“Of Montreal, I can say but little. The cholera was at its height, and the fear of infection, which increased the nearer we approached its shores, cast a gloom over the scene, and prevented us from exploring its infected streets. That the feelings of all on board very nearly resembled our own might be read in the anxious faces of both passengers and crew. Our captain, who have never before hinted that he entertained any apprehension on the subject, now confided to us his conviction that he should never quit the city alive…”
Susanna Strickland Moodie, Chapter III, Our Journey up The Country
Roughing it in the Bush
In 1840, The Moodies, with their five children, moved to Bellville. She considered this area “the clearings” as opposed to the “backwoods.” Here she became more involved politically. She studied the “Family Compact,” a term that referred to a close brotherhood, known for its conservatism and opposition to democracy. The “Family Compact” exercised most of the political, economic and judicial power in Upper Canada (modern Ontario). Sympathetic to the moderate reformers led by Robert Baldwin, Susanna recognized that her political leanings, while shared by her husband, were problematic. He was, after all, the sheriff of Belleville, and had to work with members and supporters of the Family Compact.
Canada is a nation that welcomed immigrants, but they were not guaranteed an easy life. Susanna Moodie gave us a glimpse into the lives of those who chose a new country. Canada Day is a celebration of all who came together to form our great nation.
The Step Mother
By Susanna Strickland Moodie
Well I recall my Father’s wife,
The day he brought her home.
His children looked for years of strife,
And troubles sure to come —
Ungraciously we welcomed her,
A thing to scorn and blame;
And swore we never would confer
On her, a Mother’s name
I see her yet — a girl in years,
With eyes so blue and mild;
She greeted us with smiles and tears,
How sweetly too she smiled —
She bent to kiss my sullen brow,
With woman’s gentle grace;
And laid her tiny hand of snow
On my averted face —
“Henry — is this your son? She said —
“Dear boy — he now is mine —
What not one kiss? –” I shook my head,
“I am no son of thine! –“
She sighed — and from her dimpled cheek
The rosy colour fled;
She turned away and did not speak,
My thoughts were with the dead —
There leaped from out my Father’s eyes
A jet of swarthy fire;
That flashed on me in fierce surprise —
I fled before his ire
I heard her gentle voice entreat —
“Forgiveness for her sake” —
Which added swiftness to my feet,
A sad and strange mistake —
A year had scarcely rolled away
When by that hated bride;
I loved to linger half the day,
In very joy and pride;
Her voice was music to mine ear,
So soft its accent fell;
“Dear Mother now” — and oh, how dear
No words of mine can tell —
She was so gentle, fair and kind,
So pure in soul and free from art;
That woman with her noble mind,
Subdued my rebel heart —
I just had learned to know her worth,
My Father’s second choice to bless;
When God removed her from the earth,
And plunged us all in deep distress —
Hot fever smote with burning blight
Stretchd on a restless bed of pain;
I moaning lay from morn till night
With aching limbs and throbbing brain —
Four weary weeks beside my bed,
She sat within a darkened room;
Untiring held my aching head,
Nor heeded silence — cold and gloom —
And when my courage quite gave way,
And fainter grew my struggling breath;
She taught my stricken soul to pray
And calmly meet approaching death —
“Fear not God’s angel, sent by Him,
The weary spirit to release;
Before the mortal eyes grow dim,
Floats down the white winged dove of peace” —
There came a change — but fingers small,
No longer smoothed my matted hair;
She sprang not to my feeble call,
Nor helped to lift me to my chair —
And I arose as from the dead,
A life for her dear life was given;
The angel who had watched my bed
Had vanished into Heaven! —
13 thoughts on “OTR Celebrates Canada Day with Susanna Strickland Moodie”
I hope you had a wonderful Canada Day! I love visiting Canada and I still have much of the country to discover. I’m always fascinated by its ability to integrate different cultures and the beauty and diversity of its lands.
I did! The warmth and sunshine all day long. I always like Tom Brokow’s explanation. I look forward to your visits!
What an outstanding poem, truly inspired.
I agree – She was able to capture the nuance of family dynamics.
So sad 😦
I agree – heartbreaking. I had never read this poem before so was unprepared for the ending. I thought everything was going to turn out differently. 😦
I guess early and untimely death was all too common.
It was! And now, we have an aging population, a testament to how we have progressed. My friend’s father just celebrated his 100th birthday. I understand that he received a message from the Queen! Do you remember when the Queen gave the Queen Mother her message, delivered by hand…:)
Yes! It is wonderful that message from the Queen. My parents received a message from the Queen for their 60th wedding anniversary 🙂 and from our Governor General and the Prime Minister.
When a nation honours these important milestones, it confirms its commitment to the citizenry. We live in great nations!!
Very touching words, goes right to my heart! Life can be hard indeed. And rewarding.
I like your impression to companion S.S. Moodie.
Big hug across the pond
Thank you so much for your visits. You give a lift to my day and a smile to my heart! Big hugs coming back to you across the pond. Another week is here and there are adventures waiting for us… 🙂
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