Volume 2:
Legendary Ballads and Historical Songs

This 9-LP set from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and RCA Victor was released in 1967. The notes below are taken from the booklet that accompanied the set. The lyrics were not supplied with the recordings; the ones shown here are taken from various sources, and will often not reflect the particular variants of the songs in these performances.

Le Prince Eugène

Jacques Labrecque [3:15; Track 1, side A]; File CFS201.mp3

This excellent Acadian version of a 16th Century French ballad, also known as Le Roi Eugène, tells the highly dramatic tale of how a mythical royal personage of France, after gallantly escorting three ladies to their home, was ambushed and mortally wounded by a band of his enemies in a heroic struggle during which he single-handedly slew no less than 14 of his 20 attackers with his "golden sword". Before breathing his last, the "Prince" bids his page to take his dying message home to his wife, bidding her to take good care of their son so that he may grow up to avenge his death.

Canada's dean of folklorists and song-collectors, Dr. Marius Barbeau, connects this ballad with the defeat of King François (Francis) the First, of France, by the Roman Emporer, Charles V, of Pavia, in the Italian campaign of 1525.

History has recorded, however, that the French king did not meet his death as heroically or romantically as the ballad would imply, but succumbed, rather, to the normal complications of a less romantic urinary ailment some 22 years after the Pavia encounter, on March 31st, 1547, at the age of 53.

In any event, this very fine ballad seems to have been very popular in Canada since the early 17th Century, and Dr. Barbeau notes that no less than 27 versions of it (most of them lengthy) have been collected in the old French region of eastern Canada that was once known as Acadia.

A condensed collation of several versions is sung here.

 

 

The Green Willow Tree

Charles Jordan [2:50; Track 2, side A]; File CFS202.mp3

This is a fine Ontario version of the widely known English traditional ballad, The Golden Vanity (among other titles), which tells the dramatic tale of a young cabin boy who volunteers to sink an enemy ship singlehandedly, and thus earn a reward of money and his captain's daughter in marriage. But, after successfully carrying out his undertaking, simply by swimming over to the enemy vessel and boring holes into its hull, causing it to sink, the cabin boy swims back to his own ship to find that the captain has reneged on his promised reward and threatens, instead, to let the lad drown. In some versions of the ballad, indeed, the boy does drown, but in this variant, as in others, that tragic ending is averted, or— at least— left in doubt.

At least one traditional version of the song identifies the captain as Britain's famed explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh, a favorite of England's first Queen Elizabeth for a time, and one researcher supported this by pointing out that the "selfishness and ingratitude displayed by Raleigh in the ballad agreed with the current estimate of his character."

However that may be, the song has been a favorite with seamen and "land lubbers" for several centuries, and a number of versions exist in Canada, two of which have been collected in Ontario by Edith Fulton Fowke. One of them, slightly condensed from 14 verses, is sung here.

There was a ship sailed on the Northern Sea,
And the name of the ship was the Green Willow Tree,
As she sailed on the lowlands that lie so low,
As she sailed on the lowlands low.

We had not sailed but a league or three
Till we were overtaken by the Turkish Revelee,
As she sailed on the lowlands that lie so low,
As she sailed on the lowlands low.

Then up spake the cabin boy, saying, 'What will you give me
If I sink the ship called the Turkish Revelee?
If I sink her in the lowlands that lie so low,
If I sink her in the lowlands low.'

'I will give you money and I will give you fee,
And my only daughter I will marry unto thee,
If you sink her in the lowlands that lie so low,
If you sink her in the lowlands low.'

'Then wrap me up tight in the black bull-skin
And throw me overboard, let me sink, die, or swim,
For I'll sink her in the lowlands that lie so low,
I will sink her in the lowlands low.'

So they wrapped him up tight in a black bull-skin
And threw him overboard, let him sink, die, or swim,
For he'll sink her in the lowlands that lie so low,
He will sink her in the lowlands low.

So he bent his breast and away swam he,
For he soon caught up to the Turkish Revelee,
As we sailed her in the lowlands that lie so low,
As we sailed her on the lowlands low.

