Introduction


Abram’s Plains: A Poem and its Preface by Thomas Cary (1751-1823) constitute what is probably the best-known and most important document in eighteenth-century Canadian poetry. Originally “Printed for the Author”1 at Quebec in 1789, Cary’s poem found one of its earliest modern admirers in Lawrence M. Lande, who published several lengthy excerpts from it in Old Lamps Aglow (1957), his loving Appreciation of Early Canadian Poetry.2  Since then the complete text of Abram’s Plains, together with its Preface, has appeared in Three Early Poems from Lower Canada (1969),3 edited by Michael Gnarowski, and, without its Preface, in the first volume of The Evolution of Canadian Literature in English: Beginnings to 1867 (1973),4 edited by Mary Jane Edwards. More recently, the poem’s Preface alone has appeared in the section on “Colonial Beginnings 1752-1867” in Towards a Canadian Literature: Essays, Editorials and Manifestos (1984), a “collection of documents” pertaining to the “evolution of Canadian literature in English”5 selected by Douglas M. Daymond and Leslie G. Monkman. Since each of these reprintings of Cary’s work is either incomplete, unreliable or unavailable, the need has clearly arisen for what the present volume seeks to provide: an edition of Abram’s Plains and its Preface that will make Cary’s work reliably available in its entirety to students and scholars of early Canadian poetry.

     Despite the fact that they have been frequently anthologised, Abram’s Plains and its Preface have received scant critical attention. in the Literary History of Canada (1965 and later) James J. and Ruth Talman offer only a brief biographical sketch of Thomas Cary, a few excerpts from his Preface, and the following description of the poem:

Abram ’s Plains, although derivative in style, is truly Canadian in content. Beginning with an invocation to the Plains “Where . . . I sit and court the Muse,” Cary goes on to a description of the whole St. Lawrence system: “cold Superior”; Huron, “distinguish’d by its thund’ring bay”; Michigan; Erie; “thy dread fall, Niagara”, Montreal, with a reference to the fur trade; Quebec, with a description of its surrounding forest and mention of the shipbuilding industry; and so on, through the Gulf to the coasts of Labrador. In passing, Cary describes the settlers, with their fields and villages; Indians, Eskimos; buffalo, carriboo [sic], wolf, otter; fish, with a neatly sketched picture of the fishing through the ice of the St. Lawrence. In short, an epitome of the Canadian scene as it appeared in his time, though it is doubtful if Cary could actually have seen Eskimos.6

Gnarowski’s Note on Abram’s Plains in Three Early Poems from Lower Canada provides no critical commentary either on the poem or on its Preface but does give an account of Cary’s life based, like that of the Talmans, on the entries in Henry J. Morgan’s Bibliotheca Canadensis (1867) and Marie Tremaine’s Bibliography of Canadian Imprints, 1751-1800 (1952):

[Cary] was born near Bristol, England, became a journalist, and, entered the service of the East India company. [He] then went to Canada where he became secretary of Governor Robert Prescott in 1797. . . . Tremaine states that Cary came to Quebec before 1787, and that he was working as a government clerk when he published his poem. Cary’s commitment to Canada was unmistakable. He opened a subscription library in Quebec [in 1797], and in 1805 founded the Quebec Mercury, an important outlet for English conservative opinion, and in which Cary wrote extensively on literary and political topics.7

Mary Jane Edwards, in her valuable Introduction to Abram’s Plains in The Evolution of Canadian Literature, covers much the same ground as Gnarowski and the Talmans but provides additional information concerning Cary’s life and opinions, particularly his strongly pro-British orientation (of which more will be said in due course) as embodied and expressed in the Quebec Mercury between its foun dation in 1805 and Cary’s death in 1823.8 Some critical discussion of Abram’s Plains and its Preface has recently been provided, however, by Sandra Djwa and J.M. Zezulka, the former seeing in Cary’s work merely “a colonial reflection of the English tradition”9 that persists in Canadian poetry until E.J. Pratt and the latter arguing more sympathetically that the poem partakes of a “pastoral vision” of Canada that is shared by “a substantial number of Canadian poets”10 to A.M. Klein and beyond. These approaches to Cary’s work are salutary in that they integrate Abram’s Plains and its Preface into the historical and thematic continuity of writing in Canada. It will be the aim of this Introduction to consolidate that integration and, in addition, to examine Abram’s Plains and its Preface in their own terms with a view to establishing their relations, not only to the English and Canadian literary continuities, but also to the historical, political and social milieu of Quebec in the late eighteenth century.11

I

Abram’s Plains is a topographical poem, a poem in which, to quote Dr. Johnson’s famous definition of “local poetry”, “the fundamental subject is some particular landscape . . . poetically described, with the addition of such embellishment as may be described by historical retrospection and incidental meditation.”12 Each of the three elements of this definition of topographical poetry is amply represented in Cary’s poem: the “particular landscape . . . poetically described” is, of course, that of Quebec, particularly the St. Lawrence river system and its environs; “historical retrospection” is present and directed primarily towards the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, though there are also references to the English-French conflict over the Ohio River basin, to Sir William Johnson’s defeat of Baron Dieskau at Lac St. Sacrement (Lake George), and to the attempts by American forces under General Benedict Arnold to capture the ‘fourteenth colony’ at the time of the American Revolution; and “incidental meditation” is present in a variety of forms, occasioned mostly by Cary’s efforts to survey the scenery, inhabitants, wealth and politics of Britain’s Canadian colony. The three clemnents of Cary’s topographical poem, as well as the various subspecies (picturesque tableaux, descriptive catalogues, and the like) contained within it, are held together by powerful formalistic and structural forces — by the heroic couplet, a form that facilitates the integration of “digressive matter”,13 and by two structuring physical entities: (1) the Plains of Abraham themselves, where the poem begins and ends and where the central event of Lower Canadian history and of the poem, is located; and (2) the St. Lawrence river system, which Cary uses as, so to say, a thread along which to string the various descriptive, historical and meditative embellishments of the poem.

     It is Cary’s use of the river, more, perhaps, than any other feature of Abram’s Plains, that endows the poem with a Janus-like quality of facing in two directions. By virtue of the presence of the St. Lawrence at its core, Abram’s Plains looks backwards in the topographical tradition to the sources and fountainheads of the neo-classical tradition in England — to the rivers of Pope’s Windsor-Forest and Thomson’s The Seasons (both of which are referred to by Cary in his Preface) and, beyond these, to the numerous rivers of Drayton’s Poly-Olbion, to the Nile of Claudian and to the Moselle of Ausonius. And it looks forward, by an extraordinary, intuitive understanding on Cary’s part of the shape and significance of the St. Lawrence river system, to the Laurentian hypothesis of Donald Creighton, who has argued in the [Commercial] Empire of the St. Lawrence that the St. Lawrence was not only the determining factor in Canadian history but also the shaping force in Canadian society and in the Canadian soul.14 In its use of the St. Lawrence and as, in part, a “river poem”15 Abram’s Plains also echoes forward in the Canadian literary continuity to Sangster’s The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay and to Lampman’s “Between the Rapids”, as well as to more recent works such as F.R. Scott’s “On the Terrace, Quebec” and Hugh MacLennan’s Rivers of Canada.16

     “Here, in life’s vigour, Wolfe resign’d his breath, / And, conqu’ring sunk to the dark shades of death . . .” (ll. 282-283). With this couplet Cary begins his account of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, proceeding first to set it against the historical backdrop of the Seven Years’ War, the conflict over the Ohio River basin and the exploits of Sir William Johnson. and then going on to describe in somne detail the Battle itself. To Cary the defeat of the French on the Plains of Abraham was the outcome of Gallic aggression and “presumption” (l. 300) in North America; and “great Wolfe” was the patriotic leader of “dauntless” veterans who won victory at Quebec over a num’rous foe” (ll. 302-306). His description of how Wolfe led his troops, not as a “chief”, but “on foot”, of the General’s courageous indifference to his “wounds”, and of his famous last words (“Anxious, he hears the shout — ‘they fly, they fly,’ / ‘Who fly?’ ‘The foe’ — ‘contented then I die’”) is a set piece, based, no doubt, on written and, perhaps, oral accounts of Cary’s day. Over half a century later, in the “Death of Wolfe” and “The Plains of Abraham”, Sangster would tell the same tale using many of the same words as the earlier poet; indeed, Sangster would draw much the same moral as Cary concerning the “rare, divinest life / Of peace, compared with Strife!” 17

     More, in fact, than Cary’s description of the death of Wolfe and the battle for Quebec, it is his moral position vis à vis these and other events that must be examined if the overall meaning and purpose of Abram’s Plains are to be grasped. Like Windsor-Forest, its primary model as a “local” or “topographical”18 poem, Abram’s Plains fuses the scenic and the historical, the pastoral and the political, and does so within a “controlling moral vision”19 based, in Cary’s case, on a perceived need in Lower Canada for the peace, harmony, freedom and moderation that he associates with the British presence in the Colony. Not only does a recognition of Cary’s “controlling moral vision”, particularly his repeated and essentially ethical contrast between a peaceful and civilized present and a violent and tyrannical past, make evident the underlying unity of Abram’s Plains, but it also helps to confirm the poem’s generic lineage through Windsor-Forest, with its praise of Peace and its condemnation of Discord (and its references to Denham’s Cooper’s Hill), to the Georgics of Virgil where, as Addison says, the “Poetry . . . raises in our minds a pleasing variety of scenes and landscapes, whilst it teaches us . . .” 20  By insisting at the end of the Preface to Abram’s Plains on the date and place of the poem as “Quebec . . 1789” Cary demands that his Canadian Georgic be read with an eye on the contrast between present and past — between the Peace (l. 50) that now exists in Quebec under British rule and the Destruction (1. 52) that occurred on the Plains of Abraham at the time of the Battle that the poem commemorates in its central section (ll. 282-361) and, indeed, in its very title. It is worth emphasizing, too, that Abram’s Plains was written in the aftermath, not only of the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), but also of the American War of Independence. This fact leads Cary, after paying tribute to Wolfe, to render praise to the “prudence” and “saving wisdom” of those (Guy Carleton, later Lord Dorchester, in particular: see Explanatory Notes, l. 485f.) who defended Quebec against American invaders in the winter of 1775-1776. It also lends a double referent and emphasis to his obloquies against “wild-wasting war. / Destructive war!” (ll. 51-52) and to his fervent hope — a hope typical of the topographical poet’s “attempt to project .  . . stability into the future”21 — that “never more may hostile arms distain, / With human gore, the verdure of the plain” (ll. 340-341). In these lines and to a greater or lesser extent throughout the poem, the plain(s) of Abraham, once the scene of conflict and destruction, now a realm of peace and harmony, are a metaphorical microcosm for Quebec enjoying the benefits of the British civilization which, as Cary says in a key couplet, has “In Circe’s glass bid moderation reign, / And moral virtues humanize the plain” (ll. 62-63).

