chanted in the farmhouse or the lumber shanty, to the tunes which have come down from an unknown source, and never lost their echo in the hearts of the people.
Our Ferdinand was a perfect fountain of music. He had a clear tenor voice, and solaced every task and shortened every voyage with melody. “A song, Ferdinand, a jolly song,” the other men would say, as the canoes went sweeping down the quiet lake. And then the leader would strike up a well-known air, and his companions would come in on the refrain, keeping time with the stroke of their paddles. Sometimes it would be a merry ditty:
“My father had
no girl but me,
And yet he sent me off to sea;
Leap, my little Cecilia.”
Or perhaps it was:
so much the livelong day,—
Dance, my sweetheart, let’s be gay,—
I’ve fairly danced my shoes away,—
Dance, my pretty, dance once more;
Dance, until we break the floor.”
But more frequently the song was touched with a plaintive pleasant melancholy. The minstrel told how he had gone into the woods and heard the nightingale, and she had confided to him that lovers are often unhappy. The story of La Belle Francoise was repeated in minor cadences—how her sweetheart sailed away to the wars, and when he came back the village church bells were ringing, and he said to himself that Francoise had been faithless, and the chimes were for her marriage; but when he entered the church it was her funeral that he saw, for she had died of love. It is strange how sorrow charms us when it is distant and visionary. Even when we are happiest we enjoy making music
“Of old, unhappy, far-off things.”
“What is that song which you are singing, Ferdinand?” asks the lady, as she hears him humming behind her in the canoe.
“Ah, madame, it is the chanson of a young man who demands of his blonde why she will not marry him. He says that he has waited long time, and the flowers are falling from the rose-tree, and he is very sad.”
“And does she give a reason?”
“Yes, madame—that is to say, a reason of a certain sort; she declares that she is not quite ready; he must wait until the rose-tree adorns itself again.”
“And what is the end—do they get married at last?”
“But I do not know, madame. The chanson does not go so far. It ceases with the complaint of the young man. And it is a very uncertain affair—this affair of the heart—is it not?”
Then, as if he turned from such perplexing mysteries to something plain and sure and easy to understand, he breaks out into the jolliest of all Canadian songs:
“My bark canoe
that flies, that flies,
Hola! my bark canoe!”
The island pool.
Among the mountains there is a gorge. And in the gorge there is a river. And in the river there is a pool. And in the pool there is an island. And on the island, for four happy days, there was a camp.