He had the instruments just for the use,
And he bored four-and-twenty holes in the bottom of her sluice,
As she sailed on the lowlands that lie so low,
As she sailed on the lowlands low.

 

Some were playing cards and some were playing dice;
They were all taken up in Satan's own advice,
As he sank her in the lowlands that lie so low,
As he sank her in the lowlands low.

Some ran with hats and some ran with caps,
All for to stop up the salt water gaps,
As he sank her in the lowlands that lie so low,
As he sank her in the lowlands low.

Then he bent to his breast and back swam he,
For he soon caught up to the Green Willow Tree,
As they sailed on the lowlands that lie so low,
As they sailed on the lowlands low.

'Now throw me a rope and take me on board,
And prove unto me just as good as your word,
For I've sank her in the lowlands that lie so low,
I have sank her in the lowlands sea.'

'I won't throw you a rope nor take you on board,
Nor prove unto you just as good as my word,
But I will sink you in the lowlands that lie so low,
I will sink you in the lowlands low.'

'If it wasn't for the love that I had for your men,
I would do unto you as I've done to them,
And I'd sink you in the lowlands that lie so low,
I would sink you in the lowlands low.'

 

La Courte Paille

Louise Forester [4:00; Track 3, side A]; File CFS-203.mp3

This is an unusual Acadian version of an old French ballad that tells the story of another ship's cabin boy who turns out to be the hero of another dramatic adventure at sea. In this case, the ship had been meandering about the seas for seven years without sighting land, and its starving crew had been reduced to choosing straws to determine which of their members should be sacrificed to provide food for the rest. When the short straw falls to the ship's captain, he asks the cabin boy to take his place, and the latter agrees, but requests that he first be permitted to climb the tallest mast and take one farewell look at the sea. No sooner does he reach the top of the mast than he sights land and their problems are over.

This story differs somewhat from that of a more popularized version known as "Le petit navire" ("The Little Ship") in which the cabin boy prays for help to the Virgin Mary from the top of the mast, and his prayer is answered when a huge wave sweeps over the ship, leaving thousands of fresh fish flopping on the deck.

Another unusual part of the Acadian version is its chorus: "Vivrons-nous toujours en fristesse? Aurons-nous jamais ta liberté?" ("Shall we always live in sorrow? Shall we never have liberty?") This refrain, not found in other versions of the song, raises the conjecture as to whether it might have been made up by the Acadians to reflect their unhappiness over their expulsion by the British in 1755, one of the saddest episodes in Canadian history.

 

 

Brave Wolfe

Tom Kines [3:40; Track 4, side A]; File CFS204.mp3

This is one of several fairly accurate historical ballads telling of how Britain's young general, James Wolfe, defeated the French forces of General Montcalm in the battle of the Plains of Abraham at Quebec in September, 1759., which decisively brought Canada under English rule, after years of conflict with France, and in which both generals lost their lives.

Wikipedia article on the battle

Bad news is come to town, bad news is carried
Some says my love is dead, others say she's married
As I was a-pond'ring on this, I took to weeping
They stole my love away whist I was sleeping

Love, here's a ring of gold, long years I've kept it
Madame, it's for your sake, will you accept it?
When you the posy read, think on the giver
Madame, remember me, for I'm undone forever

Then away went this brave youth, and embarked all on the ocean
To free Americay was his intention
He landed in Quebec with all his party
The city to attack, being brave and hardy

He drew his armies up in lines so pretty
On the Plains of Abraham back of the city
At a distance from the town where the French would meet him
In double numbers who resolved to beat him

 

Montcalm and this brave youth together walked
Between two armies they like brothers talked
Till each one took his post and did retire
It was then these numerous hosts commenced to fire

Little did he think death was so near him
...
When shot down from his horse was this our hero
We'll long regret his loss in tears of sorrow

He raised up his head where the cannons did rattle
And to his aide he said, "How goes the battle?"
His aide-de-camp replied, "it's ending in our favor"
"Then," says this brave youth, "I quit this earth with pleasure"

 

Le Sargent

Yves Albert [1:21; Track 5, side A]; File CFS205.mp3

When the American Revolution broke out less than a generation after the British conquest of Quebec, it was only natural that some Acadian youths, still bitter over the "expulsion" and resentful of English rule, should have sought to join Washington's army and fight against l'Anglais. However, such instances were very few, for most French-speaking Canadians regarded such actions as foolhardy, as is reflected in this curious little Acadian song, with its one or two English phrases. It gives a somewhat amusing account of a young fellow who, against his father's warnings, decided to run off to Boston and fight against the English. The Americans make him a sergeant and send him off to the front, but after sustaining a wound in his first action, he decided to return home.

