Phil-O-Rum Juneau

A poem by William Henry Drummond


In the days of the "Old Regime" in Canada, the free life of the
woods and prairies proved too tempting for the young men, who
frequently deserted civilization for the savage delights of the
wilderness. These voyageurs and coureurs de bois seldom returned in
the flesh, but on every New Year's Eve, back thro' snowstorm and
hurricane, in mid-air, came their spirits in ghostly canoes, to
join, for a brief spell, the old folks at home and kiss the girls,
on the annual feast of the "Jour de l'an," or New Year's Day. The
legend which still survives in French-speaking Canada, is known as
"La Chasse Gallerie."

He sit on de corner mos' every night, ole Phil-o-rum Juneau,
Spik wit' hese'f an' shake de head, an' smoke on de pipe also,
Very hard job it's for wake him up, no matter de loud we call
W'en he's feex hese'f on de beeg arm-chair, back on de kitchen wall.

He don't believe not'ing at all, at all 'bout lates' new fashion t'ing
Le char 'lectrique an' de telephome, was talk w'en de bell she ring
Dat's leetle too moche for de ole bonhomme, mak' him shake it de head an' say
"Wat's use mak' de foolish lak dat, sapré! I'm not born only yesterday."

But if you want story dat's true, true, true, I tole you good wan moi-meme
An de t'ing you was spik, dat I don't believe, for sure she was beat all dem.
So he's cough leetle cough, clear 'im up de t'roat, fill hees pipe wit' some more tabac,
An' w'en de chil'ren is come tranquille, de ole man begin comme câ.

L'enfant! l'enfant! it's very strange t'ing! mak' me laugh too w'en I hear
De young peep talk of de long, long tam of seventy, eighty year!
Dat's only be jus' eighty New Year Day, an' quickly was pass it by
It's beeg, beeg dream, an' you don't wake up, till affer you're comin' die.

Dat's true sure enough, you see curi's t'ing, if you only leev leetle w'ile,
So long you got monee go all de place, for mebbe t'ree t'ousan' mile,
But monee's not everyt'ing on dis worl', I tole you dat, mes amis,
An' man can be ole lak' two honder year, an' not see it, La Chasse Gal'rie.

I never forget de fine New Year night, nearly seexty year ago,
W'en I'm lef' it our place for attend soiree, on ole Maxime Baribault,
Nine mile away, I can see tin roof, on church of de St. Joseph,
An' over de snow, de leaf dat die las' fall, was chasin' itse'f.

Dere was some of de neighbor house I call, dat's be de ole fashion style,
An' very nice style too, mes amis, I hope she will las' long w'ile,
I shak' it de han', I drink santé, an' kiss it de girl she's face,
So it's come ten o'clock, w'en I pass on road, for visit Maxime hees place.

But I'm not go more mebbe t'ree arpent, w'en de sky is get black all roun',
An' de win' she blow lak I never see, an' de beeg snowstorm come down.
I mak' it my min' she's goin' be soon, de very bad night for true,
Dat's locky I got plaintee whiskey lef', so I tak' it wan leetle "coup."

Purty quick affer dat, I'm comin' nice place, was stan'in' some fine beeg tree
W'ere de snow don't dreef', an' it seem jus' lak dat place it is mak' for me,
So I pass it on dere, for mak' safe mese'f, w'ile de storm is blow outside,
As if all de devil on hell below, was tak' heem some fancy ride.

Wan red fox he's comin' so close, so close, I could ketch him wit' de han',
But not on de tam lak dis ma frien', "Marche toi all de quick you can,"
Poor feller he's tire an' seem los' hees way, an' w'en he reach home dat night
Mebbe he fin' it all was close up, an' de door it was fassen tight.

But w'at is dat soun' mak' de hair stan' up, w'at is it mean, dat cry?
Comin' over de high tree top, out of de nor'-wes' sky
Lak cry of de wil' goose w'en she pass on de spring tam an' de fall,
But wil' goose fly on de winter night! I never see dat at all.

On, on t'roo de night, she is quickly come, more closer all de tam,
But not lak de cry of some wil' bird now, don't seem it at all de sam';
An' den wit' de rush of de win', I hear somebody sing chanson
An' de song dey sing is de ole, ole song, "Le Canayen Errant."'

But it's mak' me lonesome an' scare also, jus' sam' I be goin' for die
W'en I lissen dat song on night lak dis, so far away on de sky,
Don't know w'at to do at all mese'f, so I go w'ere I have good view,
An' up, up above t'roo de storm an' snow, she's comin' wan beeg canoe.

Den somebody call it ma nam' out loud, firs' tam it was scare me so,
"We know right away, dat was you be dere, hello Phil-o-rum, hello!"
An' soon I see him dat feller spik, I 'member him too mese'f,
We go de sam' school twenty year before, hees nam's Telesphore Le Boeuf.

