, the
interstices between the logs that compose the walls being filled
up with pieces of wood and clay."
Primitive or rustic.
Simple or unpretentious.
note to 213, above regarding the "elms."
Simple or plain.
Abundance; "Plenty" is a stock personification of
providence Beneficient care and government of God.
And freedom . . . /. . . o'er so fair a land Cf. (in conjunction
with 237, above) Gray, "Elegy written in a Country Church-Yard,"
63: "To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land" and Thomson,
"Summer," 1443-1445: ".
. . LIBERTY abroad / Walks, unconfin'd, even to thy farthest Cotts,
/ And scatters Plenty with unsparing Hand." See also
Goldsmith, The Traveller, 335-336:
"Thine, Freedom, thine the blessings pictured here, / Thine
are those charms that dazzle and endear."
See note to 141, above.
watchtower A celestial vantage point from which the spirit of
freedom can watch over the new land.
Vigilant, intolerant of unfaithfulness, particularly with
reference to God.
patriotism and loyalty to the British cause, evident throughout
the poem, is especially noticeable in these lines.
See note to 239, above.
glowing Burning with fervour of emotion.
instil Impart; convey.
Moral uprightness; integrity and virtue.
oppression Cf. Thomson, "Summer," 1477-1478:
"The Dread of Tyrants, and the sole Resource / Of those that
under grim Oppression groan."
Circean hand Circe is the Greek goddess and enchantress depicted in
Homer's Odyssey (Books X-XII).
She seduced Odysseus' companions and transformed them into swine.
She is associated with temptation, sorcery, and evil domination.
power supreme! The British Government.
zeal Spirited enthusiasm.
vestal flame The vestal virgins were priestesses who were in charge
of the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta in Rome. The allusion
suggests the importance of vigilance and purity of mind and heart
in maintaining the spirit of freedom in the new land.
`cut and burn' method of clearing the land was quite common to the
early settlement of eastern North America. See Isaac Weld, Travels, I, 422: "The common method of clearing land in America
is to grab up all the brushwood and small trees merely, and to cut
down the large trees
about two feet above the ground: the remaining stumps rot in from
six to ten years, according to the quality of the timber; in the
meantime the farmer ploughs between them the best way he
Howison, Sketches of Upper
Canada, p. 249: "The clearing of land overgrown with
timber is an operation so tedious and laborious that different
plans have been divised for abridging it, and for obtaining a crop
from the ground before it is completed." The most popular
method was the "slash and burn" technique used in most
primitive societies throughout the world. Howison also mentions
"girdling," a method by which "a ring of bark is
cut from the lower part of every tree; and, if this done in the
autumn, the trees will be dead and destitute of foliage the
ensuing spring" (p. 250). Despite the burning of timber,
farmers were plagued with stubborn stumps which, Howison remarks,
"disfigur[ed] the fields, and imped[ed] the effectual
operation of the plough and harrow" (p. 250).
Duty, service. The Latin, ofcium,
implies service with religious or social significance.
dire Dreadful or mournful.
flaming brand Torch.
Woodman The pioneer woodsman who, with his axe, was
instrumental in clearing the forests and making way for
homesteads, and later, communities. See Howison Sketches
of Upper Canada, p. 249: "The Americans and Canadians
doubtless excel all other people in the use of the axe."
brisk Quick and lively in movement.
R. Louis Gentilcore and David Wood, "A Military Colony in the
Wilderness: The Upper Canada Frontier," Perspective
on Landscape and Settlement in Nineteenth Century Ontario, p.
"Land was cleared most commonly by cutting and burning, which
might require from a settler one month or more of hard labour per
plies Applies vigorously.
note to 140 and 172, above.
Conceals or obscures.
A consuming and destructive fire.
labors An allusion to Heracles (Latin: Hercules), the hero of Greek
mythology whose strength enabled him to perform the twelve labours
given him by Eurystheus. See Introduction, pp. xxx-xxxi.
nerv'd Physically powerful.
heavy or weighty; unwieldy.
the soil See note to 259-274, above for a description of
clearing the land of timber and brush.
Severe or unremitting labour.
Howison, Sketches of Upper
Canada, p. 219: "The new settlers in Upper Canada are
perfectly happy and contented in the midst of their severest
hardships; and with reason, for a moment's observation must
convince them that prosperity and abundance will, sooner or later,
be the result of their labours and exertions."
hue Black and gloomy.
dubious Doubtful, uncertain or ambiguous; questionable or suspected
character. The word is also associated with Satan in Milton, Paradise
Lost, 1, 97-105; 11, 1037-1044.
drear Gloomy, saddening.
Persevering or diligent.
the heaps The action of putting into proper order for burning,
by removing any deposit or ash, and adding fresh fuel.
This task completed, . . . / . . . and time to take repose This scene is
typical of the kind of rural domesticity depicted in much
eighteenthcentury poetry. See, for example, Goldsmith, The
night returning, every labour sped,
sits him down the monarch of a shed,
by his cheerful fire and round surveys
children's looks, that brighten at the blaze;
his loved partner, boastful of hef hoard,
her cleanly platter on the board.
complacence Pleasure, delight; self-satisfaction. prospect
See note to 236, above.
reports that the apple is "the principal fruit of Upper
Canada" and that "there are many considerable
orchards" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account of Upper Canada, p. 153). "The various species of
this most useful of fruits," writes Gourlay, "grow in
all districts; but most plentifully around Niagara, and thence
westward to the Detroit, where they have been cultivated with
emulation and success" (p. 153). A similar description can
also be found in E.A. Talbot's Five Year's Residence in the Canadas,
judicious Wise or sensible.
note to 152, above.
Burwell farms in both Bertie Township and Southwold Township
remained in the family for many years. The farm in Bertie was sold
in the late nineteenth-century, while the farms in the
Southwold area remained in the family well into the twentieth
Hope! thou blest companion
of mankind . .. Burwell's invocation to `Hope' is probably
inspired by Thomas Campbell's The
Pleasures of Hope (1799). In the poem, Campbell describes the
"heav'nly light" (23) of `hope' as "a sacred gift
to man" (44) which can both bless--"Hope is thy star,
her light is ever thine" (200)--and charm--"a charm for
every woe" (46)--man with its reconstitutive power.
"Hope" accompanies man on his worldly adventures and
travels, whether "on Atlantic's waves" (57), "on
Behrring's [sic] rocks, or Greenland's naked isles" (62).