 

 

 

The Ballad of New Scotland

Alan Mills [Track 6, side A]; File CFS206.mp3

During the mid-eighteenth Century, while Britain and France were approaching the climax of their long conflict over Canada, England was most anxious to increase its flow of new colonists to the land that was to become its "Dominion", and a large group of colonists sailed for Nova Scotia in 1749 to begin building the town of Halifax. To encourage further colonization of that territory which become known as Nova Scotia, someone contrived to write this short song— which today might be regarded as a form of commercial jingle— extolling the virtues of "New Scotland" and painting a glorious picture of its rich farmland and forests, it abundance of fish and venison, and no landlords or taxes to pay. The song was sung to a popular folk-tune that was used for many songs, and it soon caught on in England with the desired effect. In fact, the new colonists brought the song with them across the Atlantic, and it was found nearly two centuries later in Nova Scotia by that province's first collector of English songs, W. Roy Mackenzie.

 

Let's away to new Scotland, where Plenty sits queen
O'er as happy a country as ever was seen
She blesses her subjects both little and great
With each a good house and a pretty estate.
Derry down, down
Down, derry down.

There's wood and there's water, there's wild fowl and tame
In the forest good ven'son, good fish in the stream
Good grass for our cattle, good land for our plough
Good wheat to be reaped, and good barley to mow.
Derry down, down
Down, derry down.

No landlords are there the poor tenants to tease
No lawyers to bully, nor stewards to seize
But each honest fellow's a landlord, and dares
To spend on himself the whole fruit of his cares.
Derry down, down
Down, derry down.

They've no duties on candles, no taxes on malt
Nor do they, as we do, pay sauce for their salt
But all is as free as in those times of old
When poets assure us the age was of gold.
Derry down, down
Down, derry down.

 

Come All You Bold Canadians

Charles Jordan [1:46; Track 1, side B]; File CFS207.mp3

This song gives a very good account of Canada's capture of Detroit when the United States decided to declare war on Britain and invade its northern neighbor during the War of 1812.

The American action came at a time when Britain was heavily involved in trying to stop Napoleon in Europe and could ill afford to maintain troops or arms to protect its Canadian colonies.

Sent off to Fort Detroit with an army of 2500 men and ordered to invade Canada, U.S. General William Hull had no difficulty crossing the Detroit River and occupying the Canadian town of Sandwich.

When news of this reached General Sir Isaac Brock, then Acting Governor of Upper Canada, in the town of York (Toronto), he got some volunteers together and started off towards Lake Erie. Meanwhile, Tecumseh, the Chief of the Shawnee Indians and an ally of Britain, had managed to cut Hull's communication lines, and the Americans had decided to withdraw back to the fort.

Arriving with his small army of 700 volunteers, which was joined by some 600 of Tecumseh's braves, Brock boldly sent a message to Hull demanding his surrender, and when Hull refused, Brock ordered his men to send a volley of cannon-fire over the Detroit fort. It was a pitifully small volley, but as luck would have it, one of the shots scored a direct hit and killed four men, whereupon the American general immediaely surrendered the fort and all his men at arms.

Brock's easy victory was hailed as "the most brilliant success, with most inadequate means, which history records", and some of the jubilation and pride Canadians felt in that victory is relfected in this rousing ballad.

 

Come all you bold Canadians, I'd have you lend an ear
Concerning a fine ditty that would make your courage cheer
Concerning an engagement that we had at Sandwich town
The courage of those Yankee boys so lately we pulled down

There was a bold commander, brave General Brock by name,
Took shipping at Niagara and down to York he came.
He says, "My gallant heroes, if you'll come along with me,
We'll fight those proud Yankees in the west of Canaday!"

