The Parking Fee


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The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants (1670) shows the Good Samaritan tending the injured man. The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last winter, I was referred to a specialist, a gynecologist, whose office is located at  Sherbrooke’s CHUS (Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke). The day I went for my appointment was a very cold winter day.


Le CHUS, Fleurimont, Sherbrooke

I located the building. It is in Fleurimont, somewhat outside Sherbrooke. It took me a long time to find a parking area that was not reserved for the staff and lanes that were not reserved for buses. Well, I thought, I’m not a royal, so there is no protocol. I made believe my little car was a bus. There was no other way out.

I drove around and found a parking lot the public could use. There was only one space left. I parked the car and walked towards the building.

The CHUS is a large building with a huge lobby, but the lobby was crowded. Several rows of patients were queuing to get to the machines where one pays one’s parking fee. These were new machines and queuing were seniors some of whom had never used a cell phone. They couldn’t pay the parking fee without help.

Suddenly, I remembered my mother. Had she been queuing and attempting to pay the fee by herself, she would have collapsed. I started to cry. What were they doing to my mother? These people had to see a doctor, or a resident, and some had to undergo an invasive test or painful treatment. But however miserable their condition, they had to pay the parking fee.

We’re cattle, I thought, just cattle!

I was lucky. A young man noticed me. When my turn came to pay, he helped me. But I struggled to find my credit card while attempting not to lose my keys. A silver bracelet I had worn every day since 1969 slipped off my arm without my noticing. It’s gone. I thanked the young man who had helped me. He had been a good Samaritan. He rushed away and could not help the gentleman standing behind me.

Let us skip a few episodes…

We are now outdoors and I am looking for my car. Because I had driven in circles, I was disoriented. The car was parked near the entrance, but I could not find it. Fearing I would lose my frozen fingers, I returned to the building and told a gentleman, a policeman I believe, that I could not locate my car.

I gave him my licence plate number and car keys and he returned within minutes, driving my car. I hugged him. He smiled and helped me get into the car. Another good Samaritan. Would that I had remembered to ask him in which direction I would have to turn to go back to Sherbrooke.

There were no signs pointing to Sherbrooke, so I turned in the wrong direction and started driving away from Sherbrooke, in a blinding snow storm. Don’t ask me how I managed to turn around, but I turned around.

By the time I reached home, I was frazzled. It occurred to me that I had spent too many years on planet Earth. I then looked at my cat. Belaud is a beautiful and loving animal and I have promised to look after him forever.


In short, I am telling you that Quebec’s healthcare system is deteriorating.

Quebecers pay higher taxes than other Canadians and I am told that the province is prosperous. Well, it may be prosperous, but at a cost I didn’t like. I had seen several rows of intimidated human beings lined up to pay a parking fee using a silly machine. I am told that the city collects the money and then gives it to a Foundation.

There is nothing wrong with raising money, but, for the most part, the people I saw in long queues were elderly citizens and patients. Some may never have used a cell phone and some are probably living on a tiny pension: $19 000 a year, maybe less.


A few weeks ago, when my memory was tested, I had to deal with the parking fee machine. I could not go through that routine again. So I walked past the machine without making an attempt to pay. When I returned to the car, there was a piece of paper behind a windshield wiper. I had to pay a small fine, which, I supposed, had transformed me into a bit of a criminal.

I dialled the telephone number I saw on the piece of paper and asked to which address I should forward my cheque.

They thought I wanted to protest. I didn’t, because it would have been unpleasant, but I needed an address. They were delighted, which surprised me. The parking fee, they said, is a lower amount of money than the fine. I had therefore contributed more money to the Foundation than people who used the machine and paid the parking fee.

They thanked me.

Love to everyone


The Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
12 July 2018


Dmitri Hvorostovsky sings Verdi


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Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing aria from The Queen of Spades during reopening gala of the Bolshoi Theatre, 28 October 2011 (Caption and photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is so difficult to accept the death of Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. He was a powerful male singer with a “silver mane” (this description is not mine). Hvorostosky had brown hair, but it turned white in his early thirties. He passed away on 22 November 2017, at the age of 55.

Hvorostovsky was born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, on 16 October 1962, to what I would describe as an upper middle-class family. He came to the attention of music lovers everywhere when he won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, in 1989.

In the summer of 2015, Hvorostovsky announced that he had a brain tumour. After a short leave, he resumed his career, at a slower pace and briefly. An inoperable malignant brain tumour is merciless.

In the above photograph, he is singing an aria from Tchaikovsky‘s Queen of Spades, based on a short story, Pikovaha Dama (La Dame de pique) written during the fall of 1833 by Alexander Pushkin (26 May 1779 – 29 January 1837). Pushkin is also the author of the drama Boris Godunov (1833) and a novel in verse entitled Eugene Onegin. Eugene Onegin was serialized between 1848-1852 and it is the basis for Tchaikovsky‘s 1879 opera Eugene Onegin. The opera’s librettist was the composer’s brother Modest Tchaikovsky.

Verdi’s La Traviata

Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky was in good health when he sang Di Provenza, il mar, il suol, an aria from Giuseppi Verdi‘s La Traviata (1852), an opera derived from a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils (27 July 1824 – 27 November 1895) La Dame aux camélias (The Lady with/of the Camellias) (1848), or Camille, to an English-speaking audience. Dmitri Hvrostovsky is Giorgio Germont, trying to persuade his son, Alfredo, who loves Violetta, to return to Provence, the family home (Scene 2 of La Traviata).

The protagonist of Giuseppi Verdi‘s La Traviata (the fallen woman) is Violetta Valéry. Alexandre Dumas named his protagonist Marguerite Gautier. She had been Marie Duplessis (1824 – 1847) who wore a red camellia when she was menstruating, a message to her lovers. She was born Alphonsine Rose Plessis, in Normandy, to an abusive father who sold her when she was 15.

Marie_Duplessis_(1) (1)

Marie Duplessis by Édouard Viénot

Marie Duplessis

At the age of 16, the beautiful Marie Duplessis conquered Paris. She bore a child to Charles Morny, duc de Morny, but the baby died a month after birth. The duc de Morny, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand‘s illegitimate grandson and a half-brother to Napoleon III, looked after Marie Duplessis, providing her with an apartment and transforming her into a refined courtesan and salonnière, the most famous in her days. She was Alexandre Dumas, fils’ lover and a lover to various aristocrats as well as composer Franz Liszt. Alexandre Dumas, fils, born in 1824, could not afford to marry her.

The lovely Marie Duplessis died of tuberculosis on 3 February 1847, at the age of 23. At her bedside were her husband, a brief marriage, the comte de Perregaux, and her former lover, the Baltic-German count Gustav Ernst von Stackelberg.