     Bearing in mind the centrality of “moral vision” in topographical poetry, and remembering as well Addison’s remark to the effect that in the Georgics Virgil uses landscape both to please and to teach, the reader can approach even the opening lines of Abram’s Plains with the certainty that there is more to Cary’s description of the Plains of Abraham than literally meets the eye:

Thy Plains, O Abram! and thy pleasing views,
Where, hid in shades, I sit and court the muse,
Grateful I sing. For there, from care and noise,
Oft have I fled to taste thy silent joys:
There, lost in thought, my musing passion fed,
Or held blest converse with the learned dead.
Else, like a steed, unbroke to bit or rein,
Courting fair health, I drive across the plain;
The balmy breeze of Zephyrus inhale,
Or bare my breast to the bleak northern gale.
Oft, on the green sod lolling as I lay,
Heedless, the grazing herds around me stray:
Close by my side shy songsters fearless hop,
And shyer squirrels the young verdure crop:
All take me for some native of the wood,
Or else some senseless block thrown from the flood.
                                                        (ll. 1-16)

What is perhaps most immediately remarkable about the opening of Cary’s poem is the way in which the description of the Plains brings together and attempts to fuse its old-world, neo-classical conventions with its new-world, Canadian subject-matter. An inspirational presence on the Plains is “the muse”, a figure who, true to Cary’s moral vision, emerges in a later use of the classical muse machinery as a muse of both poetry and peace whose “. . . only weapon . . . [is the] grey goose quill” with which she draws “peaceful parallels” (ll. 459-460). Not wholly devoid of fighting spirit, Cary’s muse is prepared to do battle, but only for the purposes of defense or in the cause of liberty against tyranny (ll. 461-463). Present, too, on the Plains are the “learned dead” — the classical heroes, philosophers, politicians and poets who, as the “MIGHTY DEAD . . . who blest Mankind/With Arts, and Arms, and humnaniz’d a World” held “high Converse” with Thomson in The Seasons.22 But juxtaposed with the “balmy breeze” of the classical Zephyrus (the West Wind, traditionally associated with health arid renewal) is the “bleak northern” — and Canadian — “gale”. These two very different winds are sought out by a Cary who, now markedly less sedentary than the reposeful figure who had earlier courted his peace-loving muse and conversed with the “learned dead”, likens himself to an unbroken “steed” — an image very likely of the vital and healthy exercise of (British) liberty or freedom. The implication of Cary’s opening lines is that peace and freedom, together with the accoutrements of classical civilization and the invigorating qualities of Canadian nature, are to be found on the Plains of Abraham, and are to be enjoyed under circumstances of utter and complete tranquility:

Oft, on the green sod lolling as I lay,
Heedless, the grazing herds around me stray:
Close by my side shy songsters fearless hop,
And shyer squirrels the young verdure crop:
All take me for some native of the wood,
Or else some senseless block thrown from the flood.
                                                 (ll. 11-16)

Here Cary seems at pains to demonstrate the harmonious life that exists on the plains. His tranquill landscape contains no hint of conflict or antipathy; indeed the poet/speaker — that is, European man — is in a state of concord with the creatures of Britain’s Canadian colony: he is accepted alike by the domesticated “grazing herds” and by the “shy” and “shyer” animals of the forest who perceive him, he speculates, either as an animate “native of the wood” or as an inanimate “block” cast ashore from the St. Lawrence. It is more than possible that Cary’s use of the word “block” brings with it to this context a double valency and two meanings, one derived from its traditional (Shakespearian, Popian) usage as an image of inertia and senselessness, the other deriving from the implication that his Canadian “block” is a piece of flotsam from Quebec’s burgeoning timber industry, described by Cary in some detail later in the poem. If this possibility is granted, then it would appear that Cary’s doubly suggestive “block” serves to reconcile old-world concepts with new-world realities and, beyond that, to show, like the entire context in which it appears, that on the Plains of Abraham there is to be found in 1789 a peaceful and harmonious relationship between man (even man with commercial connections) and nature (even wild nature). Although, as will be seen, Cary at several points later in the poem betrays a typical conqueror’s sense of contempt for the defeated French Canadians and a typical colonist’s sense of superiority over the indigenous Indian culture, these attitudes, regrettable as they may seem today, must be understood as aspects of a moral vision based on a belief in the civilizing power of the British presence in Quebec.

     If the opening lines of Abram ’s Plains were apparently intended to body forth the peace, harmony, health, and freedom which have humanized the Plain since the fall of Quebec, then the penultimate paragraph of the poem can be seen as a statement of the moderation, the via media and the beatus vir that stem also from the British presence in Lower Canada:

But see, far down the west, the God of day
Behind yon mountain’s brow, low sinks his ray:
The fleecy clouds, deep-frlng’d with blushing red,
Calm on the soul, mild as their lustre, shed.
True emblem of life’s happy middle scene,
Where neither glare nor gloom once intervene:
Beneath the blaze of mad ambition’s fire,
Yet above want, where all our joys expire.
There easy labour keeps the soul serene,
Nor rais’d by vanity nor sunk by spleen;
Life’s clear smooth stream unruffled gently flows,
Nor one rude breeze to hurt its quiet blows.
                                            (ll. 568-579)

It is now possible to recognize that, like the Plains of Abraham, the waters of the St. Lawrence river system provide in themselves, not merely a unifying device for Abram’s Plains, but also a metaphor for the moderate, good life bestowed by British rule in Quebec and, beyond that, for an eighteenth-century civilization in the colony that is rooted in the classics, founded on Christianity and dedicated to the maintenance of “moral virtues” and good government, both in the individual and the public sphere. Near the beginning of the poem Cary had invested the St. Lawrence first with classical overtones, by making it the home of “Naiades” (ll. 18, 43, 252), and then with Christian overtones, by referring to its “canoniz’d” name (l. 85). Later, he had used the slow-moving, fertilizing waters of the St. Charles River as an emblem of “wise caution” which “slow, yet sure . . . influence widely spreads” (ll. 400-405) and offered as a contrast “rushing floods” which, in his view, “deprive” the “meadows of their needful dews” and, hence, are emblematic of a “headstrong, thoughtless”, “useless” amid easily “cheated” mentality. By the time the reader gets to the penultimate paragraph of the poem, quoted above, the St. Lawrence has taken up a central position in Cary’s moral vision, lying at the very heart of his rationalistic view of the good and, in the fullest sense, civilized life that exists in the British colony of Quebec thirty years after the conquest.

     Always within his controlling vision of the benefits of British civilization for Quebec, Cary has much to say in Abram’s Plains about the commercial wealth and potential of the empire of the St. Lawrence. This aspect of the poem becomes its central focus after the opening descriptions of the Plains of Abraham and of the St. Lawrence river system. But it is already implicit in Cary’s decision to give shape to Abram’s Plains, not by following the river upstream in the direction of exploration, but, rather, downstream from West to East — which is to say in the direction of the flow of water and staples fromn the hinterland to the metropolitan centres of Montreal and Quebec City and, thence, down the St. Lawrence estuary and, by extension, across the Atlantic ocean to England. Jonathon Carver, Cary’s primary source for his description of the Great Lakes systemn near the beginning of Abram’s Plains (see Explanatory Notes, l. 21ff.), had some twenty years earlier appreciated the economic possiblities of the West-East flow of water into the St. Lawrence. Writing of the “virgin copper that is found on and near [the] banks” of a river feeding into Lake Superior in his Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768, Carver observes:

It might in future times be made a very advantageous trade, as the metal, which costs nothing on the spot, and requires but little expence to get it on board, could be conveyed in boats or canoes through the Falls of St. Marie to the Isle of St. Joseph . . . near the entrance to Lake Huron; from thence it could be . . . transported across that Lake to the Falls of Niagara; there being carried by land across the Portage, it might be conveyed without much obstruction to Quebec. The cheapness and ease with which any quantity of if might be procured will . . . enable the proprietors to send it to foreign markets on . . . good terms. . . .23

The structuring, commercial movement of Abram’s Plains from West to East provides implicit evidence of Cary’s endorsement of the mercantile system whereby fur, fish, lumber, and grains were exported to Britain, yielding in return “income”, “man-power”, and “capital” to exploit the Colony’s natural resources.24 Crucial to a flourishing mercantile system were plentiful such natural resources, coupled with a stable peace in which profitably to exploit them. Thus it is that Cary, perhaps remembering Thomson’s frequent association of Peace and commerce in The Seasons, initiates his “comprehensive view” (l. 497), his detailed survey, of the commercial empire of the St. Lawrence by emphasizing the stability that permits prosperity. After first arranging for the river’s “Naiades” to render praise to Ceres, the “bounteous” goddess of agriculture who later in the poem will pour “her grain in golden showers” on “craving realms” (ll. 216-217), he then proceeds himself (consistent, as ever, with the overall vision of the poem) to proclaim the civilizing virtues of the pax Britannica:

       . . . the Nalades . . .
. . . in full chorus, vocal, join their lays,
To chant, in chearful carols, Ceres’ praise:
Whose yellow harvests, nodding, glad the shore,
Where Dryades, midst wild deserts, reign’d before.
Where prowl’d the wolf, the bear and fox obscene
Now grateful kine, loud lowing, graze the green.
Such are thy blessings peace!
                                                 (ll. 43-50)

Cary’s praise for the accomplishments of the pioneers in this passage is, of course, typical of Pre-Confederation poetry, as is his endorsement, a few lines later, of pioneering as an activity at once physical amid moral, as well as sanctioned by God: “How blest the task, to tame the savage soil, / And, from the waters, bid the woods recoil!” (ll. 54-55). It must always be remembered, however, that whether Cary is praising the pioneer or, as later in the poem, the “Tenant and lord, noble and peasant,” his larger praise is reserved for the humanizing virtues of British civilization arid for the British institutions from which stem “smiling peace and laughing plenty . . . / And gay content [to] delight . . . the plain” (ll. 448-449).

