In 1618, Robert Hayman (1575-1629) became the first governor of Canada’s eastern province of Newfoundland. Robert was in charge of the governor until 1628. The talented and energetic representative from England stayed for fifteen months for the first time. Later he used to come only during summer. Thus he stayed in Newfoundland for ten summers. His biographers say that Robert used to practice poetry even in exile. Robert’s book of poems ‘Quodlibates’ was published in London in 1628. Historians consider that book to be the first book of Canadian literature. And considering that, the history of Canadian poetry is roughly four hundred years. In ‘George Woodcock’s Introduction to Canadian Poetry’ (Toronto, 1993), noted literary critic George Woodcock (1912-1995) states: “In ‘Quodlibates What You Will’ the poet actually praises the climate and nature of Newfoundland and the immigrants to this land. expressed relief at Charles I’s initiative to become” (p. 10). In this context it can be said that Charles I (1600-1649) ascended the throne of England in 1626.
‘Quodlibates’ had a total of four b-s. There were a total of 351 poems in them. As those small poems were about nature, there were also about people. One such poem by Hayman about Newfoundland is:
The Aire, in Newfound-land is wholesome, good;
The Fire, as sweet as any made of wood;
The Waters, very rich, both salt and fresh;
The Earth more rich, you know it is no lesse.
Where all are good, Fire, Water, Earth, and Aire,
What man made of these foure would not live there? (Book II, no 79)
In Heyman’s poetry, the theme of nature comes up again and again. Through them, the image of public life becomes tangible. If we can understand the poem number 88 of the second B. We have seen him expanding the new land saying that there is no disease there. One such example is: ÔThose that liue here, how young, or old soeuer,/ Were neuer vext with Cough, nor Anguish Feauer,/ Nor euer was the Plague, nor small Pox here;…’
Religion was the subject of some of the poems in the book. A slight sarcasm can also be observed in some of them. The poet’s human height and generosity are evident in those poems written like epigrams. Two such lines are:
Though my best lines no dainty thing affords,
My worst have in them some thing else then words. (Book I, i)
We must remember that before the establishment of Halifax in 1749 and the establishment of British garrisons in Quebec in 1760, English-speaking immigrants were a handful in the whole of Canada. The poetry written by the people who settled in the new country was about the nature of Canada and the experiences of the settlement. ‘The Golden Flitch’ (1626) by William Vaughan (1577-1641), ‘Miscellaneous Poems, Composed at Newfoundland’ (1729) by B. Lacey, ‘Nova Scotia: A New Ballad’ (1750) by an unnamed poet, ‘Quebec: A Pastoral Essay’ (1760), George Cartwright’s ‘Labrador: A Poetical Epistle’ (1792), Cornwall Bell’s ‘Canada: A Descriptive Poem’ (1806), Thomas D. Caudwell’s ‘The Nova Scotia Minstrel’ (1809) etc. in the English language in the first two centuries. The title of a sample of some poetic essays written in Canada. However, the attentive reader will notice that a century after the efforts of Robert Heyman and William Vaughn is a complete blank.
Interested readers will also note that William Vaughan’s ‘The Golden Flitch’ was published two years before Quodlibates. And for that reason, many researchers want to give credit to William for the first creative work in the North American region. But in recent decades it has been proven that William never physically stayed in Newfoundland. His poetry was by reading or listening to other’s works. In 1630 he published another book of poems called ‘Newlander’s Cure’. The poems of ‘The Golden Flitch’, published under the pseudonym ‘Orpheus Junior’, were divided into three parts. The book ‘Neulander’s Cure’ was however published under the poet’s own name.
Poems written during this period are collected in The Poetry of the Canadian People: 1720-1920: Two Hundred Years of Hard Work (New Canada Publications, Toronto, 1976), edited by N. Brian Davies. The advantage of Brian’s book is that he has compiled the writings of various professionals into separate chapters. Titles like ‘Settlers’, ‘Lumbermen’, ‘Farmers’, ‘Fishermen/Sailors’, ‘Miners’, ‘Other Voyages’ etc. are presented in the poems to help the reader get an idea.
The first era of Canadian English poetry that began is dated to 1825. That is, about two hundred years. The literary works of that period written under the influence of neoclassical poetry fell into the new era with the composition of poetry under the influence of romantic poetry. In 1825, Oliver Goldsmith’s (1794-1861) publication of ‘The Rising Village’ ushered in a new century. Researchers say it was the first full-length book by an English-speaker born in Canada. This book was published in England and Canada – the Canada edition ten years after the England edition. It may be said in this context that an autobiography written by Oliver Smith was discovered only on that day – 1943. Historians identify the book named ‘Autobiography of Oliver Goldsmith: A Chapter in Canada’s Literary History’ as the first Canadian autobiography. In this context, it is necessary to inform more that this Oliver is not the famous English poet Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774). However, the English Oliver is a distant relative of the Canadian Oliver. British-Irish Say Oliver’s book ‘The Deserted Village’ (1770) inspired the Canadian poet to write ‘The Rising Village’.