Sources and Ressources (video on Marie Duplessis)

Love to everyone 

Hvorostosky sings Verdi’s Di Provenza, il mar, il suol


Dmitri Hvorostosky (Photo credit: TASS)

© Micheline Walker
10 July 2018





The Idea of Absolute Music


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— Renaissance Hurdy-Gurdy

Renaissance Hurdy-Gurdy

This article was posted in 2011, but the distinction between absolute and programmatic music is worth revisiting. The 2011 post contained the word “ineffable” and reads as follows:

I am in the process of writing a review of Carl Dalhaus’s (1928-1989) Idea of Absolute Music,[1] a difficult task that requires more reflection on my part.

However, the idea came to me that I should first blog about the subject.

My first step will be to quote E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Review of Beethoven‘s Fifth Symphony.[2] Hoffmann was so moved by the beauty of the Fifth Symphony that he called it “an intimation of infinity.” One is therefore tempted to associate this statement, first, with the idea of absolute music and, second, with the Romantic metaphysics of the Sublime.


As “an intimation of infinity,” Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony can indeed be linked with the Romantic metaphysics of the Sublime. Moreover, the Fifth Symphony is also “absolute music.”  However, although Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is, in my opinion, “an intimation of infinity,” and sublime, because of its choral movement, it is not “absolute music,” a term coined by Richard Wagner (Dalhaus, p. 18).

Absolute music is self-referential instrumental music. Therefore, it excludes Beethoven’s setting of Friedrich Schiller’s (1759-1805) “Ode to Joy” (“An die Freude”)  Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is deemed referential and, consequently, programmatic music, as are the Third Symphony, the “Eroika,” and the Sixth Symphony, “The Pastoral.” Also excluded are Mendelssohn’s iconic Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words). The forty-nine short pieces for the piano have titles and pieces of music that have a title are not absolute music. They belong to another category of music called “programme music” or programmatic music, a forerunner to music for films.

The most colourful event in the debate on absolute music is the premiere of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, in 1830. The composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was distributing the Symphonie‘s programme to members of the audience. The story told by the Fantastique is literally and figuratively “fantastic,” but the programme does not make the music more or less beautiful. Later, in the nineteenth century, Richard Wagner (1813-1883) wrote a programme for Beethoven’s already programmatic Ninth Symphony.

So where do I go from now?

I believe that I should first dissociate absolute music from music that is considered sublime or simply beautiful. The term absolute music is a Procrustean bed. Moreover, I should point out, once again, that absolute music is not necessarily more beautiful or less beautiful than programme music. Second, it seems to me that I should address the question of meaning. If Liszt thought that Hector Berlioz’s instrumental Symphonie fantastique could not be understood without its “programme,” he was obviously expressing doubts as to the intelligibility of the language of tones, unexplained and “unrestrained” by a narrative.

The Greeks: ethos

I am using the word “unrestrained” because from the time the Greeks, Pythagoras (c. 570 – c. 495 BC) mainly, invented polyphonic music, music was deemed too powerful an art not to be contained. According to Plato’s (424/423 BCE – 348/347 BCE) theory of ethos, such power should be restrained.

Text-setting, Affektenlehrer, Empfindsamkeit

It was. In European music, words came to the rescue of tones. Musicians had to set a text to music. Excellent text-setting is exemplified by Josquin des Prez (c. 1450-1521). Madrigals (songs in the mother tongue: madre) also required careful text-setting. So did the motet. Besides, it was decided at the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that, in polyphonic (music combining many voices) religious music, words would have to be heard clearly. Palestrina’s music is the culmination of transparent polyphonic music.

There were other attempts to contain music. One was the doctrine of the affections (Affektenlehrer) put forward in such works as Johann Mattheson’s (1681–1764) Der vollkommene Capellmeister (The Perfect Chapelmaster), 1739. Theorists suggested ways of arousing certain feelings, ethically-acceptable feelings.

I should also mention the empfindsamer Stil[3] (sentimental style) or Empfindsamkeit an “important movement occurring in northern German instrumental music during the mid-18th century and characterized by an emphasis upon the expression of a variety of deeply felt emotions within a musical work.”

DALHAUS: absolute music

I could therefore walk my reader through various opinions on the subject of absolute music, but without profound analysis. A review is a review. However, for the purposes of this post, I think it may be useful to return to the Greeks and note, as did Plato, that music is an extremely powerful art, except that it does not need to be restrained. It could be that the idea of “absolute music” was yet another attempt, probably a mostly unconscious attempt, to contain purely instrumental music. Could one accept unbridled “intimation[s] of infinity?”

Dalhaus does not discuss programmatic music. His book is about the “idea of absolute music.”

In the nineteenth century, music had been emancipated from words, but I believe that doubt still lingered concerning the acceptability of music without words, hence the lengthy debate about the idea of absolute music, the debate Dalhaus chronicles so accurately and in a most eloquent manner. The finest minds of Germany, including Nietzsche, had something to offer to this debate. But the most influential work was Eduard Hanslick’s Vom Musikalisch-Schönen (On the Beautiful in Music), published in 1854. Hanslick addressed the je-ne-sais-quoi that can make music so beautiful and, by extension, so powerful.

MEANING IN MUSIC: a language above language

Yet, I believe music can be “an intimation of infinity,” although less loftily said.  At any rate, the debate over absolute music has very real merits. For instance, such a debate emphasizes the undeniable and frequently-expressed fact that music is a “language above language,” a language that tells the otherwise ineffable and might therefore be more meaningful than other languages, national languages.

But rare are those who can compose transcendental music and rare are those who can perceive it as such. In his Review of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (p. 238), E. T. A. Hoffmann writes that “[r]omantic sensibility is rare, and romantic talent even rarer, which is probably why so few are able to strike the lyre that unlocks the wonderful realm of the infinite.”

The debate also emphasizes that music is not a laissez-faire. Music has its grammar: harmony, counterpoint, themes, Berlioz’s idée fixe, phrases, periods, etc. And music also has its forms: the sonata, the concerto, the symphony, the quartet, cantatas, oratorios, operas, hymns, not to mention the humble song, sometimes so haunting and evocative, etc.

As for the distinction between self-referential music, called “absolute music,” and “programme music,” it may be best to look upon it as yet another step in the history of music. The emancipation of music from words was like a mini-revolution; a debate was unavoidable.

Words do not make music more or less beautiful than instrumental music. And if words do at times make it more meaningful, music can be meaningful in its own way and, at times, more meaningful than national languages, with or without words. Music speaks its very own language. Truth be told, the human voice is also an instrument, and one of the finest. What about the Ninth Symphony’s Choral movement, Bach‘s Mass in B minor, his many cantatas, all of Mozart, Henry Purcell ‘s Dido and Æneas? Each time I hear Dido’s Lament: the “Remember me,” I have to stop and listen.