     Cary continues his survey of the commercial empire of the St. Lawrence with several lines devoted to the agricultural and moral advantages of a peaceful and fertile, Christian and British, Lower Canada for all concerned — not least the Indian, whose “tomahawks” and “skalping knives” are being beaten into “ploughshares” and “pruning hooks"and the Loyalist, who, “shelter’d from the storm of civil broils”, “Again, from the unclog’d responsive earth, / Calls a new patrimony into birth” (61-70). “Thus mariners wreck’d on some distant shore”, he imagines in an extended and appropriately commercial simile, regret the loss of their ship only until “with sad step, they inland bend their way / Where mines of gold their loss amply repay” (ll. 74-75). Little wonder that, later in Abram’s Plains, Cary exhorts even the French-Canadian “peasants” to be “Grateful” for their “mended state, / And bless, beneath a GEORGE25 [their] better fate” (ll. 150-451).

     The mercantile poet’s first port-of-call in the British Eldorado of Quebec is the “city of Montreal”, which he apostrophizes as a “Great Mart!” and characterizes as the centre of “all the forest’s spoils, / The furry treasures of the hunter’s toils” (ll. 79-80). Although Cary’s notion that the Indians themselves brought their furs to Montreal for sale — “Within thy walls”, he says “the painted nations pour, / And smiling wealth on thy blest traders show’r” (ll. 82-83)— seems to rest on a slight misunderstanding of the mechanismn of the fur-trade (generally speaking the Indians sold furs to coureurs de bois, who then brought them to Montreal), he is, of course, quite correct in seeing Montreal, where the North West Company had been operating since the 1770s, as the metropolitan centre of the fur-trade in 1789 — that is to say, two years after the “blest traders” Simon McTavish and Joseph Frobisher had established their famous partnership there.26 Montreal, Cary also notes, stands at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers, a fact which also contributed to the city’s importance as a geographical and commercial focal point for the fur-trade.

     From Montreal Cary continues his comprehensive survey of the St. Lawrence river system “downward” (1. 85) towards Quebec City. En route he notices two additions to the St. Lawrence: the “waters [of lake] Champlain” entering the system by the Richelieu river (whose name, perhaps because of its French, political connotations, he omits) and the Maskinonige river flowing into the northwest end of Lac St. Pierre. The former provides Cary the mercantilist with an oppor tunity to allude, somewhat quaintly, to the pine or tall mast trade which, though relatively insignificant in his day (in 1787, for instance,only sixteen masts were shipped to England from Quebec)27 , would rise to prominence in the Napoleonic Wars:

Champlain, renown’d for high aspiring woods—
Down thy wide stream the naked sylvans glide,
And, in tall masts, of navies swell the pride:
Thy navies Britain, who bid discord cease,
And awe amnbitious monarchs into peace.
                                                 (ll. 87-91)

By contrast, the second of the two rivers mentioned at this point in the poem, the Maskinonge, merely gives Cary the opportunity to men tion the first of many fish inhabiting the St. Lawrence system — the “tyrant pike . . . / To please the haut-gout of the high-fed town” (ll. 92-93). Unimportant as it may first appear, Cary’s reference to pike as a delicacy contains the message that the “high-fed town” has moved well beyond the level of mere survival and subsistence to that of refined taste and superabundance. There will be more to say about this message anid related matters in a few moments.

     For Cary, Quebec City, which had been the centre of the French commmicrcial and military activity in North America, is first amid foremost a “strong base” for the British garrison and a “secure” harbour for “Britannia’s navy” (l. 138). It is also the recipient of inspired, British engineerinig expertise which, presumably drawing on the same divine sources as Moses, is able to command the sea to go back:

thy stong base, Quebec, [the waters] rapid lave,
Where British spirits, bold, oppose the wave:
For here the swellinig far-projected quay,
Gains daily on the wave’s extended way:
Such is the ardour of the British breast,
If of that liberty it loves possess’d,
At their command floods back their billows heave,
And a bold shore their oozy bottom leave:
High flinty rocks descend to level plains,
Whence, on both sides, commerce a footing gains.
                                                 (ll. 98-107)

In addition to its strategic and commercial importance for the St. Lawrence valley. Cary’s Quebec City has the beginnings of the ship building industry that would become of major importance to the city in the nineteenth cenitury. To describe the launching of a ship in 1789 Cary alludes to the legend of Venus’ birth out of the sea on a half-shell; his Venus-ship, however, is destined to be the mistress, not, as legend has it, of Mars, the god of War, but, characteristically for Cary, of the “god of trade”:

The plowing keel the builder artist lays,
Her ribs of oak the rising ship displays;
Now, grown mature, she glides with forward pace,
And eager rushes to the saint’s embrace.
Then rising, Venus like, with gay parade,
Strait turns kept-mistress to the god of trade.
                                                 (ll. 110-115)

For Cary, apparently, not even the classical deities could avoid the long arm of British mercanitilism.

     The remainder of the first part of Abram’s Plains (which is to say the part leading up to the description of Wolfe’s victory and death in the middle of the poem) is an elaboration, with small, but interesting, variations, of the themes just discussed. One such variation occurs when Cary, in what is probobly a deliberate echo of and answer to Goldsmith’s very negative description of North American nature in The Deserted Village (the third poem that he mentions as a model in his Preface) turns to describe the Canadian wilderness. After echoing Goldsmith’s “matted woods”28 with his own, more emphatic, “Thick-matted woods”, and after noticing the “flies, in myriads . . . with tumefying stings” that infest the Northern forests, Cary counters Goldsmith on the “terrors” of the rattle snake by observing that, in the Canadian wilds, a providential nature “good and wise” is at work, providing an anitidote to the venom of the “dark adder” in the form of the Rattle Snake Plaintain, a plant that he no doubt encountered in Carver’s Travels. (It almost goes without saying that Cary’s repeated descriptions of the civilized state of Canadiain nature and society, like those in the Canadian Goldsmith’s Rising Village, can be read as responses to the gloomy prognostications in The Deserted Village.) A further variation on Cary’s familiar themes occurs in his description of the imnmediate surroundings of Quebec City where he likens “commerce” to a queen ant, an apt figure for the process of diligent, fertilizing colonization. And another variatoin is to be found in his description of the logging “mill” at “Malbay” (La Malbaie) where he draws upon an Indian legend, albeit one that would have been accessible with minimal difficulty to a European familiar, as Cary very likely would have been, with Ovid’s Metamorphoses:

. . . from Malbay, the mill’s remorseless sound,
And piteous groans of rending firrs, resound;
Within whose rind, I shudder while I tell,
Spirits of warriors close imprisoin’d dwell,
Who in cold blood, butcher’d a valiant foe,
For which, transform’d to weeping firrs, they grow:
Down their tall trunks trickling the tears distill,
’Till last the ax and saw groaning they feel.
                                                 (ll. 146-153)

Affected as Cary is by the Indian legend, he allows his peace-loving nature and theme to emerge when he refers to the dead “warriors” as the cold-blooded butchers of a “valiant foe”.

     But the most interesting variation on Cary’s survey of the plentiful resources of Quebec in the first part of Abram’s Plains is his use of a “stock-in-trade” of topographical poetry: the catalogue. If additional and conclusive proof of Cary’s mercantilism were required, it would be furnished by a comparison between, for instance, the catalogues of flowers, birds, and domestic animals in Thomson’s “Spring” and the commercially-oriented catalogues of wild animals, trees, and fish in Abram’s Plains. All these items are catalogued by Cary, not for their natural beauty, but as natural resources for exploitation by colonial traders and for exportation to British markets. Thus the only species of trees worth itemizing are “The sturdy oak” (in itself an emblem of England) and “the lofty mountain-pine” (l. 214), the first a main-stay of the ship-building industry, the second of the tall-mast trade. Indeed, W.T. Easterbrook and Hugh G.T. Aitken could almost be glossing Cary when they write in their Canadian Economic History that “no European nation could hope to retain the status of a first-class power without an assured supply of oak timber and pine masts.”30 Wild animals are more extensively and explicitly catalogued as a source of furs for “craving realms” (l. 217) across the Atlantic:

The beaver’s silken fur to grace the head,
And, on the soldier’s front, assurance spread;
The martin’s sables to adorn the fair,
And aid the silk-worm to set off her air.
Gemmis of Golconda or Potosi’s mines,
Than these not more assist her eyes’ designs.
The jetty fox to majesty adds grace,
And of grave justice dignifies the place;
The bulky buffalo, tall elk, the shaggy bear,
Huge carriboo, fleet moose, the swift-foot deer,
Gaunt wolf, amphibious otter, have their use,
And to thy worth, O first of floods! conduce.
                                                 (ll. 200-211)

Cary’s none-too-subtle point is that furs from Quebec, as much, if not more than items such as silk and gems from elsewhere in Britain’s mercantile empire, have a useful contribution to make to the military, social, legal and monarchical institutions of the Mother Country. Moreover, Cary’s catalogue of furs and their uses not only contains an unmnistakable echo of a rhetorical question in Thomson’s “Summer” — “Ah! what avail their fatal Treasures, hid / Deep in the Bowels of the pitying Earth, / Golconda’s gems, and sad Potosi’s Mines . . .”31 — but it could almost be a response, couched in terms of Quebec’s natural resources, to Thomson’s question. Just as Cary begins his business-like itemization of fur-bearing animnals with the most commercially important of these, the beaver, so he initiates his catalogue of the “finny brood” of the sea with “salmon [and] cod”, a superabundance of which “on far worlds, plenty redundant show’rs” (ll. 250-270), and goes on to enumerate “various” other varieties of fish — “bass”, “trout”, “eel”, “sturgeon”, “smelt”, and so on — which are “Next” most important for “home supply". Traceable to Ausonius’ Mosella, reminiscent of the catalogue of ships in Homer and troops in Virgil, and present, not surprisingly, in Windsor-Forest, the catalogue of fish has numerous august and Augustan precedents, all of which serve merely to emphasize the commercial turn given to it by our mercantilist poet. Although Cary’s catalogue of the other “Resources” of the St. Lawrence estuary, “The heavy porpus and the silly seal” (l. 224), the “whale” (l. 228), the “grampus” (l. 216), and the “sea-cow” (l. 248), and his references to Quebec’s “bounteous . . . gran’ries”, with their “golden showers” of “grain” for “craving realms” (ll. 216-217), attest to his export mentality, he is able to step outside the counting house for a few moments in two descriptions, of ice fishing (ll. 266-271) and a whale-hunt (ll. 228-245), both of which are probably well-known enough to escape rehearsal here. Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that the controlling purpose manifested in the catalogues in Abram’s Plains is not aesthetic but commercial; Cary’s aim is to depict Quebec as rich in exportable staples, as a non-subsistence-level economny with enormous future potential within the British mercantile system. “Our infant world asks but time’s fost’rng hand, / Its faculties must by degrees expand” (ll. 220-221), he says, embodying in one succinct metaphor the dependent, but mutually rewarding, relationship between the colony-child and the Mother Country.

