A Global Voice

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Pathway

This year, marks the 100th anniversary of Pauline Johnson’s passing.  She died on March 7, 1913 of breast cancer, three days short of her 52nd birthday. In the end, she called Vancouver home. Her last wish was to be buried in her beloved Stanley Park.  The city of Vancouver granted her request with the proviso that she be cremated. Pauline Johnson’s ashes were held in an urn encased within a small concrete vault that was gently placed in the ground.  A granite boulder, which boasted a carving of double hearts, the tribal badge of the Mohawk, marked her grave.  Today, what remains is a stone monument, established by the Women’s Club of Vancouver, as a final tribute.

Monument

Pauline Johnson was a global voice that embraced universal themes of tradition, nature and compassion.  These are dialogues that cannot be limited by time, space or culture.   She honoured the customs of the past by preserving and sharing the stories; she paved the way for women and First Nation writers and performers to boldly pursue an artist’s path; most of all, she believed that what she wrote and spoke about was important. A woman of Mohawk and English parentage, living at the turn of a new century spoke for all of humanity.  May we have the courage to do the same.

A Toast

There’s wine in the cup, Vancouver,
And there’s warmth in my heart for you,
While I drink to your health, your youth, and your wealth,
And the things that you yet will do.
In a vintage rare and olden,
With a flavour fine and keen,
Fill the glass to the edge, while I stand up to pledge
My faith to my western queen. 

Then here’s a Ho! Vancouver, in wine of the bonniest hue,
With a hand on my hip and the cup at my lip,
And a love in my life for you.
For you are a jolly good fellow, with a great, big heart, I know;
So I drink this toast
To the “Queen of the Coast.”
Vancouver, here’s a Ho!

And here’s to the days that are coming,
And here’s to the days that are gone,
And here’s to your gold and your spirit bold,
And your luck that has held its own;
And here’s to your hands so sturdy,
And here’s to your hearts so true,
And here’s to the speed of the day decreed
That brings me again to you.

Then here’s a Ho! Vancouver, in wine of the bonniest hue,
With a hand on my hip and the cup at my lip,
And a love in my life for you.
For you are a jolly good fellow, with a great, big heart, I know;
So I drink this toast
To the “Queen of the Coast.”
Vancouver, here’s a Ho! 

Emily Pauline Johnson

Pauline Johnson

 

20 thoughts on “A Global Voice

    • I am so glad that you enjoyed her story. Here is a something that I think will resonate with you – it feels like music spoken in words rather than notes:

      “O! soft responsive voices of the night I join your minstrelsy,
      And call across the fading silver light
      As something calls to me;
      I may not all your meaning understand,
      But I have touched your soul in shadow-land.”

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  1. It has been a pleasure meeting you Pauline. Would you be surprised that your spirit lives on in your words and that they have travelled across time and space to my corner of the world?

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    • What a lovely thought. I just have to add one that you would appreciate. The Canadian actor Donald Sutherland spoke these words at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver:

      “Know by the thread of music woven through
      This fragile web of cadences I spin,
      That I have only caught these songs since you
      Voiced them upon your haunting violin.”
      E. Pauline Johnson

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  2. It’s wonderful that she is still remembered with affection and that her writings live on long after her untimely death, Rebeccah. Thanks for sharing her story.

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    • Thank you so much! I just read that City Opera of Vancouver has commissioned “Pauline”, a chamber opera to be composed by Tobin Stokes with libretto by Margaret Atwood. The premiere will be next year…

      Stay tuned for an update in 2014…

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  3. A toast!! What greater tribute could Vancouver have that these beautiful lines. Sad, another victim to cancer–and so very young–death far too soon.

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    • I agree! I understand the Museum of Vancouver has quite a number of her artifacts, including the native costume she performed in…

      I need to schedule a visit.

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    • Thank you! I agree she was remarkable. Her funeral procession on March 10, 1913, started at the Bute Street hospital, where she had died and ended at Christ Church Cathedral, where the service was held. Thousands lined the streets to witness the procession and the day was declared a civic holiday.

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  4. Goodness, a woman – a poet after my own heart. I understand (to the marrow) why her last wish was to buried in a national park…

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    • I knew that you would enjoy Pauline Johnson’s life and poetry. She really had a way of bringing out the narrative with dignity and eloquence. The City of Vancouver hesitated to grant her last wish because they did not want to set a precedence. She is the only one who rests in Stanley Park.

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