17 February 2019

Wilfrid Laurier: 100 Years

The great Wilfrid Laurier died one hundred years ago today. Our seventh prime minister, he held the office for more than fifteen consecutive years. Laurier led his party for over three decades, and served in the House of Commons for 44 years, 10 months and 17 days until February 17, 1919 brought all that to an end. At age seventy-seven, his death shouldn't have come as a shock, but contemporary press suggests otherwise. Tribute was paid by George V, but my favourite comes from a commoner who remembered the widow Laurier. It was published in Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier: A Tribute (Ottawa: Modern Press, 1919).


Elegy Written on the Day of Sir Wilfrid Laurier's Death
by Mr. T.A. Brown, Ottawa
     He'll pass no more, nor shall we backward glance
          To note again that loved, commanding form,
     Like some fine figure of chivalrous France
          Round which men rallied in old times of storm. 
     A Bayard, ever gallant in the fray;
          Lute voiced, a man of magic utterance rare,
     What was the spell, the secret of his sway—
          The noble life, the silver of his hair? 
     Unaging and majestic as the pine,
          The evergreen of youth within his soul,
     Tilting young-hearted with that soul ashine,
          He onward bore unto his purposed goal. 
     With her he loved through shadowed hours and gay.
          In rare companionship the sunset road
     He walked in such felicity; the way
          Seemed rose hung, and the years a lightsome load. 
     With malice unto none, e'en in defeat;
          With charity in triumph, he has stood,
     Broad gauge Canadian, after battle's heat,
          Speaking the language of wide brotherhood. 
     The inspiration of his service yet.
          The charity, the brotherhood he taught,
     Shall light our pathway though his sun be set,
          And may we build as nobly as he wrought. 
     New tasks begin, new duties, new resolves,
          For Canada, his land and ours, we take;
     And since such partings come as time evolves,
          His spirit watching, we new pledges make. 
     Though mute his lips, the seal of death thereon,
          While men remember how he loved this land,
     His voice will sound a trumpet leading on—
          Great Heart, adieu—bowed at thy bier we stand. 
*   *   * 
     Dear Lady, in the sadness of this hour
          For him we honor as our noblest son,
     If our affection and our love had power
          To save thee grief, we'd bear it, everyone.

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