Where o’er the ice-bound wave, or beaten way.—St. 5. p. 4.
Travelling on the rivers in winter, is more pleasant, than on the roads, as great part of the snow falls before they are frozen, and the ice in general is perfectly smooth.
Along the path with verdant branches graced.—St. 5. p. 4.
At the commencement of winter, every one is obliged to mark out a safe track on the road or ice, opposite to his own farm, with branches, (for which the English, in Lower Canada, as in many other instances, have adopted the French term balises,) planted on each side of the path, at ten or fifteen yards distance. In the vicinity of the town, small twigs, sufficient, indeed, to direct the traveller, even where new-fallen snows have covered the former track, but adding nothing to the beauty of the prospect, are generally all that can be seen; but at a few miles distance, where wood is to be had in plenty and variety near the road, tall branches of pine and cedar are planted in the snow or ice, and resembling an avenue of young trees, often winding gently for miles along the river, have a fine effect.
Lead the deep-loaded traine and guide the rapid sleigh.—St. 5. p. 4.
The traine is a vehicle universally used in Lower Canada, during winter, for the carriage of provisions, firewood, and stores of every description. It is of very simple construction: two wooden runners about four inches thick, made to turn up gently in front and shod with iron, are coupled by cross beams, over which thin boards are nailed, and six poles, or, to use terms more common there, rungs or batons placed erect in each runner, and coupled at the top by withes.
The runners of the sleigh are much slighter, and the box, or seat, made according to the taste of the owner, sometimes like the seat of a gig, painted, and often elegantly decorated with fur, is raised about a foot from the ground. This carriage is used for travelling, and making short excursions in or round the town by the English inhabitants. The curricle seems a greater favourite amongst the French Canadians; the seat resembles a sleigh, except that it has a front turned up with a graceful bending, which gives it a light and pleasing appearance; and is not elevated above, but placed on the runners like a traine.
The covered curricle is something like the body of an English coach, but small and of slight construction, placed on low runners like the other.
Large sleighs of a strong and often clumsy construction, (called double because drawn by two horses), are mostly used by the Scotch settlers in Glengary; and indeed, by all the inhabitants of the upper country, as well as by the Americans who bring their produce to Montreal in winter.
The wond’ring trav’ller finds a milder clime.—St. 6. p. 5.
This change is very striking, turning from the river, or from a road through a comparatively open part of the country, where the keen frosty winds are severely felt, into a forest where, perhaps for miles, only a narrow road has been cut through the trees, which are literally loaded with snow, one is agreeably surprised by the calm mildness of the air.
And scarcely through the bush the breezes blow.—St. 7. p. 5.
The bush is a term that in Canada is generally used to denote those extensive forests which still intersect the inhabited parts of the country; and, in Upper Canada, speaking of the distance of a place, they generally say, it is so many miles before you come to the bush, and so many to go through it.
A drooping thicket in the narrow way.—St. 8. p. 5.
The branches of young trees, when overcharged by a recent fall of snow, bend so low, that often, in going through the forest, travellers have to stop, and shake them, before they can proceed.
The winding wormfence stole its simple bound.—St. 10. p. 6.
The wormfence is very easily constructed. The rails are placed in a slanting direction, so that the ends cross each other, and require neither pins, nor posts to secure them; but the fence thus angling necessarily engrosses a considerable portion of ground, and requires more wood than the common rail, or even logfence; so that it is little used, except in new settlements in Upper Canada, where wood and land are of little value.
Glengary’s scatter’d villages are nigh.—St. 13. p. 7.
Glengary is a district in Upper Canada, mostly peopled by Scotch Highlanders, and rapidly increasing in population.
Yet feeling lightens in the Squaw’s dark eye.—St. 8. p. 11.
In this and many points relative to the character and appearance of the original inhabitants of America, I am sensible this account differs widely from that of a late traveller, whose accurate descriptions, and just and liberal remarks, on almost every other topic, must be read with pleasure by every one who has been in Canada; nor do I attempt to dispute his authority with regard to the appearance of the Indians; though I must say, that even in this point, like the knights in the fable of the Gold and Silver Shield, we have undoubtedly contemplated different sides of the picture.
Each in her hand her spell-wove wares display’d.—St. 9. p. 12.
Band-boxes and baskets, composed of bark or wood split very thin, dyed and neatly though slightly wove; mocasins, or shoes formed of deer skin; and ceinture or sash, generally worn over the great-coat in winter, are the principal manufactures of the squaws.
Her hat’s dark band a blushing wild rose stay’d.—St. 9. p. 12.
Yet flowers do not seem to be a favourite ornament among the Indian women, and I only recollect seeing them twice, on the head of an interesting young squaw from Caghnawanga.
Back o’er her shoulders from her forehead hung.—St. 10. p. 12.
The band of broad leather by which the board supporting the child is suspended, is worn over the forehead, and not round the neck, and perhaps from this cause, the squaws walk pretty erect with their burden.
By thongs suspended, and with hoops inclosed.—St. 11. p. 12.
