Louis Riel's Poem for Robert Gordon

canadaWhen I had to write my final essay for Michael Bliss' Canadian History course at U of T, choosing a topic was easy. There isn't a figure more intriguing in all of Canadian history than Louis Riel.

To steal a line from Wikipedia, "he led two resistance movements against the Canadian government that sought to preserve M├ętis rights and culture as their homelands in the Northwest Territories came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence." 121 years ago this week, Louis Riel was hanged for high treason.

I'm telling you, this guy was fascinating. To many he was a hero, to others he was a traitor, and to some he was just plain nuts.

A poem he wrote for his jailer, Robert Gordon, three weeks before his death in Regina, has been donated to the University of Saskatchewan. Here it is:

The snow,
Which renders the ground all white,
From heaven, comes here below:
Its pine frozen drops invite us all
To white -- keep our thoughts and our acts,
So that when our bodies do fall,
Our merits, before God, be facts.

How many who, with good desires,
Have died and lost their souls to fires?
Good desires kept unpractic'd
Stand, before God, unnotic'd.

O Robert, let us be fond
Of virtue! Virtues abound
In every sort of good,
Let virtue be our soul's food.

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although i personally believe riel was a hero, it cannot be denied that he was also a traitor. He executed Thomas Scott for expressing anti metis views while he was expressing anti government views.
some people believed he was mentally unstable, but after reading this poem, it is clear that he stood by every decision he made

May 18, 2008 @ 3:48 PM

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