Fragrance in Travel Literature-Canada



A woman in Canada ([n.d.])
Cran, Marion, 1879-1942


We pass field after field of maize,
buckwheat, oats and pasture. The maize, always
called corn here, is infinitely graceful. Its leaves hang
from tall stalks like satin streamers of green ribbon ;
on top floats a plume of pale floss silk, tipped with
brown. The buckwheat grows thick and short; it
waves its tiny flowers in the wind, and sheds a
perfume more fragrant and delicious than can be
imagined.

The air was aro-
matic with the perfume of balsam, for the Indians
cut down young balsam saplings about fifteen feet
high, and make of the flat, scented boughs mattresses
more springy and comfortable than any you have
ever slept on, I'll bet. I asked the Doctor what
country lay beyond us, and he said no man knows.

Let no one think he can come to the young North-
West and leave it with joy. Lightly enough I came
three months ago, lightly enough I took the trail
towards the sunset, lightly enough I trod the magic
land that leaves its mark for ever on the heart. The
process is so unconscious. I never knew as I trod
the prairie grasses and caught the perfume of the
low roses brushing by my skirt, I never knew as I
looked towards the mountains in the sunset that
these once tasted leave an everlasting hunger for
more; there was no way of knowing that when I
followed the lean trail it would never cease to
beckon, only now as I turn eastward do I learn the
thing that has happened. Another song to haunt
the silences till death.

How the air smelt of
cedar ! When I was little we used to have cedar-
wood pencils at school, and I remember sitting sniff-
ing the faint perfume (which always grew more
elusive as the pencil got greasier) while my unwill-
ing mind followed the intricacies of "x" on the
blackboard. I have forgotten the vagaries of "x,"
but I vividly recall the sweet smell of cedar, and
there it was in the nostrils then, full-bodied and
fresh, a real grown-up cedar smell mixed with pines,
and sometimes an indescribable heavy, luscious sen-
suous smell from a fruit orchard on Mount Royal.

We walk back, past buckwheat just off bloom;
past a heavy crop of oats in shock with a fine catch
of clover underneath, past fields of aftermath richer
than many a first crop in the old country, past celery,
asparagus and melon-patch to the chicken-runs and
bee-butts. Looking at these last, standing near
thirty acres of clover in bloom, I know where came
the fragrant honey which has already pleased me so
much I only know one kind with a better flavour,
and that is the heather honey near Dartmoor in
Devonshire.

If it were pos-
sible I would describe the country, but there is no
way. I am unable to show to English minds the
wide Western horizon, the height and blueness of
the skies, the stinging caress of the wind, sweet with
scent of the upland hay and the wild charm of the
prairie when it breaks, as it does here, into rolling
dunes of grass and scrub. Between the little hills
lie broad blue lakes I had thought Manitoba
beautiful, now I am fain to forget her in Saskat-
chewan. Wind and sky and lonely spaces . . .


This brilliant sea and sky,
this island of flowers and sweet scents makes me
envy the high-nosed ones who come to live here in
the afternoon of life.

In all the loved, scented
beauty of rose-time in England I feel a reiteration
of that longing to be in Canada again; I want to
linger in Ottawa, the garden-city; to see Winnipeg
again lying flat on the prairie, with the sky-line an
amber belt about her loins at sunset; to watch the
green snakes gliding in and out among the grass
chant evensong, and crickets wake the day.

In all the loved, scented
beauty of rose-time in England I feel a reiteration
of that longing to be in Canada again; I want to
linger in Ottawa, the garden-city; to see Winnipeg
again lying flat on the prairie, with the sky-line an
amber belt about her loins at sunset; to watch the
green snakes gliding in and out among the grass
chant evensong, and cnrkets wake the day.

We lose our way once and I am
electrified to find a patch of prairie roses in bloom.
They are the loveliest things of wonder, in that
desert of scorched grass from dead white to deep
red they grow on low bushes a foot or so high and
smell with a wild, warm sweetness impossible to
describe; we find the trail again and see at last the
place we are looking for.

We set forth near milking-time, and walk past
the gopher holes and badger holes and pale wolf-
willow to the standing corn. It rustles in the wind
and exudes the faintest hint of a warm grainy smell
under the blazing sun; the slight harsh sound re-
minds me fantastically of bank notes rustling, it
billows like a sea, wave on wave, acre on acre,
mile on mile; timely bluffs make wind-breaks for
the crop, and shine like green oases in the Sahara
of growing gold. Here, where they found virgin
prairie, she stands; the heavy ears lap against her
splendid hips, and here and there they tip her
breast; round her skirts the children cling, she
moves in this beautiful, fruitful land like Ceres
among plenty.