"Hope", in company with "Improvement", also
finds its way to "Erie's banks, where Tygers steal along, /
And the dread Indian chaunts a dismal song" (325-326). This
geographical affinity with Campbell's poem may have inspired
Burwell to prove that "hope" was, indeed, responsible
for giving the settlers of Talbot Road the courage and strength to
build and defend their settlement. See Introduction, pp. xxxi-xxxii
for a further discussion of this passage.
O Hope Hope is one of the
three theological virtues (the others being Faith and Charity).
blest companion See Campbell, The
Pleasures of Hope, 44: ". . . a sacred gift to man."
But by thy latent spark's . . . / We find a leading star . . . See Campbell,
The Pleasures of Hope, 199-200:
"So! heav'nly Genius, in thy course divine, / Hope is thy
star, her light is ever thine."
Not manifested, exhibited or developed.
leading star This metaphor
alludes to the biblical Star of Bethlehem which guided the wise
men to the scene of Christ's nativity.
Burwell echoes Pope's poetic discussion of Hope in Windsor-Forest,
341-352: "For him alone, Hope leads from goal to goal . .
Regular or expected payment.
285: "Each want of happiness by Hope supply'd."
See note to 27, above.
prodigal Recklessly wasteful or extravagant; unmindful.
Those unable to meet their liabilities or debts.
reference is to 1810, about the time when the first major
settlement began. This coincides with the time at which Mahlon
Burwell began his first surveys of the Settlement.
planet The earth. See Shakespeare, Richard
II, III, ii, 41: ". . . terrestrial ball . . ." ;
and Drayton, Poly-Olbion,
VIII, 114: ". . . terrestrial Globe . . . ."
June 18, 1812, American President James Madison declared war on
Great Britain, thus jeopardizing the safety of the people of Upper
Canada. The Americans anticipated an easy victory, expecting the
inhabitants of Upper Canada to welcome them as liberators. They
hoped that the great number of their countrymen living in the
Province would be sympathetic to their cause, and that the
British, burdened with another war with Napoleon would be unable
to support her colonists. After almost three years of fighting
(the fiercest battles took place in the Niagara and Western
districts), a truce was signed on Christmas Eve, 1814. Upper
Canada was still intact. The war consolidated antipathy towards
the Americans in Upper Canada, and thus helped to shape Canadian
Trumpet. See note 127, above.
note to 218, above.
o'erwhelming force Overpowering
force. See Gerald M. Craig, Upper
Canada: The Formative Years,
p. 71: "There were only some
1,600 regulars in the province, about two-thirds of them
consisting of the 41st Regiment, the only line battalion, then stationed across from
Detroit. This was indubitably a tiny force to defend so large a
province, yet it contained more trained fighting men than the
American commanders could muster for the invasion of Upper Canada
at the beginning of the war, or for some time afterward." See
note to 411-418,
anxiety and dismay.
Succour Timely aid or help.
See note to 246, above.
Harvest was nigh .
. . Burwell may be alluding to Matthew 9.37:
"The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are
willing its members might be to face the enemy, and their zeal was
often most intense, they were inevitably part-time soldiers, bound
to drift away as harvest time approached, or when word came that
their families might be in danger from American raiding parties or
from resident Indians, supposedly friendly, but perhaps on the
prowl." See Mahlon Burwell's comments in note t0 337-380,
below (Craig, Upper
train Here, a military procession.
amain In full force. See note to 179 and 220, above.
midnight prowler, or ruffian the band A reference, perhaps, to the spies who, during the
War, provided information, concerning troop movements and the
relative strength of the settlements, to American forces.
first suprise On July 12, 1812, the
Americans, led by General William Hull, crossed the Detroit River
intent on taking Fort Maiden [Amherstburgh], thus initiating the
first invasion of Upper Canada. The invasion was unsuccessful,
however, for Hull's inept leadership caused the Americans to wait
too long to attack, allowing the British General Brock to arrive
with regulars and repel the enemy. Brock followed his victory with the capture of Detroit.
fire War-like inspiration or fervour.
false alarms Distances often rendered communication difficult during
the War of 1812. Rumours abounded about the imminent American
attack and, on many occasions, the settlers prepared themselves
was in charge of the 1st Middlesex Militia, made up mostly of
volunteers from the surrounding district. Despite Burwell's
rousing description, his brother, Mahlon, depicts a somewhat
different situation. On May 21, 1813, he writes that "the
inhabitants are now in the midst of their planting and it will be
like drawing their eye teeth to call them out until they have
done" (Cruickshank, The
Documentary History of the Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier in
the year 1812,
duty In Upper Canada, the Lieutenant-Governor appointed at
least seven members to the Legislative Council. Each district also
elected a representative to sit in the Legislative Assembly in
York. Usually, the Assembly consisted of sixteen members who
served fouryear terms. Anyone could, in theory, run for these
positions, although clergymen were excluded from this office.
Members did not necessarily reside in York, but they would have to
be available for meetings and important votes. The Honourable
Thomas Talbot was appointed to the Council in September, 1809 and
held the post until February, 1841. Federick Armstrong reports
that "[Talbot] was neither sworn nor commissioned, nor did he
ever attend; however, he assumed the dignity of the office and
used `Hon.' before his name" (Armstrong, Handbook
of Upper Canadian Chronology, p. 56n.). Mahlon Burwell served
in the Legislative Assembly as the representative from Oxford and
Middlesex (1812-1816; 1816-1820), Middlesex (1820-1824; 1830-1834),
and the town of London (1836-1841).
vials Burwell uses the term "vials"-small vessels-in
a religiously figurative sense. See Revelation 16:1: "And I
heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels,
Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the
Craig, Upper Canada: The
p. 75: "In point of fact, the short-term
militia raised in Upper Canada frequently proved to be little more
reliable than their counterpart across the lakes. A large
proportion of the population was of recent American origin, and
many of these were disaffected or at least preferred to sit on the
fence until prospects became clearer. Some of the American
settlers quickly moved across the line, although in contrast,
others became so angry at the invasion of their new home that they
became flaming patriots, eager to kill as many of the intruders as
came their way."
husbandry The business or occupation of a husbandman or farmer;
tillage or cultivation of the soil.
cartridge-box The case in which a soldier carried his cartridges and
"tented field" See Shakespeare, Othello, I, iii, 84-85: "... they have used / Their dearest
action in the tented field."