But I know on de way canoe she go, dat de crowd he mus' be dead man
Was come from de Grande Riviere du Nord, come from Saskatchewan,
Come too from all de place is lie on de Hodson Bay Contree,
An' de t'ing I was see me dat New Year night, is le phantome Chasse Gal'rie.

An' many de boy I was see him dere, I know him so long before
He's goin' away on de far contree, for never return no more,
An' now on phantome he is comin' home, t'roo de storm an' de hurricane
For kiss him de girl on jour de l'an, an' see de ole peep again.

De beeg voyageur w'at is steer canoe, wit' paddle hol' on hees han'
Got very long hair was hang down hees neck, de sam' as wil' Injin man
Invite me on boar' dat phantome canoe, for show it dead man de way,
Don't lak it de job, but no use refuse, so I'll mak' it de embarquer.

Den wan of de gang, he mus' be foreman, say it's tam for have leetle drink,
So he pass heem black bottle for tak' un "coup," an' it's look lak ma own I t'ink,
But it can't be de sam', I'll be swear for dat, for w'en I was mak' de go,
I fin' dere is not'ing inside but win', an' de whiskey's phantome also.

Dey be laugh affer dat, lak dey tak' some fit, so de boss spik him, "Tiens Phil-o-rum,
Never min' on dem feller, mus' have leetle sport, dat's very long way we come,
Will you ketch it de paddle for steer us quick on place of Maxime Baribault?"
An' he's ax me so nice, I do as he please', an den away off she go.

Wan minute, two minute, we pass on dere, Maxime he is all hooraw!
An' we know by musique dat was play inside, mus' be de great Joe Violon,
Dat feller work fiddle on very bes' way, dat nobody never see
Mak' de boy an' de girl, ole peep also, dance lak dey was go crazee.

You s'pose dey was let me come on dat house? Not at all, for de boss he say,
"Phil-o-rum, it's long tam we don't see our fren', can't get heem chance ev'ry day,
Please stop on canoe so she won't blow off, w'ile we pass on de house an' see
Dem frien' we was lef' an' de girl we spark, before we go strange contree."

An' me I was sit on canoe outside, jus' lak I was sapré fou,
Watchin' dem feller dat's all dead man, dance heem lak Loup Garou.
De boss he kiss Marie Louise, ma girl, dat's way he spen' mos' de tam,
But of course she know not'ing of dat biz-nesse, don't lak it me jus' de sam'.

By tam I'm commence it for feel de col', dey're all comin' out encore,
An' we start off again t'roo de sky, hooraw! for mak' de visite some more,
All de place on de parish we go dat night, w'erever dey get some dance,
Till I feel it so tire, I could sleep right off, but dey don't geev it me no chance.

De las' place w'ere passin' dat's Bill Boucher, he's very good frien' of me,
An' I t'ink it's near tam I was lef' dat crowd, so I'll snub de canoe on tree,
Den affer dead man he was safe inside, an' ev'rywan start danser,
I go on de barn wat's behin' de house, for see I can't hide away.

She's nice place de barn, an' got plaintee warm, an' I'm feel very glad be dere,
So long dead feller don't fin' me out, an' ketch it me on de hair,
But s'pose I get col', work him hard all night, 'cos I make it wan leetle cough,
W'en de rooster he's scare, holler t'ree, four tam, an' whole t'ing she bus' right off.

I'll never see not'ing so quick again, Canoe an' dead man go scat!
She's locky de rooster he mak' de noise, bus' ev'ryt'ing up lak dat,
Or mebbe dem feller get me encore, an' tak' me on Hodson Bay,
But it's all right now, for de morning's come, an' he see me ole Bill Boucher.

I'm feel it so tire, an' sore all de place, wit' all de hard work I do',
'Cos I'm not very use for mak' paddle, me, on beeg, beeg phantome canoe,
But Bill an' hees boy dey was leef me up, an' carry me on maison
W'ere plaintee nice t'ing dey was mak' me eat, an' drink it some whiskey blanc.

An' now w'en I'm finish, w'at you t'ink it youse'f, 'bout story dat you was hear?
No wonner ma hair she is all turn w'ite before I get eighty year!
But 'member dis t'ing, I be tole you firs, don't los' it mes chers amis,
De man he can leev him on long, long tam, an' not see it La Chasse Gal'rie!

* * * * *

He sit on de corner mos' every night, ole Phil-o-rum Juneau,
Spik wit' hese'f, an' shak' de head, an' smoke on de pipe also,
But kip very quiet, don't wak' him up, let him stay on de kitchen wall,
For if you believe w'at de ole man say, you believe anyt'ing at all.

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