….Eleven. Welcome to the Sabbath bells !
A blessing and a welcome ! At this hour
One prays for me at home, two hundred miles
From where I lounge along the grassy knoll,
Far up upon this classic hill. The air
Hath a delicious feeling, as it breathes
Its autumn breath upon me ; air so calm,
One cannot feel the beat of Nature’s pulse.
No, not a throb. The heav’nly influences,
Hearing that maiden’s prayer, lean down and move
My being with their answerings of love.
The myriad-tinted leaves have gravely paused
To listen to the spheral whisperings —
The unvoiced harmonies that few can hear
Or feel, much less interpret faithfully ;
And the swift waters of the dizzy gorge,
Stunned with their recent plunge against the crags
That hide Niagara’s iris-circled feet,
And lashed to very madness as they wound
Their circling way past rocks and fretted banks,
Melt into calm in the blue lake beyond,
As starlight melts into the distant sea.
….Those ancient willows have a solemn droop ;
You scarce can see the dwelling they adorn :
Behind them rest the grain-denuded fields.
Here, to my left, an unpretending town ;
There, to my right, another ; like two friends,
Each thanking heaven for the Sabbath-pause,
And the brief respite from man’s curse of toil.
The church bells pealing now and then a note,
Swell the bless’d Pæan with their silver tongues.
The very tombstones yonder, near the church,
Look whiter for the eloquent Repose.
….A few short paces through the cedar trees,
Where the pert chipmunks chatter, and the birds
Select and melodize their sweetest notes,
And I have gained the level. Toward the lake,
The cloudlike points of land are seen
Blending with old Ontario, and the gorge
Hurries its whirling current past the banks
That glass their fair proportions in the stream.
….Here is the Monument. Immortal Brock,
Whose ashes lie beneath it, not more still
Than is the plain to-day. What have we gained,
But a mere breath of fame, for all the blood
That flowed profusely on this stirring field ?
‘T is true, a Victory ; through which we still
Fling forth the meteor banner to the breeze,
And have a blood-sealed claim upon the soil.
‘T were better than Defeat, a thousand times.
And we have rightly learned to bless the name
Of the Old Land, whose courage won the day —
We, the descendants of her Victor-sires.
But dearer than a hundred victories,
With their swift agony, the earnest Calm,
That, like a Blessing from the lips of God,
Rests on the classic plain, o’er which my feet
Tread lightly, in remembrance of the dead—
My Brothers all, Vanquished and Victors both.
And yet my heart leaps up, poor human heart !
As I lean proudly, with a human pride,
Against this pillar to a great man’s name.
Yet I would rather earn that maiden’s prayer,
Than all the fame of the immortal dead.
….There may be furrows still upon the field,
Ploughed up with the wild hurricane of war
On that eventful day. Here, certainly,
An angry missile grooved this honored rock.
Though nearly half a century has pass’d,
The fissure still is here, and here the rust
Left by the iron messenger of death,
As it sped forward like an angry fate,
Sending, perhaps, ten human souls to hell.
….There, there was pain. Here, where the wondrous skill
Of the mechanic, with this iron web
Has spanned the chasm, the pulse beats hopefully,
And thoughts of peace sit dove-like in the mind.
Heav’n bridge these people’s hearts, and make them one !
Source: Charles Sangster. The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay and Other Poems. Kingston, Ont.: J. Creighton & J. Duff, 1856
D.M.R. Bentley discusses this poem by Sangster in his essay (now archived on the WayBack Machine) Monumental Tensions: the Commemoration of British Political and Military Heroes in Canada from his Mnemographia Canadensis, volume 1: Muse and Recall