QUEBEC!: Le Canada Français, Mon Retour a Quebec and Une Cathédrale Canadienne Pendant L'Hiver (poems)
Le Canada Français (A Poem)
I once was a student
of French in Canada
where I roamed the
streets of Quebec not
armed with an umbrella,
as Thoreau once wrote,
but with a warm hooded coat
protecting me from frosty air
high above the Saint Lawrence
flowing seaward with chunks of ice
that ground the stony shoreline
of lower Quebec where I caught
the ferry boat across to Levis and
chatted in very daring French with
the local frost-bitten passengers who
remarked "voila un americain qui
parle Français!" and who asked me
if I did not think that Canada, with its
forests and mountains, is "bien beau."
And on that ferry boat I could not help
but fall in love with all these people.
Mon Retour a Quebec
After sixty long years of teaching and writing
at this college and that, I, at long last, return to
Quebec with Maura* to this old city of my youth,
where I had come to practice French and wander
through the nearby forests of the Laurentians
northeast of the city, but how well I remember
strolling the streets of old Quebec and of the lower
city along the sparkling waters of Saint Lawrence River.
But now, what a pleasure it is to see the Chateau Frontenac
all lit up under a starry September sky and to walk along
la Rue Saint Jean to discover a winding little ruelle with
a Native Canadian arts store called la Boutique Sachem
and to examine Inuit soapstone carvings and to chat
in French with a Micmac woman in charge of the store
about her tribe's fascinating Gloosap legends still retold.
How nice it was to see wooden boxes of red geraniums
under house windows in a narrow and winding alley with
frescoed walls depicting history of early French settlers,
some descendants of whom still speak in ancient Normand.
An old man with a young passion had I become here in
old Quebec -- we sit in a cafe swilling bowls of French onion
soup along with tall drafts of Moosehead beer to regain an
almost lost joie de vivre, especially with the sparkle in Maura's
eyes as she at long last experiences this old and fantastic city.
*Maura and I had intended to travel from Montreal to Quebec during our honeymoon in 1963, but had to return to the States after our car windshield was smashed by a flying stone. We managed to complete this trip 55 years later!
Une Cathédrale Canadienne Pendant L'Hiver
C'est comme une apparition celeste,
cette cathédrale bleauâtre et calme,
pleine de paix, pleine d'amour--
c'est tous ce qu'on peut en avoir
sur cette terre qui est
autrement couverte de neige
et frappee par les vents.
A Canadian Cathedral During Winter
It's like a celestial apparition
this bluish and calm cathedral,
full of peace, full of love--
it's all one could want
on this earth which is
otherwise covered with snow
and beaten by winds.
I spent many weeks in French Canada between 1956 and 1959 learning as much as I could about French Canadians and the French language. For those interested in reading other poems and essays of mine written in French see La France, 31 (Printemps, 1986), 116-117, 131-132.My online book Canada and Beyond contains the poem Vieux Montreal.
© 2012 Richard Francis Fleck