Great Stories of Freshwater Sailing

Ladyslipper Press

Enjoy the poetry and folksongs below

Le Voyage

This is a traditional voyageur chanson (folksong) collected by Marius Barbeau, one of the first Canadian folklorists. “Le Voyage” is part of his collection of traditional French Canadian materials recorded in Quebec, now housed at L’Université Laval. Verse four was collected by Édouard-Zotique Massicotte in 1917 from Vincent-Ferrier de Repentigny. Barbeau, unfortunately, did not always name his informants. The editor thanks Carl Masthay for his help with this translation.


Ah ! c’est un mariage Ah! It’s like a marriage

Que d’épouser le voyage. To agree to a voyage.

Je plains qui s’y engage I pity whoever engages himself

Sans y être invite. Without being a guest.

Léve tôt, couché tard, Rise early, go to bed late,

Il faut subir son sort, Submit to fate,

S’exposer á la mort. Expose yourself to death.


Dans le cours du voyage, In the course of the voyage,

Exposé aux naufrages; Exposed to shipwreck,

Le corps trempé dans l’eau, Drenched in water,

Éveillé par les oiseaux, Woken by the birds,

Nous n’avons de repos We do not have any rest

Ni le jour ni la nuit. Day or night.

N’y a que de l’ennui. There is only weariness.


Dans le cours du voyage, In the course of the voyage,

Exposé aux orages; Exposed to storms,

Préoccupé du temps, Worried about making time,

Battu de tous les vents. . . Beaten by the winds. . .

Ah! Je vous dis, mes frères, Ah, I tell you my brothers,

Personne, sur la terre, No one, on the earth,

Endure tant de misère. Endures so much misery


(Y passer le rest’ du la nuit The rest at night

Sur les roches et le gravois. Is on the rocks and gravel.

Grand Dieu, que c’est de valeur Great God, what valor it takes

Que d’étre voyageur!) To be a voyageur[ voyager]!)


Dans le cours du voyage, In the course of the voyage,

Il faut bien du courage. It is necessary to have great courage.

Vaut mieux être habitant; It is better to be a settler

On a moins de tourment. Who has less torment.

L’habitant sèm’ du grain; The settler sows some grain,

Dort du soir au matin. Sleeps from evening to morning.

Sa femme en a bien soin. His wife takes care of everything.


Ah! C’est un mariage Ah! It’s like a marriage

Que d’épouser le voyage. To agree to a voyage.

Moi, J’attends la journée, Me, I wait for the day,

Jour de mon arrive. The day of my arrival.

Jamais plus je n’irai I will never go any longer

Dans ces pays damnés In this damned country

Pour tant m’y ennuyer. So great is my weariness.

Perry’s Victory Song

Verse 2

It was on Lake Erie—when all hands were cheary,

A fleet was descried in the morning,

‘Twas Queen Charlott’s fleet, so handsome and neat,

In bold line of battle were forming;

But when evening came—though the fleet were the same,

That our brave naval forces were scorning,

That our brave naval forces were scorning,

They were beat—so complete—that they yielded the fleet,

To the one they despis’d in the morning.

Verse 3

Now let us remember the tenth of September,

When Yankees gave Britons a warning,

When our foes on Lake Erie, were beaten and weary,

So full of conceit in the morning;

To the skilful, and brave who our country did save,

Our gratitude ought to be warming,

To the skilfull, and brave who our country did save,

Our gratitude ought to be warming,

So let us be merry, in toasting of Perry,

September the tenth in the morning.

Lost on the Lady Elgin

Verse 2

Oh! ’tis the cry of children,

Weeping for parents gone;

Children who slept at evening,

But orphans woke at dawn.

Sisters for brothers weeping,

Husbands for missing wives—

Such are the ties dis-sever’d

With those three hundred lives.

Verse 3

Staunch was the noble steamer—

Precious the freight she bore;

Gaily she loosed her cables,

A few short hours before.

Grandly she swept out harbor,

Joyfully rang her bell;

Little thought we, ‘ere morning,

‘Twould toll so sad a knell.

Sailin’ Out O’ Duluth

Sailin’ out o’ Duluth,

Buckin’ seas that’s high,

Barometer is pumpin’,

Lots o’ snow clouds in the sky.

Runnin’ time in summer,

To Soo Saint Marie,

Day and a half is usual,

Won’t make it now in three.

Clamp them life-lines plenty snug,

And rig a bosun’s chair,

Down below the Apostles,

Decks will be awash for fair.

Rivits pull and deckplates squeak,

Ice is buildin’ on the bow,

Hang on, here comes a big one!

Wham! that one was a wow.

Steam hose plays on pilot house,

Skipper shows us he can swear,

Who the hell ‘vented ice?

N—– steward breathes a prayer.

Engines pound and pound like mad,

Engineers are cussin’ too,

Open her up and shut her off,

because of a crazy racin’ screw.

Tail-shaft thumps and thumps and thumps,

And in the midst of whirrin’ steel,

Oilers swayin’ with the roll,

Heated bearin’s anxious feel.

Men up for’ard get nothing’ to eat,

‘Cause they can’t get aft,

Sweatin’ stokers down below,

Think the ship’s gone daft.

Now this ain’t much unusual,

Just a plain November blow,

Superior’s got her dander up

And makin’ plenty wind and snow.

For it’s no life o’ Riley,

And a chance you always takes,

If in fall you sail upon

Them rough Great Lakes.