Reward or merit.
wreathe Here an emblem of military victory or of distinction.
seems to have in mind one of the several American attacks on Port
Talbot during 1814. In a letter to the Loyal and Patriotic Society
(published in Montreal in 1817), Colonel Talbot described the
attacks of August 16 and September 20, 1814 upon his Settlement:
"The enemy, amounting to upwards of one hundred men, composed
of Indians and Americans painted, and disguised as the former,
suprised the settlement of Port Talbot, where they committed the
most wanton and atrocious acts of violence by robbing the
undermentioned fifty heads of families of all their horses and
every particle of wearing apparel and household furniture, leaving
the sufferers naked and in the most wretched state" (Cruickshank,
The Documentary History of
the Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier in the year 7872, Part
II, p. 331). Talbot's report also lists Mahlon, Robert, Samuel,
and James Burwell as among those whose families suffered. In
another letter, written in October, 1814, Talbot describes his own
losses: "The vagabond enemy, not being satisfied with the
plunder they carried off from Port Talbot on the 16th August,
returned in greater force about the middle of September, when they
burnt my mills and other buildings, destroyed all my flour and
killed my sheep, etc. Poor Burwell's house and barn were likewise
sacrificed; thence the enemy extended their violence down my road 15 miles" (Ibid., p. 294).
cup of woe Poetic
phrase expressing grief and misery.
Violent invasion or attack.
influence In the late eighteenth-century, the works of
American scientist and statesman, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
had contributed to the knowledge and understanding of electricity.
Electrical force was thought to be the energy with which
electricity moved matter. Franklin also believed in an
"electric fluid" or "electric fire" which he
held to be the all-pervading medium which was the cause of
electrical phenomena: "From electric fire . . . spirits may
be kindled" (The Complete Works of
Benjamin Franklin, V, p. 296).
Occupations or callings.
war See Pope, Essay on Criticism, 184: "Destructive War .
. . ."
energies Tremblings. Burwell refers to the nature of the
initial labours after the war.
to Burwell's poetic account, settlers did not just seek out and
take "unlocated lands." Settlers had to apply for land
from Colonel Talbot and, if approved, perform particular
settlement duties for up to two years before acquiring a proper
deed to the land.
lands Those lots not yet allocated to settlers.
survey Proper determination of the form, extent and situation
of a tract(s) of land. As noted earlier, Mahlon Burwell was the
primary agent responsible for surveying the Talbot Settlement.
1811 Colonel Talbot received instructions to extend the Talbot
Road west to Amherstburg. Mahlon Burwell carried out the survey as
far as the township of Howard before his work was interrupted by
the outbreak of war in 1812. In the summer of 1816, work was
resumed, although the western terminus was now Sandwich rather
than Amherstburg (Blue, "Mahlon Burwell," p. 11).
Amherstburg Formerly known as Fort Malden, this garrison town was an
important naval base during the War of 1812. In 1815, it received
its present name in honour of Lord Jeffrey Amherst, Governor-General
of British North America from 1760 to 1763. Situated in Essex
County, the town overlooks Detroit on the St. Clair River. Its
location made it a strategic garrison and an important line of
defense for Upper Canada during the War of 1812.
K. Buell, who served in the American army under the command of
General Hull in 1812, was captured by the British and confined to
the schooner, Thames, at
Amherstberg. Here, he kept a journal containing the following
description of the local countryside and its inhabitants:
"The view of Amherstberg, a small town below Fort Malden,
though indifferently built, and the adjoining country, appeared
beautiful. The green meadows and wheatfields were waving before
the wind in a lovely and superior imitation of lake Erie, and
everything appeared to wear the cheering smiles of peace and
plenty [5 July 1812] . . . . Any person emigrating to this
province, has if he wishes 200 acres of land granted or given him
and his heirs in fee simple by the King, provided he takes the
oath of allegiance. The Taxes are by no means oppressive. They are
not so heavy as they are in the U[nited] States .... The people
have every chance to live well here in times of Peace. The land is
fertile and markets good; but in war it is different. Old and
young are all pressed into the Militia and their farms, grain etc.
is going to destruction for want of attendance and reaping [ 14
July 1812]" (American Historical Review, Vol. 17 (1912), pp. 787-797). See also,
Gourlay, Statistical Account
of Upper Canada, pp. 46-47: ". . .[T]he port of
Amherstburgh, . . . is the safest and most commodious harbour in
this part of the country, for naval or commercial purposes. The
British fleet of lake Erie is stationed here; and it is an
increasing depot of western commerce, in competition with
The year implied is 1816.
aux Pins A spit of land which projects out into Lake Erie from
Harwich Township. Pointe aux Pins forms, in part, Rondeau Harbour,
a haven for ships on the lake. In 1792, Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe
divided Essex and Suffolk (later known as Kent) counties along a
line that ran between Chatham and Pointe aux Pins. It was in the
1790s that the
area around Pointe aux Pins was first surveyed and settled.
Abraham Iredell, "a former surveyor and loyalist from
Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, was appointed deputy-surveyor
for the Western District in June 1795" (Hamil, Valley, p. 24). Iredell laid out townships and sections of land for
both the clergy and the crown and surveyed the Communication Road
that ran from Chatham to Rondeau Bay. "The high ridge I think
is handsome land as I ever see in the country," Iredell
wrote, "and will make a fine settlement when given out"
( Hamil, Valley, p. 27).
One of the first settlers on the lake front was John Craford, who
"settled in Howard Township east of Pointe aux Pins at the
mouth of what is now called Patterson's Creek, in 1811" (Hamil,
p. 113). Craford had been one of Talbot's earliest settlers,
helping the Colonel to establish Port Talbot back in 1803. Mahlon
Burwell was responsible for opening up the township for settlement
with the completion of the Talbot Road survey in 1816.
Burwell praises the harbour at Pointe aux Pins, other travellers
to the area, like Weld, complained about the "deficiency of
harbours" on the lake (see Weld's Travels, II, 159).
to its being the shallowest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie is
renowned for its violent storms. See note 179-182, above.
