Canada Literature in French

According to Vaultedwatches, the popular songs collected in 1865 by Ernest Gagnon under the title Les chansons populaires du Canada, and in part still alive today in the countryside, were all, or almost all, imported from France, preserving themselves as they are, with very little reflections of the new life of ‘overseas. Even the most ancient historical works are all written by French, with a French soul: such as the story of the journey by Samuel Champlain (see Øuvres, ed. Lavardière, 1870), the Histoire de la nouvelle France (1609; new ed. 1902) by Lescarbot, the Histoire et description générale de la Nouvelle France (1744) by the Jesuit Charlevoix; and Relations in generalof the Jesuits published from 1891 onwards.

Only under the consolidation of British rule did the reaction of nationalistic sentiments, of which they were eloquent and noisy heralds, in LJ Papineau politics and E. Parent journalism, lead to a new spiritual position, in which the Canadian conscience could explicitly assert itself. And, apart from some minor works such as ‘ Histoire du Canada by historian and poet M. Bibaud, the first major literary document it is the’ Histoire du Canada (1845-48; 2 in ed. 1852), FX Garneau, considered even today by the French-Canadians as fundamental. The ten years which saw the first formation of a responsible government found their historian in A. Gérin-Lajoie (Dix ans d’histoire du Canada1840 – 50). Later also the Franco-Canadian rebellion of 1837 was warmly recalled and defended by LO David (Les patriotes de 1837 – 38, 1884), while B. Sulte traced with vigorous synthesis the whole Histoire des Canadiens Français (1882 – 84).

Poetry also flourished at the same time. Joseph Quesnel (1749-1809), the author of an Anglomanie comedy in verse and of prose comedies, had already brought a bit of 18th-century French poetry to Canada; and later Joseph Mermet, before returning to France, had sung the battle of Châteauguay and the Niagara. But only with Octave Crémazie (1827-1879) did French Canada begin to have its own poetic school: his ode on the death of Laval, bishop of Quebec, the meditative poem La promenade des morts, and, above all, the Chant du vieux soldat canadien and Le carillon had a profound echo in the minds of his compatriots: he drew inspiration from his poetry also from the events of Italy (v. La guerre de CriméeGuerre d’ItalieCastelfidardo). A whole current of patriotic poetry arose that remained alive throughout the century: with the Essais poétiques (1865), and Les vengeances (1875) by Pamphile Le May (1837-1918), also author of gracious sonnets (Gouttelettes, 1904) and translator of Longfellow ‘s Evangelina ; with Les Laurentiennes (1870) and Les chants nouveaux by the historian B. Sulte; with part of the Poésies by Alfred Garneau (1836-1904); with the Chants canadiens (1880) by A. Poisson; with Au foyer de mon presbytère (1881) by Abbot Gingras, down to Les Quebecquoises (1876) and Aspirations (1904) by William Chapman (1850-1917), to Les floraisons matutinales (1897) by N. Beauchemin, to Le Canada chanté (1908) by modern Albert Ferland; and a poet of strong and enduring vitality found the group particularly in Louis Fréchette. Born in Levis near Quebec in 1839, died in 1908, he was, as a journalist and as a poet, the most representative man of his country in the literature of the second half of the century. XIX: through easily recognizable derivations of French poetry of the Romantic age in Mes loisirs (1863), in La voix d’un exilé (1869), gradually found more and more personal accents in Fleures boréales (1879), Oiseaux de neige (1879), Feuilles volantes (1891), and, despite a certain emphasis in Victorhughian tones, he gave his compatriots in the Légende d ‘un peuple (1887) a moving, epic vision of their history.

An identical spiritual atmosphere of adherence to the people, to their history, to their customs, can be breathed from Charles de Guérin (1852) by PIO Chauveau onwards, in prose stories, in short stories, in novels. A picturesque crowd of seigneurscensitaireshabitantsvoyageurs – the various social classes into which the population was then divided – populate the idyllic world portrayed by Philippe Aubert de Gaspé in Les anciens Canadiens (1863), and a sense of attachment to traditional customs and good-natured pride animates the narrative. The novels of Joseph Marmette (1845-95); travel reports and descriptions of villages and customs by Arthur Buis (1840-1901), soldier with Garibaldi in 1859, and by N. Legendre (1841-1907); the collection of Legends (1860) and the Pèlerinage au pays d’Evangeline (1888) by HR Casgrain (1831-1904), down to the most modern novels of JP Tardivel (1851-1905), with a material that is now historical, now legendary, now realistic, now fictional, they are all inspired by the same sentiments. And dear, even today, to the hearts of all Franco-Canadians with his exhortation to the patriarchal life of ancient times, is the Jean Rivard (1874) by A. Gérin Lajoie, naive and simple story, full of moral health and clear poetry.

Canada Literature in French 2