In one of Canada’s best rowing crews, a millionaire merchant was the acting captain of the crew and among his men were a printer, an insurance canvasser, a bank clerk, a clerk in a dry goods store. In one of the most famous hockey teams was a bicycle repairer. Sport in Canada, as in the United States, is the most absolute democracy. I can think of no man in Canada who has attained a permanently good place in social life through catering to women’s favor with dandified mannerisms, though not a few have got a leg up to come most terrible croppers; but I do think of many men to whom all doors are permanently open because they are such clean first-rate sportsmen. Until the last ten years of opulent fevered prosperity came to the Dominion, Canada might have been described as a nation of athletes. This does not mean that Canada neglected work for play. It means that she worked so robustly because she had developed strength on the field of play. Three truths are almost axiomatic about nations and sport. It is said that a nation is as it spends its leisure; that nations only win battles as their boys have played in their youth; that man’s work is only boy’s sport full grown. The religious little catechist may win prizes in the parochial school; but if he doesn’t learn to take kicks and give them good and hard, in play, he will not win life’s prizes. Fair play, nerve, poise, agility, act that jumps with thought, the robust fronting of life’s challenge—these are learned far more on the toboggan slide where you may break your neck, in a snowshoe scamper, than poring over books, or in a parlor. I do not know that Canada has analyzed it out, but she lives it. Young Canada may be bumptious, raw, crude. Time tones these things down; but she is not tired before she has begun the race. She is not nerve-collapsed and peeved and insincere.
As to why Canada has no distinctive and great literature—I confess frankly I do not know. England had only Canada’s population when a Shakespeare and a Milton rose like stars above the world. Scotland and Ireland both have a smaller population than Canada, and their ballads are sung all over the world. Canada has had a multitude of sweet singers pipe the joys of youth, but as life broadened and deepened their songs did not reach to the deeps and the heights. Something arrested development. They did not go on. Why? It may be that literature rises only as high as its fountain springs—the people; and that the people of Canada have not yet realized themselves clearly enough to recognize or give articulation to a national literature. It may be that Canada is living her literature rather than writing it. If Scott had not found appreciation for his articulation of Scottish life and history in poems and novels, he would not have gone on. In fact, when Byron eclipsed Scott in public favor as a poet, Scott stopped writing poetry. It