This town is situated on the Thames River, in the township of
Harwich. In 1794, Simcoe ordered a blockhouse to be built in
Chatham as a small naval arsenal which would form a link in the
chain of defence in Upper Canada's western frontier. Simcoe also
hoped to draw Indian trade away from the Americans at Detroit. The
Chatham post was abandoned in 1797, however, and moved westward to
the town of Sandwich on the St. Clair River. A "Report of a
Convention of the Inhabitants" of the surrounding townships
reported to Robert Gourlay that in the summer of 1817 there were
114 farmers residing in the townships, and that 40,000 bushels of
wheat were harvested. They also reported that "the lands in
said townships [Dover, East and West, Chatham, Camden, Orford,
Howard, and Harwich] will produce, in proportionable abundance,
pease, oats, barley, Indian corn, hemp, and flax" (Gourlay, Statistical
Which will connect the River with the Bay / Where nature had ordained a
Town to lay Burwell is, in all probability, referring to Communication
Road, in Harwich Township, which connects the village of Chatham
with the eastern end of Rondeau Bay. The town that "nature
had ordained" probably refers to Blenheim. At the time, this
road would have been little more than a blazed trail. Originally,
it had been an old Indian trail.
North Branch of the Talbot Road . . . to Port Talbot join'd The
North Branch of Talbot Road connected Westminster Township to the
Settlement by a route which led south from the township to
Talbotville, then west across Southwold Twp., through Iona in
adjacent Dunwich Twp., where it was joined by the main Talbot Road
a few kilometres west of Wallacetown. In March 1810, Simon Zelotes
Watson, a surveyor from Montreal, came to visit Colonel Talbot at
his house in Port Talbot. Watson, an opportunist who had supported
the Americans during the War of 1812, was looking for land upon
which to establish settlers from Lower Canada. Talbot offered
Watson land in Southwold, but the Council in York recommended,
instead, "that a Road should be made through the township of
Westminster, and Settlement Duties performed by the said Mr.
Watson and his followers, for the making of that Road" (Hamil,
Valley, p. 64). Watson
took up the survey and completed it in June of that year. In the
fall of 1811, the survey of Talbot Road North was complete. Talbot
gradually assumed control over the location of settlers on the
road and in the rest of the township despite Watson's efforts to
plagued Talbot once again that year with the discovery by Surveyor-General
Ridout that Talbot had gone ahead and placed his settlers
"where he decided the road to Westminster should go" (Hamil,
Lake Erie Baron, p. 73). Well-aware that the road was the key to the
Settlement's success, Talbot had instructed Mahlon Burwell as to
its survey. In the fall of that year, Talbot received a letter
from Ridout explaining that neither the survey of this road nor
the settlement along the route had been confirmed. Talbot had
usurped lands belonging to or promised to absentee owners in
England or to military officers or civil officials in the
province. To make matters worse, Ridout had discovered that
Burwell had turned west at Talbotville, instead of running the
road south to Kettle Creek as planned. Rather, Burwell had run the
Branch parallel to the Main road westward across the township.
Talbot claimed that he had received "verbal permission to do
so from [LieutenantGovernor] Gore because the old Talbot Road
there was wet and unfit for settlement" (Ibid,
p. 73; see Coyne, Talbot
Papers, I, pp. 148-149). The Council, miffed at Talbot's
impertinence, suspended his activities by ordering him to report
on all lands settled and to cease any further placements. This
dilemma was not resolved until Gore's return from England after
the war in 1815.
Plentiful or abundant.
Close-knit or neatly arranged.
A township which lies between the townships of Dunwich on the
west and Yarmouth on the east, Southwold is bounded by Delaware
and Westminster on the north and Lake Erie on the south. Two main
branches of the Talbot Road traverse the township, and settlement
flourished along these routes following the War of 1812. Possibly
as early as 1816, but certainly by early 1818, Adam Hood Burwell
and his family were living in the township. Records show that he
lived on the Talbot Road in the south-west corner of the township,
on the south side of the road, on Lot. 4. His brother Mahlon and
his family lived across the road. Down the road, across the
townline, lived Colonel Talbot, and it is likely that Burwell was
a frequent visitor. Miss Maggie McLennan of Fingal notes the
following: "Col. Mahlon Burwell, government surveyor, settled
on Lot No. 4, north Talbot Street, and built a log house, but
afterwards constructed a brick residence across the townline, at
which place the post office and registry office were kept for a
number of years .... Adam Burwell settled on Lot No. 4, south
Talbot Street. He lived there only a short time [actually 1818-1828],
and then removed to Ottawa and became a minister of the English
Church" (Brierley, Pioneer
History, p. 118).
cousin, James Burwell, had moved to Talbot Road in 1812 and lived
on Lot No. 13 on the north side of the road (Brierley, Pioneer
History, p. 118). Other members of the family are said to be
buried on this farm. Church records in St. Thomas also show a
number of the Burwell family to be living in Southwold at this
time ("Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths, at St.
Thomas, U.C. commencing with the Establishment of the Mission in
July, 1824," Ontario
Historical Society, IX , pp. 127-196).
December 1817, Mahlon Burwell organized a meeting of the
inhabitants of Southwold at the home of Alexander Ross. Here, they
drew up a list of responses to Robert Gourlay's questionnaire
regarding the conditions of the township. In their report, they
describe the township as having excellent soil, a variety of
timber and "several quarries of limestone" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 168). They also wrote that "Roads are
tolerable, and the statute labour improves them fast. Our
settlement is near the borders of lake Erie, which is a good water
communication toward Montreal" (Gourlay, p. 168). The
committee complained that "nothing retards our settlement
more than the lands
of absentees, and the crown and clergy reserves being interspersed
amongst our farms; and nothing could contribute more to the
improvement of our settlement than their being sold to active and
industrious persons" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 169).
note to 108, above.
crops New crops where there were once only trees.
Westminster Westminster Township lies north of Yarmouth Township and
east of Delaware Township. Talbot Road ran along a north-south
route from Westminster to Kettle Creek.
tufted Adorned with tufts or clumps of trees or bushes. Cf. Pope, Windsor-Forest,
27: ". . . tufted Trees and springing Corn . . ."
and Shakespeare, Richard II, II, iii, 53: ". . . tuft of trees. . . ."
Burwell's description of "wide stretch'd plains,"
"tufted banks. . . riv'lets" and "shady trees, /
That wave majestic" is an example of picturesque word
painting. Cf. J. Mackay, Quebec Hill, I, 243-244, for a similar use of the picturesque.
pristine Unpolluted; innocent.
changeful Variable or
robe, more pleasing . . . See Thomson, "Spring," 83-84:
"In various Hues; but chiefly thee, gay Green!
/ Thou smiling Nature's universal Robe!"
philanthropic See note to 16, above.
note to 11, above.
single sheet Map.
Burwell begins his survey in the east, noting the county of
Norfolk, which includes the eastern townships of the Talbot
Settlement--Rainham, Walpole, Woodhouse, Charlotteville,
Walsingham, Houghton, Middleton, Windham, and Townsend. The main
road was denoted as "Talbot Road East" until it reached
the western township of Dunwich.