On the train I lean as usual from the car and smell
again the smell of Canada pine and cedar, pine
and cedar here is the muddy Fraser River laced
with emerald mountain streams; down the sides of
the canon grows the burning bush, there are splashes
like blood on the rock-face of maple deeply red.

Through the heart of Canada (1910)
Yeigh, Frank, 1860-1935


Halifax is the centre of one of the most interest-
ing sections of Canada, especially in its historic,
scenic, and agricultural aspects. To the east lies
the ocean end of the Dominion in Cape Breton,
thrusting its granite coast-line far into the Atlantic ;
to the west, Annapolis attracts with its ancient
French fortress and fertile valley and penetrating
sea arm, and to the north, Acadia — the land of
Evangeline — lures the traveller. What a glamour
' is cast over the whole region by the fiction-created
Acadian maiden ! Here is the site of the farm-
stead ; there the old well, with its broad sweep
of pole from which Evangeline supposedly drew
the freshest of water. The gnarled French willows
are in a state of decrepitude, scarce able to hold
up their ageing branches. Hard by stood the
smithy, the glow from whose forge lighted up the
faces of Gabriel and his sweetheart as they watched
the labouring bellows. Hereabouts the little
church must have raised its humble spire, and
over yonder, less than a stone's -throw away, the
home of the good priest helped to fill in the
picture. Indeed, much of Longfellow's descrip-
tion of the long-ago village of Grand Pre applies
equally well to-day. Perfect is his etching of this
idyllic corner of Acadia. Nestling in the fruitful
valley, bounded by the red-lipped shores of Minas,
lies the village of Grand Pre — " distant, secluded,
still " ; the perfumed meadows still stretch to the
eastward as the dykes still border the sea — "

The road cuts through a landscape of rich
beauty. Old manor houses stand in dignified
retirement far back from the dusty highway ; big
bams, flanked by little old-fashioned cottages,
crowd closer to the street to miss nothing of the
passing life ; other homes, a degree more pre-
tentious, and occupying a middle social position
between the two extremes, put on airs with freshly-
painted blue window frames against a background
of unpainted or whitewashed walls. If it be haying
time, the full blossomed clover exhales its richest
perfume, the bluebells cuddle in the fence corners,
the birds sing their chansons, and all is as merry as
a marriage. The only really sober element in the
landscape is the smallest of chapels, perched on a
make-believe hill, with but two windows to a side
and an entrance in keeping with its diminutive size.

The eye will also be riveted by the
stately approach of a summer storm — a cloud no
larger than a man's hand swelling into magnificent
proportions and darkening half of the sky. With
incredible swiftness it travels over the plains, sud-
denly submerging the world where one stands in
a deluge of rain, and after the storm, what glorious
sunshine bursts forth, what perfumes exhale from
mother earth, how the trail-side wild-flowers
brighten and all nature renews its life.

Of all the trails of this new land, the mountain
ones are the most alluring, the most wonderful,
the most fascinating. Who shall adequately sing
of the joy, the freedom, the exhilaration of the
journey over their sinuous length, where the breath
of the mountain air is revivifying, where the scent of
the wild -flowers perfumes the air, where the aroma
of Nature in all her bewilderment of luxuriant
growth sweetens the out-of-doors. Once again one
discovers that the real life is the life of the open-
air, whether the tent be struck on the valley bed,
the sloping hillside, or the mountain summit.

Emerging from this little lane of humanity,
crowded against the black-faced cliff, one experi-
ences a sudden awakening with the clang of a
modern electric car. As it twists and curves to
adapt itself to the erratic highway, as it zigzags
in a bewildering manner, the impudence of the
lightning-harnessed car strikes the mind. No spot
is sacred from its tracks, the hum of its electrical
energy is a laugh of derision at the awakening
of echoes in quiet convent gardens, hidden behind
high walls from the gaze of the passer-by, in
incense -filled churches with their kneeling worship-
pers, in cloister and corridor where the Silent
Sisters dwell, in buildings overbent with age, and
in dusty, scholastic halls . Does the noble Erangois
de Montmorency Laval hear the distant rumbling,
though so soundly asleep these two hundred years
in his massive sarcophagus in the University that
bears his name, and if he hears does he marvel
at it all ?

