A Ballad For Brave Women by Charles Mair

Monument and bust of Laura Secord, heroine of Battle of Beaver Dam, Beaver Dam, Ontario, Canada, stereograph, 1908
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A STORY worth telling, our annals afford,
’Tis the wonderful journey of Laura Secord!
Her poor crippled spouse hobbled home
‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡With the news
That Bœrstler was nigh ! “Not a minute to lose,
Not an instant,” said Laura, “for stoppage or pause—
I must hurry and warn our brave troops at Decaws.”
“What ! you !” said her husband “to famish and tire !”
“Yes, me !” said brave Laura, her bosom on fire.
“And how will you pass the gruff sentry ?” said he,
“Who is posted so near us ?”

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡“Just wait till you see ;
The foe is approaching, and means to surprise
Our troops, as you tell me. Oh, husband, there flies
No dove with a message so needful as this—
I’ll take it, I’ll bear it, good bye, with a kiss.”
Then a biscuit she ate, tucked her skirts well about,
And a bucket she slung on each arm, and went out

’Twas the bright blush of dawn, when the stars melt from sight,
Dissolved by its breath like a dream of the night ;
When heaven seems opening on man and his pain,
Ere the rude day strengthens, and shuts it again.
But Laura had eyes for her duty alone—
She marked not the glow and the gloom that were thrown
By the nurslings of morn, by the cloud-lands at rest,
By the spells of the East, and the weirds of the West.  
Behind was the foe, full of craft and of guile ;
Before her, a long day of travel and toil.
“No time this for gazing,” said Laura, as near
To the sentry she drew.

‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡“Halt ! you cannot pass here.”
“I cannot pass here ! Why sirrah you drowse,
Are you blind ? Don’t you see I am off to my cows.”
“Well, well you can go.” So she wended her way
To the pasture’s lone side, where the farthest cow lay,
Got her up, caught a teat, and with pail at her knees,
Made her budge, inch by inch, till she drew by degrees
To the edge of the forest. “I’ve hoaxed, on my word,
Both you and the sentry,” said Laura Secord.

With a lingering look at her home, then away
She sped through the wild wood—a wilderness gray—
Nature’s privacy, haunt of a virgin sublime
And the mother who bore her, as ancient as Time ;
Where the linden had space for its fans and its flowers,
The balsam its tents, and the cedar its bowers ;
Where the lord of the forest, the oak, had its realm,
The ash its domain, and its kingdom the elm ;
Where the pine bowed its antlers in tempests, and gave
To the ocean of leaves the wild dash of the wave,
And the mystical hemlock—The forest’s high-priest—
Hung its weird, raking, top-gallant branch to the east.

And denser and deeper the solitude grew,
The underwood thickened, and drenched her with dew ;
She tripped over moss-covered logs, fell, arose,
Sped, and stumbled again by the hour, till her clothes
Were rent by the branches, and thorns, and her feet
Grew tender and way-worn and blistered with heat.
And on, ever on, through the forest she passed,
Her soul in her task, but each pulse beating fast,
For shadowy forms seemed to flit from the glades
And beckon her into their limitless shades :
And mystical sounds—in the forest alone,
Ah! who has not heard them ?—the voices, the moan,
Or the sigh of mute nature, which sinks on the ear,
And fills us with sadness or thrills us with fear ?
And who, lone and lost, in the wilderness deep,
Has not felt the strange fancies, the tremors which creep,
And assemble within, till the heart ’gins to fail,
The courage to flinch, and the cheeks to grow pale,
’Midst the shadows which mantle the spirit that broods
In the sombre, the deep haunted heart of the woods ?

She stopped—it was noonday. The wilds she espied
Seemed solitudes numberless. “Help me !” she cried ;
Her piteous lips parched with thirst, and her eyes
Strained with gazing. The sun in his infinite skies
Looked down on no creature more hapless than she,
For woman is woman where’er she may be.
For a moment she faltered, then came to her side
The heroine’s spirit—the Angel of Pride.
One moment she faltered. Beware ! What is this ?
The coil of the serpent ! the rattlesnake’s hiss !
One moment, then onward, What sounds far and near ?
The howl of the wolf, yet she turned not in fear
Nor bent from her course, till her eye caught a gleam
From the woods of a meadow through which flowed a stream,
Pure and sweet with the savour of leaf and of flower.
By the night dew distilled, and the soft forest shower ;
Pure and cold as its spring in the rock crystalline,
Whence it gurgled and gushed ’twixt the roots of the pine.

And blessed above bliss is the pleasure of thirst,
Where there’s water to quench it ; for pleasure is nursed
In the cradle of pain, and twin marvels are they
Whose inter-dependence is born with our clay.
Yes, blessed is water, and blessed is thirst,  
Where there’s water to quench it ; but this is the worst
Of this life, that we reck not the blessings God sends,
Till denied them. But Laura, who felt she had friends
In heaven as well as on earth, knew to thank
The giver of all things, and gratefully drank.

Once more on the pathway, through swamp and through mire,
Through covert and thicket, through bramble and brier,
She toiled to the highway, then over the hill,
And down the deep valley, and past the new mill,
And through the next woods, till, at sunset, she came
To the first British picket and murmured her name ;
Thence, guarded by Indians, footsore and pale
She was led to Fitzgibbon, and told him her tale.

For a moment her reason forsook her ; she raved,
She laughed, and she cried—“They are saved, they are saved !”
Then her senses returned, and with thanks loud and deep
Sounding sweetly around her she sank into sleep.
And Bœrstler came up, but his movements were known,
His force was surrounded, his scheme was o’erthrown
By a woman’s devotion—on stone be’t engraved—
The foeman was beaten and Burlington saved.

Ah ! faithful to death were our women of yore !
Have they fled with the past to be heard of no more ?
No, no ! Though this laurelled one sleeps in the grave,
We have maidens as true, we have matrons as brave ;
And should Canada ever be forced to the test—
To spend for our country the blood of her best !
When her sons lift the linstock and brandish the sword,
Her daughters will think of brave Laura Secord !

Source: Raise the Flag and Other Patriotic Canadian Songs and Poems. Toronto: Rose Publishing, 1891

Mair originally published this poem possibly in 1888 – the following was written in Grip, July 7, 1888:

The heroic conduct of Mrs. Laura Secord in apprising the British of the contemplated attack of Bœrstler’s forces in 1812, is once again made the subject of a poem, and this time the same hand that gave in Tecumseh, Vide the Week of June 21st. A first rate piece of work by a Canadian author is something uncommon enough to evoke enthusiasm, and the bard of Price Albert rarely fails to “do us proud.” After reading his latest we unanimously shout “Give us Mair, Charles, give us Mair!”

Read about Charles Mair



The Fredoniad; or Independence Preserved by Richard Emmons

The full title of this epic poem is The Fredoniad; or, Independence Preserved. An Epic Poem on The Late War of 1812.

This is a poem in 40 cantos covering the entire War of 1812. This page contains the table of contents of each of the 4 volumes, and links to the full text of this poem found on the Hathi Trust.

The Fredoniad vol 1 Table of Contents. Click on the image to see larger


Click to view the full text of volume 1 










The Fredoniad vol 2 Table of Contents (p. 1).
Click on the image to see larger
The Fredoniad vol 2 Table of Contents (p. 2). Click on the image to see larger


Click to view the full text of volume 2


The Fredoniad vol 3 Table of Contents (p. 1). Click on the image to see larger
The Fredoniad vol 4 Table of Contents (p. 2). Click on the image to see larger


Click to see the full text of volume 3


The Fredoniad vol 4 Table of Contents (p. 1). Click on the image to see larger
The Fredoniad vol 4 Table of Contents (p. 2). Click on the image to see larger


Click to see the full text of volume 4

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


Laura Secord by Agnes Maule Machar

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.

Laura Secord  Monument
 Drummond Hill Cemetery, Niagara Falls.
Image courtesy of Niagara Falls Public Library

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

Read about the life of Machar

Read about the Battle of Beaverdams


Laura Secord; or, The Battle of Beaver Dams by Lieut.-Col. J. R. Wilkinson

wilkinson laura

wilkinson laura
Laura Secord warns British commander James FitzGibbon of an impending American attack at Beaver Dams. by Lorne Kidd Smith, 1920. Library and Archives Canada reproduction reference number C-011053

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

Click here to see other poems of the Battle of Beaverdams and the War of 1812

wilkinson laura

Glen Albert Near DeCew Falls by A Traveller

Glen Albert
Decew Falls by Miller’s Photographic Saloon – Possibly Chauncey C Miller, active in St. Catharines c. 1865-1868

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.

Clipping from The Nephalist on the back of the above picture. Click to enlarge

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]

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