A small township in Norfolk County (see the previous note),
bordered by Durham and Norwich on the north, Windham and
Charlotteville on the east, Walsingham on the south, and Houghton
on the west. The first settlers in Middleton, Fred and Henry
Sovereen, came to the area in 1812. See Michael Smith, A
Geographical View of the Province of Upper Canada, pp. 13-14:
"In this township there are many plains and natural meadows--well
watered, rich, and clear of stone, though as yet without
Middlesex, . . . Houghton Gore The District of London, in 1818, was
composed of three counties--the County of Norfolk (see the note to
487, above), the County of Oxford, and the County of Middlesex.
Middlesex included the townships of London, Westminster,
Dorchester, Yarmouth, Southwold, Malahide, Bayham, Dunwich,
Aldborough, and Delaware. Smith writes that this county "is
exceedingly rich, well watered with a number of fine streams, is
level, and almost entirely clear of stone. The common growth of
timber is bass, black and white walnut, with hickory, maple, and
oak" (Smith, A
Geographical View, p. 17). Houghton Gore is a township which
lies west of and adjacent to Middleton and Walsingham Townships.
On December 8, 1817, John Coltman and a committee of inhabitants
reported to Gourlay that "the whole of the townships of
Middleton and Howton [sic] is reserved by government, except
Talbot Street," a situation which they felt "hinders the
improvement of this part of the country, as there is but one road
through the said towns, and one bypath" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 159). Gourlay indicated only six families living
in Houghton township in 1817 (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 178).
Bayham See note to 94, above.
path A path fit for the passage of a horse, but not of
Otter Creek . . . of her Empire tries Otter Creek runs the
length of Bayham township from Norwich in the north-east, to Port
Burwell on the shore of Lake Erie in the south. In 1817, the
inhabitants reported that this river "leading through the
centre of the township, . . . is
navigable for boats of 20 tons, for forty miles from the
mouth" (Gourlay, Statistical Account, p. 165). The ability of ships to reach the
various mills along the river enabled these commercial sites to
become economically viable.
Norwich A township in the County of Oxford. Norwich lies north of
and adjacent to Middleton. The first settlers arrived around 1808,
but little progress was made until 1811 when the survey of the
Talbot Road made farm land available and accessible. In 1818, the
inhabitants reported to Gourlay that "roads [are] still bad,
but capable of much improvement, at a moderate expence: water
conveyance contemplated as attainable, by cutting and clearing
drift wood out of the bed waters of the Otter creek, from near the
centre of Norwich, into Lake Erie, which is about 30 miles" (Gourlay,
Statistical Account, p. 161).
Norwich was also known for its Quaker settlement. The first
Quakers visited in 1809 from Pennsylvania; Peter Lossing and his
brother-in-law, Peter DeJong, purchased 15,000 acres in 1810, and
began to settle their families and friends in the following year.
In 1817, the first Quaker meeting house was built in the township.
Commerce In his Dictionary,
Johnson defines "commerce" as the "exchange of
one thing for another; trade; traffick." He cites a passage
from Dryden, Annus Mirabilis, 649-652:
Instructed ships shall sail to quick commerce,
By which remotest regions are ally'd;
Which makes one city of the universe,
Where some may gain, and all may be supply'd.
personification of "Commerce" contributes to the
mythology that he is creating for the Settlement. See Pope, Essay
on Man, III, 205: "What War could ravish, Commerce could
bestow." See also Thomson, "Autumn," 118ff. and
Cary, Abram's Plains, 107ff.
for further poetic depictions of Commerce.
mills Mills built on Catfish Creek in Malahide Township.
township in Middlesex County (now part of Elgin County). Jonathan
Doan, a Quaker from Pennsylvania, was one of the first settlers to
move here during the War of 1812. In 1802, Talbot sought to secure
5,000 acres in this township "with a reservation of the
remainder of the township, to be granted him at the rate of 200
acres for each family to whom he assigned fifty acres" (Hamil,
Lake Erie Baron, p. 43).
On February 15, 1803, Lord Hobart sent a dispatch to Lieutenant-Governor
Hunter, outlining "the terms of an arrangement with
Talbot" (Ibid, p. 43). Talbot would receive "an outright grant of 5,000
acres of land in Yarmouth or any other available township he might
select," and "a proportion of the said Township
immediately contiguous" (Ibid,
pp. 43-44). He was also to receive a "further grant of
two hundred acres for every family he may induce to settle there
either from the Continent of Europe or America, provided he shall
have surrendered fifty acres of his Original Grant" to each
of these families (Ibid, pp.4344). By 1811, Talbot received permission to superintend
the settlement in Yarmouth from Lieutenant-Governor Gore. Gore's
verbal promise was never authorized by the Executive Council and
the discrepancy led to further dispute between Talbot and the
Government (see note to lines 453-456 above). It was not until
1816 that Talbot regained legal control over settlement in the
township (as well as in the townships of Bayham, Malahide, and the
Talbot Roads West and North). In 1817, the inhabitants reported to
Gourlay that "the crown and clergy reserves intervening so
often amongst our farms, have a tendency to retard the improvement
of our settlement very materially" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 167). They complained about "an improper
system" of emigration and hoped "that the introduction
of men of capital" would improve matters (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 167).
Green with vegetation.
Thomas' One of the villages first founded by Captain Daniel
Rapelje (1774-1828) who had come from New York in 1802 to the Long
Point Settlement, later bringing his family in 1810. Rapelje, a
captain in the Middlesex Militia, established the village in 1814
on the banks of Kettle Creek in Yarmouth Township. The village was
named in 1817 in honour of Colonel Thomas Talbot.
The township of Dunwich is west of and adjacent to Southwold.
Colonel Talbot secured land in this township in 1803, and
established Port Talbot on a creek that he named after himself.