Near by is the old French burial -
ground. The Gaspereau River wanders placidly
among fragrant meadows towards the obliterating
sea, and on every hill -slope the ripening grain -
fields and richly-laden orchards seem to smile
gratefully under the summer sun. Beyond, and
ever beyond, the blue waters of the Basin
of Minas gleam, and the farther shore-line
encloses the matchless view.

One of the routes from Nova Scotia to New
Brunswick leads through the extensive salt sea-
marshes of Tantramar, bordering the Cumberland
Basin. It is not difficult to follow the gaze of
the Canadian poet, Charles G. D. Roberts, when
he pictures Tantramar as " wearing a cloak of
mystery and awe under a storm-torn sky," or when
under a sun-sky " the gossiping grass takes on
its real garmenture of green." It is easy to
inhale " the salty scent of the reedy margin," it
is easy to sweep the tawny waters of the Bay of
Eundy, the low blue hills of Coboquid.


Thus was Gaspe the first spot in the new land
on which France erected the cross and unfurled the
fleur-de-lis. Hot days are, as a matter of fact,
rare during the summer along the shores of
Chaleur, for the salt-scented breezes of the
Atlantic moderate the sun's rays to a delightful
average of temperature. Gaspe town is an ideal
starting-point for a jaunt along the northern coast
of the bay.

Striking is the contrast : a circle of swelling
hills, grey to their summits, with the dull garb of a
parched vegetation, and in the bed of the valley
a garden of trees and flowers and sweet-smelling
fields of hay, through which runs a clear-hearted
stream, lined with cottonwood-trees and rushes
having the first drink thereof. Nothing fairer can
be seen in all British Columbia than these water-
won ranches, whether in the Okanagan and
Kootenay valleys of the south, or the Kamloops
and Cariboo areas of the north and west.

Nature in Acadie (1895)
Swann, Harry Kirke


Presently I left the road and plunged into the solitude
of the fragrant pines and hemlocks, stepping over the
virgin snow that lay, crisp and glistening, fully five
inches in depth upon the ground. There were a few
wary old crows about these partially cleared outskirts
of the forest, calling to one another from the tree-tops
with a loud imperious note, much like that of their
Old World cousins.

Already the feathered choir have been heralding the
coming of the great Life-giver, and the woods are astir
with song the petulant whistling of the " robin," the
chant of the water-thrush, and the many trillings of the
warblers, while along the shore the sable crow swells
the symphony with discordant music. But anon comes
another and a stranger song from the shady recesses of
the underwood notes sweet-toned and changing, like
the babbling of a brook over stones, and with as sad and
stately an undercurrent. It is the song of the hermit
thrush bird of the dark and gloomy forest, the secluded
swampy hollow, girt round with dense underwood and
crowded with tall breathless firs, staring up for ever
from out of an endless twilight
" From deep secluded recesses, ^
From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird."

The trailing arbutus, the exquisite little "mayflower "
emblem of Acadie is in full flower about this time
of the year, and sure enough during the day I found it
growing in great profusion along the side of a forest
track. The pretty little white flowers, half hidden
among the leaves, remind one somewhat of our white
violet, and it would be hard to decide which possesses
the sweetest scent. All the esteem in which the violet
is held by Old-world Nature-lovers is lavished upon the
little " mayflower " here and in much the same way,
for each spring it is sought for diligently, torn from its
enfolding leaves and carried heartlessly away to droop
and die in a glass or vase in some forgotten corner.


A Labrador spring (1910)
Townsend, Charles Wendell, 1859-


In these northern regions spring advances
by bounds, and the saying that " nature
never makes leaps " was certainly contra-
dicted by an experience on the eleventh day of
June. On this day, while we were eating our
dinner on the banks of the Romaine River,
enjoying the wonderful beauty of the scene, lis-
tening to the undertone of the rapids and the
incisive song of the redstart, and breathing
in the aromatic, incense-like perfume of the
alder catkins, a birch, released by the melting
of the snow, suddenly leaped up to greet the
sun. It was still bare as in winter, but in a
few days it would be clothed with the fresh
green that its recently escaped companions had
already assumed.