     One further passage in the opening section of Abram’s Plains, a Thomsoniain digression on culinary taste, may detain us for a moment. The thirty-odd lines (ll. 162-195) of “incidental meditation” on food begin after Cary has followed the St. Lawrence out, past the mouth of the Saguenay, to its “wide-spread Gulph” and the “distant main”, the Atlantic ocean. The “butchery of seals” in “bleak Labradore” makes Cary think of the “Esquimaux with small pig’s eyes,” who “At cook’ry sick, raw seal and rank oil prize”, and this unlovely thought prompts a jocular consideration of the relativity of taste. “Judgement in eating! where’s the standard plac’d?”, asks Cary, leavening his answer — that it is located “in each man’s fickle froward taste” — by comparing the gourmet offerings of various local culinary establishments with the “seal and oil, of [the] Esquimaux”. All this could be taken with a pimich of salt, or simnpiy dismissed, as in Cary’s words, “at best . . . a joke”, if it were not for the fact that the poet widens the compass of his meditative digressioin on food into a moderate’s plea for a tolerant acceptance of individual taste and, more important, of differing religious beliefs. “Habit forms all,” he argues:

. . . taste, gesture, action, thought,
The man ripe rises as the stripling’s taught;
Ductile as soften’d wax the human soul,
Twig-like, insensibly stoops to control:
By rules, but more by great example, led,
He rises Jew, Turk, Christian, as he’s bred.
Since then, we own, man is but moulded clay,
Life’s journey let each travel his own way.
And since heaven’s roofs beyond all limits rise,
And a free passage opens through the skies;
Whiy not suppose there’s ample room for all,
Be life resign’d with or without a call?
                                                 (ll. 184-195)

In this passage Cary moves beyond comic relief to make a serious point that bears directly on English-French, Protestant-Catholic, relations in post-conquest Quebec while also reinforcing some of the major thiemnes of Abram’s Plains. For his enlightened argument that all religious roads lead to the same capacious heaven is, at base, an argument for tolerance between Protestant and Catholic which is consistent with his emphiasis on peace and harmony. And his argumnemnl that religious belief is merely a matter of social conditioning contains within it the concealed possibility that, when exposed to the “rules” and “great example” of Protestant, British society, the French Canadians will abandon their Catholicism — and, perhaps, much else besides. Cary, it appears, would have had his cake and eaten it too, would have tolerated the French Canadians, at least until they were “moulded’ by British religious, social, and cultural institutions. Needless to say, history has proved Cary wrong. But it is hardly surprising to learn that the Quebec Mercury, which, as has already been remarked, Cary founded in 1805 and edited until his death in 1823, espoused under his editorship “the idea that the English conquest was a blessing for New France and thrat the Canadiens shiould forget their language, customs, and religion and become Eniglish-speaking, commercially-oriented British North Americans.”32

     Nor is it surprising to discover in the latter part of Abram’s Plains several attacks on the Catholic Church and on the seigneurial system. Cary’s description of the Church as a “less’ner of the little of the poor” (l. 365) is, of course, aimed at the tithe system, which was retained under the Quebec Act of 1774. His more elaborate depiction of a wayside crucifix is directed at the idolatry encouraged by such displays:

     The cross, erected by the highway side,
With all the passion’s implements supply’d:
The cock, the spunge, the crown of thorns, the spear,
The hammer, pincers, nails and other geer.
here, hat in hand, the peasant humbly bows,
Persuaded wood and marble hear his vows.
                                            (ll. 366-371)

The dismissive note struck by the phrase “and other geer”, together with the emphasis thrown on the word “Persuaded” by its initial position in the final line and by the fact that it is the only three syllable word in the latter part of the passage, indicates that, for Cary, the accoutremnents of Catholicism are delusive. It may also be that by his emphatically alliterative depiction of the French-Canadian peasant bowing “humbly” with “hat in hand” he means also to comment on the repressiveness of the Catholic Church. Be this as it may, Cary was not alone in his condemnation of Catholicism in post-conquest Quebec; his opinions were shared, to a greater or lesser extent, by most English residents of Lower Canada in the late eighteenth century33 — not to mention the authors of the ‘Quiet Revolution’ nearly two centuries later.

     The General hospital, which, as readers of Frances Brooke will recall, was founded by Jean de Saint-Vallier, the second bishop of Quebec, situated on “the borders of the river St. Charles” 34 and run by an order of nuns is subjected to an unequal mixture of praise and blame by Cary. After describing the Hospital as a “kind shelter of disease” and as a source of “cordial comfort” for the afflicted (ll. 372-375), Cary delivers himself of a lengthy diatribe against the nuns’ vows of chastity, vows which, in his view, constitute an offense against “great nature’s law” equally as serious as the taking of life (ll. 376-397). Given Cary’s almost choric endorsements of fertility and plenty in Abram’s Plains, it is consistent that he should both condemn “laws / To bar fruition” (ll. 386-387) and praise the imnpetus given by God “To all that live, to propagate their kind” (l. 395).  Similarly, it is consistent with Cary’s repeated references to the freedom and liberty conferred on Quebec by British rule that he should condemn what he sees as the tyranny of the seigneurial system:

Be thankful swains, Britannia’s conqu’ring sword,
Releas’d you from your ancient sov’reign lord,
Beneath whose sway small tyrants held the rod,
Each, in conceit, swell’d to some little god.
Then the poor pittance of the scanty soil,
hard earn’d, became the prowling tyrant’s spoil.
The tawdry lord lawless the lash proud wields,
Lowly his back the peasant patient yields:
Such scenes no more disgrace the yielding soil,
Safe is the product of the peasant’s toil —
Protecting laws alike to all extend,
Not less the poor-man’s than the rich man’s friend. . . .
                                                 (ll. 434-445)

Although Cary ignores the fact that under the terms of the Quebec Act the seigneurial land-tenure system, far from being abolished, was actually retained and consolidated for the benefit of colonial entrepreneurs, there is no doubting the sincerity of his champloniship of liberty over tyranny and of equality under the law. A dimension not of his own making is lent to Cary’s treatment of liberty and equality in Abram’s Plains by the events which began in Paris in June/July, 1789, only months after the appearance of his poem. But while Abram’s Plains was published before the French Revolution, it was published well after the American one, a fact that throws into relief the limitations of the British freedom which Cary, with what looks on occasion suspiciously like a double standard, so fervently endorses.

II

To this point only passing references have been made to Cary’s brief Preface to Abram’s Plains. Despite its brevity, Cary’s Preface raises several issues that are of considerable importance to an understanding, not only of Abram’s Plains, but also of the milieu from which the poem sprang and of its position near the beginning of Canadian writing.

     One of the important issues raised in the opening paragraph of Cary’s Preface concerns the connection between leisure and literature, a connection which has been investigated by thinkers as diverse as Jacob Bronowski and Joseph Pieper, who have pointed out that — to quote the latter — “culture depends for its very existence on leisure.”35  Towards the end of the nineteenth century in Canada the connection between leisure time and literary production was expounded by, amongst others, J.G. Bourinot and G.M. Adam and, more recently, it has been discussed by such critics as Ray Palmer Baker, R.L. McDougall, amid S.M. Beckow,36albeit without reference to Cary. Yet Cary’s modest description of his “little poem [as] the offspring of a few leisure hours” is resonant with implications in the direction of the ‘leisure theory’ of Canadian literature. It is incidentally worth noting also that the ‘leisure theory’ provides one explanation of why so few novels (novels requiring considerable leisure time to write as well as to read) and so many poems (particularly poems of less than a thousand lines) were written at the pioneer and settler stages of Canadian literature. In the light of this, Cary’s description of Abram’s Plains as a “little poem” written in “a few leisure hours” could even be read as an oblique apologia for his choice of form.

     Another important issue raised in Cary’s Preface concerns the question of audience: to whom is Abram’s Plains addressed, or, to put the question differently, what is the readership and community implied by the “our” in his observation that “literature seems to be emerging from the closet to illuminate our horizon”? Sandra Djwa has suggested that implicit in Cary’s Preface is “the assumption that the Canadian poet is addressing himself to an English audience, a pervasive view of the poet’s function which would not encourage the development of an indigenous Canadiain tradition.”37 It is, of course, possible that Cary was writing with one eye on “an English audience,” that his fulsome descriptions of the peaceful environment and abundant wealth of Quebec were at least partly intended to encourage the flow of British investment and emigration to the new colony. If granted, this possibility would lend Abram’s Plains a propagandist quality and place it at the opposite pole from a work such as Susanna Moodie’s Roughing It in The Bush which, as everyone knows, was written to discourage potential settlers from coming to Canada. But against the assertion that Abram’s Plains was addressed solely or even primarily to “an Enghish audience” to the exclusion of a colonial one there stands a crucially important fact, namely that Cary arranged to have his poem published by subscription and sold not in England, but in Quebec. This fact alone argues strongly that Abram’s Plains was directed mainly towards the literate, English-speaking inhabitants of Quebec.38 While it is true that some of these people were in the colony on fairly brief tours of duty, it is equally true that others, such as Cary himself, who had come “from England before 1787,” William Brown, the poem’s printer, who had moved to Quebec from Philadelphia in 176339 and others, like McTavish, McGill, and the Frobisher brothers who had arrived in the early 1760s40, were permanent residents of Quebec. The body of the poem, moreover, provides evidence that Abram’s Plains was directed towards thiree specific groups in Quebec — the first being the merchants of the metropolitan centres of the colony, particularly Montreal with its McTavishes, Frobishers, McGills, and their like, of whom Cary speaks as “blest traders” (I. 83) and for whom he includes what must have been, to them, satisfying catalogues of the colony’s potential wealth and future prospects; the second being the members of the Britishi garrison and its entourage for whom are included, as has been seen, numerous paeans to the benefits of British peace and to the power of the British armed forces; and the third being Quebec’s colonial administrators, particularly Lord Dorchester (Carleton), to whom Cary, “a clerk in one of the government offices” in 1789 (and later secretary to Governor Prescott), delivers a flattering panegyric:

There, stretching to the right, with oblique eye,
The villa of fair Dorchester I spy
Where, from parade and crowds, [the muse] chearful flies,
The false, by royalty, taught to despise:
There, tranquil, tastes the tender sweets of life
That in the mother center and the wife:
There simple treads the breeze-inviting plains,
And all the glare of equipage disdains.
                                                 (ll. 484-491)

Since Lord Dorchester was not only wounded in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham but also one of the saviors of Quebec in 1775-1776 and, as Governor-in-Chief of British North America from 1786-1796, one of the most enthusiastic proponents of the colony’s commercial potential,41 it is hardly surprising that he and his family should be the almost iconic subjects of Cary’s praise. Towards the end of Abram’s Plains, however, Cary directs at the colonial administration, as well as at the other two main components of his colonial audience, the garrison and the traders, a tradition moralist’s warning against the dangers of pride and power. “The soldier, statesman, merchant, where’s the state / Exempt from the vicissitudes of fate?”, he asks, cautioning:

Ye great, ye rich, by heart this lesson learn,
Nor, in the pride of pow’r, the wretched spurn:
Blind fortune’s fickle wheel perpetual whirls,
Those under lifts, those from the top low hurls.
                                                 (ll. 532-535)

Cary it would appear, was quite capable of mixing moralistic advice with fulsome flattery in addressing the powerful élites of his colonial society.

     There are additional insights into the relationship between the poet and his audience to be gained from Cary’s Preface. In explaining that he has written a poemn which, he hopes, “will not be unpleasing to the lovers of polite learning” and thiat he is addressing a “judicious and poetical reader” who will be impressed more easily and readily by “correct numbers” than by “poetical fancy and imaginative strength” Cary achieves two ends: he succeeds in modestly under-playing his own poetic abilities (such as they are) while, at the same time, flattering his audience (albeit in a somewhat back-handed manner) and he succeeds in graciously implying that he is speaking to and for a cultured, balanced, and rational commnunity. Moreover, Cary’s preference for an Aristotelian, “descriptive poetry that exhibits a picture of the real scenes of nature” over poetry of a “fabulous” and fancifully imaginative kind not only establishes his credentials as a realist but also seems calculated to accord with the preferences of his realistic, no-nonsense readership. It is even tempting to see a correspondence between the mentality of Cary’s audience of “soldier, statesman, [and] merchant” and his decision, despite his avowed preference for the blank verse of The Seasons, to write Abram’s Plains in the more conventional, structured, and socially-oriented form of the heroic couplet. Certainly, the ability of the heroic couplet to create the “impression of . . . a public voice and, beyond thus, of a significant public milieu”42 makes it enninently suitable for Cary’s purposes. And the point may also be made that in the eighteenth cenitury the heroic couplet was considered to be the “proper” form for a “descriptive” poem with “classical echoes”43 such as Abram’s Plains. For any one or all of several reasons, then, it would seem that Cary’s choice of the heroic couplet form for Abram’s Plains was appropriate to his audience, to his subject-matter, and to the overall public and social nature of his poem.

     In elaborating her contention, mentioned earlier, that Abram s Plains is merely “a colonial reflection of the English tradition”, Sandra Djwa accuses Cary of providing in his Preface an “attractive” but pernicious, “rationale for the general practice of literary imitation”44 when he forthrightly states that “before [he] began [his] Poem [he] read Pope’s Windsor-Forest and Dr. Goldsmith’s Deserted Village, with a view to endeavouring, in some degree, to catch their manner of writing; as singers in country-churches in England, to use a simple musical comparison, modulate their tones by the prelusive sound of a pitch-pipe.” While it is true that Cary here provides an explanation and an exemplification of the process of literary imitation or emulation, it is difficult to see why he should be faulted for so doing. One of Cary’s virtues is that in his references to Pope, Goldsmith and Thomson in his Preface he admits to a literary descent, asks explicitly to be judged (albeit sympathetically) in relation to his models, and by implication and extension provides a critical context for the dynamic of importation amid adaptation in his own poem, as well as in other baseland-oriented poems such as J. Mackay’s Quebec Hill, Adam Hood Burwell’s Talbot Road and Oliver Goldsmith’s The Rising Village which, in one way or another, are indebted to the English poets that he mentions. What is interesting to the sympathetic reader of Colonial (and later) Canadian poetry is not its derivitiveness per se, but the specific details of the importations and adaptations that are evident in a particular poem or author. To such a reader, Abram’s Plains provides a fascinating and engaging inistance of what has else where been called the ecology of Canadian poetry 45 — the reciprocal relations between its imported poetics and their Canadian environments and contents. For example, Cary’s use of end-stopped or blocked couplets in his descriptions of the Great Lakes (ll. 21-28) shows him fitting his chosen formn, the already very rigid and patterned Popian couplet, to his Canadian subject-matter, as, indeed, do his descriptions later in the poem of various framed and arrested shapes — a frozen waterfall (ll. 514-515), trapped and motionless sea creatures (ll. 214-249), fields, cottages, a church (ll. 398-399 and, ll. 362-365) and so on.46 Also responsive to a sympathetic, ecological reading of Abram’s Plains is the passage in which Cary, in his attempt to recreate for the reader something of the movement, plangency and sheer sublimity of Niagara Falls, employs a variety of fitting devices, from spondee and alliteration (“próne póur”), through trochaic substitution (“Dówn thy . . .”) and terminal verbs (“pour”, “bound”), to run-on couplets and a triple rhyme (the only one in the poem):

The streams thence rushing with tremendous roar,
Down thy dread fall, Niagara, prone pour;
Back foaming, in thick hoary mists, they bound,
The thund’ring noise deafens the country round,
Whilst echo, from her caves, redoubling sends the sound.
’Twixt awe and pleasure, rapt in wild suspense,
Giddy, the gazer yields up ev’ry sense.
                                                 (ll. 29-35)

This is in no sense great poetry but, like many other passages in Abram’s Plains, it shows that, at the very least, Cary was capable of adapting his imported form to reflect the contours of his Canadian subject-matter.

     As repeatedly shown by the Explanatory Notes in the present edition (even those to the descriptiomis of the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls), Cary’s poem is in many places little more than a pastiche of phrases from Windsor-Forest and The Seasons. No doubt the entropic element of pastiche in Abram’s Plains speaks to an extent of Cary’s limitations as a poet. It also speaks, as implicitly does the bulk of his Preface, of his search for a literary lexicon that is both acceptable to his “judicious and poetical” readers and adequate and answerable to the Canadian scene — a search that led him sometimes to a North-American source (Carver’s Travels) and occasionally to a prosaically local word (“tomi-cod” 47, l. 266, for instance), but, more often, took him to such phrases as “russet plain” (l. 274) and “feather’d game” (l. 410), which are taken directly from Pope and Thomson. Yet Cary’s borrowings from the English poets whom he admires should not be too hastily condemned as a lack of orginality verging on plagiarism. The practice of literary and artistic imitation was a more central and creative aspect of the neo-classical aesthetic than many post-Romantic writers and critics are prepared to remember,48 and, moreover, by the end of the eighteenth century such phrases as “russet lawn” and “feather’d game” were part of the conventional diction of most descriptive, topographical and pastoral poetry. That Cary was no innovator, no Wordsworth capable of fighting free of stale neo-classical conventions, of creating a liberating myth of discontinuity, of writing a seminal Preface to his poetic productions, could go without saying. The contrast between Cary and Wordsworth is useful, however, because it throws into relief the complex of values and assumptions — an emphasis on rational behavior, a distrust of violent social change, an economically and culturally motivated desire for peace, order and good government — that inevitably created in the colonial Canadian poet an affinity, not for poetry of “the fabulous kind, whose fabric is the sole work of imagination and where the fancy has full play”, but for the poetry of the neo-classical past, with its firmly governed (and governing) heroic couplets and its “typical eighteenth-century cluster of peace, prosperity, patriotism and plenty.”49 In a curious way, then, it is Cary’s very lack of originality, his use of the accepted forms and ideas of neo-classical England to describe the physical and social environment of colonial Canada, that makes his work the historically and poetically interesting document that it is to students of Canadian literature.

     As enduring a source of interest as Cary’s handling of neo-classical poetics in Abram’s Plains is his use in the poem’s “picture[s] of the real scenes of nature” of the eighteenth-century aesthetic of the picturesque. For the present purposes, the picturesque may be defined briefly but not inadequately as the capacity among certain writers, particularly in the century between 1730 and 1830 (called by Christopher Hussey the “picturesque phase” ),50 to perceive landscape “with a painter’s eye” 51 and to describe it in a painterly manner. Characteristic of the picturesque in poetry is thus a tendency to describe scenes that resemble the English and European landscape paintings of the time and an attempt to compose natural scenery in pictoral terms.52 No doubt, the picturesque aesthetic and conventions, pervasive as they were in the latter part of the eighteenth century, were part of the mental luggage that Cary brought with him to Lower Canada in the seventeen-eighties. It is worth noticing, however, that both Windsor-Forest and The Seasons contain the salient qualities of the literary picturesque; indeed, Morris R. Brownell in his fairly recent study of Pope traces the introduction to England of the pictureque as a “significant aesthetic” to Windsor-Forest53 and Hussey, in what is still a “most valuable”54 study of The Picturesque, numbers Thomson among “the Picturesque poets”, stating that for him “the reality of nature was a picture.”55 Of the three most important categories in eighteenth-century aesthetics, thic beautiful, the sublimne and the picturesque, the beautiful, which is characterized by “smoothness” and “gentleness” would have been the least applicable to the Canadian landscape in Cary’s day. In contrast, the sublime, characterized by the “vastness” and “obscurity” that elicit awe, and the picturesque, characterized by the “roughness and irregularity”56 that nevertheless produce (In Pope’s words) a sense of “Order in Variety”57, would have been easily discoverable in Canada by an eye accustomed to seeking out these aesthetic categories. It is therefore hardly surprising that, as has already been noticed, Cary describes Niagara Falls in terms of sublimity that evokes a feeling “Twixt awe and pleasure, . . . [a] wild suspense” or that, as will now become evident, Abram’s Plains is redolent with picturesque scenes.