Talbot arrived on May 21, 1803 at the mouth of this creek, which
the French had called Riviere de Tonti (Hamil, Lake
Erie Baron, p. 48). In a letter to Simcoe, dated July 17,
1803, Talbot writes the following account of his residence:
"Where I have fixed my residence is six miles to the westward
of Kettle Creek in Dunwich in a fine Bay where vessels can come to
an anchor with safety within 20 yards of the shore. The site of my
but is elevated 150 feet above the waters having a view of the
lake in front; on my left flank a beautiful river flows and
empties itself into the Bay navigable for large boats 3 miles and
for a short distance a sufficient depth for vessels, but like the
other Rivers on these lakes is shut up with sand when the wind
blows strong into the Bay" (Hamil, Lake
Erie Baron, p. 49). In 1810, Mahlon Burwell cleared land on
the northeast bank of Talbot Creek (Brierley, Pioneer
History, p. 41). He continued his survey of the township while
Talbot attended to placing settlers along the Talbot Road. Land
sold for about three dollars an acre (Brierley, Pioneer
History, p. 41). Talbot erected a sawmill and a grist mill
(which were later destroyed by the Americans in 1814). In 1814,
Burwell moved across the townline to Southwold; and, in 1816, the
path between their two homes was expanded into a "four rods
road" as part of the main Talbot Road (Brierley, Pioneer
Society, p. 42).
Aldborough Township is in present-day Elgin County, but in
1818, was a part of Middlesex. One of the first settlers to arrive
in the township was James Fleming. Fleming saw the area in the
1790s as a boatman for Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe. In 1796, he
left his Niagara area home to settle in the township as did many
others from that area after the war. A number of Americans were
also attracted by the prospects of "free" land. During
the war, a group of Scottish families moved from New York State to
the region "wishing to retain their allegiance to Britain's
King and laws" (Briefey, Pioneer
Society, p. 9). Archibald McColl writes that "having
heard of free grants of land were given to settlers in the western
counties of Canada, they decided to remove there. Of course, they
had heard of Col. Talbot and his power in the new land, so they
called on the Colonel, stated their intention of settling
near Rond Eau, in what is now the township of Harwich, and asked
him for information which would be useful to them in selecting a
new home. They were gruffly received by the Colonel, who said to
them, `You are Yankees, the Government will not give you any free
grant lands, but I have a township up west [Aldborough Township]
and if you want to settle on it I will give you fifty acres each.'
The men were in a dilemma, not having much means, and not knowing
what to do or where to go, at last decided to accept the Colonel's
offer and the hard terms he laid down" (Brierley, Pioneer
Society, p. 9).
Kent Burwell transports the reader westward from Middlesex
County to the County of Kent (formerly known as Suffolk County).
Kent County consisted of about one-third of the Western District
of Upper Canada. In 1818, the county contained the townships of
Dover, Chatham, Camden (west), the Moravian tract of land called
Orford (north and south), Howard, Harwich, Raleigh, Romney,
Tilbury (east and west), and according to Gourlay, "the
Shawney Indians' town" [probably Fairfield or Moraviantown] (Gourlay,
Statistical Account, p. 85). Deputy-surveyor Abraham Iredell
undertook surveys of the county between 1795 and 1800. In 1803,
Lord Selkirk received a five-year grant to establish a
settlement in Dover Township. Twelve hundred acres were
appropriated and became known as the Baldoon Settlement. Most of
the settlers were Scottish, but despite their hard work and
perseverance, they were besieged by insurmountable difficulties.
Floods, malaria, lack of supplies, and poor management contributed
to the eventual demise of the settlement. In July 1812, the
American militia raided the settlers and carried off most of the
livestock. The remaining settlers sought safety with their
neighbours in the Talbot Settlement. Selkirk finally sold the
property in 1818.
This township lies adjacent to and west of Aldborough, in the
County of Kent. It is bordered by the Thames on the north and Lake
Erie on the south. In the eighteenth century, a group of Moravians
fled persecution in the United States and settled on the banks of
the Thames River. Fairfield or Moraviantown, as it was known, was
a peaceful spiritual community of white settlers and Indians,
until October 4, 1813 when American troops in pursuit of the
British and Indian forces staged a small but bloody battle near
the village. It was on this day, near the river, that the great Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh, was
to 1820, a number of mills were built; the mill on Clear Creek
gave rise to the village of Clearville. Near the lake and Talbot
Road, Clearville was an important milling centre and shipping port
on Lake Erie (Hamil, Valley,
A township in the County of Kent. Howard lies adjacent to and
west of Orford. About 1797, Surveyor-General William Smith
reserved a number of lots in Howard, both near the Thames and
close to the lake (Hamil, Valley, p. 27). In 1811, Mahlon Burwell surveyed and extended the
Talbot Road through the townships and westwards to Sandwich. One
of the early settlers the area was John Craford who built a cabin
at the mouth of Patterson's Creek. Others followed after the war
and "by 1817 only two lots on the Talbot Road in each of the
townships of Raleigh and Howard were still not located" (Hamil,
Valley, p. 114). Burwell
finished the survey in 1823, while Talbot finally received
official sanction to superintend the settlement of the township.
By this time, hundreds of families were waiting to buy land.
Talbot wrote to George Hillier, on February 20, 1824, about the
situation: "Every hour of the days that I have been at home I
have been beset by Battalions of applicants for the land in
Howard, certainly not fewer than 1000, the third day 500 in a
body, in consequence of which, and to get rid of the pest, I
intend having a Lottery on the 1st of March, so as to give a
general chance, but I will not include the Middle or Town Line
Roads in it, keeping them for a more select description" (Hamil,
Valley, pp. 115-116).
A township west of and adjacent to Howard Township, in the
County of Kent. It is bordered by the Thames on the north and by
Rondeau Bay, on Lake Erie, on the south. In 1816, Talbot had
placed a number of settlers in the township, along the Talbot
Road. In doing so, he ignored the deeds held by non-residents, and
when the conflict came to the attention of the government, Talbot
explained that he had used the survey plan with which Mahlon
Burwell had surveyed the township in 1811 (which, of course, did
not include any of the absenteeowner land grants). Burwell had
reported this particular plan as being lost during the war, and he
had been given a new plan with the absentee-owner land grants
marked (i.e. those grants given by the government
after 1811 but before Burwell's survey in 1816). In order to
appease Talbot, the government offered the Harwich settlers land
in other townships, but they (and Talbot) refused to be moved. In
1818, Talbot travelled to England to present the dispute to Lord
Bathurst. As he so often did, Talbot won his case. Talbot's habit
of going to England to fight his provincial battles infuriated the
colonial government and created a number of political enemies who
sought to dethrone the Colonel from his empire (Hamil, Lake Erie Baron, p. 97).
