Source: Emmons, Richard. The Fredoniad; or, Independence Preserved. An Epic Poem on The Late War of 1812. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: W. Emmons, 1832
A discussion of this poem can be found in Severance, Frank H. Old Trails on the Niagara Frontier. Buffalo: The Matthews-Northrup Co., 1899 (Chapter entitled Niagara and the Poets) Available digitally by clicking here
During the so-called war of 1812-14 between England and the United States, Laura Secord, the wife of a crippled British veteran, saved the British forces from surprise and possible destruction by the heroic action narrated in the ballad. Her home lay near the celebrated Queenston Heights, a few miles from the Falls of Niagara.
Softly the spell of moonlight fell ‡‡On the swift river’s flow,
On the gray crags of Queenston Heights, ‡‡And the green waves below.
Alone the whip-poor-will’s sad cry ‡‡Blent with the murmuring pines,
Save where the sentry paced his rounds ‡‡Along th’ invading lines.
But in one lowly cottage home ‡‡Were trouble and dismay ;
Two anxious watchers could not sleep ‡‡For tidings heard that day ;
Brave James Secord, with troubled heart, ‡‡And weary crippled frame,
That bore the scars of Queenston Heights, ‡‡Back to his cottage came ;
For he had learned a dark design ‡‡Fitzgibbon to surprise,
As with a handful of brave men ‡‡At Beaver Dam he lies.
‘And Boerstler, with eight hundred men, ‡‡Is moving from the shore
To steal upon our outpost there, ‡‡Guarded by scarce two score !
‘Then, wiping out, as well he may, ‡‡That gallant little band,
The foe will sweep his onward way ‡‡O’er the defenceless land.
‘Then noble Brock had died in vain— ‡‡If but Fitzgibbon knew !’—
And the poor cripple’s heart is fain ‡‡To press the journey through.
But Laura, bending o’er her babes, ‡‡Said, smiling through her tears :
‘These are not times for brave men’s wives ‡‡To yield to craven fears.
‘You cannot go to warn our men, ‡‡Or slip the outposts through ;
But if perchance they let me pass, ‡‡This errand I will do.’
She soothed his anxious doubts and fears : ‡‡She knew the forest way ;
She put her trust in Him who hears ‡‡His children when they pray !
Soon as the rosy flush of dawn ‡‡Glowed through the purple air,
She rose to household tasks—and kissed ‡‡Her babes with whispered prayer.
To milk her grazing cow she went ; ‡‡The sentry at the lines
Forgot to watch, as both were lost ‡‡Amid the sheltering pines.
The rising sun’s first golden rays ‡‡Gleamed through the forest dim,
And through its leafy arches rang ‡‡The birds’ sweet morning hymn.
The fragrant odour of the pines, ‡‡The carols gay and sweet,
Gave courage to the fluttering heart, ‡‡And strength to faltering feet.
And on she pressed, with steadfast tread, ‡‡Her solitary way,
O’er tangled brake and sodden swamp ‡‡Through all the sultry day.
Though, for the morning songs of birds ‡‡She heard the wolf’s hoarse cry,
And saw the rattlesnake glide forth, ‡‡As swift she hurried by.
Nor dark morass nor rushing stream ‡‡Could balk the steadfast will,
Nor pleading voice of anxious friends ‡‡Where stood St. David’s Mill.
The British sentry heard her tale, ‡‡And cheered her on her way ;
But bade her ‘ware the Indian scouts ‡‡Who in the covert lay.
Anon, as cracked a rotten bough ‡‡Beneath her wary feet,
She heard their war-whoop through the gloom, ‡‡Their steps advancing fleet ;
But quickly to the questioning chief ‡‡She told her errand grave
How she had walked the livelong day ‡‡Fitzgibbon’s men to save !
The redskin heard, and kindly gazed ‡‡Upon the pale-faced squaw ;
Her faithful courage touched his heart, ‡‡Her weary look he saw.
‘Me go with you’ was all he said, ‡‡And through the forest gray
He led her safe to Beaver Dam, ‡‡Where brave Fitzgibbon lay.
With throbbing heart she told her tale ; ‡‡They heard with anxious heed,
Who knew how grave the crisis was. ‡‡How urgent was the need !
Then there was riding far and near, ‡‡And mustering to and fro
Of troops and Indians from the rear ‡‡To meet the coming foe ;
And such the bold, determined stand ‡‡Those few brave soldiers made—
So fiercely fought the Indian band ‡‡From forest ambuscade,—
That Boerstler in the first surprise ‡‡Surrendered in despair,
To force so small it scarce could serve ‡‡To keep the prisoners there !
While the brave weary messenger ‡‡In dreamless slumber lay,
And woke to find her gallant friends ‡‡Were masters of the fray.
∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
If e’er Canadian courage fail, ‡‡Or loyalty grow cold,
Or nerveless grow Canadian hearts, ‡‡Then be the story told—
How British gallantry and skill ‡‡There played their noblest part,
Yet scarce had won if there had failed ‡‡One woman’s dauntless heart !
Source: Agnes Maule Machar. Lays of the ‘True North’ and Other Canadian Poems. 2nd enlarged ed. London: E. Stock, 1902
Fought June 24th, 1813. British 47 Regulars and 200 Indians. Americans, 570 with 50 cavalry and 3 guns
She knew, and her heart beat faster, ‡‡The foe would march that day !
And resolved, though only a woman, ‡‡To silently steal away
And warn the outpost at Beaver Dams ; ‡‡Alone, and on foot, to go
Through the dim and awesome forest, ‡‡To evade the vigilant foe.