The “ineffable”

There is more to say, names to name and persons to quote, such as Hanslick, Wackenroder, Tieck, Feuerbach, Wittgenstein, Kant, Schopenhauer, Hegel, but it could be stated that Carl Dalhaus’s Idea of Absolute Music is about that undefinable dimension of music, that undefinable dimension so often called ineffable, an ineffable that stems and touches an infinity-within (the term is mine).

In short, meaning in music does not call for a programme, except for operas. When words are used, words the audience does not understand, the language of tones might require the support of a translation or that of a programme. Yet, the language of tones has/is its own meaning.

The word ineffable has long been attached to exquisite music, and it would be my opinion that the conversation will continue and may, in fact, never end.


[1] Carl Dalhaus, Roger Lustig, translator, The Idea of Absolute Music (London: the University of Chicago Press, 1989).

[2] David Charlton, ed. and Martin Clarke, translator, E. T. A. Hoffman’s Musical Writings (Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 238.

[3] “empfindsamer Stil.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 13 Oct. 2011.

Henry Purcell (c. 10 September 1659 – 21 November 1695)
Dido’s Lament (Dido and Æneas) 
Simone Kermes soprano
The New Siberian Singers
Greek vase with muse playing the phorminx, a type of lyre

Greek vase with muse playing the phorminx, a type of lyre

© Micheline Walker
14 October 2011



Noah’s Ark: the Unicorn Song


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Noah’s Ark (1846), a painting by the American folk painter Edward Hicks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I knew there was a song about the Unicorn missing the boat, Noah’s Ark. I had not retrieved the song, but our WordPress colleague Gallivanta sent me the link. The Unicorn is an important legendary and zoomorphic, creature. Zoomorphic animals combine the features of many animals, including humans. (See Legendary animals, Wikipedia.)

The Bible, the Book of Genesis in particular, is an etiological text, or the pourquoi story of children’s literature, the preeminent example being Rudyard Kipling‘s (30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936) Just So Stories, in which he describes the origins of a certain animal’s characteristic. How the Camel got its Hump is an example of Rudyard Kipling‘s Just So Stories, published in 1902. Kipling’s book is not restricted to the origin of animal features.

The Dove and the Unicorn resemble one another. For instance, both the dove and the Unicorn are white, and, in Christianity, the Unicorn can only be tamed by a maiden, representing the Virgin Mary, and it stands for the Incarnation.[1] As for the white dove, it represents the Holy Spirit and is also a messenger. In this respect, we must examine doves more closely. Messengers are frequent in the Abrahamic religions, Islam especially. However, the Unicorn is transcultural and the product of man’s imagination.

The medieval bestiary is abundant and it includes several legendary animals many of which are allegorical. The Middle Ages, which ended after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans (1453),[2] was the Golden Age of Bestiaries. Bestiaries are home to several allegorical animals that may be real animals, or fantastical. The Unicorn is featured in the Bible. (See Daniel 8:5, NIV.)


Jesus Christ in his Passion as the Lord of Patience or Lord of Contemplation as offered with the crown of thorns, the scepter reed and mocked by Roman soldiers. Oil on canvas by Matthias Stom.

As we have seen, the Unicorn is featured in the six tapestries known as Dame à la licorne and housed in the Cluny museum, in Paris.

I thank Gallivanta for forwarding the link to the Unicorn song. It was composed by Shel Silverstein, in 1968, and made popular by the Irish Rovers.


Sources and Resources

Love to everyone


[1] Boria Sax, The Mythical Zoo: An Encyclopedia of Animals in World Myth, Legend, and Literature (Santa Barbara, US; Denver, US; Oxford, UK: ABC-CLIO, 2001).
[2] See The Fall of Constantinople, Wikipedia

The Unicorn Song by Shel Silverstein, 1968

Of the Unicorn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
5 July 2018



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Dædalus and Icarus by Anthony van Dyck, c. 1620 (Art Gallery of Ontario)

As a subject matter, doves are very complex, biologically and otherwise. First, they are subspecies in the large family of columbidae and “subspecies” of the domestic pigeon (Columba livia domestica), known by scientists as the rock dove. (See Columbidae, Wikipedia.)

The pigeon, endowed with an innate homing ability and “selectively bred for its ability to find its way home over extremely long distances,” is derived from the rock pigeon. (See Homing pigeon, Wikipedia.)

In Britannica,[1] we read that

Although ‘dove’ usually refers to the smaller, long-tailed members of the pigeon family, there are exceptions: the domestic pigeon, a rather typical pigeon, is frequently called the rock dove and is the bird called the ‘dove of peace.’

Picasso being the creator of Guernica (1937), an anti-war painting, he was asked to produce an image that would represent peace. He designed a dove, and his design was chosen as a symbol of peace during the First International Peace Conference, held in Paris (1949).

The rock pigeon or rock dove is not necessarily white. White doves are bred to be white. But Picasso, the creator of the “dove of peace” coloured his dove the colour white, white itself constituting a symbol: purity and innocence mainly.

But Picasso went further. He rolled away millenia by putting an olive branch in the beak of his dove, le pigeon (masculine). The olive branch symbolises peace, or the cessation of hostilities. Those who surrender carry a white flag. The white flag might help explain the otherwise contradictory juxtaposition of military and pacifist groups. Wars, a constant plight, have often been fought against cruel invaders and demented dictators.


The Dove of Peace by Picasso, 1949 (Photo credit:

The Military

Let us begin with the military.

The rock dove is, due to its relation to the homing pigeon and thus communications, the main image in the crest of the Tactical Communications Wing, a body within the Royal Air Force. Below the crest is the wing’s motto, ‘Ubique Loquimur,’ or ‘We Speak Everywhere’ (see Doves as Symbols, Wikipedia).

During World War I, a “homing pigeon, Cher Ami [Dear Friend], was awarded the French Croix de guerre for her heroic service in delivering 12 important messages, despite having been very badly injured.”

Cher Ami (masculine), may have been a female fighting with the boys, but she was a Joan of Arc among homing pigeons, or rock doves, and fully deserved her Croix de guerre.

[I]n World War II, hundreds of homing pigeons with the Confidential Pigeon Service were airdropped into northwest Europe to serve as intelligence vectors for local resistance agents. Birds played a vital part in the Invasion of Normandy as radios could not be used for fear of vital information being intercepted by the enemy.

Hence the motto engraved on the crest of the Tactical Communications Wing, of the Royal Air Force: Ubique Loquimur“We speak everywhere.”


Crewman with homing pigeons carried in bombers as a means of communications in the event of a crash, ditching, or radio failure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speech is associated with homing pigeons or the rock dove because they are messengers. They have been messengers since the story of the flood and Noah’s Ark, perhaps earlier. God nearly destroyed the world He created, but humanity survived and there followed a series of covenants, or talks: Ubique Loquimur. For the purpose of this post, we need only tell that a dove was the first creature who brought a sign. It brought Noah a sign, as in semiotics, indicating that life on earth had been preserved. For the purposes of this post, we need only tell that a dove was the first creature who brought Noah a sign indicating that life on earth had been preserved.