Raleigh A township in the County of Essex situated west of and
adjacent to Harwich Township. In 1817, a committee of inhabitants
reported the following to Gourlay: "The settlement of this
township commenced as early as the year 1792; nevertheless, there
are but 28 inhabited houses on the bank of the Thames at present,
containing 198 souls, and a settlement commenced on the banks of
Lake Erie last spring, inhabiting 25 houses, containing 75 souls
[this settlement may have been the village and shipping port later
known as Erieus, and later renamed Ouvry] . . . .The lands
adjoining Harwich are nearly all dry, and fit for cultivation. On
the whole, about one half of the township, in its present state,
is fit for cultivation. A plain, or meadow, about a mile wide,
crosses the township from Tilbury to Harwich, within half a mile
of the Thames, part of which is considered of the best quality of
land in the township" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, pp. 124, 137). Many of the early settlers in the
southern parts of the township were French, having moved there
from the area around Detroit. The rest of the township was settled
by Loyalists, ex-soldiers, Americans, and a small number of
blacks who had escaped from slavery in the United States (Hamil, Valley,
pp. 21-22). Of this latter group, Hamil writes: "In 1793,
there were six living in Raleigh Township alone (see PAC, Militia,
Reports for Essex, Oxford, Norfolk, C 703, 1787-1839). Escaped
slaves were already finding this region a haven, although now and
then they were caught and returned to their masters" (Hamil, Valley,p. 22).
Placed or arranged.
Tilbury is a township in Essex County. It lies west of and
adjacent to Raleigh Township and is bordered by Lake St. Clair on
the north and Romney Township on the south. Many settlers raised
cattle on the Tilbury plains and their export to the United States
was quite profitable until the War of 1812 (Hamil, Valley, pp. 65-66). Gourlay reported, in 1817, that the inhabitants
had considered cutting a canal from the Thames River to Lake Erie,
"a distance only of 15 miles in extent." "If
made," he wrote, "[it] will save a distance of 140 miles
in the communication to Fort Erie, and will be the means of
draining thousands of acres of land" (Gourlay, Statistical
Account, p. 139).
East and West Romney Township lies in Essex County, south of
Tilbury and borders on Lake Erie. It includes the spit of land
known as the South Foreland or Point Pelee, the most southerly of
the British possessions after the War of 1812. The township was
surveyed by Iredell between 1795 and 1800 although portions of it
were not completed until Burwell's survey in 1829. The Talbot Road
was extended through the township in 1816.
Mersea Township lies west of and adjacent to Romney Township,
in Essex County. It is bordered by Rochester Township in the north
and by Pidgeon Bay, on Lake Erie, in the south. Burwell carried
his survey to the western borders of Mersea in the fall of 1816.
In 1821, Talbot sought to have the Talbot Road extended westward
from Mersea to Sandwich. It took eight years before it, and the
Middle Road which extended north from the Talbot Road to the
Thames and Lake St. Clair, were completed (Hamil, Lake
Erie Baron, p. 126).
The most westerly county in the Western District of Upper Canada.
In 1817, Essex included "the townships of Rochester, Mersea,
Gosfield, Maidstone, Sandwich, Colchester, Maiden, and the lands
of the Hurons, and other Indians upon the strait" (Gourlay, Statistical Account, p. 85).
uses Thomson's model of lamenting the inability of language to
express his feelings or to describe the wonders of Nature. See
Thomson, "Spring," 467-479:
yon breathing Prospect bids the Muse
Throw all her Beauty forth. But who can paint
Nature? Can Imagination boast,
its gay Creation, Hues like hers?
can it mix them with that matchless Skill,
lose them in each other, as appears
In every Bud that blows? If Fancy then
Unequal fails beneath the pleasing Task;
Ah what shall Language do? Ah where find Words
Ting'd with so many Colours; and whose Power,
To Life approaching, may perfume my Lays
With that fine Oil, those aromatic Gales,
That inexhaustive flow continual round?
quality of being morally just or righteous.
fire Seraphs are considered the highest of the angelic order.
For a contrary view to Burwell's, see Pope, Essay
on Man, I, 109-110: "To Be, contents his natural
desire, / He asks no Angel's wing, no Seraph's fire."
daring Bold or adventurous. Burwell's depiction of the muse soaring
on "daring flights" recalls many eighteenth-century
poets. Poets frequently sought for their imaginations to soar to
the ethereal heights of the famed Mount Parnassus, home of the
Muses and poetical inspiration.
See note to the invocation at line 1, above.
Incapable of being broken, dissolved or penetrated. Cf.
Milton, Paradise Lost, II, 646-647:
". . . three [of the Gates of Hell] of Adamantine Rock, /
Impenetrable . . . ."
muse See Pope, Windsor-Forest,
427-428: "My humble Muse, in unambitious Strains, /
Paints the green Forests and the flow'ry Plains."
dark futurity Obscure or unknown events to come.
filled with delight.
choice Burwell is not referring to American democracy or
republicanism. See note to 385, above.
view of reason and order is consistent with an eighteenthcentury
view as held, for example, by Pope in the Essay
prise Prize: value or esteem highly.
See note to 493, above.
opens a new creation . . . See Thomson, "Summer,"
137-139: ". . . the
nobler Works of Peace / Hence bless Mankind, and generous Commerce
binds / The Round of Nations in a golden Chain."
tames the hardy savage . . . / . . . for mutual
good See Pope's first Epistle of the Essay
on Man, where the "poor Indian" must accept his
domestication for the benefit of an ordered and harmonious society
See note to 230, above.
In his Dictionary, Johnson
defines "gale" as "a wind not tempestuous, yet
stronger than a breeze."
"India" to which Burwell refers is likely the West
Indies. His economic vision of trade with the West Indies is
similarly expressed in Isaac Weld's Travels.
In his conclusion, Weld lauds the economic advantages of trade
between Canada and the Caribbean colony: "A still greater
trade would also be carried on then between Canada and the West
Indies than at present, to the great advantage of both countries;
a circumstance that would give employment to a greater number of
British ships: as Canada increased in wealth, it would be enabled
to defray the expenses of its own government, which at present
fall so heavily upon the people of Great Britain" (1, 426).
In a footnote to this passage Weld adds that "all these
articles of American produce in demand in the West Indies may be
had on much better terms in Canada than in the United
States." See also Introduction, pp. xxvi-xxvii.
A small single-decked ship with three masts. Burwell's hope
that ships would one day bring wealth from the far east would
depend, of course, on the opening of Lake Erie to the Atlantic
Coast. In 1817, work began on the Erie Canal designed to link the
lake with the Hudson River and, hence, with the Atlantic seaboard.
