At the Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampoon, The Ryerson Press, 1943
At the Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampman, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1943.
If you travel the MacDonald/Cartier freeway east through the province of Quebec, you will inevitably pass through the city of Dollard des Ormeaux/Roxboro on the outskirts of Montreal. This community is named after the martyr Adam Dollard des Ormeaux who was killed at Long Sault in 1660. At the Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampman, one of Canada’s pre-eminent poets, commemorates this epic battle.
At the Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampman was edited by Professor E.K. Brown with a Foreword by Duncan Campbell Scott. It contains 26 of Lampman’s poems and sonnets. It is considered a publisher’s edition as many pages have not been trimmed. The cover illustration is by Thoreau MacDonald.
Archibald Lampman was born in the village of Morpeth, near Chatham in south-western Ontario in November 1861. He was educated at Trinity University, Toronto and obtained a post in the civil service in Ottawa upon graduation in 1883. He held this post until his death in 1899. Lampman published three volumes of poetry including Among the Millet, 1888, Lyric of Earth, 1888, and Alcyone, 1899. A collection edition was published after his death with a memoir by Duncan Campbell Scott in 1900.
At The Long Sault and other poems by Archibald Lampman is described as “The Literary Discovery of the Year” by the publisher due to the many notations and reference material consulted by Brown from Lampman’s own notebooks which were generously loaned to Brown during the editorial process. In Duncan Campbell Scott’s Foreword to the collection, he quotes himself saying, “In the Preface to the first edition of Archibald Lampman’s poems and in the Introduction to the selection Lyric of Earth, I said all that I had to say on the life and work of the poet and I thought my function as custodian and editor was accomplished; but as the poems contained in this volume will prove it was not to be….if it had not been for Professor E.K. Brown’s admiration of Lampman and his interest in his method of work many of these poems might have been lost.”
It was Brown’s scrutiny of Lampman’s notebooks which had been meticulously preserved and cared for by Lampman’s daughter who “generously and unreservedly lent them to him,” says Scott, “It is Professor Brown we must thank for discovering and deciphering many of these poems which add to the sum of the poet’s work and in several instances definitely enrich our possessions.” Lampman is considered by some as Canada’s Keats.
Archibald Lampman worked as a civil servant in the post office in Ottawa. There he met Duncan Campbell Scott. The two would often spend time camping in and around the Gatineau hills close to the city. This accounts for Lampman’s affinity with nature and became known in later life as one of Canada’s most pictorial poets. Scott credits Lampman for inspiring him to write poetry himself. This ultimately led to Scott becoming even more well-known than Lampman in the end.
The major Lampman poem featured in At the Long Sault relates the battle at Long Sault in the Ottawa river in 1660 during the Beaver Wars. Des Ormeaux, commander of the Ville Marie settlement of New France, took a band of some 16 militia men along with a group of Algonquin allies up the Ottawa River to ambush a war party of some 200 members of the Iroquois Confederacy who were preparing to attack the French settlements along the St. Lawrence. Des Ormeaux’s group was joined by a band of 40 Huron at a make-shift fort near the rapids. The battle lasted five days until another band of Iroquois, some 500 strong, who were travelling down the St. Lawrence were diverted to Long Sault to aid in the attack. By the end of the fifth day, des Ormeaux and all his men had been slain. As a result of the battle at Long Sault, the Iroquois abandoned their assault on the newly formed settlements of Ville Marie (Montreal), Quebec, and Trois Rivières and des Ormeaux was credited with having saved New France.
The poem begins,
Under the day-long sun there is life and mirth
In the working earth,
And the wonderful moon shines bright
Through the soft spring night,
The innocent flowers in the limitless woods are springing
Far and away
With the sound and the perfume of May,
The waters glitter and leap and play
While the grey hawk soars.
But far in an open glade of the forest set
Where the rapid plunges and roars,
In a ruined fort with a name that men forget, —
A shelterless pen
With its broken palisade,
Behind it, musket in hand
In this savage heart of the wild,
More youngsters, grown in a moment to men,
Grim and alert and arrayed,
The comrades of Daulac* stand.
Ever before them, night and day,
The rush and skulk and cry
Of foes, not men but devils, panting for prey;
Behind them the sleepless dream
Of the little frail-walled town, far away by the plunging stream,
Of maiden and matron and child,
With ruin and murder impending, and none but they
To beat back the gathering horror
Deal death while they may,
And then die.
So Daulac turned him anew
With a ringing cry to his men
In the little raging forest glen,
And his terrible sword in the twilight whistled and slew.
And all his comrades stood
With their backs to the pales, and fought
Till their strength was done;
The thews that were only mortal flagged and broke
Each struck his last wild stroke,
And they fell one by one,
And the world that seemed so good
Passed like a dream and was naught.
*Adam Dollard des Ormeaux
Archibald Lampman died at the age of 37. A commemorative plaque at Morpeth reads as follows: Archibald Lampman 1861-1899 Born in Morpeth, Upper Canada, Lampman spent most of his short adult life unhappily working as a clerk in the Post Office Department in Ottawa, for poetry was his true vocation. One of the “sixties group” which wrote Canada’s first noteworthy English verse, his work shows the influence of English writers, particularly Keats and Arnold, and of American nineteenth-century literature. Author of many poems describing Ottawa’s rural environs, he complemented his interest in Nature by commenting poetically on the dehumanizing effects of a mechanized capitalist society. He died at Ottawa.
Long Sault is now the municipality of Saint-André-d’Argenteuil. This portion of the Ottawa River was flooded in 1959 to raise the water levels, thereby covering the rapids, and is now a National Historic Site of Canada.