By E. M. Schtajerman, Wolfgang Seyfarth

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And yet there was a sense in nineteenth-century Canada that a home-grown literature was not really valued, poetic output being met by the general populace with "coldness and indifference" (Dewart, x), unless the text in question took a straightforward descriptive or realist approach (Bentley 2004, 173). Dewart's "Introductory Essay" - a key text in the formation of an early Canadian canon undertakes a rhetorical battle with those who would denigrate poetry. The argument is ethical and religious, since as Dewart suggests: "The Poet's work is a lofty and sacred work" (xiii).

Intriguingly, the sublime mountain landscape does emerge, from the great Niagara Falls themselves: "D'eau verte se transforme en monts d'écume blanche, / Farouches, éperdus, bondissant, mugissant ... " In this sublime waterscape and rising mountainscape, fragile life can survive the immense powers that destroy aIl else. Fréchette's sublime is translated into other modes: the epic, writing the history of the French Canadian nation, and narratives of resistance to Anglophone rule; as with a later British Canadian author, Malcolm Lowry (1909-57), Fréchette would be accused of plagiarism, but contemporary notions of intertextuality and bricolage (building texts from other sampled sources) suggest that Fréchette, like Roberts, is instead occupying and re-coding European modes of aesthetic perception.

A "national spirit" is sensed in the early work of the Confederation Poets, but this is ternpered by their intertextual relationship with the European Romantics. One important fact, as with the reception to Heavysege, is that the Confederation Poets received international recognition and acclaim. D. Roberts's Orion, and Othel" Poems (1880): '" 1 had been under the depressing conviction that we were situated hopelessly on the outskirts of civilization, where no art and literature could be, and that it was useless to expect that anything great could be done by any of our cornpanions, still more useless to expect that we could do it ourselves.

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