The Canal was completed in late 1825.
press "To go forward with violence to any object"
burning climes Tropical or desert regions of the earth.
Beneath the blessings . . . / . . . the Village shall be seen to rise
The title of Oliver Goldsmith's The
Rising Village, first published seven years after Talbot
Road, may echo these lines and thus suggest that Goldsmith had
read Burwell's poem, although no external evidence can be found to
verify this. See also the Anglo-Irish Goldsmith's The
Traveller, 405-406: "Have we not seen at pleasure's lordly call, / The smiling
long-frequented village fall?"
and in lines 607-618, Burwell paints a picture of domestic order
in what can be called (as did later Oliver Goldsmith) the
"rising village". In his Travels,
Weld also describes a similar order based on what he calls the
"English style": "The dwelling house, a neat
boarded little mansion painted white, together with the offices,
were situated on a small eminence; to the right, at the bottom of
the slope, stood the barn, the largest in all Canada, with a farm
yard exactly in the English style; behind the barn was laid out a
neat garden, at the bottom of which over a bed of gravel, ran a
purling stream of the purest water, deep enough, except in a very
dry season, to float a large canoe. A small lawn laid down in
grass appeared in front of the house, ornamented with clumps of
pines, and in its neighbourhood were about sixty acres of cleared
land" (I, 421).
The residence of a territorial proprietor (Talbot, perhaps) or
perhaps a large public gathering place for commercial or civic
labell'd Designated with a
mark of ownership.
din Loud noise or resonant sound indicative of some activity; in
line 581, this activity is defined as the "din of business."
scene is reminiscent of the "social glee" in Thomson's
"Summer," 352ff. and the "rural Gambol" in
"Winter," 617ff.. It also echoes forward to the "humble
sports" of Oliver Goldsmith's, The
Rising Village (1825), 283ff..
ruddy Blushing or
reddish, as indicating good health. Cf. Thomson, "Summer," 355:
". . . the ruddy Maid ...."
winged weapon Cupid's
accents Language; poetry.
Petrarch Francesco Petrarca
(1304-1374), the Italian poet, who is best remembered for his love sonnets
inspired by Laura.
swain Poeticism common in
eighteenth-century poetry: youth; countryman, shepherd, rustic.
Cf. Thomson, "Winter," 622-627:
. . Rustic mirth goes round:
simple Joke that takes the Shepherd's Heart,
Easily pleas'd; the long loud Laugh, sincere;
The Kiss, snatch'd hasty from the sidelong Maid,
On purpose guardless, or pretending Sleep;
The Leap, the Slap, the Haul.
and witty reply; quick and clever retort.
quip Sharp or sarcastic remark; clever or
frolick, wild gaiety" (Johnson).
see . . . / . . . with hues
of fire See Weld, Travels,
I, 336: "The churches are kept in the neatest repair, and
most of them have spires, covered, according to the custom of the
country, with tin, that, from being put on in a particular manner,
never becomes rusty. It is pleasing beyond description to behold
one of these villages opening to the view, as you sail around a
point of land covered with trees, the houses in it overhanging the
river, and the spires of the churches sparkling through the groves
with which they are encircled, before the rays of the setting
evening vapors Evening mists or clouds.
dun Murky or gloomy.
. . . Sol The Greek and Latin words for "sun." See
note to line 177, above.
constant chain of . . . l .
. . a thousand rural charms The farms of Talbot Road possess
those "charms" which have "fled" Goldsmith's
"Sweet Auburn." See Goldsmith, The
Deserted Village, 10: ". . . the cultivated farms . .
."; and 35-36: "Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the
lawn, / Thy sports are fled and all thy charms withdrawn."
This figure of the "great chain" (or the "Vast
chain of Being") to signify divine, natural, and social order
is common to eighteenth-century literature; see especially
Pope's Essay on Man. See also Thomson, "Summer," 137139:
. . . the nobler Works of Peace
Hence bless Mankind, and generous Commerce binds
The Round of Nations in a golden Chain.
"In a sufficient degree" (Johnson).
Quality which makes something proper and advantageous for any
Blest spot! sacred to . . . / . . . find the sweet employ Cf. Goldsmith, The
Traveller, 13-14: "Blest be that spot, where cheerful
guests retire / To pause from toil, and trim their evening
fire." In the lines that follow, Goldsmith reiterates the
blessings of simple domesticity which characterizes his concept of
note to 139-140, above.
Thatched or clustered as with tufts of trees. See note to 468,
shade Shade of the willow tree, a tree often associated with
voice of the "trusty watch dog" is part of the musical
choir which composes those "charms" which Goldsmith
fondly associates with rural harmony. See Goldsmith, The
Deserted Village, 121: "The watch-dog's voice that bayed
the whispering wind." See Introduction, p. xi.
devious Straying or erring. See note to 117 and 287, above.
See note to 592, above.
Zion's halls Zion (Sion) is the name given to one of the hills of
Jerusalem on which the city of David was built. It has become an
important centre of Jewish life and worship, but is often used by
religious poets as the location of the symbolic house of God, the
New Jerusalem, and the Promised Land.
favor'd poet's song Burwell thought himself to be the destined great
poet of Upper Canada. See Introduction, p. xiii.
Weeping Willow, and Lombardy Poplar, are but rarely seen; and yet
they are the only trees in the country which contribute in the
slightest degree to its ornament" (E.A. Talbot, Five
Year's Residence in the Canadas, p. 283).
Burwell's earlier poem published in the Upper
Canada Gazette (York) on March 12, 1818, reprinted as Appendix
A in the present edition.
Thus saith the Bard . . . / . . . may sure and certain prove
diction echoes the common Biblical phrase, "thus saith the
Lord," found throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The
phrase is also used to signify the end of a religious service or
passage of scripture. Relating the words of the "Bard"
to those of the Lord, elevates both the poem and the poet towards
the divine, thus giving more importance to the subject and to the
evince by argument or testimony.
Burwell's first use of the pseudonym in print was in
the Upper Canada Gazette (York)
on March 12, 1818. "Erieus" identified Burwell as the
author of over thirty poems written between 1816 and 1826. In
1819, a proposed two hundred and fifty page volume of "The
Original Poems of Erieus, by Adam Hood Burwell" was offered
to the public. It was never completed. The last public appearance
of "Erieus" occurred in The Gore Gazette (Ancaster, U.C.) on Tuesday, March 6, 1827 with the
publication of "Farewell to the Shores of Erie,"
Burwell's last poem from the Talbot Settlement.