Maxime Labelle

A poem by William Henry Drummond

Victoriaw: she have beeg war, E-gyp's de nam' de place,
An' neeger peep dat's leev 'im dere, got very black de face,
An' so she's write Joseph Mercier, he's stop on Trois Rivieres,
"Please come right off, an' bring wit' you t'ree honder voyageurs.

"I got de plaintee sojer, me, beeg feller six foot tall,
Dat's Englishman, an' Scotch also, don't wear no pant at all;
Of course, de Irishman's de bes', raise all de row he can,
But noboddy can pull batteau lak good Canadian man.

"I geev you steady job for sure, an' w'en you get 'im t'roo
I bring you back on Canadaw, don't cos' de man un sou,
Dat's firs'-class steamboat all de way Kebeck an' Leeverpool,
An' if you don't be satisfy, you mus' be beeg, beeg fool."

We meet upon Hotel Dufresne, an' talk heem till daylight,
An' Joe he's treat so many tam, we very near get tight,
Den affer w'ile, we mak' our min' dat's not bad chance, an' so
Joseph Mercier he's telegraph, "Correc', Madame, we go."

So Joe arrange de whole beez-nesse wit' Queen Victoriaw;
Two dollar day, work all de tam, dat's purty good l'argent!
An' w'en we start on Trois Rivieres, for pass on boar' de ship,
Our frien' dey all say, "Bon voyage," an' den Hooraw! E-gyp'!

Dat beeg steamboat was plonge so moche, I'm 'fraid she never stop,
De Capitaine's no use at all, can't kip her on de top,
An' so we all come very sick, jus' lak one leetle pup,
An' ev'ry tam de ship's go down, de inside she's go up.

I'm sorry spoke lak dis, ma frien', if you don't t'ink it's so,
Please ax Joseph Mercier hese'f, or Aleck De Courteau,
Dat stay on bed mos' all de tam, so sick dey nearly die,
But lak' some great, beeg Yankee man, was never tole de lie.

De gang she's travel, travel, t'roo many strange contree,
An' ev'ry place is got new nam', I don't remember, me,
We see some fonny t'ing, for sure, more fonny I can tell,
But w'en we reach de Neel Riviere, dat's feel more naturel.

So many fine, beeg sojer man, I never see before,
All dress heem on grand uniform, is wait upon de shore,
Some black, some green, an' red also, cos' honder dollar sure,
An' holler out, "She's all right now, here come de voyageurs!"

We see boss Generale also, he's ride on beeg chameau,
Dat's w'at you call Ca-melle, I t'ink, I laugh de way she go!
Jomp up, jomp down, jomp ev'ry place, but still de Generale
Seem satisfy for stay on top, dat fonny an-i-mal.

He's holler out on Joe Mercier, "Comment câ va Joseph
You lak for come right off wit' me, tak' leetle ride yourself?"
Joseph, he mak' de grand salut, an' tak' it off hees hat,
"Merci, Mon Generale," he say, "I got no use for dat."

Den affer we was drink somet'ing, an' sing "Le Brigadier,"
De sojer fellers get prepare, for mak' de embarquer,
An' everybody's shout heem out, w'en we tak' hole de boat
"Hooraw pour Queen Victoriaw!" an' also "pour nous autres."

Bigosh; I do hard work mese'f upon de Ottawa,
De Gatineau an' St. Maurice, also de Mattawa,
But I don't never work at all, I'sure you dat's a fack
Until we strike de Neel Riviere, an' sapré Catarack!

"Dis way, dat way, can't keep her straight," "look out, Bateese, look out!"
"Now let her go", "arrete un peu," dat's way de pilot shout,
"Don't wash de neeger girl on shore," an' "prenez garde behin',"
"W'at's matter wit' dat rudder man? I t'ink he's goin' blin'!"

Some tam of course, de boat's all right, an' carry us along
An' den again, we mak portage, w'en current she's too strong
On place lak' dat, we run good chance, for sun-struck on de neck,
An' plaintee tam we wish ourseff was back on ole Kebeck.

De seconde Catarack we pass, more beeger dan de Soo,
She's nearly t'orty mile for sure, it would astonish you,
Dat's place t'ree Irishman get drown, wan day we have beeg storm,
I s'pose de Queen is feel lak cry, los' dat nice uniform!

De night she's very, very cole, an' hot upon de day,
An' all de tam, you feel jus' lak you're goin' melt away,
But never min' an' don't get scare, you mak' it up all right,
An' twenty poun' you los' dat day, she's comin' back sam' night.

We got small bugle boy also, he's mebbe stan' four foot,
An' firs' t'ing ev'ry morning, sure, he mak' it toot! toot! toot!
She's nice enough upon de day, for hear de bugle call,
But w'en she play before daylight, I don't lak dat at all.

We mus' get up immediatement, dat leetle feller blow,
An' so we start heem off again, for pull de beeg batteau,
De sojer man he's nice, nice boy, an' help us all he can,
An' geev heem chance, he's mos' as good lak some Canadian man.

Wall all de tam, she go lak dat, was busy every day,
Don't get moche chance for foolish-ness, don't get no chance for play,
Dere's plaintee danger all aroun', an' w'en we're comin' back
We got look out for run heem safe, dem sapré Catarack.

But w'ere's de war? I can't mak' out, don't see no fight at all!
She's not'ing but une Grande Piqnique, dat's las' in all de fall!
Mebbe de neeger King he's scare, an' skip anoder place,
An' pour la Reine Victoriaw! I never see de face.

But dat's not ma beez-nesse, ma frien', I'm ready pull batteau
So long she pay two dollar day, wit' pork an' bean also;
An' if she geev me steady job, for mak' some more l'argent,
I say, "Hooraw! for all de tam, on Queen Victoriaw!"

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