This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Saturday Rave: William Henry Drummond

William Henry Drummond was an Irishman, but he lived most of his life as a doctor in the French-speaking part of Canada. As he says in the introduction to his first book of poems:

I have felt that they [the English-speaking public] have had little opportunity of becoming acquainted with the habitant [French Canadians], therefore I have endeavored to paint a few types, and it doing this, it has seemed to me that I could best attain the object in view by having my friends tell their own tales in their own way, as they would relate them to English-speaking auditors not conversant with the French tongue.

So, Drummond's not trying to summon up poetic language; he's not trying to be vivid; he's not trying to present a novel or complex moral viewpoint; he's not trying to be original; he's not trying to be elegant. And, sadly, I have to say that as far as I'm concerned he succeeds brilliantly in all this. 

What he is trying to do, though, is present an affectionate, popular and respectful portrait of French-Canadians (especially the country folk) to an English-Canadian audience.

In this he was very successful indeed, too. Good for him!

Here's the beginning of William Henry Drummond's poem The Wreck of the Julie Plante. You can find the whole thing HERE.

On wan dark night on Lac St. Pierre,
De win' she blow, blow, blow,
An' de crew of de wood scow "Julie Plante"
Got scar't an' run below-
For de win' she blow lak hurricane,
Bimeby* she blow some more,
An' de scow bus' up on Lac St. Pierre
Wan arpent** from de shore.

*Bimeby: by and by.

** Arpent. An arpent is apparently a French measure somewhere between between five sixths of an acre and about an acre and a quarter - though as an acre is a unit of area, this still makes no sense at all.

Anyway, hurray for Canada Day, and also for William Henry Drummond and the many many good reasons there are for writing verse.

Word To Use Today: scow. This word comes from the Dutch schouw, and before that from the Saxon skalden, to push(a boat) into the sea.

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