Petit rocher de la haute montagne

'Petit rocher de la haute montagne'. Canadian song from the early 18th century, which exists in several versions. The text was published first in Quebec City in 1863 by Mgr Joseph-Charles Taché (in Forestiers et Voyageurs, a volume of the journal Soirées canadiennes) and F.-A.-H.

'Petit rocher de la haute montagne'

'Petit rocher de la haute montagne'. Canadian song from the early 18th century, which exists in several versions. The text was published first in Quebec City in 1863 by Mgr Joseph-Charles Taché (in Forestiers et Voyageurs, a volume of the journal Soirées canadiennes) and F.-A.-H. LaRue (Le Foyer canadien, vol 1). In his Chansons populaires du Canada (Quebec City 1865) Ernest Gagnon reproduced the text in 11 verses along with Taché's description of the story. Gagnon also presented two versions of the melody, one in the minor mode and one in the major - the first seems more in keeping with the character of the piece. Canada's Story in Song by Edith Fowke et al (Toronto 1965) gives seven verses and the melody in the minor.

The first song to describe a Canadian event, 'Petit rocher' describes the last moments of the person whom legend casts as the author, a coureur de bois named Jean Cadieux (baptized in Boucherville, near Montreal, 12 Mar 1671). He died in May 1709 after defending his family against the Iroquois at the Sept-Chutes portage on the Ottawa River. Cadieux diverted the Indians' attention while his family, protected by the Virgin Mary, managed to navigate the rapids in a canoe. Prior to dying of exhaustion, he dug his own grave and lay in it. Before doing so he wrote 'La Complainte de Cadieux' on a piece of birch-bark which his companions later discovered on his breast or, according to another legend, fastened to a tree. Voyageurs from a post nearby are said to have set the lament to music.

The song is found on LPs by Alan Mills (Folk 2-FW-3000, Folk FW-6929) and the Montreal Bach Choir (Vox STPL-511.860).


Further Reading

  • Kohl, J.G. Kitchi-Gami (London 1860)

    Fréchette, Louis. 'Cadieux,' La Légende d'un peuple (Paris 1887)

    Montigny, Louvigny de. 'Cadieux et sa complainte,' Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada (Jun 1933)

    Barbeau, Marius. 'La complainte de Cadieux, coureur de bois (ca. 1709),' JAF, 264, Apr-Jun 1954

    Laforte, Conrad. 'La complainte de Cadieux,' Dictionnaire des oeuvres littéraires du Québec, vol 1, Maurice Lemire ed (Montreal 1978)