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The five great Laurentian lakes are so immeasurably greater than any other lakes in the world that when you say, simply, 'The Great Lakes,' you are universally understood to mean these and no others. Except for mountain shores with snow-crowned summits, such as enfold many a lake in the Alps and Rockies, they lack no element of grandeur. Their triumphal march takes them through hill and plain, wilderness and cities; while the charge of their hosts shakes the very earth at Niagara, and shows their might to all her peoples.
Lake Huron is the second wonder of the Lakes, and not a modern scenic wonder only; for the Great Spirit, the Manitou, has always taken up his abode upon the island called after him whenever he has come to earth. Georgian Bay is almost another Great Lake, and contains not thousands but tens of thousands of islands. Yet this mere size is nothing to the beauty of sky and pellucid water on a still midsummer afternoon, when the Huronian blue of each seems to blend into a third and more ethereal element-light as the air, yet buoyant as the water-in which canoes seem, fairy-like, afloat
The third wonder is Lake Superior, a clear, cool, blue immensity and sheer depth of waters like the sea. Its surface is six hundred feet above the Atlantic, but its bottom has soundings as much again below. Its north shore is a crescent of stern and wild Laurentians, as high as the Saguenay's, and hundreds of miles long. And, as the St Lawrence fronts the ocean with portals that can be plainly made out from the deck of a ship a whole degree away, so here, two thousand miles inland, it has another and an inner gateway to a farther west, in the huge lion-like mass of Thunder Cape, a second Gibraltar in size and strength and actual form.
East and west, it is a far cry from the salt sea to the fresh. But, in the life of north and south, it is a farther still, even at the same time of year, from Belle Isle to Pelee in Ontario. In the height of the summer at Belle Isle, death-cold icebergs, hundreds of feet thick and acres in extent, are often to be seen; while at Pelee Island luxuriant vineyards are ripening for the wine-press in the latitude of Oporto, Naples and Constantinople. Yet from Belle Isle to Pelee Island is only half the way
between the Straits and the innermost headwaters of the St Lawrence.
But again, the essential unity of the great river is no less wonderful than the striking diversities of its seven parts. Winter lays the same tranquillising hand upon it everywhere, stilling it into the regenerative sleep from which it is awakened by the touch of spring. And everywhere, along the headwaters, lakes and river channels, and thence to the sea, along the south shore and its tributaries, over unnumbered leagues of waterway, and through every imaginable scene of woodland and meadow, plain, hill, valley, crag and mountain, the three open seasons bear sway sufficiently alike to find true voice in one and the same song of spring, another of summer, and yet another of the fall.
So another year has passed,
Then will come the whitethroat's cry-
And, though I be far away
I am sailing to the leeward,
Where the current runs to seaward,
Where the sleeping river-grasses
On the shore the heat is shaking,
And the quaint sandpiper, winging
When I move.
And the perfume of some burning
All its smoky fragrance dying,
Along the lines of smoky hills
Now by the brook the maple leans,
Now, by great marshes wrapt in mist,
I rejoice to the full in the glories of our Laurentian seasons, and rejoice in especial with Bliss Carman, Pauline Johnson, and Wilfred Campbell. Yet their three poems remind me how much more we think of the scenes than of the sounds in Nature. Why is this? For, in all Nature, we have nothing more deeply varied than the sounds of water, from the softest breath drawn by a little infant lowland river to the cataclysmal roar of a hurricane at sea. If we have the inward eye that is the bliss of solitude, have we not also an inward ear, through which Nature may call our soul of memory? I think it must be so; for Nature is visible spirit, spirit is invisible Nature; and though there is neither speech nor language, their voices are heard among them-twin voices-the inward voice of the human soul and the outward voice of many waters.
Can it be that the ear is duller than the eye to the infinite appeal of water? At least, I like to think it is not always so. Each year, when I go down the river, the different currents, eddies, reef-tail swirls and tide-rips greet me with voices as individual as those of any other life-long friends. I recognise them in the dark, as I
should recognise the voices of my own relations. I know them in ebb and flood, in calm and storm, exactly as I know the varying moods and tones of men. And, knowing them thus, I love them through all their changes. And often, of a winter's evening, they wake the ear of memory within me by a symphony of sound that has now become almost like a concerted piece of music. It steals in on me; swells, vibrates and thunders; and finally dies away again-much as a 'Patrol' grows from pianissimo, through moderato, to fortissimo, and then diminuendoes slowly into silence.
Always, when it begins, I am in my canoe, and there is a universal calm. All I hear, aft, is the silken whisper of the tiny eddies drawn through the water by the paddle, and, forward, the intermittent purl of the cutwater, as it quickens and cleaves in response to every stroke. Next, along shore, I hear the flood-tide lipping the sand, pulsing slowly through reeds and sedges, and gurgling contentedly into a little half-filled cave. Then the stronger tidal currents join in, with the greater eddies, reef-tail swirls and tide-rips; 'and all the choral waters sing.' Then comes the breeze; and, with it, I am in my yawl. It comes at first like that single sigh of the air which drifts across the stillest night, making the halyards tap the mast a little, the yacht sheer almost imperceptibly, and the rudder swing just enough to make the main-piece and pintles whimper gently in their sleep. But it soon pipes up, and I am off, with the ripples lapping fast and faster as the yacht gathers way. Presently I am past the forelands, where the angry waves hiss away to leeward. Then, an ominous smooth and an apprehensive hush, as the huge, black-shrouded squall bears down on the wings of the wind, with a line of flying foam underneath, where its myriad feet are racing along the surface. And then the storm, the splendid, thrilling storm; the roar, the howls, the piercing screams, the buffetings, the lulls-those lulls in which you hear the swingeing lash on shore and the hoarse anguish of the excoriated beach; and then the swelling, thunderous crescendo and the culminating crash. After that the wind diminishes, little by little, and finally dies away. When it ceases, all the choral waters sing again. And when these, in their turn, have played their part, I hear
the half-muffled gurgle that tells me the tidal cave is almost full. And, at the last, the reeds and sedges rustle softly, as the end of the flood quivers between their stems; and tide, and reed, and sedge, and the lipping on the sand, the purl of the canoe, and the silken, whispering eddies from my paddle, all mingle, faint, and melt away once more into the silence out of which they came.
This is the voice I hear so often-the natural ' voice of many waters,' which, like the divine one that spoke in revelation, also proceeds out of a throne. For the St Lawrence, this King of Waterways, is more than royal, more, even, than imperial; it is the acknowledged suzerain of every other waterway, from the Mountains to the Sea, and from the Tropics to the Pole.
The farther afield the old discoverers went, the more they found that the St Lawrence was the royal road to the gateways of the continent. For its own basin is so intimately connected with the subordinate basins of all the other rivers that these men could go, in the same canoe, by paddle and portage, from any part of its course to any part of the coast-eastward to the Atlantic, between the Bay of Fundy and New York; southward, along the Mississippi, to the Gulf of Mexico; and northward, either to Hudson's Bay or, down the Mackenzie, to the Arctic Ocean. Only the western divides were too great a barrier. But you could come within sight of their summits, which themselves looked down on the Pacific. So east and west, and north and south, you could go freely, through whole kingdoms of vassal streams, by the sole virtue of one passport from the suzerain river.
You might well imagine that these immense Laurentian waterways were still the enchanted roads into a perfect paradise of wild life. But they are not. Canada has little more than the population of London in an area as large as Europe. Yet she is allowing the nobler forms of wild life to be destroyed so fast that she will soon have none in a real state of nature. Of course, in this machinery age, modern man is everywhere, with overwhelming means of destruction at his command. There is not a single natural reservoir of wild life in the world to-day which he could not invade and destroy