From The Plains of Abraham, an epic poem performed across Canada in 2000 and 2005 as part of the Rhapsodic Tour sponsored by the Dominion Institute. In this excerpt, Wolfe and Montcalm prepare for battle.
First he put on his woollen trousers • after that his linen shirt And then he found his leather boots • and pulled the silver buckles tight He clothed himself in red • within that tent • and donned his tricorn cap; He seized his sword from off its peg • and slipped it to its golden sheath The sword by which he’d made his vow • to seize impregnable Quebec And last he took the cane of oak • he once had borne at Louisbourg; And yet he did not speak: • on each in turn • he rested his green eyes And terror filled those brigadiers • who did not dare to meet that gaze; For in his pallid face • beneath his brows • there gleamed a ghastly light. As when the sun runs south • in winter months • and yet the snow is slow And clouds let fall a rain of ice • which thickens on the naked wood And one by one the branches drop • and some are smashed and some are snapped And from the broken limbs • across the plain • there gleams a ghastly light And men and women both lament • the ruin of the long-lived wood Just so the English brigadiers • lamented for the red-haired Wolfe As he alone went forth • with silent step • unto the army’s camp. MONTCALM So now when all had found their places • by the town of bright Beauport Indeed the Marquis of Montcalm • now brought them to the field of war. As when, towards the west • where in the hills • the wild roses blow A warm wind from the rocky heights • descends to melt the crackling ice A winter wind, and yet to many • welcome as the breath of spring And girls untie their braided hair • and on the grass the brothers box Just so the regiments of France • descended from the Beauport shore Behind the Marquis of Montcalm • the captain of the King of France; And in their midst the singers then • began to chant a cheerful song And they themselves had made the song • to glorify their generals The dark-haired Marquis of Montcalm • and Bourlamaque, and good Lévis And so they gladly sang • upon that day • before the citadel Of how the padre gave a speech • and cleansing absolution preached: His children could advance with pride • with Lord and Virgin on their side; How all were heroes on that day • or if there was a man to say The general had a tragic flaw • they’d break the dirty rascal’s jaw: Just so they gladly sang • upon that day • before the citadel; And so the Marquis of Montcalm • now brought them to the field of war His handsome face was glad • for in his heart • he knew the hour had come When destiny would be decided • ’neath impregnable Quebec