The Dove of Peace & the Olive Branch

As noted above, Picasso‘s first depiction of his Dove of Peace showed a white dove carrying an olive branch, the olive branch being another symbol of peace. In Picasso’s subsequent portrayals of the Dove of Peace, his dove is whiter but it still carries an olive branch. Picasso thereby rooted his symbol of peace in one of the world’s most powerful etiological texts, the Book of Genesis, which contains the story of Noah’s Ark.

Etiological texts explain origins and causes. I have noted elsewhere that children’s literature is a rich source of pourquoi stories such as Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Yet, the Bible, the Book of Genesis in particular, is a pourquoi (why) story.

Man has always sought an explanation to the human condition, his mortality, giving himself a past, a process called anamnesis, which, at times, may be his only sustenance.


The Return of the Dove to the Ark by John Everett Millais, 1851 (WikiArt)

Genesis: Noah’s Ark

  • Genesis: Noah’s Ark
  • the Raven and the Dove
  • the Olive branch

“The Noah’s Ark narrative is repeated, with variations, in the Quran, where the ark appears as Safina Nūḥ (Arabic: سفينة نوح‎ ‘Noah’s boat’).” (See Noah’s Ark, Wikipedia.) As for the flood, it appears in several etiological texts or myths.

In Judaism (Genesis 8:11), the first Abrahamic religion, there was once a competition that opposed a raven and a dove. During the flood, Noah’s Ark sheltered every animal, a male and a female of each species. When the water receded, Noah dispatched a raven to ascertain whether the flood was over and the land dry. The raven, a scavenger, did not return, which may have cost several crows, such as the crow in the Crow and Fox, their reputation. Noah then entrusted a dove to seek dry land.

[A]nd the dove came back to him in the evening, and there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf; so, Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.
(Genesis 8:11)

In the Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2100 BCE or earlier), “Utnapishtim releases a dove and a raven to find land; the dove merely circles and returns. Only then does Utnapishtim send forth the raven, which does not return, and Utnapishtim concludes the raven has found land.” (See Doves as Symbols, Wikipedia.)

Doves, or the homing pigeon, have therefore been messengers since Noah’s Ark, if not earlier. God nearly destroyed what He had created, but humanity survived and entered into a series of covenants. For our purpose, however, we need only tell that a dove, who may have been white, was the first animal to bring Noah a sign indicating that life had been preserved. This dove was a messenger.

There are conflicting versions of this account, i.e. Noah’s Ark. One features two doves, but I have chosen the one-dove account. In Judaism, the first Abrahamic religion, and Christianity, the second Abrahamic religion, a dove, carrying an olive branch, brought Noah, a fine message: life had been preserved. The Ark is a sign of survival. The sacred text of the third Abrahamic religion, Islam, is the Quran, and it contains a Noah’s Ark narrative. A flood is a central event in many mythologies.

The Dove of Peace & the Olive Branch

As noted above, Picasso‘s Dove of Peace is white and carries an olive leaf or branch in its beak.

Picasso’s first depiction of his Dove of Peace showed a dove carrying an olive branch. In Picasso’s subsequent portrayals of the Dove of Peace, his dove is whiter and surrounded by olive leaves that one could mistake for flowers. Picasso thereby rooted his symbol in one of the world’s most powerful etiological texts, the Book of Genesis.

Etiological texts explain origins and causes. I have noted elsewhere that children’s literature is a rich source of pourquoi stories such as Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Yet, the Bible, the Book of Genesis in particular, is a pourquoi (why) story. Man has always sought an explanation to the human condition, his mortality.


The Holy Spirit as a dove in the “Heavenly Trinity” joined to the  “Earthly Trinity” through the Incarnation of the Son, by Murillo, c. 1677 (The Yorck Project [2002])

Doves in Christianity and the Release Dove

In Christianity, a white dove represents the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, where he is one of the person of God. Christianity is a monotheistic religion, as are all three Abrahamic religions, but the Christian God consists of three consubstantial (hypostasis) persons,  “each person itself being God.” (See The Holy Spirit in Christianity, Wikipedia.) The Christian dove is white, as are angels, mythical winged creatures, and the Unicorn, who can only be tamed by a virgin.

Doves are also used in ceremonials. These doves are called release doves. During Pope John Paul II‘s 1984 visit to Montreal, white doves were released and a sixteen-year old Céline Dion sang Une Colombe. Release doves have an innate homing instinct.

Junge_Frau_mit_Taubenpost (1)

Young lady in oriental clothing with a homing pigeon (19th century painting) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Doves, as the Symbol of Love and “Language”

Aphrodite, Venus in Roman mythology, is “the ancient Greek goddess of love, beautypleasure, and procreation.” Love’s symbology consists of myrtles, roses, doves, sparrows, and swans. (See also Aphrodite, Britannica.)

As messengers, doves have spoken since time immemorial. Homing pigeons, or rock doves, carry a message, but doves roucoulent or coo. It is a rather muted sound. They may therefore be telling the ineffable, speaking a private language, as understood by Ludwig Wittgenstein. A private language “must be in principle incapable of translation into an ordinary language.” (See Private Language Argument, Wikipedia.)

They may also be speaking Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin‘s (27 January  1826 – 10 May 1889) aesopian, a term first used to describe a language unclear to outsiders, thereby allowing authors to say what they please with relative impunity. In La Fontaine‘s fables, many of which are retellings of Æsop‘s fables, animals are as eloquent as they are silent. Louis XIV punished La Fontaine, who asked that Nicolas Fouquet be spared too harsh a punishment. La Fontaine was not elected to the Académie française until 1682, when he was more than 60 years old.


Lovers are indeed at a loss for words. In love as in war, humans need a camouflaged language. Music may, in fact, be a lover’s main recourse, be it opera or the humble song. We had trouvères (langue d’oc) in southern France and troubadours (langue d’oïlin northern France. In medieval German-speaking lands, the Minnesang was a love song performed by Minnesänger. Guillaume Apollinaire’s Marie: the Words to a Love Song (29 June 2015) is an example of the power of music and poetry. Other examples, in the French language, are Les Feuilles Mortes, performed by Yves Montand and Jacques Brel‘s poignant Ne me quitte pas. 


White Doves by Henry Ryland, 1891 (Courtesy Leighton Fine Art Galery)


I have also discussed mankind’s wish for wings or his need to have wings. Icarus flew too close to the sun, the god Helios. His wings being attached to his body with wax, the wax melted and he fell into the sea. Yet humankind has since built sophisticated aircrafts, and messages may be forwarded in a matter of seconds.