And no one thought of a woman, ‡‡And she gained a path she knew
In the lonesome, stately forest, ‡‡And over the dark way flew.
On and on with a beating heart, ‡‡And never a pause for rest ;
Twenty miles of dim and distance, ‡‡And the sun low down the west.
Startled sometimes to terror ‡‡By the blood-curdling cry
Of wolves from the faint far distance, ‡‡And sometimes nearer by ;
And hollow sounds and weird whispers ‡‡That rose from the forest deep ;
And ghostly and phantom voices ‡‡That caused her nerves to creep.
But she pauses not, nor falters, ‡‡But presses along the way ;
Noiselessly through the dread distance, ‡‡Through the shadows weird and gray.
In time must the warning be given, ‡‡She must not, must not fail ;
Though rough is the path and toilsome, ‡‡Her courage must prevail.
“To arms ! to arms, FitzGibbon !” ‡‡Came a woman’s thrilling cry ;
“Lose not a precious moment — ‡‡The foe ! the foe is nigh !”
And a woman pale and weary ‡‡Burst on the startled sight
Out from the dark, awesome forest, ‡‡Out of the shadowy night.
“They come ! they come six hundred strong, ‡‡Stealing upon you here !
But I, a weak woman, tell you, ‡‡Prepare and have no fear.”
The handful of British heroes ‡‡Resolved the outpost to save,
With the aid of two hundred Indians, ‡‡Allies cunning and brave.
Still as death the line is waiting ‡‡The onset of the foe ;
And the summer winds make whisper ‡‡In the foliage soft and low.
“Ready !” and each heart beats faster ; ‡‡“Fire low, and without fear.”
And they fired a crashing volley, ‡‡And gave a defiant cheer.
Staggered by the deadly missiles, ‡‡That like a mighty blow
Fell swift on the line advancing, ‡‡Fell on the astonished foe.
And for two long, desperate hours ‡‡The furious fight raged there,
Till the foemen, foiled and beaten, ‡‡Surrendered in despair.
Well done, valiant FitzGibbon ! ‡‡Thy name shall live in story ;
Thy daring feat of arms that day ‡‡Is wreathed with fadeless glory.
One other name my song would praise, ‡‡A patriot soul so brave,
That dared the forest’s lonely wilds ‡‡FitzGibbon’s post to save.
Noble woman ! heroic soul ! ‡‡We would honor thee to-day ;
Thou canst not, shall not be forgot. ‡‡More lustrous is the ray
Time relects upon thy deed. ‡‡Thy talismanic name —
Canadians, sound it through the land, ‡‡Perpetuate her fadeless fame !
Source: Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson. Canadian Battlefields and Other Poems. 2nd ed. Toronto, William Briggs, 1901
Glen Albert ! How lovely thy beautiful scene —
As lovely to me as a nymph of sixteen,
All blushing with health and unconscious of guile,
‘Tis a foretaste of Eden to bask in thy smile ;
To list in suspense to the sound of thy falls —
Hearing nature’s sweet music in nature’s own halls,
While the hue-changing leaves by the zephyr caressed,
Murmur softly and sweetly a sigh of love bless’d.
Though the sun’s glowing rays gild the woods on thy heights,
In thy depths far below there’s a gloom that delights,
Where the wandering traveller, wearied with care,
Can pause in thy Glen and find solitude there —
There alone in thy bosom, from tumult apart,
He can have a fit place to commune with his heart.
Proud Niagara calls him with voice loud and bold,
And lures to her falls, as the siren of old.
But thy sparkling cascades, gushing smiles mixed with tears,
Cause so modern Ulysses to stop up his ears.
Here retired from the haunts of fashion and crime,
Thou art seen in thy loveliness, truly sublime;
E’en in history’s page thou did’st shine long ago
When our heroes stood by thee to ward off their foe,
And a ‘Merritt’ held post after Beaver Dam fight,
Thou did’st bravely assist with a Spartan girl’s might
Let the foreigner share in Niagara’s roar,
That with menacing fury growls “Dieu et mon Droit,”
Yet Glen Albert ! the bird that loves its own nest
For a love — all its own — sure will love thee the best.
Source: Courtesy Dennis Gannon.
Poem clipped from the newspaper The Nephalist, October 6, 1866, pasted to the back of the photograph above. The Nephalist was a weekly temperance newspaper published in St. Catharines between May and December, 1866.
The precise location of Glen Albert is unknown.
A note undrneath the poem reads: The author of the above lines has, we think, given a suitable name to a sweet spot, inferior to very few of the Glens in Scotland and elsewhere, so celebrated by poets, painters, and historians. As it is so near the camp, quite a number of visitors daily visit the place, and no doubt wonder that it is not more frequented by the lovers of the picturesque at St. Catharines and by excursions from other… the clipping ends here]
A small town
huddling far below
the high BROCK monument,
in honor of the hero
of that historic war
of eighteen twelve.
in old Queenston
one little house
speaks of the simple life
of one who also had shared
the atrocity and misery
of that war and had shown
LAURA SECORD’s humble old house
facing the blue Niagara,
only whispers of her valour,
but right next door
her fame sells galore
delicious ice cream and sumptuous candy
in the little ice cream parlour.
No, it was not General BROCK
who gave Queenston its fame.
Rather a clever candy maker
knowing the importance of
a woman’s name in the candy trade
who made Queenston famous
with his ice-cream and chocolate
in LAURA SECORD’s name.
Source: Grol, Lini, ed. by Kevin McCabe and Lynne Prunskus. Lake to Lake: Lini Grol’s Niagara. St. Catharines: Blarney Stone Books, c2000.