In the dedication of ‘The Rising Village’ the poet writes:
In the RISING VILLAGE I have endeavoured to describe the sufferings which the early settlers experienced, the difficulties which they surmounted, the rise and progress of a young country, and the prospects which promise happiness to its future possessors. (p. x)
This poem of 582 lines is actually a reply to English poet Oliver’s book ‘The Deserted Village’.
In this poem, there is history of that region, there is reconstruction of history. The poet has done it through fictional story-weaving.
Then the long poem ‘The Emigrant’ was published in 1841. It was written by an Irish-born poet named Standis O’Grady (1793-1841). The poverty-stricken poet immigrated to Canada in 1836. Standis, a resident of Montreal, speaks of the hardships of the new life and the longing for the old life in his poetry. Another long poem with the same title was published in 1861. It was written by Alexander McLachlan (1818-1896). The Scottish-born poet came to Canada in 1840. Besides ‘Emigrant’, he published ‘The Spirit of Love’ in 1846 and ‘Poems and Songs’ in 1871. In Canada, the country of immigrants, the experience of newcomers from different parts of the world has thus enriched literature and poetry, like other disciplines. But naturally there was talk of the newcomer’s new challenge, as well as talk of the country left behind. From the first half of the 19th century, the subject of Canadian unity has also been added. Along came the imperative of Canadian nationalism.
Among the most important poets of the period from 1825 to the formation of Canadian Confederation in 1867 were John Howard Wills (1803–1847), William F. Howley (1806–1855), and John Hawkins Hagarty (1816–1900). Their poems were frequently published in the literary periodicals of Upper Canada and Lower Canada of that time. The Montreal Gazette, the Montreal Herald, and The Church, published in Cobourg and Toronto, were the main outlets for their poetry.
John’s book of poems was entitled ‘Scraps and Scaces or the Album of a Literary Lounger’ (1831).
William’s books of poetry are ‘Quebec, the Harp, and Other Poems’ (1829) and ‘The Unknown, or Lies of the Forest’ (1831) and John Hawkins Hagarty (1816-1900), although no books of poetry have been found. the book It may be mentioned that all those books were published from the city of Montreal, Quebec. The book ‘Scraps and Scaces or the Album of a Literary Lounger’ contained a total of forty four poems or prose. In terms of expression, the book feels like a memoir. Too full of personal life talk. In the preface to the book “Quebec, the Harp, and Other Poems”, William said that the Quebec Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Sciences awarded the poet an honorary medal for the poem “The Harp” in the book.
In 1864 Edward Hartley Dewart (1828-1903) initiated the publication of the first collection of Canadian poetry. The main reason behind this initiative was – lest poetry should be lost. The major flaw in his collection, entitled ‘Selections from Canadian Poets’, was that Edwards did not include any poems written before 1825. For the convenience of the reader, Margaret Atwood’s (b. 1939) selection ‘The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English’ (Oxford University Press, Toronto, 1982) is a good helpful book to understand the evolution of Canadian poetry written at that time.
Already in 1837, the first revolutionary revolution in history was organized in Upper Canada and Lower Canada. The impression of revolution has started to be read in poetry as well. A number of poems were written before and after the civil rights movement that urged Canadians to unite. Some of them make direct political appeals. Brian’s anthology includes a poem titled ‘To the Electors of Upper Canada’ which was published just before the upcoming election. There is also an 1836 poem by an unknown poet from St. Thomas, Ontario entitled ‘Let’s All Unite’. The eight-line poem is like this –
Up then! For Liberty – for Rights,
Strike home! the tyrants fatter;
Be firm – be brave, let all unite,
And despot’s schemes must alter….
A poem was published in April 1837 in Montreal’s ‘The Vindicator’. The author was Bhasa. The name of that poem was ‘Song of the Patriot’. In 1838 Mackenzie’s Gazette published ‘Arise-Canadians’ which called for the people of Canada to wake up. In which there is also a strong desire to unite against the oppressors. The final form of that confusion took shape in 1867 – the creation of a country called Canada. Gradually the range of the map of that country continued to increase. On July 1 of that year, this new country consisting of four provinces began to assert its existence in the world with new conviction. A great proof of its existence is the vast literature of this country – especially the vast poetry of the country.