Along the narrow, sandy lane we slowly
walked. Great solemnity, piety and adoration
of the sacred services were shown on every
face. There was no levity, no idle conversation ;
there were no lookers-on, all were participants.
The men sang, the priest intoned, the bells in
the steeple rang forth; a fox sparrow's flute-
like tones issued from the brook-side, clear and
sweet, and the holy vespers of the hermit thrush
came faintly from the distant forest. At last
we reached a turning in the lane where the
priest entered a repository, gayer still with
flags and bright pictures, images and paper
flowers, and with carpets placed about. Here,
after a short service, the host was raised and
the prostrate people blessed. Again the journey
was continued over a little bridge to another
repository, where the same service was re-
peated. Again the church bells jangled forth,
and the procession slowly wound its way to the
bridge by the church, and so on into the sacred
edifice. Here the services were completed
with much burning of incense and music.

To sleep out under the stars in cool, pure air,
free from mosquitoes or flies of any sort, to
breathe in the fragrance of the balsam and the
sea, to be gently rocked by the subdued ocean
waves in protected harbours, to be lulled to
sleep by the lapping of the water against the
boat's sides, by the calls of the spotted sandpiper
and the evening hymn of the robin, to awake to
the song of the fox sparrow and the white-
throat on the shores, and the love-cooing of the
eider on the water, this was indeed good
and productive of heart's content.

Although not a new leaf bud had opened,
there was one conspicuous exception to the
flowerless vegetation, and this was the moun-
tain saxifrage which grew in great abundance
on the limestone cliffs of Esquimaux Island.
It is a tufted moss-like plant, the leaves ever-
green and inconspicuous, but the flowers, of a
wonderful shade of pink, so crowded the ends
of the short stems that they formed glorious
masses of colour, hanging in festoons from the
cliffs or studding the rocks in great bosses.
It was in full flower when we first discovered it
on May 25th, and it exhaled a fragrance like
that of the trailing arbutus, but much more
delicate.

The first of June appeared to be the begin-
ning of the spring season with the agricultural-
ists of Esquimaux Point, for at this date the
tilling of the gardens began. With the aid of
broad bladed mattocks, deep furrows were made
in the dark peaty and sandy soil, the women
working side by side with the men, if haply
these latter were not engaged with their boats,
and the familiar pictures of French peasantry
were at once suggested. The soil is enriched
with dark, strong-smelling seaweed brought by
boats from the islands, and the seeds planted ;
turnips and cabbages, salads, radishes and pota-
toes were the chief crops. The rhubarb was just
beginning at this date to peep above the
ground.

After icebergs with a painter: a summer voyage to Labrador and around Newfoundland (1861)
Noble, Louis Legrend, 1813-1882


FKIDAY, July 8, 1859. A bright, cool morning.
After breakfast at the parsonage, we went rambling again
up and down the moss-covered fields of Battle Island,
smelling the fine perfume, gathering flowers, and counting
the icebergs. There are more than forty in the neighbor-
hood, and some of them grand and imposing at a distance.
Have you thought, as I did, that there are no flowers, or
next to none, in Labrador ? You might as well have
thought that all, or nearly all the flowers were in Florida.
Along the brook-banks under the Catskills to me about
the loveliest banks on earth, in the late spring and early
summer days I have never seen such fairy loveliness as
I find here upon this bleak islet, where nature seems to
have been playing at Switzerland. Green and yellow
mosses, ankle-deep and spotted with blood-red stains, car-
pet the crags and little vales and cradle-like hollows.
Wonderful to behold ! flowers pink and white, yellow,
red and blue, are countless as dew-drops, and breathe out
upon the pure air that odor, so spirit-like. Such surely
was the perfume of Eden around the footsteps of the
Lord, walking among the trees of the garden in the cool
of the day.

The flowers by the wayside, mostly small and pale,
touched the air with delicate perfume. I looked for the
bees, but there were none abroad ; neither was there to be
heard the hum of insects nor warbling of birds. Now and
then a lonely bird piped a feeble strain. We continued
winding among the thinly- wooded hills, our wheels ringing
along the narrow gravel road for an hour. At last we
reached the height of land, and overlooked the ocean.
Here we rested a few moments, rose from the seats, and
looked around upon the majestic scene. Far out upon
the blue were many sails, white in the bright sunshine as
the wings of doves.

FIVE o'clock, P. M. What a pleasing contrast !
We Lave been tossing nearly all day upon a rough, in-
clement ocean, and are now on the sunny, smooth waters
of the bay, gliding westward, with Cape St. Louis close
upon our right. We have sailed from winter into sum-
mer, almost as suddenly as we come out of the fog, at
times bursting out of it into the clear air, as an eagle
breaks out of a cloud. It is fairly a luxury to bask in
this delicious sunshine, and smell the mingled perfume of
flowers, and the musky spruce. Mr. Hutchinson is filled
with delight to find himself once more on this beautiful
bay.