'Twas thus we replied: "Along with you we'll go.
Our knapsacks we will shoulder without any more ado.
Our knapsacks we will shoulder and forward we will steer;
We'll fight those proud Yankees without either dread or fear."

We traveled all that night and a part of the next day,
With a determination to show them British play.
We traveled all that night and a part of the next day,
With a determination to conquer or to die.

Our commander sent a flag to them and unto them did say,
"Deliver up your garrison or we'll fire on you this day."
They refused to surrender, but chose to stand their ground.
We opened up our great guns and gave them fire a round.

Their commander sent a flag to us, for quarters he did call.
"Oh, hold your guns, brave British boys, for fear you slay us all
Our town you have at your command, our garrison likewise."
They brought their arms and grounded them right down before our eyes

And now we are all home again, each man is safe and sound
May the memory of this conquest all through the Province sound,
Success unto our volunteers who did their rights maintain,
And to our bold commander, brave General Brock by name!

 

Un Canadien Errant

Jacques Lebrecque [2:44; Track 2, side B]; File CFS208.mp3

Probably the most-beloved patriotic song among French-speaking Canadians, this moving lament was born amid the pangs of the Mackenzie-Papinbeau Rebellion of 1837-38, when both English and French "Reformists", led by William Lyon Mackenzie and Louis-Joseph Papineau, sought to overthrow the ruling "Family Compact" groups of Upper and Lower Canada and establish land reform and responsible government.

The year-long rebellion erupted after about a generation of fruitless efforts to bring about the reforms by peaceful means, but it was a sad and hopeless struggle. A handful of rebels were hanged and about 1,000 were imprisoned on charges of insurrection and treason, while thousands of others, including their two leaders, were either exiled or forced to flee the country to escape imprisonment, if not to save their lives. Most of them found refuge in the United States, from where many returned to Canada when a general amnesty was granted in 1849.

The sad plight of the exiles, wandering about in a "foreign land", is reflected in this song, which was written at the time by a young student named A. Gérin-Lajoie, and sung to the tune of a popular old French folksong, "Si tu mets anguille", which is recorded in Volume 1 of this series. It describes the feelings of a homesick Canadian as he comes to a river flowing northward, and he bids the river take his fond greetings to his friends in his unhappy land.

 

Un Canadien Errant
Banni de ses foyers
Parcourait en pleurant
Des pays etrangers.
Parcourait en pleurant
Des pays etrangers.

Un jour, triste et pensif,
Assis au bord des flots,
Au courant fugitif
Il adressa ces mots:
Au courant fugitif
Il adressa ces mots:

"Si tu vois mon pays,
Mon pays malheureux,
Va dire a mes amis
Que je me souviens d'eux.
Va dire a mes amis
Que je me souviens d'eux.

O jours si pleins d'appas,
Vous etes disparus...
Et ma patrie, helas!
Je ne la verrai plus.
Et ma patrie, helas!
Je ne la verrai plus."

 

A Scarborough Settler's Lament

Tom Kines [3:31; Track 3, side B]; File CFS209.mp3

Canada's early English-speaking settlers included many Scots people, most of whom naturally made their homes in Novia Scotia and, particularly, amid the picturesque hills of that province's northern island of Cape Breton, where many of the traditional folk songs, dances and customs are very much in evidence, and where "the Gaelic" is still spoken and taught. Later Scots immigrants settled in the more inland province of Ontario. As normally happens with most people when they move from one homeland to another, they brought their songs with them, and some found occasion to create new songs to fit some of their favorite old melodies.

Such as song is "A Scarborough Settler's Lament", in which a Scottish settler of the early 19th Century was "inspired" to complain about Canada's "muddy creeks and fields of pine" (though he does appreciate its "goodly" wheat-land), and longs to see his "auld countrie".

The song was collected by Edith-Fulton Fowke.

 

Away with Canada's muddy creeks
And Canada's fields of pine
Your land of wheat is a goodly land
But oh, it is not mine
The heathy hill, the grassy dale
The daisy spangled lea
The purling burn and craggy linn
Auld Scotland's glens give me.

