The Passing of Cadieux"
by Isabel Ecclestone Mackay (1875-1928
That man is brave who at the nod of fate
Will lay his life a willing offering down,
That they who loved him may know length of days;
May stay awhile upon this pleasant earth
Drinking its gladness and its vigour in,
Though he himself lie silent evermore,
Dead to the gentle calling of the Spring,
Dead to the warmth of Summer; wrapt in dream
So deep, so far, that never dreamer yet
Has waked to tell his dream. Men there may be
Who, careless of its worth, toss life away,
A counter in some feverish game of chance,
Or, stranger yet, will sell it day by day
For toys to play with; but a man who knows
The love of life and holds it dear and good,
Prizing each moment, yet will let it go
That others still may keep the precious thing
He is the truly brave !
This did Cadieux,
A man who loved the wild and held each day
A gift from Le Bon Dieu to fill with joy
And offer back again to Him who gave
(See, now, Messieurs, his grave!) We hold it dear
The story you have heardbut no? 'Tis strange,
For we all know the story of Cadieux !
He was a Frenchman born. One of an age
That glitters like a gem in history yet,
The Golden Age of France ! 'Twould seem, Messieurs,
That every country has a Golden Age?
Ah well, ah well !
But this Cadieux, he came
No one knew whence, nor cared, indeed, to know.
His simple coming seemed to bring the day,
So strong was he, so gallant and so gay
A maker of sweet songs; with voice so clear
'Twas like the call of early-soaring bird
Hymning the sunrise; so at least 'twould seem
Mehwatta thoughtthe slim Algonquin girl
Whose shy black eyes the singer loved to praise.
She taught him all the soft full-throated words
With which the Indian-warriors woo their brides,
And he taught her the dainty phrase of France
And made her little songs of love, like this:
'Fresh is love in May
When the Spring is yearning,
Life is but a lay,
Love is quick in learning.
'Sweet is love in June:
All the roses blowing
Whisper 'neath the moon
Secrets for love's knowing.
'Sweet is love alway
When life burns to embers,
Hearts keep warm for aye
With what love remembers !'
Their wigwam rose beside the Calumet
Where the great waters thunder day and night
And dawn chased dawn away in gay content.
Then it so chanced, when many moons were spent,
The brave Cadieux and his brown brothers rose
To gather up their wealth of furs for trade;
And in that moment Fate upraised her hand
And, wantonly, loosed Death upon the trail,
Red death and terriblethe Iroquois!
(Oh, the long cry that rent the startled dawn!)
One way alone remained, if they would live
The Calumet, the cataractperchance
The good Saint Anne might help!
'In God's name, go !
Push off the great canoe, Mehwatta, go!
Adieu, petite Mehwatta! Keep good cheer.
Say thou a prayer; beseech the good Saint Anne!
For two must stay behind to hold the way,
And shall thy husband fail in time of need?
And would Mehwatta's eyes behold him shamed?
Adieu!'Oh, swift the waters bear them on!
Now the good God be merciful! ....
Cadieux and one Algonquin, and they played
With a bewildered foe, as children play,
Crying 'Lo, here am I!' and then 'Lo, here!' 'Lo, there!'
Their muskets spoke from everywhere at once
So swift they ran behind the friendly trees,
They seemed a host with Death for General
And the fierce foe fell back.
But ere they went
Their wingèd vengeance found the Algonquin's heart.
Cadieux was left alone!
Ah, now, brave soul,
Began the harder part! To wander through
The waking woods, stern hunger for a guide;
To see new life and know that he must die;
To hear the Spring and know she breathed 'Adieu' ! ...
One wonders what strange songs the forest heard,
What poignant cry rose to the lonely skies
To die in music somewhere far above
Or fall in sweetness back upon the earth
The requiem of that singer of sweet songs!
They found himsowith cross upon his heart,
His cold hand fast upon this last Complaint
'Ends the long trailat sunset I must die !
I sing no moreO little bird, sing on
And flash bright wing against a brighter sky!
'Sing to my Dear, as once I used to sing;
Say that I guarded love and kept the faith
Fly to her, little bird, on swifter wing.
'The world slips by, the sun drops down to-night
Sweet Mary, comfort me, and let it be
Thy arms that hold me when I wake to light!'
[In the early days there came to the region of the Upper Ottawa to Allumette and Calumeta voyager by the name of Cadieux. He was more than an ordinary adventurer, for not only could he fight and hunt with the most expert, but he could make sweet songs, words and music, and sing them, too, in a way that was good to hear. So thought, at any rate, a pretty Indian maiden of the Algonquin Ottawas, whom he won for his wife. Their wigwam stood near to the Great Fall of the Calumet. After the season's hunting, Cadieux and his Indian friends were preparing to go to Montreal with their accumulation of furs, when, of a sudden, the alarm was given of the approach, through the woods, of a war party of their deadly enemies, the Iroquois. There was but one means of escape. The canoe was to be committed to the cataract, while someone remained to hold the Iroquois at bay. Cadieux and a single Algonquin remained. The Iroquois finally withdrew, but not before the Algonquin was killed. Cadieux, left alone, wandered for a time in the woods until he became exhausted. Returning at last to Petit-Rocher, and feeling his end approach, he made for himself a grave, and set up a rustic cross to sanctify his departure. His friends, returning to search for him, found him in his grave, partly covered with leaves and branches, the cross beside him, and his hands closed on his last song, "La Complainte-de Cadieux."
The Lament is still sung by the French-Canadians, and the grave of Cadieux is still an object of veneration.Author's Note.]
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