Friday, August 27, 2010

Poem "The Maiden of Quoddy", by James De Mille (1833-1880)

Poem entitled "The Maiden of Quoddy, written by James De Mille, Maritime Canada author, poet and professor.  Found in the June 1930 issue of Canadian Geographical Journal, published by the Canadian Geographical Society at Montreal.  

The poem, containing many Passamaquoddy and other native words, will be a challenge to transcribe, but I'll give it a go.  A friend recently co-authored a mammoth Passamaquoddy dictionary, and it will be interesting to compare the place names.  Some online sources seem to feel that De Mille concocted the names of his two favorite rivers, but they seem plausible to me.

The Maiden of Quoddy
By James De Mille

Sweet maiden of Passamaquoddy,
Shall we seek for communion of souls
Where the deep Mississippi meanders,
Or the distant Saskatchewan rolls?
Ah, no! in New Brunswick we'll find it -
A sweetly sequestered nook -
Where the swift gliding Skoodoowabskooksis
Unites with the Skoodoowabskook.

Meduxnakik's waters are bluer;
Nepisiguit's pools are more black;
More green is the bright Oromocto,
And browner the Peticodiac.
But colours more radiant, in Autumn,
I see when I'm casting my hook,
In the waves of the Skoodoowabskooksis,
Or perhaps in the Skoodoowabskook.

Let others sing loudly of Saco,
Of Passadumkeag or Miscouche,
Of Kennebeccasis or Quaco,
Of Miramichi or Buctouche;
Or boast of the Tobique of Mispec,
The Musquash or dark Memramcook;
There's none like the Skoodoowabskooksis
Excepting the Skoodoowabskook!

Think not, though the Ma-ga-gua-da-vic
Or Bocabec, pleases the eye;
Though Chi-put-nec-ti-cook is lovely,
That to either of these we will fly.
No! when in love's union we're plighted,
We'll build our log house by a brook
Which flows to the Skoodoowabskooksis,
Where it joins with the Skoodoowabskook.

Then never of Waweig or Chamcook
I'll think having you in my arms;
We'll reck not of Digdeguash beauties,
We'll care not for Popelogan's charms,
But as emblems of union forever
Upon two fair rivers we'll look;
While you'll be the Skoodoowabskooksis
I'll be the Skoodoowabskook.

From online research (I'd be most grateful for any corrections and/or additions):  

James De Mille (he changed the spelling from DeMill) was born 23 August 1833 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, the son of Nathan S. and Elizabeth Tongue (Budd) DeMill.  

His paternal grandparents were John and Elizabeth (Smith) DeMill.   John DeMill was a Loyalist from Connecticut who settled in New Brunswick, Canada.  Elizabeth was also from a Connecticut Loyalist family.

James De Mille's maternal grandparents were Elisha and Mary Ann (Bonnell) Budd.  Elisha Budd was a Loyalist from New York, who settled in Nova Scotia.  His father, James Budd, also a Loyalist, from White Plains, New York, was killed at his own door in 1778 by a party of Whigs who called themselves "The Cow Boys".  Mary Ann Bonnell's father Isaac was a Loyalist from New Jersey who settled in Digby, Nova Scotia.

James De Mille married Elizabeth Ann Pryor, daughter of Dr. John Pryor, first president of Acadia College.  I  don't know if they had any children or not.

Click here for a biography of James De Mille at the site Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online:

Maine and the Maritimes

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Thanks for posting this. I found this poem - or rather a slightly altered version - a few minutes ago in a 1904 anthology of American verse (sorry about that! :) under the title "Lines to Miss Florence Huntington" and the author Anonymous. How fun to find the original online in a search for the rivers...! Thanks again!

  2. I looked in the Passamaquoddy Maliseet Dictionary and didn't find the rivers listed in the alpha listings. From the table of contents, it didn't look as though there was a place for proper names. (The book is gigantic enough as it is!) However, bits and pieces of the words are in there. Nothing starts with the letters "skoo" and there's no "B" sound (think "P" instead). So DeMille was using his own phonetic spelling and perhaps added a bit of flair. I hope the article is correct: that DeMille is actually the author, not just the popularizer, as your anthology would imply. I think the rivers he kept coming back to in his verses are in York County, New Brunswick, Canada, in the St. John River watershed between Woodstock and Fredericton. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Wow! I wonder if some teacher ever had one of her students memorize and recite this. What a tongue twister. Thanks for submitting this to the Challenge, Bev.

  4. Yes, it sure would make for an interesting tongue twister competition. Would love to see that myself!

  5. I have a man in our community who is @90 his father use to recite the poem and he thinks he knows where the location of theWhile you'll be the Skoodoowabskooksis
    I'll be the Skoodoowabskook is where the St. Croix meets one of its tributaries in York County .David Blair

  6. Very interesting - thanks! That is a beautiful area.