Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the tag “French”

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

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Montreal

Canada is such a beautiful country, and throughout the years I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel through many of its provinces and territories. I’ve been as far west as British Columbia, as far north as well, the Northern Territories, and as far east as Nova Scotia. However, my first trip as a young boy would be by car to Quebec.

My maternal grandfather was born in Montreal but left for the US in his twenties. His brother sometimes came to see him, and as a young child my mom recalls seeing the two of them sitting drinking beer and conversing in French.  It was to his family that we visited that very hot summer.

It was 1968, and although we had missed  Expo 67, Buckminster Fuller’s Geodesic dome remained and impressed me greatly.

Pano_Biosphere_Montreal(Photographer: Rene Ehrhardt)

Very little else has remained. There was the vinegar on the table to be used with French fries. The ice cream sundae gotten for free because a chunk of glass was found in the first one I’d been served, and my brother and I riding the hotel elevator in order to test the quality of the ice cubes on each respective floor, are not I suppose exactly selling points.

Here are some of the places I would visit (or revisit).

Notre-Dame Basilica:

220px-Montreal_NDame1_tango7174(Photographer: Tango 7174):

800px-Montreal_NDRosaire5_tango7174(Photographer: Tango7174)

The Old Port of Montreal:

Montréal_et_ses_reflets_-_Montreal_and_its_reflections(Photographer: French Picman)

The Old City:

Place_Jacques-Cartier,_Montreal_2005-10-21(Photographer: gene.arboit)

177_7738ret(Photographer: GK tramrunner229)

The Montreal Botanical Gardens:

800px-Jardin_alpin_1_JB(Photographer: Cephas)

The Montreal Musem of Fine Arts:

468px-El_Greco_-_Portrait_of_a_Gentleman_from_the_Casa_de_Leiva_-_WGA10455El Greco – Portrait of a Gentleman from the Casa de Leiva

336px-CrownWilliam-Adolphe Bouguereau – Crown of Flowers

I would think a summer visit coinciding with the Montreal International Jazz Festival would be just about perfect.

Vive la France! Vive la République!

America never was America to me. Bear this in mind as you read. Ideals may not always be realized, but few would choose to live in a world where they did not exist.

My paternal grandfather died when my dad was young so he grew up on the farm where his mother had been raised. The Great Depression had just begun, and they were fortunate to have land that gave them all they needed at a time in which so many had so very little. Since my grandmother worked, he was looked after by his French Canadian grandparents.

French was spoken, and on the balcony during the summer, it was sung. My father had a French first name, and the meals served were traditional Quebec cuisine.

His grandfather must have been an important role model for him so it’s easy to understand why it was with such sadness that he told me the story of his death.  Among the many people who came to pay final respects was a French Métis, who worked for him as a handyman. Once he had left, my great-grandfather asked for water to cleanse his hands. He felt defiled.

It’s hard to say how instrumental this experience was in shaping my father’s perceptions of the world. I do know I was fortunate never to have heard a racist comment from him, which was decidedly different from the wider environment where I heard people routinely categorized in ways in which I’m sure you are all too familiar.

As he grew he was fascinated with the French Revolution, whose ideals he admired – before, of course, it started eating its children.  And, of course, as a  young man there was France and the battle in Europe against Nazism.

The only memory I have of him crying is when he heard La Marseillaise.

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