Ubique Loquimur

Love to everyone 


Sources and Resources



Ludwig van Beethoven‘s Symphony No 6, 2nd movement



A homing pigeon on a path outside (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
1st July 2018

Céline Dion chante Une Colombe, 1984



La Fontaine’s Fables: Page as Post


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The Fables of La Fontaine

The fables listed below are not necessarily an analysis of a fable by Jean de La Fontaine (1621 – 1695). A few have been used to reflect current events.

I usually list or quote the Æsopic equivalent of a fable by La Fontaine. If so, I use the Perry Index classification, a number, of the corresponding Æsopic fable. There are many versions of Æsopic fables as they have been rewritten by several authors. Marie de France (12th century [Anglo-Norman]), Walter of England (12th century [Anglo-Norman]) and Jean de La Fontaine (17th century [French]) wrote Æsopic fables, but Jean de La Fontaine made Æsop’s fables La Fontaine’s fables.

If one is looking for versions of a fable, one’s best guide is Laura Gibbs’ Bestiaria Latina ( I have written posts on several fables and examined elements such as how mythological animals differ from mythical animals and have named the genres in which animals are featured.  See Anthropomorphism and Zoomorphism.)


The Bear and the Gardener, “L’Ours et l’amateur des jardins”

The Cat’s Only Trick, “Le Chat et le Renard” (IX.14) (The Cat and the Fox) (10 May 2013)
The Cat Metamorphosed into a Maid, by Jean de La Fontaine, “La Chatte métamorphosée en femme” (II.18) (20 July 2013)
“Le Chêne et le Roseau” (The Oak and the Reed):  the Moral (I.22) (28 September 2013)
The Cock and the Pearl, La Fontaine cont’d (I.20), “Le Coq et la Perle” (I.20) (10 October 2013)


La Fontaine’s “The Fox and the Grapes,” “Le Renard et les Raisins” (III.11) (23 September 2013)
The Fox & Crane, or Stork, “Le Renard et la Cigogne” (I.18) (30 May 2013)
The Fox & Crane, or Stork (I.18) (30 September 2014)
The Frogs Who Desired a King, a Fable for our Times, “Les Grenouilles qui demandent un roi,”(III, 4) (12 November 2016)
The Frogs Who Desired a King (III.4) (18 August 2011)


The Hen with the Golden Eggs, “La Poule aux œufs d’or” (V.8) (1 June 2013)
…the humble pay the cost” (II.4), “Les Deux Taureaux et une Grenouille,” The Two Bulls and the Frog (II.4) (29 September 2015)

The Man and the Snake, “L’Homme et la Couleuvre” (X.1) (9 November 2011)
The Miller, his Son, and the Donkey, quite a Tale, “Le Meunier, son fils et l’âne” (III.1) (16 May 2013)
A Motif: Getting Stuck in a Hole, “La Belette entrée dans un grenier,” (III.17) (16 April 2013)
Another Motif: The Tail-Fisher, “Le Renard ayant la queue coupée” (V.5) (20 April 2013)
The Mouse Metamorphosed into a Maid, by Jean de La Fontaine, “La Souris métamorphosée en fille” (II.18) (30 July 2013)

The North Wind and the Sun, “Phébus et Borée” (VI.3) (16 April 2013)

The Oak Tree and the Reed ,“Le Chêne et le Roseau,” (I.22) (28 September 2013)
“Le Chêne et le Roseau” (The Oak and the Reed): the Moral (I.22) (28 September 2013)

The North Wind and the Sun, “Phébus et Borée” (VI.3) (16 April 2013)

Fables and Parables: the Ineffable (The Two Doves, “Les Deux Pigeons”) (12 June 2018)
The Two Doves, “Les Deux Pigeons” (IX.2) (24 May 2018)
…the humble pay the cost” (II.4), “Les Deux Taureaux et une Grenouille,” The Two Bulls and the Frog (II.4) (29 September 2015)
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, “Le Rat de ville et le Rat des champs”  (I.9) (18 August 2013)
The Two Rats, the Fox and Egg: The Soul of Animals, “Les Deux Rats, le Renard, et l’Œuf” (IX. last fable) (15 May 2013)

You can’t please everyone: Æsop retold, “Le Meunier, son fils, et l’âne” (X.1) (21 March 2012)

Fables and Parables: the Ineffable (The Two Doves, “Les Deux Pigeons”) (12 June 2018)
Fables: varia (12 March 2017)
Anthropomorphism and Zoomorphism (6 March 2017)
To Inform or Delight (29 March 2013)

Texts and Classification
La Fontaine’s Fables Compiled & Walter Crane (25 September 2013)
Musée Jean de La Fontaine, Site officiel (complete fables FR/EN)
Perry Index (classification of Æsop’s Fables)
La Fontaine & Æsop: Internet Resources
Aarne-Thompson-Uther (classification of folk tales)

I’m working on doves and roses as symbols.

Love to everyone 

Gustave Doré

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© Micheline Walker
15 June 2018

Fables and Parables: the Ineffable


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The Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni, (1773) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fables & Parables

When Jean de La Fontaine (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695) published his first collection of fables, he drew his subject matter from Greek fabulist Æsop (c. 620 – 564 BCE). Interestingly, Æsop lived before Jesus of Nazareth (c. 4 BCE – c. CE/AD 30 / 33) and the prophet Mohammad (c. 570 CE – 8 June 632 CE). Yet, in the Préface to La Fontaine’s first collection of poems, 6 books, published in 1668, La Fontaine compared his fables to the parables of Jesus of Nazareth: “Truth has spoken to men in parables; and is the parable anything else than a fable? ”

And what I say is not altogether without foundation, since, if I may venture to speak of that which is most sacred in our eyes in the same breath with the errors of the ancients, we find that Truth has spoken to men in parables; and is the parable anything else than a fable? that is to say, a feigned example of some truth, which has by so much the more force and effect as it is the more common and familiar?

Ce que je dis n’est pas tout à fait sans fondement puisque, s’il m’est permis de mêler ce que nous avons de plus sacré parmi les erreurs du paganisme, nous voyons que la Vérité a parlé aux hommes par paraboles; et la parabole est-elle autre chose que l’apologue, c’est-à-dire un exemple fabuleux, et qui s’insinue avec d’autant plus de facilité et d’effet qu’il est plus commun et plus familier?

The Parable of the Prodigal Son does resemble a fable. Its narrative is “the more common and familiar.” However, despite a “more common and familiar,” exemplum, it tells the otherwise ineffable. How does one speak of love unconditional and forgiveness, which is at the core of Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings? In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, one of two brothers asks to be given his half of his father’s estate. This son then leaves home, squanders his money foolishly, and is reduced to starvation when a famine occurs. He therefore returns to his father’s home, saying that he has sinned.

When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’

(Luke 15:11-32 NIV [New International Version])

A lay, or secular, reading of the Parable of the Prodigal Son does point to foolish and, therefore, relatively “common” human behaviour on the part of the prodigal son. From the very beginning of La Fontaine’s fable about the two pigeons, the pigeon who has fallen prey to wanderlust is called fool enough, “assez fou.

Two doves once cherished for each other
The love that brother has for brother.
But one, of scenes domestic tiring,
To see the foreign world aspiring,
Was fool enough to undertake
A journey long, over land and lake.
The Two Doves

Deux Pigeons s’aimaient d’amour tendre.
L’un d’eux s’ennuyant au logis
Fut assez fou pour entreprendre
Un voyage en lointain pays.
Les Deux Pigeons

However, La Fontaine’s pigeon was merely tired of “scenes domestic,” which is not a sin. He suffers the consequences he was told he would suffer, except that the dreaded falcons are an eagle and that children are “pitiless” human beings who try to harm our traveller.

My heart forebodes the saddest lot
The falcons [faucons], nets Alas, it rains!
The Two Doves

Je ne songerai plus que rencontre funeste,
Que Faucons, que réseaux [nets]. Hélas, dirai-je, il pleut : …
Les Deux Pigeons

To a large extent, the moral of The Two Pigeons is embedded in the story or exemplum. Yet, early in his fableLa Fontaine inserts a proverb, a genre that does not require a narrative or exemplum. Proverbs are related to fables and parables, but they are short, as are maximsLa Rochefoucauld wrote maxims.

L’absence est le plus grand des maux :
Non pas pour vous, cruel. …
Les Deux Pigeons

This absence is the worst of ills;
Your heart may bear, but me it kills.
The Two Doves

Absence was a topic discussed in the French Salons of the first half of the 17th century, by Précieuses and Précieux. Précieuses discussed “questions of love,” chaste love mostly. Although La Fontaine’s poem is not a disquisition on absence, he inserts a proverb in the early verses of Les Deux Pigeons: L’absence est le plus cruel des maux [pl. of mal].” This proverb, the word “absence” in particular, introduces romantic love, which constitutes a discourse between human beings, mainly, and doves. Jean de La Fontaine’s fable is not altogether about two pigeons. Anthromorphism characterizes only one part of the fable, its beginning. (See Romance, Wikipedia.)

La Fontaine’s motto (devise) was:

Diversité c’est ma devise.
Pâté d’anguille, Contes de La Fontaine

and his fable features modulations and transpositions, as in music. He writes “variations” on the theme of love. The segment I quoted in my last post expresses romantic love.

Ah, happy lovers, would you roam?
Pray, let it not be far from home.
To each the other ought to be
A world of beauty ever new;
In each the other ought to see
The whole of what is good and true.
The Two Doves

Amants, heureux amants, voulez-vous voyager ?
Que ce soit aux rives prochaines ;
Soyez-vous l’un à l’autre un monde toujours beau,
Toujours divers, toujours nouveau ;
Tenez-vous lieu de tout, comptez pour rien le reste [.] 
Les Deux Pigeons

Moreover, although both our pigeons and the prodigal son have been fools, the prodigal son has sinned: “I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:11-32), which suggests a gradation among exempla (pl.). When both pigeons are reunited, they rejoice, pigeons are pigeons, but the prodigal son confesses: “I have sinned” (Luke 15:11-32).  

The Parable of the Prodigal Son features two sons, one of whom, the “good” brother, is rather miffed because his father celebrates his prodigal brother’s (the “bad” brother) return. The parable has three figures, one of whom, the father, is a wise and Christic figure, and tells the ineffable.

‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

(Luke 15:11-32 NIV [New International Version])

Given that one son is miffed, La Fontaine may have been inspired by the Biblical enemy brothers or Cain and Abel, sons born to Adam and Eve, one of whom, Cain, kills his brother, Abel. (See Cain and Abel, Sophocles’ Antigone, Jean Racine’s La Thébaïde, and Jean Anouilh’s Antigone, Wikipedia.) Were it not for a wise father, the prodigal son’s brother, or “good” son, may have harboured resentment. But La Fontaine’s fable’s dramatis personae consists of two, not three, figures: Les Deux Pigeons.


Cain slaying Abel by Peter Paul Rubens, 1608 (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The Exemplum: Sermons

Fables and parables also describes sermons. The word exemplum is usually associated with the sermons of the Middle Ages. Jacques de Vitry (Jacobus de Vitriaco c. 1160/70 – 1 May 1240), a French canon regular who rose to prominence, wrote hundreds of exempla (pl.). In the English language, John Donne (22 January 1572 – 31 March 1631) is the author of very fine sermons. But few preachers have empowered their words to the same extent as French bishop and theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet.

The unexpected and suspicious death, perhaps poisoning, at the age of 26, of ‘Madame,’ Henriette d’Angleterre, 26 June 1644 – 30 June 1670, the wife of Louis XIV’s brother, called ‘Monsieur,’ was an exemplum few circumstances could equal. [1] In 17th-century France, the age of Louis XIV, an absolute monarch, the memento mori (remember that you have to die), nearly supplanted the carped diem (seize the day) of Horatian Odes I.XI. [2] How does one keep an absolute monarch humble? One approach is to remind him of his mortality, but indirectly. Louis XIV attended Madame‘s funeral and heard Bossuet’s Oraison funèbre. Bossuet also wrote the funeral oration of Louis III, Prince de Condé, 10 November 1668 – 4 March 1710, a “prince of the blood(un prince du sang). [3] There is a king greater than Louis XIV. Coincidentally, or ineffably, Jean de La Fontaine ends Les Deux Pigeons suggesting that he may be too old to love:

Ai-je passé le temps d’aimer ?
Les Deux Pigeons

Is love, to me, with things that were?
The Two Doves

The Rose

You may remember the vanitas, still lifes, created by artists who often used flowers to express the brevity of life. The Roman de la Rose is our best example. But who can forget François de Malherbe‘s [4] exquisite Consolation à M. Du Périer:

Et rose elle a vécu ce que vivent les roses,
L’espace d’un matin.
Consolation à M. Du Périer (1598) [5]
(See, transl.)