Oh, I would like to hear again
The lark on Tinny's Hill
And see the wee bit gowany
That blooms beside the rill
Like banished Swiss who views afar
His Alps with longing e'e
I gaze upon the morning star
That shines on my country.

No more I'll win by Eskdale glen
Or Pentland's craggy comb
The days can ne'er come back again
Of thirty years that's gone
But fancy oft at midnight hour
Will steal across the sea
And yestereve, in a pleasant dream
I saw the old country.

Each well-known scene that met my view
Brought childhood's joys to mind
The blackbird sang on Tushey linn
The song he sang lang syne
But like a dream time flies away
Again, the morning came
And I awoke in Canada
Three thousand miles from hame.

 

 

Chanson de Louis Riel

Jacques Labrecque [Track 4, side B]; CFS210.mp3

This is one of several songs believed to have been written by Canada's most enigmatic and controversial revolutionary leader— or patriotic hero, as some regard him— who headed two rebellions in western Canada in the 19th century.

Confederation was but two years old, in 1869, when the "Métis" half-breeds launched the Red River Rebellion against the new Dominion's plan to take over Rupert's Land from the Hudson's Bay Company and split it up into settlement sections which cut across some of the Métis farms. Their leader, Louis Riel, who was born of mixed French, Indian and Irish blood, was still in his early twenties.

Capturing the Company's headquarters at Fort Garry (now Winnipeg), Riel set up a provisional government of the "Republic of the North-West", with himself as president, to negotiate new terms over the land. But his execution of a young Orangeman named Thomas Scott so aroused Upper Canada that an army of 1,200 soldiers was rushed to fort Garry to put an end to the rebellion. They recaptured the fort, and Riel fled to the United States.

Though he eventually returned to Canada and was even twice elected to Parliament, he never sat, for he was expelled from the House in 1874, and outlawed in 1875. When he returned again, a decade later, to resume his fight for the Métis, a second rebellion flared up in Saskatchewan. He was captured, tried, and convicted of treason, and was finally hanged in Regina on August 1, 1885.

Fiery, fanatic, deeply religious and somewhat of a mystic, Riel evidently loved poetry and song, and he presumably penned these farewell verses to his mother while awaiting execution. The song was collected in Saskatchewan by Barbary Cass-Beggs and is interpreted in the Métis dialect.

 

 

 

 

Anti-Confederation Song

Allen Mills [1:56; Track 5, side B]; File CFS211.mp3

Despite Canada's 1967 Centennial celebrations, the sea-to-sea union that was the original dream of the "fathers of Confederation" wasn't quite fully realized until 1949, when Newfoundland became Canada's tenth province, or— as some Newfoundlanders still regard that event— when "Canada j'ined the Island!"

Fiercely proud of its distinction as "Britains oldest overseas colony" (having been founded by John Cabot in 1597), Newfoundland staunchly turned "thumbs-down" on confederration for more than four-score years after its inception, its flame of independence being fanned alive, from time to time, by anti-Confederation songs which are still sung as part of the Island's folklore. Apparently, the most popular of such songs, first sung in 1869, was the one recorded here, which scorns the "Canadian wolf" and its promises of tax benefits and cheaper imports, and warns Newfoundlanders not to let themselves be enslaved by "pen, ink and red tape", or barter their birthright for "a few thousand dollars of Canadian gold".

 

 

 

 

O Canada

The Art. Morrow Singers [Track 6, side B]; CFS212.mp3

Canada's national anthem was first introduced at a Saint-Jean-Babtiste Society convention in Quebec in 1880, as a new patriotic song of French-speaking Canadians, the words having been written by Judge A.B. Routhier, and the music by Calixa Lavallée, a Quebec pianist and composer, especially for this occasion. The song was an immediate success and soon became very popular throughout Quebec, although it did not become too well known in the rest of Canada until after English words were fitted to the melody, in 1908, by Dr. R. Stanley Weir, a leading writer and poet of his time.

The first verse of both French and English versions of the song is recorded here.

More information in this Wikipedia article

O Canada! Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux.
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix.
Ton histoire est une épopée,
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.