Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From the Drama of “De Roberval”

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

John Hunter-Duvar b. 1830

From the Drama of “De Roberval”

SCENE.Within the fort of Quebec. Soldiers carousing.

One sings:

FILL, comrades, fill the bowl right well,

Trowl round the can with mirth and glee,

Zip-zip, huzza, Noël! Noël!

A health to me, a health to thee

And Normandie.


Pass, comrades, pass the reaming can,

And swig the draught out every man!

Another round as deep as last,

Down to the bottom peg, pardie!

Eyes to the front,—half pikes,—stand fast!

A health to me, a health to thee

And Picardie.


Pass, comrades, pass the reaming can,

And swig the draught out every man!

Though this be naught but soldiers’ tap,

None better wine none ne’er did see,

It riped on our own crofts mayhap,

So here ’s a health to thee, to me

And fair Lorraine,




May he be shot that shirks the can!

Quick, drain the draught out every man!

Enter OHNÁWA: Soldiers crowd around her.
1st Soldier.Whom have we here? This is a shapely wench.

2d Sold.Clean-limbed.

3d Sold.Round-armed.

4th Sold.Svelte

5th Sold.And lithe and lissome.

6th Sold.Like a Provençale in her mumming garb.

On Pope Unreason’s day. But where ’s her dog?

7th Sold.I saw one like that one in Italy;

A statue like her as two peas. They called her

Bronze something,—I forget. They dug her up,

And polished her, and set her up on end.

1st Sold.Hi! graven image, hast thou ne’er a tongue?

2d Sold.How should she speak but as a magpie chatters,

Chat, chat! pretty Mag!

3d Sold.Leave her alone, now.

4th Sold.Lay hold on her and see if she feels warm.[OOHNÁWA draws a knife.

All.Aha! well done! encore the scene! well played![ROBERVAL approaches; she advances towards him.

Soldiers.[Retiring.]Meat for our master.


Ohn.Great Chief!

Rob.What then, my wild fawn, has’t indeed come in,

A live pawn for thy people? Then I hope

’T will be long time ere they make matters up,

So that we still may keep thee hostage here.

But say, do practised warriors, shrewd and cunning,

Send such bright eyes as thine to arméd camp,

To glancing catch full note of our weak points

Or of our strength? We hang up spies, Ohnawa.

Ohn.I am no spy. No warrior sent me here.

Rob.Why didst thou come?

Ohn.Didst thou thyself not ask me?

Rob.I did, i’ faith; and now, thou being here

Shalt see such wonders as are to be seen.

They will impress thy untutored savage mind.

Not’st thou those arms upon that slender mast,

Whose fingers, sudden moving, form new shapes?

By that we speak, without the aid of words,

Long leagues away.

Ohn.This is not new to me.

Our braves, on journeys, speak in silent signs

By leaves, grass, mosses, feathers, twigs and stones,

So that our people can o’ertake the trail,

And tell a message after many moons.

Rob.I have heard of the woodland semaphore.

’T is a thing to be learned,—and acted on.

Ohn.Why dost thou raise thy head-gear to that blanket?

Rob.Blanket! young savage,—’t is the flag of France,

The far most glorious flag of earth and sea,

That, floating over all this continent,

Shall yet surmount the red brick towers of Spain.

But, pshaw! why do I speak.

Gunner, fire off a fauconet.[Gun.

What, not a wink? Art thou, then, really bronze,

Insensible to wonder?

Ohn.All is new.

Rob.Then why not show astonishment? Young maids,

When marvels are presented to their view,

Clasp their fore-fingers, or put hand to ears,

Simper, cry “O, how nice!” look down and giggle,

And show the perturbation of weak minds.

Ohn.I see new marvels that I ne’er have seen,

But when I once have seen them they are old.

Rob.These are the stables where the chargers are.[Horse led out; Groom gallops.

No wonder in thine eyes even at this sight?

Canst thou look on this steed, and yet not feel

No sight so beautiful in all the world?

Ohn.I have seen herds of these brave gallant beasts.

Rob.[Quickly.] When? where was this?

Ohn.When that I was a child

A tribe came scouting from the sinking sun,

The hatchet buried, on a pilgrimage

To take salt water back from out the sea,

As is their custom in their solemn rites.

They all were mounted, every one, on steeds.


Ohn.Our brethren, who live six moons nearer night,

And many more in number than the stars,

With steeds in number many more than they,

Dwell on the boundless, grassy, hunting-plains,

Beyond which mountains higher than the clouds,

And on the other side of them the sea.

Rob.Important this, but of it more anon.[They enter the caserne.

These are called books. These are the strangest things

Thou yet hast seen. I take one of them down,

And lo! a learned dead man comes from his grave,

Sits in my chair and holds discourse with me.

And these are pictures.

Ohn.They are good totem.

Rob.These, maps.

Ohn.I, with a stick, upon the sand

Can trace the like.

Rob.By ’r Lady of St. Roque

That shalt thou do! The Pilot missed it there;

These savages must know their country well.

This girl shall be my chief topographer,

By her I ’ll learn the gold and silver coast

That Cartier could not find.

Come hither to this window. Music, ho![Band plays.

Art thou not pleased with these melodious sounds?

Ohn.The small sounds sparkle like a forest fire,

The big horn brays like lowing of the moose,

The undertone is as Niagara.

Rob.Have ye no music, enfans, in the woods?

No brave high ballad that your warriors sing

To cheer them on a march?

Ohn.We have music,

But our braves sing not. We have tribal bards

Who see in dreams things to make music of.

They tell our squaws, and the good mothers croon

Them over to their little ones asleep.

Rob.Sing me a forest song, one of thine own.[OHNÀWA goes to a drum and beats softly with her hand, humming the while.

This verily is music without words.

Explain, now, what its purport most may mean.

Ohn.The cataracts in the forests have many voices,

They talk all day and converse beneath the stars,

The mists hide their faces from the moon.

The spirits of braves come down from the hunting-grounds;

They swim in the night rainbows, and stalk among the trees,

Hearing the voice of the waters.

Rob.Poetic, by my soul. Why, Ohnáwa,

I ’ve found a treasure in thee. Go now, child;

Halt e’er thou goest!

Here are our wares for trading with the tribes;

Take something with thee for remembrance,

Bright scarlet cloth, beads, buttons, rosaries,

Ribbons and huswifes, scissors, looking-glasses—

To civilized and savage women dear.

Take one, take anything, nay, lade thyself.

Nothing? Shrewd damsel, but that shall not be;

No visitor declines a souvenir.

What hast thou ta’en? A dagger double-edged:

Good, ’t is a choice appropriate; guard it well,

And hide it in thy corset,—I forget,

Thou wear’st none. Go now, girl,—and come again.


ADIEU to France! my latest glance

Falls on thy port and bay, Rochelle;

The sun-rays on the surf-curls dance,

And springtime, like a pleasing spell,

Harmonious holds the land and sea.

How long, alas, I cannot tell,

Ere this scene will come back to me!

The hours fleet fast, and on the mast

Soon shall I hoist the parting sail;

Soon will the outer bay be passed,

And on the sky-line eyes will fail

To see a streak that means the land.

On, then! before the tides and gale,

Hope at the helm, and in God’s hand.

What doom I meet, my heart will beat

For France, the débonnaire and gay;

She ever will in memory’s seat

Be present to my mind alway.

Hope whispers my return to you,

Dear land, but should Fate say me nay,

And this should be my latest view,

Fair France, loved France, my France, adieu!

Salut à la France, salut!


THE MOUNTAIN peaks put on their hoods,


And the long shadows of the woods

Would fain the landscape cover quite;

The timid pigeons homeward fly,

Scared by the whoop owl’s eerie cry,

Whoo-oop! whoo-oop!

As like a fiend he flitteth by;

The ox to stall, the fowl to coop,

The old man to his nightcap warm,

Young men and maids to slumbers light,—

Sweet Mary, keep our souls from harm!

Good-night! good-night!


A GALLANT fleet sailed out to sea

With the pennons streaming merrily.

On the hulls the tempest lit,

And the great ships split

In the gale,

And the foaming fierce sea-horses

Hurled the fragments in their forces

To the ocean deeps,

Where the kraken sleeps,

And the whale.

The men are in the ledges’ clefts,

Dead,—but with motion of living guise

Their bodies are rocking there;

Monstrous sea-fish and efts

Stare at them with glassy eyes

As their limbs are stirred and their hair.

Moan, O sea!

O death at once and the grave,

And sorrow in passing, O cruel wave!

Let the resonant sea-caves ring,

And the sorrowful surges sing,

For the dead men rest but restlessly.

We do keep account of them

And sing an ocean requiem

For the brave.