Roses in a Glass Vase by Henri Fantin-Latour1873
(Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, England) (Photo credit: Venetian Red)

Contrary to Horace’s precept, to inform and to delight, or blending l’utile et l’agréable,  sermons may not provide delight or pleasure, which Horace (Ars Poetica) teaches. It remains that wrapped in a story, a message is easier to convey, and to remember, than non-fiction. Gustave Doré has ‘illustrated’ the anthropomorphic nature of The Two Pigeons, (Gutenberg [EBook #50516])

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The Two Doves by Gustave Doré, Gutenberg [EBook #50316]


The Two Doves by Gustave Doré, Gutenberg  [EBook #50316]

The Personal and the Pastoral

After “le reste” or “good and true,” La Fontaine speaks about himself and recalls a bergère, a shepherdess. Pastorals are a discourse on love. Salonniers and salonnières also compared themselves to shepherds and shepherdesses. The most famous bucolic or pastoral novel of 17th-century France is Honoré d’Urfé‘s L’Astrée, written in the first quarter of the 17th century and modelled on Guarini‘s Il Pastor Fido (1590). Having loved, La Fontaine writes:

J‘ai quelquefois aimé ! je n’aurais pas alors
Contre le Louvre et ses trésors,
Contre le firmament et sa voûte céleste,
Changé les bois, changé les lieux
Honorés par les pas, éclairés par les yeux
De l’aimable et jeune Bergère (shepherdess)
Pour qui, sous le fils de Cythère, (Kythira)
Je servis, engagé par mes premiers serments.
Les Deux Pigeons

Myself have loved; nor would I then,
For all the wealth of crowned men,
Or arch celestial, paved with gold,
The presence of those woods has sold,
And fields, and banks, and hillocks, which
Were by the joyful steps made rich,
And smiled beneath the charming eyes
Of her who made my heart a prize
To whom I pledged it, nothing loath,
And sealed the pledge with virgin oath.
The Two Doves

Pigeons, Doves and Turtledoves

  • Dove, and the symbology of love
  • Homing pigeons

The translator of La Fontaine’s Site officiel uses the word “dove,” not pigeon. Doves are colombes and tourtelles, turtledoves. In the symbology of love, one uses the word colombe. Doves, colombes and pigeons are columbidae, but they differ from one another. Therefore, the translator of the Musée de France introduces love, romantic love, by using the word colombe, in the title of his translation. As for Walter Thornbury [EBook #50316], he translated the French pigeons using the English pigeons. It is the same word in both languages. But it should be noted that we do not have homing doves, just homing pigeons. By using pigeons, Jean de La Fontaine suggests that his columbidae will return home. He describes the pigeon as a volatile (a bird, noun) FR and volatile (adjective) FR/EN. 


There is a sense in which literature (non-fiction), speaking animals in particular, always tell, to a smaller or greater extent, that which cannot be told. Anthropomorphism and zoomorphism are effective recourses, but the exemplum, and various displacements (modulations or transpositions) may also be used. In the context of our two pigeons, “L’absence est le pire des maux” seems too elevated a moral. But La Fontaine raises the curtain only to let it fall again.

Very few of his poems are specifically lyrical in character, and those few are not among his most typical. It is clear, however, that the power of La Fontaine’s lyricism depends on its displacement into the most surprising contexts.[6] 

Charles Gounod has set to music verses from Les Deux Pigeons, and so have I (shame on me). Charles Aznavour has composed a song based on La Fontaine’s Deux Pigeons.


Apologies. I could not write this post as quickly as I intended. I am not well.
Love to everyone 


[1] Oraison funèbre d’Henriette-Anne d’Angleterre is a Wikisource publication FR
The Funeral Oration of Henrietta of England is a Wikisource publication EN (Gordon Goodwin, transl.)
[2] Gather Ye Roses by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1875, is a Wikisource publication
[3] On the Death of the Great Condé is a Wikisource publication (Robert Turnbull, transl.) EN
Oraison funèbre du très haut et très puissant prince Louis de Condé is a Wikisource publication FR
French, Malherbe (geudensherman.WordPress) EN 
[5]  (01 February 2005) EN 
[6] Charles Rosen, “The Fabulous La Fontaine,” The New York Review of Books, 18 December 1997. 

Charles Aznavour sings Les Deux Pigeons 

Bruno Laplante sings Les Deux Pigeons by Charles Gounod


Picasso’s Dove of peace, 1949

© Micheline Walker
12 June 2018

La Fontaine’s “The Two Doves”


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“Les Deux Pigeons,” Gustave Doré [EBook 50316]

Les Deux Pigeons
Recueil 2(IX,2)

Amants, heureux amants, voulez-vous voyager ?
Que ce soit aux rives prochaines ;
Soyez-vous l’un à l’autre un monde toujours beau,
Toujours divers, toujours nouveau ;
Tenez-vous lieu de tout, comptez pour rien le reste [.]

The Two Doves
Vol. 2 (Book IX, Fable 2)

Ah, happy lovers, would you roam?
Pray, let it not be far from home.
To each the other ought to be
A world of beauty ever new;
In each the other ought to see
The whole of what is good and true.


The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

Les Deux Pigeons,” a fable by Jean de La Fontaine finds its source in The Fables of BidpaiLes Fables de Pilpay ou la Conduite des Rois. As we have seen in other posts, after publishing his first volume (recueil) of fables, based on Æsop’s Fables, La Fontaine drew much of his material from Gilbert Gaulmin’s Livre des lumières ou la conduite des roys, a translation of Bidpai’s Fables, published in 1644. These tales are rooted in the Sanskrit  Panchatantra (300 BCE) and were translated from Middle Persian into Arabic by Ibn al-Muqaffa’, at which point they became The Tales of Kalīla wa Dimna.

Frame Stories & Obliqueness

These works feature a story teller (Pilpay or Bidpai). They are frame stories. The characters are animals and the stories are told by a story teller, not the author. Such a structure serves two purposes. First, it engages the reader by leading him or her to a storyteller: Pilpay. It is as though the author stepped aside spelling a cast. Second, Pilpay’s characters are animals, whose eloquence is based on silence. Animals do not speak. They may say nearly everything. This literary device is often called obliqueness.

Interestingly, Montesquieu’s Persian Letters, 1721, Les Lettres persanes, feature Usbek and Rica, Persian noblemen visiting France. Their comments are the comments of strangers. As such, they may be dismissed, freeing the author to be critical of the land he inhabits, but in a discreet manner and with impunity.

Whatever the origin of Les Deux Pigeons, the lines I have quoted have no source other than the poet’s soul. La Fontaine gives his two pigeons/doves fine advice: be everything unto one another. There’s always a person who makes all the difference and whom we must always cherish.

Love to everyone 


Sources and Resources 

André Messager:  “Les Deux Pigeons,”  1889


La Fontaine’s Fables Thornbury & Gustave Doré (Courtesy: Gutenberg)

© Micheline Walker
24 May 2018


A Royal Wedding


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Roses in a Bowl by Henri Fantin-Latour, 1883 (courtesy Britannica)

A few hours from now, Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markle. She’s a lovely woman, and I am certain she will be good wife to Harry and Harry, a good husband to her.

They will live at Nottingham Cottage, which is a little house and could be called a starter home. I am certain they have already made it inviting and very much theirs.

I’m glad Prince Charles will walk Meghan down the second half of the aisle. He will therefore play a meaningful role in Harry and Meghan’s wedding ceremony. He may well become a second father to Meghan.

I wish the two of them every happiness.


Henri Fantin-Latour, 1894, The Guardian, UK

© Micheline Walker
18 May 2018


The North-West Rebellion, concluded


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Boat Encampment, Sketch Paul Kane, circa 1846, watercolour. Sketch made by Kane on the Columbia River, BC (courtesy Stark Foundation, Orange, Texas). (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

North-West Rebellion: Events

Much took place during the North-West Rebellion. There were skirmishes, battles, and a massacre. For a complete list of events, one should read the University of Saskatchewan‘s North-West Resistance: Chronology of Events. Missing from this list is a battle between Amerindians. It is Gabriel Dumont’s first experience as a “warrior” and, therefore, marginal information.

In 1851, at the young age of 13, Dumont was introduced to plains warfare when he fought at the Battle of Grand Coteau, defending a Métis encampment against a large Dakota war party.

(See Gabriel Dumont, The Canadian Encyclopedia.)

North-West Rebellion

  • maps: please click on the name of each conflict
  • the main “battles”
  1. Battle of Duck Lake 26 March 1885 –Métis victory
    Duck Lake Métis force under Gabriel Dumont engage in an unplanned skirmish with Superintendent L. F. Crozier‘s Mounted Police and volunteers at Duck Lake. The Police are routed. 
  2. Frog Lake Massacre 2  April 1885 –Cree success
    Members of Mistahimaskwa’s (Big Bear) Cree Nation led by Ayimisis (Little Bear) and Kapapamahchakwew (Wandering Spirit) kill Indian Agent Quinn and eight other whites.
  3. Battle of Fish Creek 4 April 1885 –Métis victory
  4. Battle of Fort Pitt 17 April 1885 –Cree victory
    Fort Pitt is taken by warriors of Mistahimaskwa‘s (Big Bear) band. Mistahimaskwa negotiates the evacuation of the fort by the North-West Mounted Police.
    Gabriel Dumont ambushes Middleton‘s column at Fish Creek.
  5. Battle of Cut Knife Hill 2 May 1885 –Cree Assiniboine victory
    Colonel Otter‘s column attacks Pitikwahahnapiwiyin‘s (Poundmaker) camp at Cut Knife Hill.  
    Otter is forced to retreat to Battleford. Pitikwahahnapiwiyin prevents Indians from attacking retreating forces.
  6. Battle of Batoche 9 – 12 May 1885 –Canadian victory
    General Frederick Dobson Middleton decisively defeats the Métis force in a three-day battle
  7. Battle of Frenchman’s Butte (28 May 1885) –Canadian victory
  8. Battle of Loon Lake (3 June 1885) –Canadian victory

(See North-West Resistance: Chronology of Events, University of Saskatchewan.)

Louis Riel: Trial, Conviction and Execution

  • 20 – 31 July 1885
    Riel is tried and convicted of High Treason
  • 16 November 1885 Riel is hanged in Regina, Saskatchewan

List of the Skirmishes, Massacres, and Battles

  1. Battle of Duck Lake
  2. Frog Lake Massacre
  3. Battle of Fish Creek
  4. Battle of Fort Pitt
  5. Battle of Cut Knife
  6. Battle of Batoche
  7. Battle of Frenchman’s Butte
  8. Battle of Loon Lake

(See Battles of the North-West Rebellion, Wikipedia)

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Cree Chief (Poundmaker)
(COURTESY GLENBOW ARCHIVES) (Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)


Everything that is bad has been laid against me this summer, there is nothing of it true… Had I wanted war, I would not be here now. I should be on the prairie. You did not catch me. I gave myself up. You have got me because I wanted justice. Pîtikwahanapiwiyin (Poundmaker) 

(See Pîtikwahanapiwiyin, Wikipedia.)

Amerindians and the North-West Rebellion

  • Poundmaker
  • Big Bear
  • Etc.

Amerindians (North-American “Indians”) participated in the North-West Rebellion. Pîtikwahanapiwiyin is Poundmaker and Mistahimaskwa, Big Bear (Gros Ours). Pîtikwahanapiwiyn surrendered to General Middleton at Fort Battleford. Mistahimaskwa surrendered at Fort Pitt. Kapapamahchakwew is Wandering Spirit (Esprit Errant).

Sources disagree on whether the Amerindians I have mentioned served a prison sentence or were hanged. I have read that many were hanged.

Gros Ours’ (Big Bear) statement is totally justifiable. As Joseph Boyden noted, all the Métis wanted was title to their land, their rectangular lots abutting a river. This is how Métis and the whites had lived from the time the fur trade began, or from the 17th century until the 19th century and Confederation (1867), or the purchase of Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, by the Dominion of Canada in 1869. The Hudson’s Bay Company fought the North West Company until 1821, but the Earl of Selkirk had settled the Red River Colony (1812) in a manner that was acceptable to its inhabitants, diverse as they were.

Moreover, although Amerindians had been conquered, they had been free to roam their land since Jacques Cartier claimed Canada for France, in 1534 until 1763. French settlers had married Amerindian women when the number of European women in Nouvelle-France was much lower than the number of European men. (See King’s Daughters, Wikipedia.) The King’s Daughters, 800 women, arrived between 1663 and 1670. Sixty years are a long time.

The Iroquois often attacked the French settlers. They also tortured and killed missionaries (see Canadian Martyrs, Wikipedia), but other tribes, the Algonquian tribes, the Abenakis especially, were friendly tribes. Many Quebecers have Amerindian ancestry. However, it is difficult for Québécois-es to be recognized as Métis. Métis are the descendants of persons involved in the fur trade.

Pays d’en Haut New France on a map by Jacques Nicholas Bellin in 1755. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


To a certain extent, Confederation was a mixed blessing. It created a Canada that would stretch from coast to coast, which all Canadians enjoy, but Confederation happened at a cost, as did colonialism in general.

  • Amerindians would be sent to Indian Reserves and their children were forced to enter Residential Schools,
  • Métis who had no title to their lots, lost their land and they had no status,
  • the execution of Louis Riel alienated the French-speaking citizens of Québec. Quebec was one of the four provinces that joined Confederation in 1867. They believed they would be able to live and maintain their culture in Quebec and outside Quebec. However, William McDougall and Orangemen were anti-Catholic, anti-French, and racist.

In other words, when provinces joined the Confederation, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 was brushed aside and so was the Quebec Act of 1774. Canada has been officially bilingual since it passed the Official Languages Act of 1969. As for the rights of Métis, they were not recognized until the Constitution Act of 1982, otherwise known as the “patriated” constitution, which Quebec has not signed.

I will not discuss what I would call the “Amerindian question.” It is an extremely complex issue.


I reset my computer successfully. As for my diagnostic, it cannot be established with certainty. Mild cognitive impairment is a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which has bedevilled me for decades. In other words, all is well.

Love to everyone


Sources and Resources

Ô Canada! mon pays! mes amours! chant patriotique canadien-français
words by George-Étienne Cartier; music by Jean-Baptiste Labelle
(Cartier’s Canada could be Quebec)


Sir George-Étienne Cartier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

© Micheline Walker
12 May 2018