J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Follow by Email


Thursday, January 04, 2018

“So suited to the New-Year’s day” in Québec?

The Checklist of American Newspaper Carriers’ Addresses that I discussed last year includes a section of Canadian examples both before and after the Revolution.

The carriers of the Quebec Gazette/Gazette de Québec had both English and French verses. One from 1781 appears on the Canadian Poetry website in a section headed “Poems in Early Canadian Newspapers”:
Of the PRINTER’S BOY, who carries about the
Quebec Gazette to the CUSTOMERS.

JANUARY 1, 1781.

SERIOUS and solemn be the song
Which hails this still-returning day;
Let measure guide the rhyme along,
And gratitude inspire the lay!

When Spring, in all her blooming charms,
And Summer, in her richest dress;
When Autumn fills the lab’rer’s arms,
Nor coily yields her vast increase:

Oh then! let mortals grateful deem
Of all the blessings God has sent;
And, in deep Winter’s dread extreme,
Rejoice in plenty and content.

And, while they joy in bounty given,
Still to the poor their hands extend:—
The first great delegate of Heaven
Is he—the wretch’s firmest friend.

Now long, and dark, and dark the night,
And short the blessings of the day;
Yet soon the sun’s resplendent light
Shall hail us with a brighter ray!

And soon shall Winter’s blast be o’er,
And soon returning Spring arrive;
And then, oh then! the happy poor
Shall thank you they are still alive.

Grateful to Heaven their vows will rise,
For blessings you may now bestow;
And lab’ring breasts, and streaming eyes,
Their sense of obligation show.

And who, that feels the genial sun,
And owns the God that points his ray,
Would leave the grateful task undone,
So suited to the New-Year’s day.
Here’s the thing, though. That poem had appeared in the London Magazine in 1778 with only one small difference. In the magazine it was about the winter solstice. The Quebec printers changed “the Shortest-day” to “the New-Year’s day,” thus creating Canadian poetry.

No comments: