Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two Poems About Samuel de Champlain

(Mark's Bay, Lake Champlain- Painting by Kevin Macneil Brown,
acrylic on canvas, 2008)

Samuel De Champlain

Astrolabe, lead line
lineaments of ungratified...
desire: 29 voyages 1599 to 1633

Master mariner, marriage
perhaps unconsummated ?;
childless but for
three adopted Indian daughters,
Faith, Hope, Charity,
later lost to politics.

But found so much land and
water between fog and clear sailing!

Observation, involvement,
engagement- chose sides in battle.
(but, in all fairness, a man of
moderation, the
middle path: witness his
distaste for torture, his
essential human kindness).

The Good Catholic,
tolerant of others, Protestants and
Indian souls to be saved
(this succeeded only with sick native
baptized at death’s door)

Did he take offense
at metrical Psalms sung
loudly from Protestant, Huguenot
ships- a quarantined “church” in the harbor?

Years later, Helene, his wife,
takes orders in an Ursuline convent.

His grave unknown,
an astrolabe his only
surviving object,

Place names and a
rich topography,

Rivers and bays,
a monumental silence.

Rich and fecund river mouth
islands of nine or seven summits,
spruce and birch, white pine, beech

Champlain saw:
"ospreys, heron, curlews
others in infinite numbers
that come in their seasons..."

Lists among the
hawks and falcons:
"Less common than those named, one
with gray plumage on back
and white on the belly, as
large and fat as a hen,
with one foot like the talon
of a bird of prey, with which
it catches fish; the other

like that of a duck.
The latter serves
for swimming in the water when he dives for fish.

This bird is not
supposed to be found, except in
New France. "

Is there a continuous line
from Norumbega to here and now?

migration assume another
dimension across
boundaries that don’t exist?

-Kevin Macneil Brown

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