The Old Towers Of Mount Royal, Or Ville Marie

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On proud Mount Royal’s Eastern side,
In view of St. Lawrence’s silver tide,
Are two stone towers of masonry rude,
With massive doors of time-darken’d wood:
Traces of loop-holes are in the walls,
While softly across them the sun-light falls;
Around broad meadows, quiet and green,
With grazing cattle—a pastoral scene.

Those towers tell of a time long past,
When the red man roamed o’er regions vast,
And the settlers—men of bold heart and brow—
Had to use the sword as well as the plough;
When women (no lovelier now than then)
Had to do the deeds of undaunted men,
And when higher aims engrossed the heart
Than study of fashions or toilet’s art.

A hardy race from beyond the sea
Were those ancient founders of Ville Marie!
The treacherous Sioux and Iroquois bold
Gathered round them as wolves that beset a fold,
Yet they sought their rest free from coward fears;
Though war-whoops often reached their ears,
Or battle’s red light their slumbers dispel,—
They knew God could guard and protect them well.

Look we back nigh two hundred years ago:
Softly St. Lawrence bright waters flow,
Shines the glad sun on each purple hill,
Rougemont, St. Hilary, Boucherville,
Kissing the fairy-like isle of St Paul’s,
Where, hushed and holy, the twilight falls,
Or St. Helen’s, amid the green wave’s spray,
All lovely and calm as it is today.

No villas with porticos handsome, wide,
Then dotted our queenly mountain’s side;
No busy and populous city nigh
Raised steeples and domes to the clear blue sky;
Uncleared, unsettled our forests hoar
Unbridged out river, unwharfed each shore;
While over the waves of emerald hue
Glided, lightly, the Indian’s bark canoe.

It was in those towers—the Southern one—
Sister Margaret Bourgeoys, that sainted nun,
Sat patiently teaching, day after day,
How to find to Jesus the blessed way,
’Mid the daughters swarth of the forest dell,
Who first from her lips of a God heard tell,
And learned the virtues that woman should grace,
Whatever might be her rank or race.

Here, too, in the chapel-tower buried deep,
An Indian brave and his grand-child sleep.
True model of womanly virtues—she—
Acquired at Margaret Bourgeoys’ knee;
He, won to Christ from his own dark creed,
From the trammels fierce of his childhood freed,
Lowly humbled his savage Huron pride,
And amid the pale-faces lived and died.

With each added year grows our city fair,
The steepled church, and spacious square,
Villas and mansions of stately pride
Embellish it now on every side;
Buildings—old land marks—vanish each day,
For stately successors to make way;
But from change like that may time leave free
The ancient towers of Ville Marie!

© Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon