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Friday, August 21, 2015

The Northwest Passage by Stan Rogers: A Canadian Anthem

When I first heard this song a shiver went up my spine and perhaps a tear or two fell from my eye. Stan Rogers' epic ballad is about the brave explorers who opened up the Canadian Northwest and especially those who sought the infamous Northwest Passage through the Canadian Arctic. 

Having a love of history and having read of many of these men ( and the women who stood by them) this song spoke to me like an mighty echo from the past. I love that he mentions David Thompson who was so fearless and relentless in his search for a land and water route across Canada ( and found one down the mighty Columbia River). 

Chris Gudgeon recounts this story of when Stan Rogers wrote the song in one night:

"Stan, still groggy from a lack of sleep, shrugged. Yeah, it was finished, he said, then, at Paul’s (Producer Paul Mills) prompting, sang it right there at the kitchen table, reading the words off a piece of paper.

Stan raised his head at the end of the song to see Paul crying. “That’s a very stirring and solid piece,” the producer said, pulling himself together. They went straight into the studio and recorded it. The album had its title song – and Canada had what may well be the greatest song ever written about this country."

This song is indeed the epitome of rugged Canadiana.  

To me this song and the search for the Northwest Passage  speaks of the long and rugged journey of the Christian from here to home.  Only, as we now know today of the passage, our goal exists for real and the efforts are never in vain. 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8



Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea;
Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea.

Westward from the Davis Strait 'tis there 'twas said to lie
The sea route to the Orient for which so many died;
Seeking gold and glory, leaving weathered, broken bones
And a long-forgotten lonely cairn of stones.

Three centuries thereafter, I take passage overland
In the footsteps of brave Kelso, where his "sea of flowers" began
Watching cities rise before me, then behind me sink again
This tardiest explorer, driving hard across the plain.

And through the night, behind the wheel, the mileage clicking west
I think upon Mackenzie, David Thompson and the rest
Who cracked the mountain ramparts and did show a path for me
To race the roaring Fraser to the sea.

How then am I so different from the first men through this way?
Like them, I left a settled life, I threw it all away.
To seek a Northwest Passage at the call of many men
To find there but the road back home again.

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