     For an instance of the way in which the aesthetic and conventions of the picturesque inform Cary’s depiction of the Canadian landscape, the reader need look no further than the description of the Plains themselves near the middle of the poem:

     Here hill and dale diversify the scene,
There pensile woods cloth’d with eternal green;
The russet plain with thorny brambles spread,
Where clust’ring haws deep blush a ruddy red;
The distant wood, wide-waving to the breeze,
Where shining villas peep through crowded trees;
Here babbling brooks gurgle adown the glade,
There rise mementos of the soldier’s spade;
Whiere on the green-sward oft incamp’d they lay,
Seen by the rising and the setting ray.
                                                 (ll. 272-281)

In this passage Cary creates a vivid sense of the pictorial, locating the reader at the sanmie vantage point as the speaker, and, by means of repeated adverbs of locale such as “Here” and “There” (a device ‘caught’, in all likelihood, from Windsor-Forest)58, succeeds in composing the landscape as a painiter would a picture space. More specifically, Cary adheres to thic picturesque convention, as articulated, for instance, by William Gilpin in his Northern Tour of the Lakes of dividing the scene into “three distances”,59 the foreground (“hill and dale”), the middle-ground (“woods” and “plain”), and the background (the “distant wood”), and of using the “Here”/“There” direction to lead the reader’s eye from background to foreground and to convey the illusion of three-dimnensional space. Cary also adheres to the picturesque convention in remarking the harmonious and pleasing diversity of the scene, its irregularities of form and texture, and its varieties of colour and lighting. Moreover, it is worth elaborating here on a point made earlier to suggest that Cary’s use in the passage just quoted of conventional poetic diction, especially such familiar adjective and noun combinations as “pensile woods”, “eternal green”, “russet plain”, and “babbling brooks”, might almost have been calculated to convey the sense that the Canadian landscape contains features which are recognizable, namable, and classifiable, and, therefore, known, comforting, and unthreatening. The reference to the “mementos” left by Wolfe’s soldiers, a reference which bridges the gap between Cary’s description of the Plains and his ensuing account of the Battle, serves further to humanize the landscape by investing it with historical resonances that derive from his awareness of Quebec’s heroic past. In effect, then, Cary uses picturesque conventions, stock diction, and historical reference to confer order, familiarity and significance on the landscape of Quebec.

     When Cary surveys the communities up and down river from the town of Quebec he again employs the technique and vocabulary of picturesque analysis:

     Here milch-kine lowing leave the grazing field,
And glad to man their milky homage yield;
The feather’d game oft feel the leaden death,
And in the spaniel’s jaws resign their breath.
Thence, further left, as I incline my eyes,
Thy cottages, Lorette, to view arise;
Here, of the copper-tribes, an half tam’d race,
As villagers take up their resting place;
Here fix’d, their houshold gods lay peaceful down,
To learn the manners of the polish’d town.
Next Charlebourg, blest in a bounteous soil,
Where plenteous harvests pay the lab’ror’s toil.
Thy beauties, Beauport, open on mine eyes,
There fertile fields and breezy lawns arise;
Far as Montmorenci, thy pleasing stream,
Romantic as a love-sick virgin’s dream.
Beyond the vales, still stretching on my view,
Hills, behind hills, my aching eyes pursue.
’Till, in surrounding skies, I lose my way,
Where the long landscape fading dies away.
                                                 (ll. 408-427)

In 1847, over twenty years after Cary’s death, Hugh Miller would observe in his First Impressions of England that, in a country with a clear atmosphere, picturesque descriptions will tend to become panoramic catalogues 60 — a factor which does much to explain the panoramic scope of this passage. Again words such as, “Here”, “There”, “Where”, “left”, “Thence”, “Next”, “Beyond”, and “behind” lend design to the panorama and direct the reader’s eye from the foreground scene, through the catalogue of communities on the middleground, to the background, culminating in a loss of focus and direction in the “surrounding skies” and distant landscape, this last aptly described by Cary with a comnbination of long vowels and falling rhythm: “’Till, in surrounding skies, I lose my way, / Where the long landscape fading dies away.” Not only does Cary employ the conventions of picturesque seeing in the overall shape and movement of the passage but he also includes in his landscape animals and scenes which in themselves were held to be picturesque, as well as appropriate to topographical poetry. Cattle, Cary’s “milch-kine”, were considered, because of their shape and colour, to be the most picturesque of animals.61   Dairy cattle also require “grazing field[s]” and human protection, while representing, as well, Nature’s plenitude (like the “bounteous soil”, “plenteous harvests”, and “fertile fields” later in the passage) and her beneficence to man (“to man their milky homage [they] yield”). They are thus admirably suited to Cary’s intention to delineate the picturesque beauty, domestication, humnanization, and plenitude of the Quebec landscape. The same may be said of Cary’s Thomsonian reference to “feather’d game”. The objects here of a gentlemnanly pastime complete with spaniels, of a picturesque genre scene (what Margaret Atwood might call a “tapestry of manners” 62), the gamebirds are emblematic of a landscape and a lifestyle in which leisure and sport have supplanted mere survival. Also emblematic of the state of civilization in Quebec are the peaceful Indians of Lorette, the picturesque “copper-tribes”, who, though as yet only “half tam’d”, have nonetheless begun to “learn the manners of the polish’d town.” So consistently does Cary point his moral, not least in the picturesque passages of Abram’s Plains, that it is tempting to suggest that, like Pope in Windsor-Forest,63 he uses the picturesque convention itself as a framing device to showcase the plentiful benefits of the peace, harmony, and order conferred by eighteenth-century British civilization.

     As paramount as may be Pope’s influence in the picturesque passages of Abram’s Plains, there is also in the same passages an indebtedness to Thomson that seems to grow towards the poem’s conclusion; indeed, near the end of Abram’s Plains, after Cary has surveyed the hamlets south of Quebec City, his “picture[s] of . . . nature” take on a thoroughly Thomsonian colouring. A vignette of a “sleepy pool” and its resident frogs, creatures of special significance to late Canadian poets such as Charles Mair, Charles G.D. Roberts and, of course, Archibald Lampman, is introduced by the emphatic command to “See”, a device reminiscent of The Seasons, as, in fact, is the vignette itself, with its closely observed, naturalistic details (the “green mantle”, and “green scum” of the pool and its “spumy spawn”), its periphrasis (frogs are the “croaking race”) and its astronomical-meteorological references (“the blaze of Sirius’ scorching ray”). But it is in Cary’s concluding description of the Canadian winter, a season from whose “endless snows” the “verdant world” of spring provides a “delightful” — and picturesque — “change”, that his debt to Thomson is most evident. Like Thomson, Cary sees the salubrious aspect of the invigorating winds and clear skies of winter: just as the former senses “through the blue serene, / . . . ethereal Nitre . . . ; / Killing infectious Damps . . .” so the latter, after referring to the “virgin nitre” in the Atlantic wind and describing the completely cloudless sky, orders the “children of disease” to “Fly, fly far south . . .” (toward the United States, note) when the St. Lawrence freezes over (ll. 505-511). Cary follows Thomson, too, in depicting the “blithesome frolics” — carriole rides and ice skating — which the frozen river makes possible. But the most interesting feature of Cary’s winter is also the least Thomsonian. It is his description of man’s triumph over the potentially dangerous conditions of winter:

Fearless, amidst the fragments, as they flow,
The skilful peasant guides his long canoe.
The trav’ller dauntless the snows depths disdains,
He stalks secure o’er hills, o’er vales and plains;
On the spread racket, whilst he safely strides,
Tales of Europeans lost in snows derides.
Here, (blush ye London fops embox’d in chair,
Who fear, tho’ mild your clime, to face the air)
Scorning to shrinik at every breeze that blows,
Unaw’d, the fair brave frosts and driving snows.
                                  (ll. 558-567)

Nowhere else in Abram’s Plains does Cary pay higher tribute to the fortitude anid adaptability of the inhabitants of his adopted colony than here, where he offers his readers for contemplation two imnages of a culture superbly adapted to the Canadian environment: the canoe and the snowshoe, two devices which, to use Harold Innis’s word, had been “elaborated”64 from aboriginal and European models to meet the stern needs of a Northern climate and a Northern economy.

     If this Introduction to Cary’s work hias been at all successful, it will have affirmed that Abram’s Plains and its Preface deserve a place in the canon of early writing in Canada. No one would wish to claim that Thomas Cary is a major poet or that Abram’s Plains is a major poem. But even a poet who would be judged minor in global terms may be a cultural pioneer in the Canadian context and even a poem such as Abram’s Plains, with all its deficiencies and shortcomings, may be, like its Preface, a significant documnent in the history of Canadian literature and society. It may be thought that, in some places, Cary’s topographical poem is merely quaintly versified geography and history, that in others, Abram’s Plains, veers too much in the direction of the chamber of commerce brochure, and that, all too often, Cary allows imported poetics and aesthetics to obscure rather than reify his landscape and his society. Yet in the very documentary and derivative, nature of Abram’s Plains, as much as in the business like, mercantile, and colonial mentality of its author, there is, as has been seen, much to learn about life and attitudes in late-eighteenth century Quebec. Similarly, in the Preface to Abram’s Plains, with its forthright admissions of poetic influences and preferences and its more subtle comments on such matters as the origins, audience, and function of poetry, there is much that can be learned about the nature and experience of writing in Colonial Canada. There could be no better way to end this phase of the discussion of Abram’s Plains than with the final paragraph of the poem itself where Cary, echoing a European model as so often in the poem (in this instance he has ‘caught’, the phrase “shuts the scene” from the conclusion of Thomson’s “Winter”), seems to see in the image of Canadian “fire-flies” a metaphor for his small but bright colony on the St. Lawrence river, as well as, perhaps, for his own “lucid” yet “mimic” poetic efforts:

     Now shade o’er shade steals gradual on the sight,
Darkness shuts up the scene and all is night.
Except, where darting cross the swampy marsh,
From shining fire-flies lucid lightnings flash.
When, from black sultry skies, long silver streams
Send through the atmnosphere their forked beams;
With brighter glow then shoot the mimic fires,
Each insect, Caesar like, to rival Jove aspires.

