“Chanson de Louis Riel (Riel's Song II)”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1963 (recording, Joseph Gaspard Jeannotte)
Keywords: Canada war prison execution foreignlanguage grief army battle fight rebellion violence separation death family mother Indians(Am.)
Found in: Canada(West)

Description

"C'est au champ de bataille, j'ai fait ecrir' douleurs. On couche sur la paille, ca fait fremir les coeurs." Riel's letter from prison describes his grief and pain and asks friends and family pray for him and the country he fought for

Long description

The singer, on the battlefield, cries in pain; he gets a letter from his mother but has no pen or ink to reply. He dips his penknife into his own blood and writes to her; she falls on her knees weeping. He tells her that since everyone has to die someday, he prefers to die as a brave

Notes

From Fowke/MacMillan - "Louis Riel, the leader of the Metis in both the Red River Rebellion in 1870 and the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, was taken prisoner when his followers were defeated at Batoche on 12 May 1885. He was tried, sentenced to death, and hanged in Regina jail on 16 November 1885. Since then his career has inspired books, plays, and an opera and the Saskatchewan Metis still talk and sing of him.

Mrs. Cass-Beggs got this song from Joseph Gaspard Jeannotte, an old Metis living at Lebret, Saskatchewan. He said that Riel had composed it while in jail, which may well be true for he is known to have written other poems and songs. It appeared first in Mrs. Cass-Beggs' _Eight Songs of Saskatchewan_ (Toronto, 1963). English words by Barbara Cass-Beggs."

Though attributed to Riel, the song has no reference to him, the Metis, or to the rebellion. It is written in the form of a letter from a prisoner to his mother as he is facing execution. - SL

Although the subject is similar, and both songs are attributed to Riel himself, the plot of this one is utterly different from that of "Riel's Song." You should look at that one too, though -- and see RBW's extensive notes there. - PJS

Historical references

Cross references

Recordings

References

  1. Fowke/MacMillan 8, "Chanson de Louis Riel" (1 French and 1 English text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, FowM008