Le Vieux Temps

Original Text: 
William Henry Drummond, The Habitant and other French-Canadian Poems, intro. Louis Frechette (New York and London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1897): 11-20.
2An' I will tole you story of old tam long ago--
3W'en ev'ryt'ing is happy--w'en all de bird is sing
4An' me!--I'm young an' strong lak moose an' not afraid no t'ing.
5I close my eye jus' so, an' see de place w'ere I am born--
6I close my ear an' lissen to musique of de horn,
7Dat 's horn ma dear ole moder blow--an only t'ing she play
9An' w'en he 's hear dat nice musique--ma leetle dog "Carleau"
10Is place hees tail upon hees back--an' den he 's let heem go--
11He 's jomp on fence--he 's swimmin' crik--he 's ronne two forty gait,
12He say "dat 's somet'ing good for eat--Carleau mus' not be late."
13O dem was pleasure day for sure, dem day of long ago
14W'en I was play wit' all de boy, an' all de girl also;
15An' many tam w'en I 'm alone an' t'ink of day gone by
16An' pull latire an' spark de girl, I cry upon my eye.
17Ma fader an' ma moder too, got nice, nice familee,
19But fonny t'ing de Gouvernement don't geev de firs' prize den
20Lak w'at dey say dey geev it now, for only wan douzaine.
21De English peep dat only got wan familee small size
22Mus' be feel glad dat tam dere is no honder acre prize
23For fader of twelve chil'ren--dey know dat mus' be so,
25But dat is not de story dat I was gone tole you
26About de fun we use to have w'en we leev a chez nous
27We 're never lonesome on dat house, for many cavalier
28Come at our place mos' every night--especially Sun-day.
29But tam I 'member bes' is w'en I 'm twenty wan year--me--
30An' so for mak' some pleasement--we geev wan large soirée
32Wit plaintee peep from 'noder place--dat 's more I can tole you.
34An' on de chimley lak phantome, de win' is mak' it blow--
35But boy an' girl come all de sam an' pass on grande parloir
37An' w'en Bonhomme Latour commence for tune up hees fidelle
38It mak' us all feel very glad--l'enfant! he play so well,
39Musique suppose to be firs' class, I offen hear, for sure
43Tak' hole de beeg Marie Juneau an' dance upon de floor
44Till Marie say "Excuse to me, I cannot dance no more."--
45An' den de Curé 's mak' de speech--ole Curé Ladouceur!
46He say de girl was spark de boy too much on some cornerre--
47An' so he 's tole Bateese play up ole fashion reel a quatre
48An' every body she mus' dance, dey can't get off on dat.
49Away she go--hooraw! hooraw! plus fort Bateese, mon vieux
50Camille Bisson, please watch your girl--dat 's bes' t'ing you can do.
51Pass on de right an' tak' your place Mamzelle Des Trois Maisons
52You 're s'pose for dance on Paul Laberge, not Telesphore Gagnon.
53Mon oncle Al-fred, he spik lak' dat--'cos he is boss de floor,
54An' so we do our possibill an' den commence encore.
55Dem crowd of boy an' girl I'm sure keep up until nex' day
56If ole Bateese don't stop heseff, he come so fatigué.
57An' affer dat, we eat some t'ing, tak' leetle drink also
58An' de Curé, he 's tole story of many year ago--
59W'en Iroquois sauvage she 's keel de Canayens an' steal deir hair,
60An' say dat 's only for Bon Dieu, we don't be here--he don't be dere.
61But dat was mak' de girl feel scare--so all de cavalier
62Was ax hees girl go home right off, an' place her on de sleigh,
63An' w'en dey start, de Curé say, "Bonsoir et bon voyage
65An' den I go meseff also, an' tak' ma belle Elmire--
66She 's nicer girl on whole Comté, an' jus' got eighteen year--
67Black hair--black eye, an' chick rosée dat 's lak wan fameuse on de fall
68But don't spik much--not of dat kin', I can't say she love me at all.