 

The First Edition

The appearance of Abram’s Plains was heralded by an announcement in the Quebec Gazette for January 8, l789:65

PROPOSALS
For Publishing by Subscription.
ABRAM’S PLAINS.
A Poem. — Price 2s.

To be printed in Large Qutarto, on Demy Paper, with a Large Elegant Type.
To be Published as soon as there are Subscribers enough to pay the Expences.
Subscriptions to be taken in at the PRINTING-OFFICE.
The Subscribers’ Names to be Published with the Poem

As will be observed, Cary is not named in this (or the subsequent) advertisement. Nor, it may be noted, were the names of those who gave money to support the publication of Abram’s Plains printed in the first edition of the poem. A second advertisement, in the Quebec Gazette for January 15, 1789, announces the imminent appearance of Abram’s Plains. Included now is the quotation from Cicero that appears as the poem’s epigraph:

IN THE PRESS AND SPEEDILY WILL BE PUBLISHED:
Abram’s Plains. A Poem. — Price. 2s.

Hæc studia adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis solatium et per fugium præbent; delectant domi, non
impediunt foris; pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur.
Tull.
To be printed In Large Quarto. on Demy Paper. with a Large Elegant Type.

The actual publication of the poem was not announced until March 12, 1789, when the advertisement in the Quebec Gazette contains the name of the author, an increase in price from two shillings to two shillings and six pence, and the locations at which the poem may be purchased:

THIS DAY IS PUBLISHED. PRICE. 2s.6.
ABRAM’S PLAINS: A Poem.
By THOMAS CARY, Gent.

Printed in Large Quuarto. on Fine Demy Paper. with Large Elegant Type
SOLD (for cash only) at the PRINTING-OFFICE. Mountain-street. Quebec:
By Mr. FRANÇOIS SARO. Notre-Dame Street. Montreal:
Also to be had of the AUTHOR, at Madame Bellonie’s.

In the Quebec Gazette from March 19 to April 16 (six times in all) the “JUST PUBLISHED” Abram’s Plains is publicized in an advertisement that combines, and very slightly varies, earlier announcements:

JUST PUBLISHED. PRICE. 2s. 6.
ABRAM’S PLAINS: A Poem.

Hæc studia adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, secundas res ornant, adversis solatium et per fugiurn præbent; delectant domi, non impediunt foris; pernoctant nobiscum, peregrinantur, rusticantur.      Tull.

By THOMAS CARY, Gent.

Printed in Large Quarto. on Fine Demy Paper, with a Large Elegant Type.
SOLD (for cash only) at the PRINTING-OFFICE. Mountain-street. Quebec:
By Mr. FRANÇOIS SARO. Notre-Dame Street, Montreal:
Also to be had of the AUTHOR, at Madame Bellonie ’s.

On April 30, 1789 the Quebec Gazette carried only a brief advertisement stating that “ABRAM’S PLAINS: A POEM” was “To be SOLD at the PRINTING-OFFICE”. The final advertisement for Abram’s Plains appeared in the Quebec Gazette for May 7, 1789; this, too, is fairly brief, but it does make a last attempt to direct potential purchasers to the locations in Quebec City where the poem could be obtained:

JUST PUBLISHED. PRICE. 2s.6.
ABRAM’S PLAINS: A Poem.
SOLD (for cash only) at the PRINTING-OFFICE. Mountain-street. Quebec:
Also to be had of the AUTHOR, at Madame Bellonie’s.

     While the curve of anticipation, achievement and denouement that is discernable in the advertisements for Abram’s Plains will rouse familiar emotions in anyone who is at all familiar with publishing, the chronology of the poem’s advertisements is probably of most interest for the impression that it generates of the composition and publication of Cary’s work. Although presumably completed before the initial proposal for its publication by subscription on January 8, Abram’s Plains is dated at the end of its Preface “24th Jan. 1789” and was not, in fact, published unitl on or about March 12, some two months after it was proclaimned on January 15 “IN PRESS AND SPEEDILY [to] BE PUBLISHED”. One inference that could be drawn from these dates, particularly from the disparity between the announcement of the poem’s immnent publication on January 15 and the dating of its Preface as January 24, is that, Cary decided to add a Preface to Abram’s Plains some time in mid-January, thus delaying the poem’s appearance and, it may be, necessitating the increase in price from two shillings to two shillings and six pence that appears with the publication announcement of March 12. Another inference that could be drawn from the same dates and figures is that the delay in publication and the increase in price of Abram’s Plains was caused by a lack of subscriptions or by a rise in costs — economic factors that could well have led Cary and Brown to proceed more cautiously than they had originally envisaged with the production of Abram’s Plains. It may be, however, that two shillings and six pence was simply the post-subscription price of the poem, and that the reason for the delay in its publication was neither literary nor economic but more in the capricious and inscrutable realm of Cary’s “Blind fortune”.

     The printer both of Abram’s Plains and of the Quebec Gazette (published every Thursday in the period of present concern), William Brown, died on March 22, 1789,66 a little over a week after the publication of Cary’s poem was announced in the March 12 issue of his newspaper. Had Brown been continuously or sporadically ill for some time? If so, was his illness a factor — even the primary factor — in the delay of the publication of Abram’s Plains from January to March? The answers to these questions may never be known. Nonetheless, it seems reasonable to speculate that if Brown’s death was preceded by an illness, this would have forced him to concentrate his energies on the Quebec Gazette (which continued to appear regularly in 1789) and to delay the publication of a less important item such as Abram’s Plains.

     In any event, eight days before his death on March 22, Brown recorded the following information:

1789, Mar. 14. Printed for Thomas Cary, Abram’s Plains a poem, making 3 Sheets on Quarto Demy 30/pr.
Sheet — £4.10.
Sold Ditto 4 1/2 Quires blue Demy to cover D° —5/
Paid postage of letter to Saro concerning D° and to
Courier 2/6 — 3/3. £4.18.3.67

If it is assumned that March 14 is not merely the date of these notes but the actual date on which Brown undertook the activities that it records, then apparently Abram’s Plains was published on March 14 (rather than March 12, as stated by the Gazette advertisements) and copies of it were dispatched the same day for sale by the Montreal book-seller François Saro (or Sarault)68

     In addition to establishing the date of publication of Abram’s Plains as March 14. 1789 (or at least confirming the date as c. March 12-14). Brown’s notes, in conjunction with a collation of the poem,69 provide the information necessary to arrive at a sense of how it was printed and an estimation of the number of copies in the first edition. Coupled with the fact that the first edition of Abram’s Plains consists of six gatherings in large quarto size, Brown’s information that he prinited it in “3 Sheets on Quarto Demy” indicates two things: (1) that he printed the poem by the somewhat unusual technique of half-sheet imposition; and (2) that he issued it — presumably to increase its bulk — in half-quire gatherings. Moreover, Brown’s record of selling Cary about 110 sheets (“4 1/2 Quires”) of “blue Denny” paper suggests — when account is again taken of the large quarto size of the first edition, as well as of wastage and spoilage — that a printing of some two hundred copies of Abram’s Plains was planned and, presumably, executed. Since Cary’s costs for the production and distribution of the poem as recorded by Brown totalled £ 4.18.3d. he needed to sell only fifty copies to break even.70  Poet and mercantilist that he was, Cary evidently hoped to turn a tidy profit on the sale of the fruits of his pen.

The Present Text

The present text of Abram’s Plains and its Preface is based on the only known extant copy of the first edition of Cary’s work: the copy in the Gagnon Collection in the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal in Montreal, Quebec. A crease that runs across each page of this copy of Abram’s Plains partially obscures certain words and lines in the Preface and poem.  This has caused only minor difficulties in the transcription of Cary’s work, however, for in every case enough of the creased lines and words is visible (or with care can be made so) to ensure an accurate reading of both Preface and poem.

     The present text follows the first edition in nearly all respects. In order to remove barriers between Cary’s poem and the modern reader, the decision has been made to produce, not a facsimile of the original edition of Abram’s Plains, but a text that follows the original in all but one respect — the long “s” (f) is replaced by the modern “s”. The few errors in spelling and punctuation that appear in the original edition of Abram’s Plains have been corrected in the present edition, and are listed under Editorial Emendations (p. 23).


Notes to the Introduction

  1. For discussions of the manner and circumstances of the publication of Abram ’s Plains: A Poem. see Marie Tremaine. A Bibliography of Canadian Imprints, 1751-1800 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press1952). pp. 271-272 and George L. Parker. The Beginnings of the Book Trade in Canada (Toronto. Buffalo. London: The University of Toronto Press, 1985),  pp. 37-38.[back]

  2. See Old Lamps Aglow: An Appreciation of Early Canadian Poetry (Montreal:   n.p., 1957), pp. 97-102.[back]

  3. See Three Early Poems from Lower Canada (Montreal: The Lawrence M. Lande Foundation, 1969), pp. 17-38.[back]

  4. See The Evolution of Canadian Literature in English: Beginnings to 1867 (Toronto. Montreal: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1973), pp. 37-50.[back]

  5. "Preface". Towards a Canadian Literature: Essays, Editorials and Manifestos (Ottawa: Tecumseh, 1984) I. I. Cary’s Preface is printed with a brief introduction on pp. 10-11. In citing the title of this anthology, and in all subsesquent quotations, ampersand has been silently changed to and.[back]

  6. “Settlement: III”. “The Canadas 1763-1812”  In Literary History of Canada. ed. Carl F. Klink (1965:  rpt. Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 1973), p.85.[back]

  7. Three Early Poems, p. 13. See also the entries on Thomas Cary in Henry J. Morgan. Bibliotheca Canadensis:  or A Manual to Canadian Literature (Ottawa: G.E. Desbarats, 1867) Tremaine. A Bibliography of Canadian Imprints, 1751-1800. pp. 271-272, and H. Pearson Gundy. Canada, in The Spread of Printing: Western Hemisphere. ed. Colin Clair (Amsterdam: Vangendt and Co: London: Routledge and Kegan Paul: New York: Abner Schram, 1972), p. 34. Gundy contends that “If Cary wrote any poems in his later, prosperous years, he never committed them to print . . .”, but see the first number of the Quebec Mercury. January 5, 1805, p. 8 for an “Occasional Prologue. Written and spoken by Thomas Cary, the editor of this paper, at the opening of the Patagonian theatre. . . .” It is likely that Cary published other poems anonymously in later issues of the Quebec Mercury.[back]

  8. See The Evolution of Canadian Literature, I. 35-37.[back]

  9. “The Great Tradition”, Canadian Literature, 65 (Summer, 1975), p. 45.[back]

  10. “The Pastoral Vision In Nineteenth-Century Canada.”Dalhousie Review, 57 (Summer, 1977), 224-241.[back]

  11. Part of the Introduction has previously been published as “Thomas Cary’s Abram’s Plains (1789) and its ‘Preface’” In Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, 5 (Fall/Winter, 1979), pp. 1-28.[back]

  12. “Denham”. Lives of the English Poets. ed. George Birkbeck Hill (1905: rpm. New York: Octagon Books, 1967), I. 77.[back]

  13. William Bowman Piper. The Heroic Couplet (Cleveland Case Western Reserve University Press, 1969), p. 13.[back]

  14. See Donald Creighton. The Empire of the St. Lawrence (1937: rpt. Toronto: Macmillan, 1956), pp. 1-21 and 382-385.[back]

  15. R.A. Aubin. Topographical Poetry in XVIII-Century England (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1936), p. 224.[back]

  16. For a discussion of the teatment of rivers in Canadian poetry, see D.M.R. Bentley, “Drawers of Water:  Notes on the Significance and Scenery of Fresh Water in Canadian Poetry”. CVII, 6 (August, 1982), pp. 17-28.[back]

  17. The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay and Other Poems: Hesperus and Other Poems and Lyrics. Intro. Gordon Johnston. Literature of Canada: Poetry and Prose In Reprint (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972), p. 82 [Hesperus].[back]

  18. Aubin. p. 122 argues that Windsor-Forest may be “regarded as a topographical poem”[back]

  19. John Wilson Foster. “A Redefinition of Topographical Poetry .” Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 69 (July, 1970), 403.[back]

  20. Quoted in the Introduction to Windsor — Forest in the Twickenham Edition of The Poems of Alexander Pope: Volume I: Pastoral Poetry and Criticism. ed. John Butt, E. Audra and Aubrey Williams (London: Methuen: New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961 ), 135. All subsequent quotations from Pope from the Introduction are from this volume.[back]

  21. Foster, p. 402.[back]

  22. “Winter”, 432-435. This and subsequent quotations from The Seasons are taken front James Thomson. The Seasons, ed. James Sambrook (Oxford: Clarendon, 1981).[back]

  23. J[onathon] Carver. Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768 3rd. ed. (1781: rpt. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Ross and Haines, 1956), pp. 139-140.[back]

  24. W.T. Easterbrook and Hugh G.J. Aitken, Canadian Economic History (1956: rpt . Toronto: Macmillan, 1975) pp. 21-22.[back]

  25. Cary’s use of capital letters for the King’s name is reminiscent of Windsor-Forest, 327, but it is also interesting as a possible indication that the poem’s printer, William Brown, was using the typesetting conventions of Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises (1683-1684): see Sambrook's Introduction to The Seasons. p. lxxxvii.[back]

  26. See Easterbrook and Aitken. p. 166.[back]

  27. See ibid. p. 166.[back]

  28. This and subsequent quotations from The Deserted Village are taken from the Collected Works of Oliver Goldsmith, ed. Arthur Friedman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1966), IV. 287-304, in this instance l. 350f.[back]

  29. Aubin, p. 23.[back]

  30. Easterbrook and Aitken, p. 187.[back]

  31. “Summer”. 869-871: and see Explanatory Notes to I. 204.[back]

  32. Edwards, pp. 35-36.[back]

  33. See, for example, the poems of Cornwall Bayley, “Canada”. 483f, and J. MacKay. Quebec Hill. I. 156 and n. in Gnarowski, Three Early Poems.[back]

  34. See Francis Brooke. The History of Emily Montague. ed. Mary Jane Edwards (1769: Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1985), p. 15. [back]

  35. Leisure: the Basis for Culture, trans. Alexander Dru (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952), p. 19. See also. J. Bronowski, The Ascent of Man (London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1973), pp. 59-64.[back]

  36. See S.M. Beckow, “From the Watch-Towers of Patriotism: Theories of Literary Growth in English Canada. 1864-1914.” Journal of Canadian Studies, 9 (August, 1971), pp. 9-10.[back]

  37. “The Great Tradition”, p. 45.[back]

  38. As, of course, do the poem’s very local references: see the Explanatory Notes to I. 168f.[back]

  39. See Frances-J. Audet. “William Brown (1737-1789). Premier imprimeur, journaliste et libraire de Québec. Sa vie et ses oeuvres”. Memoires de la Société Royale du Canada, 3rd. series. 26 (Mai, 1932), 97 and also Aegedius Fauteux. The Introduction of Printing into Canada (Montreal: Rolland Paper Company, 1930), pp. 71-77, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, IV and Tremaine, p. 663.[back]

  40. See Creighton, p. 23.[back]

  41. See ibid., p. 102.[back]

  42. Piper, p. 24.[back]

  43. Aubin, p. 67.[back]

  44. “The Great Tradition”, p. 45.[back]

  45. See D.M.R. Bentley, “A New Dimension: Notes on the Ecology of Canadian Poetry”. Canadian Poetry: Studies, Documents, Reviews, 7 (Fall/Winter, 1980). pp. 1-20 and “The Mower and the Boneless Acrobat: Notes on the Stances of Baseland and Hinterland in Canadian Poetry” Studies in Canadian Literature, 8. 1, (1983). pp. 5-48.[back]

  46. For a more detailed discussion of Cary’s handling of relatively closed and open couplets. see Bentley, “Thomas Cary’s Abram’s Plains (1789) and Its ‘Preface’.” pp. 18-21.[back]

  47. In its entry for Tom-cod the Oxford English Dictionary lists primarily North American sources for the word, including a 1795 History of Maine and the second series of Haliburton’s Clockmaker.[back]

  48. Recently this point has been forcibly made by Thomas B. Vincent, “Eighteenth-Centttry Maritime Verse”, Essays on Canadian Writing, 31 (Summer, 1985), p. 23.[back]

  49. Ralph Cohen. The Unfolding of the Seasons (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1970), p. 7.[back]

  50. The Picturesque; Studies in a Point of View (London and New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1927), p. 4.[back]

  51. Ibid., p. 64[back]

  52. See ibid., p. 22. Included in a list of items for sale “By Auction” by Cary in the Quebec Mercury, January 5, 1805, p. 8 is “A perspective Box for viewing prints with 27 views. . . .”[back]

  53. Alexander Pope and the Arts of Georgian England (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978), p. 101.[back]

  54. Walter John Hipple, Jr., The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Picturesque in Eighteenth-Century British Aesthetic Theory (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1957), p. 190.[back]

  55. The Picturesque, p. 18.[back]

  56. Ibid., p. 14.[back]

  57. Windsor-Forest, 15.[back]

  58. See Windsor-Forest, 17f. for example.[back]

  59. The Picturesque, p. 117.[back]

  60. See ibid., p. 43.[back]

  61. See ibid., p. 119.[back]

  62. The Animals in That Country (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 2.[back]

  63. See Foster, p. 397.[back]

  64. “The Fur Trade”, in Approaches to Canadian Economic History, ed. W.T. Easterbrook and M.H. Watkins (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1967), p. 22.[back]

  65. This and subsequent advertisements for Abram ’s Plains in the Quebec Gazette can be found in the left-hand column of the issues as dated above.[back]

  66. See Tremaine, p. 629.[back]

  67. Ibid., p. 272.[back]

  68. Parker, pp. 15, 37-38 gives a few details of Saro’s business career.[back]

  69. The first edition of Abram ’s Plains has a title-page reading: ABRAM’S PLAINS:  |  A  |  Poem.  |  [rule]  |   [epigraph]   |  [rule]  |   [double rule]  |   By THOMAS CARY. Gent.  |  [double rule]  |  QUEBEC:  |   PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR. |  [rule]  |  M,DCC,LXXXIX. Collation: 4 [A]2 B-F2 (F missigned E). $1 signed; pp. [i-iii] iv [1] 2-20. There are floral type ornaments above the title on p. [1]. The typeface of the Preface and poem is Caslon Great Primer: that of the epigraph is Caslon English Italic.  The size of  the pages (approximately 20 cm. x 26.9 cm.: 7 7/8” x 10 5/8”) is consistent with a quarto folding of printing Demy paper (22” x 17 1/2”: see Philip Gaskell, “Notes on Eighteenth-Century British Paper”, The Library, 5th Ser., 12 [1957], 35). In the gutter of each page of the Gagnon Collection copy of Abram’s Plains there are three stab holes approximately 3.5 cm. apart indicating that the first edition was sewn through sideways as is consistent with pamphlets or very thin books (see John Carter, ABC for Book-Collectors [London: Rupert Hart Davis, 1952], p. 169).

         Running parallel to the print on each page of the Gagnon copy of Abram ’s Plains are nine chain lines. Part of a watermark is visible in the gutters of [A] and C. What can be seen of this watertmark indicates that it is a simple fleur de lis, characteristic of printing Demy paper manufactured in Britain in the mid-to-late eighteenth century (see Gaskell, p. 38 and Edward Heawood. Watermarks. Mainly of the 17th and 18th Centuries. vol. 1 in Monumenta Chartae Papyrae, ed. E.J. Labarre [1950: rpt. Hilversum, Holland: The Paper Publications Society, 1969], nos. 15-40 [referred to by Gaskell, p. 38] and nos. 1543-1554, watermarks found on books, maps and atlases printed in London between 1743 and 1787). It seems likely (see Heawood, p. 32) that the first edition of Abram’s Plains was printed on paper made In Britain between one and six years prior to 1789. As Heawood observes: “ . . . a large supply [of paper] from England to America was maintained till the end of the 18th century, in spite of the strides made by paper-maaking in the New World” (p. 41).

         No cover of blue Demy paper remains on the copy of Abram ’s Plains in the Gagnon Collection. A note in the copy reads: “Couttures refaite. Dos et coins teint noir (veau). Plats et gartles en papier ‘Scroetel’”.

         I am especialy grateful to E.J. Devereux for his help on the bibliographical aspects of Abram’s Plains.[back]

  70. See Parker, p. 38.[back]