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Façade of the Church at Saint-Eustache, by Lord Charles Beauclerk, 1840
Vue de la façade de l’église Saint-Eustache occupée par les insurgés Lord Charles Beauclerk (1813-1842) (above)
Vue arrière de l’église Saint-Eustache et dispersion des insurgés
Lord Charles Beauclerk (1813-1842) (below)
Photo Credit: Musée McCord, for both illustrations
Both paintings are ink and watercolours and are available as lithographs at the McCord Museum
The Battle of Saint-Eustache (information)

Un Canadian errant

We do not know who wrote the music to which the text of Un Canadien errant (“A Wandering Canadian”) was set.  However, we know that the words were written in 1842 by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie after the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1836–38 and Lord Durham’s Report.  The “patriotes” lost their Bas-Canada.  It was their country.

Gérin-Lajoie wrote the words to this song while taking his classical exams at the Séminaire de Nicolet.  Successful candidates could enter a “Grand Séminaire” and become priests.  With this diploma,  it was also possible to study law and medicine.

Un Canadien errant  has become an unofficial patriotic anthem for French Canadians.  It has been appropriated, in a perfectly legitimate manner, by the Acadians who were exiled in 1755.  Their deportation is often called, the Great Upheaval, le Grand Dérangement. The Acadian version of Un Canadien errant is Un Acadien errant.

Un Canadien errant is also the unofficial anthem of all those of have been sent into exile, including African-Americans who were taken away from their country, never to return.

History has given the citizens of the world many reasons to bemoan cruelty, man’s cruelty to man (here the word man includes women and children).  These are events we bemoan, but one does not seek revenge.  In fact, even retaliation is dangerous because it may fuel a conflict.

Acadians have a more powerful “literary homeland” because  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882), an American, was motivated to write  Évangéline (1847).  Évangéline is a real person in the mind of Acadians, which seems perfectly acceptable.  There were many Évangélines who were separated from the man they loved.  People were put in different boats, separating not only couples but entire families.

Related posts
The Voyageur Mythified
Évangéline & the Literary Homeland (cont’d)
Évangéline & the Literary Homeland
La Corriveau: A Legend
The Aftermath: Krieghoff’s Quintessential Quebec
The Aftermath:  Aubert de Gaspé’s Anciens Canadiens ←
Related Article:
The Tragedy of Politics Overcomes Two Lovers, PRWeb
Un Canadian errant 
(N. B.  Paul Robeson sings a bilingual arrangement of Un Canadian errant)
Un Canadien errant,
Banni de ses foyers,
Parcourait en pleurant
Des pays étrangers.
A wandering Canadian,
Banished from his hearths,
Traveled through[,] while weeping[,]
foreign countries. 
Un jour, triste et pensif,
Assis au bord des flots,
Au courant fugitif
Il adressa ces mots:
One day, sad and pensive,
Seated at the edge of the floods,
To the fugitive current,
He addressed these words: 
“Si tu vois mon pays,
Mon pays malheureux,
Va, dis / dire à mes amis
Que je me souviens d’eux.
“If you see my country,
My unhappy country,
Go say to my friends
That I remember them. 
“Ô jours si pleins d’appas
Vous êtes disparus,
Et ma patrie, hélas!
Je ne la verrai plus!
“O days so full of charm[s]
You have disappeared,
And my fatherland, alas!
I will see it no longer! 
“Non, mais en expirant,
Ô mon cher Canada!
Mon regard languissant
Vers toi se portera…”
“No, but while expiring,
O my dear Canada!
My longing look
toward you will go…”


Nana Mouskouri has also recorded this song.  It’s a very beautiful interpretation.  To hear her version, just click on her name.

Back View of the Church at Saint-Eustache
(Please click on the image to enlarge it.)


© Micheline Walker
August 14th, 2012