Light hoops, over which are hung one or two pieces of silk or muslin, often fancifully decorated, are fixed to the board over the child’s head, to screen it from the sun.
The welcome draught in Summer’s parching air,&c.—St. 15. p. 14
I have been told, that in many places of the United States, and even of the British provinces, Canada excepted, an Indian will lie in the open air, and suffer cold or hunger rather that ask admission into a house. This seems to argue that he has, at one period or other, been rudely repulsed. It is not so in Canada; at least in the vicinity of Montreal, an Indian will enter a country house and state his wants, not with the air of a mendicant, but in a manner which seems to proceed from the consciousness, that were his host in the same circumstances to make a like request to him, it would be answered by every mark of kindness in his power. Nor from aught I observed, do they seem to be repulsed, at least by the French Canadians. I do not believe they come, except when really in want of something, which happens but seldom. The squaws generally offer to pay for whatever they ask; I never remarked an instance of a man’s doing so. The following circumstance is true; perhaps the reader may find it interesting.
An Indian, who had been in the habit of calling occasionally at a country house, stopped there on a hot summer day to rest a little, and get a draught of water. The house had changed its inhabitants, and he was ordered to get out immediately. Hurt at this treatment, the more as contrasting it with his former reception, his passion rose, but it was vented only in expressions of detestation and contempt, and he turned from the inhospitable door, which there is no reason to suppose he would again approach. I sighed at the recital. I have often traced the picture of the indignant Indian; and regret that a groundless fear, or a groundless prejudice, (for I should be unwilling to impute it entirely to pride or ill-nature), should have dictated so harsh an answer to so simple a request. Whatever degree of ferocity, even of treachery, may be traced in the character of some of the Indian tribes, no late instance of either can, I believe, be produced in the conduct of those who reside in Canada towards its inhabitants. The Canadian peasantry without scruple address them as brothers; it is the title by which they themselves often address Europeans, and there seems something stern and even illiberal in that disposition which turns disgusted from it.
And lo! a simple band wind slowly round the glade.—St. 21. p. 16.
I have enquired at several Canadians the meaning of this procession; all the reply I could get was, C’est pour le bled. C’est pour remercier le bon Dieu pour le bled. The priest, attended by a few boys from the Roman Catholic college, and some of the peasantry who join the procession, and attend it to a certain distance from their own houses, walks slowly on, praying and singing. Those who do not join it, generally kneel till it is past.
Braced round his warm capot the gay ceinture.—St. 25. p. 17.
The great-coat of the Canadians is of a particular form, with a small hood, which in stormy weather they draw over their heads. The ceinture or sash, before-mentioned, of Indian manufacture, is sewed with coloured worsteds, pleasingly intermingled in different figures, and sometimes decorated with beads. It is generally worn by the peasantry, and even by their children, partly, perhaps, for ornament, but custom has made it so comfortable, that no Canadian thinks himself completely equipt to go out in a stormy day, without a belt of some kind round his coat.
Nor may the tenant of those vallies vie, &c.—St. 27. p. 18.
The Canadians seem, in a great measure, to have lost that martial spirit which has been ascribed to them, at least I remarked no traces of it; but they are hardy travellers, and, it is said, daring voyagers; so it may be presumed they are capable of defending with courage, every cause in which their dearest interests are concerned.
In towering ranks the loftier maize enfolds.—St. 5. p. 21.
The ground (after being ploughed in the Autumn), is generally prepared for the maize by being cross drilled in Spring, at about three feet distance. The drills thus intersect each other, and where they cross, the grains, if maize, are thrown in and lightly covered with two or three inches depth of mould. The pumpkin seeds are generally planted along with the corn, sometimes later.
The tall stalk of the Indian corn, standing in regular lines, with its reed-like leaves, and silky tuft waving from the top, and the broad dark-green leaves of the creeping gourd, intermingled with its orange-coloured blossom below, have a beautiful appearance.
The new-fall’n flowers that drank the dew to-day.—St. 5. p. 21.
Sometimes, though not often, hay cut in the morning and turned incessantly under a scorching sun, may be taken in before night; it is not built in stacks, but housed in the barns, which are generally large and built of wood.
Wide o’er the half-till’d plains the tide of plenty roll’d.—St. 5. p. 28.
The epithet of half-till’d will not appear improper to any one acquainted with the superficial mode of culture given to new land in Canada; where, after ploughing slightly round the still remaining roots of the trees, they reap abundant harvests.
" One grateful mite of all they gave," demand.—St. 6. p. 29.
"Thy worn-out lands, like thirsting Timon, crave
One grateful mite of all the wealth they gave." Carolina, or the Planter.
Marking the change, yet heedless of its cause.—St. 6. p. 29.
The French Canadians are fully sensible of the gradual decline in the produce of their lands. C’est de vieille terre, bonne pour rien, is a common expression amongst them, when speaking of land which has been long under cultivation.
Nor change nor rest the wearied fields renew.—St. 6. p. 29.