The ride along the shore of Sydney harbor, over a
smooth, hard road, was really charming, and would have
been to travellers of ill temper. Wild roses incensed the
fresh air, and the sunshine was bright upon the clover-
fields.

Between our landing and the supper, two hours
passed, during which G painted the Eip Van Winkle
berg, and I ascended the mountain. Crossing a little
dell to the west of the house, through which flow a
couple of tinkling rills bordered with rank grass, and
sheeted with flowers white and fragrant, I struck the
foot of a small glacier, or chasm filled with perpetual
snow, and commenced the ascent.

Coming round upon the northern slope, I was
tempted by the mossy footing to try the reindeer
method, and went bounding to the right and left until
I was brought up waist-deep in a thicket of crisp and
fragrant evergreens. When I say thicket, do not fancy
any ordinary cluster of shrubs, such as is common, for
example, among the Catskills. This, of which I am
speaking, and which is found spotting these cold hill-
sides, is a perfect forest in miniature, covering a spaco
twenty or thirty feet across, compact as a phalanx of
soldiery, and from three feet to six inches high. In fact,
it reminds me of a train-band standing straight and trim,
and bristling with bayonets. The little troop looked as
if it was marching up the mountain, the taller ones in
front, and the little inch-fellows following in the rear, all
keeping step and time.

Is not all this very grand and beautiful ? Have
you ever seen the like before ? The like of it is not to
be seen upon the planet, apart from the icebergs. With
cold, fixed, white death, life warm, elastic, palpitating,
glorious, powerful life is wrestling, and will inevitably
throw. Do you see " the witchery of the shadows " ?
Pray look aloft. Castle, temple, cliff, all built into one,
are draped with shadows softer than the tint of doves,
the morning's early gray, dappled with the warm pearly
blues of heaven, and edged with fire. The sun is behind
the ice, and the light is pouring over. A flood of light
is pouring over. All is edged with fire, streaming with
lightning ; all its notched and flowing edges hemmed
with live, scintillating sunshine, ruby, golden, green, and
blue. See you below that royal sepulchre through its
crystal door ? Beauty hangs her lamp in there, and the
sky-blue shadow looks like the fragrant smoke of it. Now
tell me, was there ever any thing more lovely ? Have
the poets dreamed of rarer loveliness ? The surf springs
up like an angel from the tomb, and, with a shout
of triumph, strikes it with its silvery wings. Ha !
you start. But do not be frightened. It was only
the cracking of the iceberg. But was there ever
such a blow ? quick tremulous ringing penetrat-
ing. Why, it jarred the sea, and thrilled the heart like
an electric shock. One feels as if the berg had dropped,
instantly dropped an inch, and cracked to the very core.
Captain Knight, shall we not fall back a little ? we are
surely getting too close under.

SATURDAY, July 9. We are abroad again on the
rocky hills, fanned with the soft, summer wind, and
blessed with the loveliest sunshine. The mosses sparkle
with their sweet-scented blossoms of purple, white, and
red, and the wood-thrush is pouring out its plaintive
melody over the bleak crags, and the homes of fishermen,
around whose doors I see the children playing as merrily
as the children of fortune in more favored lands. How
many a tender parent, now watching over a sick child in
the wealthy city, would be glad to have the sufferer here,
to be the playfellow of these simple boys and girls, if he
could have their health and promise of life. Captain
Knight comes with his hands full of flowers, not unlike the
daisy ; and here come Hutchinson and the Painter.

Have we
not heard the footsteps of the billows marching to their
encampment in the grottoes of the cliffs ; and seen the
silent, inshore deeps ; the imprisoned islands and grim
headlands armed with impenetrable granite ; the vales
and dells, and hill- sides with their mosses and their
flowers, sweet odors, and sweet melodies ? most beau-
tiful, most wonderful of all, thine icebergs, and thy twi-
light heavens ? All these, and more, of thy greatness
and thy glory, have we looked upon, and they will have
their reflections, and their echoes in the memory forever.
Beauty may watch, and supplicate, and weep sometimes
upon the crags now receding from our view, but she is
surely there, and native to the wildest pinnacle and
cavern. And while to the careless eye and thoughtless
heart thou art verily dark and bleak, yet art thou neither
barren nor unfruitful. Old Labrador, farewell !