Louis Riel et Marilyn Dumont: poèmes à Sir John A. MacdonaldPosted: January 11, 2012
“Sir John A. Macdonald gouverne avec l’orgueil”
Sir John A. Macdonald gouverne avec l’orgueil
Les provinces de la Puissance
Et sa mauvaise foi vent prolonger mon deuil
Afin que son pays l’applaudisse et l’encense.
Au lieu de la paix qu’il me doit
Au lieu de respecter d’une manière exacte
Et mon droit,
Depuis bientôt dix ans, Sir John me fait la guerre.
Un homme sans parole est un homme vulgaire.
Fort et faible d’esprit, moi je le montre au doigt…
Je ne souhaite pas, Sir John, que votre mort
Soit pleine de tourments. Mais ce que je désire
C’est que vous connaissiez et souffriez le remord :
Parce que vous m’avez mangé, comme un vampire.
L’horizon, tout le ciel m’apparaissait vermeil.
Vous avez accablé de soucis mon jeune âge.
Et vous êtes sur moi comme un épais nuage
Qui dérobe à mes yeux la clarté du soleil.
J’espère voir la fin de vos pensées altières.
Vous avez fait le mal : et c’est ce qui détruit.
Vous tomberez peut-être avec le même bruit
Qu’on entend l’Ottawa bondir dans les Chaudières.
Vos moyens d’action, John, ne sont pas les miens.
Mes amis ont souffert de ma grande folie.
Ils s’en consoleront : car elle fut jolie.
Vous n’effacerez pas mon passé, car j’ y tiens.
Vous, vous serez connu pour le hardi mensonge.
C’est à vous que j’en veux pour ma proscription.
Je fais mon temps d’exil : et je mange mon ronge.
Et je suis, malgré vous, chef de ma nation.
Je n’abandonne pas mon plan : je l’étudie.
Et je l’ai travaillé d’une façon hardie.
J’ai trouvé ce qu je voulais.
Je vous connais à fond maintenant, peuple anglais.
. . .
An English translation by Paul Savoie:
“Sir John A. Macdonald governs with “pride””
Sir John A., shackled by pride’s endless chain,
Governs the Dominion’s vast domain,
And through perfidy prolongs my agony
To gain his kind’s approval, vain glory.
Disrespecting his commitments,
He does not heed the terms, fair and precise,
Of our Agreement
And my stated rights.
Nearly ten years I have endured torment.
A man who reneges on his word is base.
Let my accusing finger state my case…
Sir John, I do not wish upon you death
Riddled with pain and horror but instead
Days of dull remorse and daily regret
You, foul vampire, who have left me for dead.
The sky above once appeared ruby red
As did the horizon. Your actions soured
My youth and hid the sun. The day’s colours
From my famished eyes are cruelly bled.
To your own arrogance you must demur
Lest your actions wreak greater destruction.
Or, as in the Chaudieres rapids clamour,
Prepare your fall in swift swirling motion.
Your methods, John, are not the same as mine.
My friends have paid a price for my excess
Which, as a comfort, they may find sublime.
I will not let you rob me of my past.
You will be the seen prevaricator
And on you history will lay the blame.
I pine away in exile but remain
In spite of you my nation’s true leader.
I ponder now. I don’t relinquish
My plan. I fine-tune it and turn it plain.
My efforts have not been in vain
For I have seen the hearts of the English.
Sir John A. Macdonald became, in 1867, the first prime minister
of a newly united “Canada” – which had been up till that time
a loose arrangement of British and French colonies.
He was born on January 11th, 1815, in Scotland, and
came to Canada as a boy, settling with his family in
Kingston, Ontario, where, after becoming a lawyer,
he then entered into politics.
The big achievements of his political career were
the uniting of the vast and distant colonies into
one new nation – plus the completion in 1885 of a
transcontinental railroad – the Canadian Pacific
Railroad – from the East all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Louis Riel (1844-1885) was born in the Red River Colony,
(later Manitoba) and was the charismatic leader of what
was an unrecognized new nation of mixed-race people,
The Métis (French and Native).
After an unsuccessful attempt to assert his leadership
versus Ottawa in “Manitoba” – the Red River Rebellion of 1870 –
Riel went into exile in Montana, south of the border.
It was there that he wrote his intense poem in French:
“Sir John A. Macdonald gouverne avec l’orgueil”.
Riel returned to Canada, and in The NorthWest Rebellion
of 1885 he galvanized The Métis to assert land rights in
what would become the province of Saskatchewan.
Macdonald hanged Riel for high treason after the
Rebellion was driven down by government troops.
The legacy of this event is complex –
Riel was deemed mad by the mainly Protestant
English and an Ottawa that saw in his charisma
a passionate, dangerous rival. In Québec Riel
has been viewed as a visionary francophone folk hero.
Increasingly, in our time, he is regarded
as a thwarter of simplistic ideologies of race and
culture. Louis Riel is, in his unique way, a great Canadian
– though he goes unrecognized as such.
Marilyn Dumont, born in 1955, is a Canadian poet
of Cree/Métis descent. The poem below,
“Letter to Sir John A. Macdonald”, was written in 1993.
Astutely, she points out how the completion of
the Canadian Pacific Railroad permitted the rapid
movement of new white settlers out West to
the very land Riel claimed for his people.
1885 was a crucial year, when both the
NorthWest Rebellion and The Last Spike
were “driven down”…
Letter to Sir John A. Macdonald
I’m still here and halfbreed,
after all these years.
You’re dead, funny thing,
that railway you wanted so badly,
there was talk a year ago
of shutting it down
and part of it was shut down,
the “dayliner”, at least,
‘ from sea to shining sea ‘,
and you know, John,
after all that shuffling us around to suit the settlers,
we’re still here and Métis .
We’re still here
after Meech Lake and
holdin’ up the train,
stalling the ” Cabin syllables / Nouns of settlement
/ …steel syntax [and] / The long sentence of its exploitation ”
and John, that goddamned railroad never made this a great nation,
’cause the railway shut down
and this country is still quarreling over unity,
and Riel is dead
but he just keeps coming back
in all the Bill Wilsons yet to speak out of turn or favour
because you know as well as I
that we were railroaded
by some steel tracks that didn’t last
and some settlers who wouldn’t settle
and it’s funny – we’re still here and callin’ ourselves halfbreed.
. . . . .
Photograph: Louis Riel and his Council, 1870