Observations on Agriculture, by one who was never in the habit of paying that subject any attention, except during a short residence in Canada, there only remarking its operations in a very limited scale, cannot, perhaps, be very accurate; but it is easily seen by any one who has an opportunity of observing the different modes of farming practised by the Canadians, and the British who have settled amongst them, that the mismanagement of the former cannot be said to have reduced their land to that state into which one skilled in agriculture may bring a farm he means purposely to exhaust. Their farms have, with little variation, been alternately ploughed and left in pasture, very slightly manured, and seldom if ever under a green crop. The culture of maize is but little attended to, that of potatoes still less; pease are raised in tolerable quantities, but wheat is the universal favourite among the Canadians, though they often have but four or five returns.
Indian corn and potatoes, especially the latter, are raised in great plenty by the English settlers. The hoeing them in summer requires a great deal of labour, (especially on farms newly purchased from Canadians, which are generally over-run with thistles), but that is not lost, for both crops are very profitable, and the ground, thus well cleared, generally bears an excellent crop of grain the second year, and may be laid down in grass to advantage the third.
Proudly they fled who might have nobly staid.—St. 7. p. 29.
The general though not universal desertion of the country by men of property, who had grants of land under the French government, is a well-known fact, and is particularly mentioned by the Abbé Raynal.
Mould’ring beneath some tasteless peasant’s care.—St. 8. p. 29.
This is no fancied picture; I have seen several, not differing much, except in size, from the houses of the peasantry, seemingly built more with a view to comfort and convenience than needless show; the idea of their desertion, and the appearance of the neglected garden, fences, &c. throw a gloom over the mind of a reflecting beholder.
". . . They leave to fight, to bleed, to die for you."—St. 16. p. 32.
This is a quotation, I do not know from whom.
Where boasts the rich fameuse the rose’s glow, &c.—St. 2. p. 35.
The English inhabitants have given no distinguishing names to the different apples which the orchards in Canada, and especially on the island of Montreal, produce in high perfection, but adopted their Canadian titles. The fameuse is a large apple tinged with a beautiful red, very juicy and of a pleasant flavour. The pommegris resembles an English russet, and may be preserved for a year. These are not the only kinds which are highly valued, and of course carefully gathered; nor can I enumerate them all. The common cyder apples grow in great abundance.
A busy throng collect the ripen’d maize.—St. 3. p. 36.
The maize is just plucked from the stalk when ripe, and is so easily gathered, that children may assist in the task.
Or where th’ uprooting plough has traced the field.—St. 3. p. 36.
It must not be inferred from this, that cleaning and taking up potatoes by the plough is common in Lower Canada. This is not the case, except among the English farmers there, whose mode of cultivating their lands is principally alluded to in this and some stanzas in the Third Part.
Of youths and maids, in joyous mood, convene.—St. 4. p. 36.
Parties, mostly of young people, assemble by turns in their respective houses to husk the corn, and when the task is finished spend the evening in social enjoyment. This might be called Harvest-home and seems all they have in lieu of it.
And bound for southern climes, a faithless drove.—St. 10. p. 38.
The migration of the feathery tribes from Canada to the southern parts of America, has been noticed by travellers, and it is almost unnecessary to add to their remarks on the subject.
O’er faded fields the Indian Summer glows.—St. 11. p. 38.
The Indian Summer is a term given in Montreal and its vicinity to a fortnight or ten days of fine clear weather, (though frosty at night), which generally comes in the latter end of October, or beginning of November.
To an English reader, gathering grapes at that season in such a climate, may sound rather strangely; but I am simply stating circumstances which fell within the sphere of my own observation, without attempting to account for them, and have eaten grapes gathered during that period, of a very pleasant flavour. They were raised in a garden, but without the aid of glasses. The wild grapes, which grow in great plenty, are sour and not worth gathering.
Unusual mists foretell th’ approaching snow.—St. 11. p. 38.
Mist is indeed unusual, almost unknown, in Canada, except that which hovers over the ground a day or two before the snow begins to fall, and is a certain presage of the coming storm.
Enclose the fields, or form the bounding lines.—St. 12. p. 39.
The line fence is that which divides one farm from another, and is constructed and kept in repair by the owners of each, who do not labour mutually, but divide the fence into equal portions, of which each attends to his own allotted share.
Heedless of piercing frosts and day’s decline.—St. 13. p. 39.
This is really the case; yet I believe instances of people losing their way and perishing from cold, are not so common there as in Britain, owing partly, perhaps, to there being fewer who travel on foot, and partly to the general serenity of the sky even in winter, and the regular manner in which the roads are laid out, running along in front of the farms, which are seldom more than three or four acres wide, and the houses in general only a few yards distant from the road, so that there is little risk of a traveller’s losing his way, or being at a distance from shelter, except in going through the forest, where, as has been already observed, the cold is not so intense.
Through the shrunk shutter beams of welcome play.—St. 13. p. 39.
Wood, even where it is not exposed to the parching heat of the stove, shrinks very much in Canada, owing, perhaps, to its being used before it is well seasoned.