Death of a Poet

Posted by Daniel on Mar 8, 2013

This Sunday (March 10) marks one hundred years to the day since the funeral in Vancouver of Canada's greatest stage performer (well, until Leonard Cohen anyway), The Mohawk Princess, Pauline Johnson.

Johnson (shown above dressed for one of her public appearances; courtesy BC Archives A-09684) was from the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario. Between 1892 and her retirement in 1909 she toured Canada, North America, the world, with her unique stage act in which she appeared in Aboriginal costume and recited her poems, one of which, my own favourite, begins: "It is dusk on the lost lagoon/ And we two dreaming the dusk away/ Beneath the drift of a twilight grey/ Beneath the drowse of an ending day/ And the curve of a golden moon."

In 1909 she settled in Vancouver where she died of breast cancer on March 7, 1913 in a private hospital in the West End. So popular was she that the city declared March 10, the day of her funeral, a civic holiday. As her body was carried along Georgia Street to Christ Church Cathedral for the service, thousands of people lined the way to pay their respects.

Her ashes were buried in Stanley Park where in 1922 a memorial was erected near Third Beach. This Sunday there will be an event at the memorial to commemorate the centennial.