Canadian Boat Song

'Canadian Boat Song'. A song composed by the Irish poet Thomas Moore during a visit to Canada in 1804 - not to be confused with the 'Canadian Boat Song' known also as 'The Lone Shieling' (1829), which is not Canadian, even in implication, and is not a boat song, either.

'Canadian Boat Song'

'Canadian Boat Song'. A song composed by the Irish poet Thomas Moore during a visit to Canada in 1804 - not to be confused with the 'Canadian Boat Song' known also as 'The Lone Shieling' (1829), which is not Canadian, even in implication, and is not a boat song, either. Moore's verses began:


Faintly as tolls the evening chime
Our voices keep tune and our oars keep time.

The tune was inspired by a voyageurs' song 'Dans mon chemin j'ai rencontré,' which Moore heard and noted while being rowed down the St Lawrence River from Kingston to Montreal. However, Moore's tune resembles the voyageurs' only in its opening bar. In effect, it was a new composition, and the verses had little resemblance to those of any genuine voyageur song. In the preface to the second volume of his verse (London 1840), Moore printed the voyageur tune, and wrote, 'I departed in almost every respect but the time from the strain our voyageurs had sung to us, leaving the music of the glee nearly as much my own as the words'. The song was published first in London (Carpenter 1805) in a three-voice setting. US editions soon appeared, and by 1825 there were at least 12 (most for three voices, a few for solo voice, many under the title 'The Rapids'). Later (probably before 1865) Louis Moreau Gottschalk made arrangements of the song, and these were published by Reed Meyer in 1870. Arrangements have appeared in Folk Songs of Canada (Waterloo 1954) and numerous other collections including CMH, vol 3.


Further Reading

  • Sulte, Benjamin 'La chanson de Moore "Row, Brothers, Row",' Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic J, Oct 1915

    Needler, G.H. Moore and his Canadian Boat Song (Toronto 1950)