70Got five-six honder acre--mebbe a leetle more--
72So w'en I go for spark Elmire, I don't be mak' de foolish me--
74An' w'en she 's tak' de firs' class prize, dat 's mak' de ole man glad;
75He say "Ba gosh--ma girl can wash--can keep de kitchen clean
76Den change her dress--mak' politesse before God save de Queen."
77Dey 's many way for spark de girl, an' you know dat of course,
78Some way dey might be better way, an' some dey might be worse
80Wit' lot of hay keep our foot warm--an' plaintee buffalo--
81Dat 's geev good chances get acquaint--an' if burleau upset
82An' t'row you out upon de snow--dat 's better chances yet--
83An' if you help de girl go home, if horse he ronne away
85Dat 's very well for fun ma frien', but w'en you spark for keep
86She 's not sam t'ing an' mak' you feel so scare lak' leetle sheep
87Some tam you get de fever--some tam you 're lak snowball
88An' all de tam you ack lak' fou--can't spik no t'ing at all.
89Wall! dat 's de way I feel meseff, wit Elmire on burleau,
90Jus' lak' small dog try ketch hees tail--roun' roun' ma head she go
94Dat 's forty t'ousand 'noder girl, I lef' dem all for you,
96I ax her marry me nex' wick--she tak' me--I don't care."
97Ba gosh; Elmire she don't lak dat--it mak' her feel so mad--
98She commence cry, say "'Poleon you treat me very bad--
99I don't lak see you t'row you'seff upon Polique Gauthier,
100So if you say you love me sure--we mak' de marieé"--
101Oh it was fine tam affer dat--Castor I t'ink he know,
102We 're not too busy for get home--he go so nice an' slow,
103He 's only upset t'ree--four tam--an' jus' about daylight
104We pass upon de ole man's place--an' every t'ing 's all right.
105Wall! we leev happy on de farm for nearly fifty year,
106Till wan day on de summer tam--she die--ma belle Elmire
107I feel so lonesome lef' behin'--I tink 't was bes' mebbe--
108Dat w'en le Bon Dieu tak' ma famme--he should not forget me.
109But dat is hees biz-nesse ma frien'--I know dat 's all right dere
110I 'll wait till he call "'Poleon" den I will be prepare--
111An' w'en he fin' me ready, for mak' de longue voyage


1] Venez ici, mon cher ami: come here, my dear friend Back to Line
8] viens donc vite Napoléon: come on quick, Napoléon
'peche toi pour votre souper: hurry up (dépêche) for your supper (courtesy of Rod Fallon). Back to Line
18] garçon: boy(s). Back to Line
24] Canayens: (French-)Canadians.
Kebeck: Québec, French-speaking province in Canada
Ontario: largest English-speaking province, west of Québec Back to Line
31] paroisse: parish. Back to Line
33] chemin: road. Back to Line
36] Trois Rivières: city east of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River. Back to Line
40] Bateese: Baptiste. Back to Line
41] Mattawa: northern town on the Ottawa River in Ontario. Back to Line
42] Shaintee: shed. Back to Line
64] Menagez-vous: take care of yourself Back to Line
69] St. Flore: town north of Trois Rivières. Back to Line
71] sugar bush: maple trees ready to be tapped for maple syrup.
une belle maison: a lovely house. Back to Line
73] Ste. Anne de la Perade: town on the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Québec City. Back to Line
79] burleau: "berlot," a sleigh--"Voiture d'hiver, à un ou deux sièges, faite d'une caisse rectangulaire plus ou moins profonde, posée sur les patins bas et utilisée pour le transport de voyageurs et de marchandises" (Léandre Bergeron, Dictionnaire de la langue québécoise (Montréal-Nord: VLB, 1980). Back to Line
84] baiser: kiss. Back to Line
91] bimeby: by and by. Back to Line
92] Laisee-moi tranquille: leave me in peace. Back to Line
93] loup garou: werwolf, rough fellow. Back to Line
95] St. Cesaire: town on the Yamaska River south of Montreal. Back to Line
112] portage: the carrying of a boat over land from one waterway to another. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1997.