In ’28, on Patrick’s Day,
At one p.m., there came this way
From Richmond, in the dawn of spring,
He who doth now the glories sing
Of ancient Bytown, as ’twas then,
A place of busy working men,
Who handled barrows and pickaxes,
Tamping irons and broadaxes,
And paid no Corporation taxes;
Who, without license onward carried
All kinds of trade, but getting married;
Stout, sinewy, and hardy chaps,
Who’d take and pay back adverse raps,
Nor ever think of such a thing
As squaring off outside the ring,
Those little disagreements, which
Make wearers of the long robe rich.
Such were the men, and such alone,
Who quarried the vast piles of stone,
Those mighty, ponderous, cut-stone blocks,
With which Mackay built up the Locks.
The road wound round the Barrack Hill,
By the old Graveyard, calm and still;
It would have sounded snobbish, very,
To call it then a Cemetery—
Crossed the Canal below the Bridge,
And then struck up the rising ridge
On Rideau Street, where Stewart’s Store
Stood in the good old days of yore;
There William Stewart flourished then,
A man among old Bytown’s men;
And there, Ben Gordon ruled the roast,
Evoking many a hearty toast,
And purchase from the throngs who came
To buy cheap goods in friendship’s name.
Friend Ben, dates back a warm and true heart
To days of Mackintosh and Stewart.
Beside where Aumond and Barreille
Their fate together erst did try,
In the old “French Store,” on whose card
Imprimis was J. D. Bernard.
“Grande Joe,” still sturdy, stout and strong.
Long be he so! Will o’er my song,
Bend kindly, and perhaps may sigh,
While rapidly o’er days gone by,
He wanders back in memory.
Aye, sigh, for when he look’s around,
How few, alas! can now be found,
Who heard the shrill meridian sound
Of Cameron’s bugle from the hill,
How few, alas! are living still—
How few who saw in pride pass on
The Sappers with their scarlet on,
Their hackle plumes and scales of brass,
Their stately tread as on they pass.
I seem to see them through the shade
Of years, in warlike pomp arrayed,
Marching in splendid order past,
Their bugles ringing on the blast,
Their bayonets glittering in the sun,
The vision fades, the dream is done.
Below the Bridge, at least below,
Where stands the Sappers’ structure now,
You had to pass in going down
From Upper to the Lower Town;
For, reader, then, no bridge was there,
Where afterwards with wondrous care,
And skilful hands; the Sappers made
That arch which casts into the shade
All other arches in the land,
By which Canals and streams are span’d;
The passing wayfarer sees nought
But a stone bridge by labor wrought,
The Poet’s retrospective eye