John Keats said "Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter." Memory and imagination have a sweetening effect on recollections of former days. The writer of "Renfrew Valley" has sweeter memories, perhaps, than the individuals who worked hard to earn their living in the Renfrew County areas he recalls. The fond memories of life in the communities along and near the Ottawa and Opeongo Road lead the speaker in the poem "Renfrew Valley" to consider himself an exile. This is a powerful, nostalgic tribute, filled with sights and sounds and smells, landmarks, memories of faith, wealth, fertile soil; it closes with a yearning for a final place of rest at one with the exile's roots in the "sun-glow" of his passing.
Reverend Jack O'Gorman Sammon wrote "Renfrew Valley", a fact that was confirmed by his cousin, Sister St. Mildred (O'Gorman) of the Grey Sisters of Pembroke through a letter written by her friend Sister Mary Patrick. The quatrains with alternating rhyme can be sung to the melody of "Wearing of the Green".
If you decide to sing along,
click the start button on the console
and move the frame to view the stanzas.
RENFREW VALLEYTake me back to Renfrew Valley Where the Bonnechere winds away Through the perfumed fields of clover And the scent of new-mown hay; Where the foot-hills frame old shadows On the Opeongo Trail. Where the people are true Christians, And their faith will never fail; Where old Madawaska thunders, Loud its song and manifold; While the lake called "Golden" slumbers On a couch of sunset gold. Where the astrolabe of Champlain Indicated ancient trails; And "The Snake" winds north of Cobden | Through the Osceola vales, | Repeat these 2 Take me to that Nature's fortress Where the Pinnacle high stands, Guarding wealthy fields of Horton, And Admaston's fertile lands. Let me gaze on lakes and rivers In those forests deep and grey As they looked to me in childhood, In that far-off, rose-lit day. Let me pray in country churchyards Where brave pioneers now lie; Where each headstone tells its story In a brief, but poignant sigh. They who fashioned "Civil Living" Out of wilderness and stone, True deserve a better tribute | Than the lilting of a poem. | Repeat these 2. Killaloe to Letterkenny, Barry's Bay to Camel Chute; Golden Lake to Mount St. Patrick, Combermere to old Maynouth; Petawawa to the 'Bogie, Eganville to old Smith's creek; You will find exiles returning To revisit, every week. Ah, yes! Back to Renfrew Valley Come the exiles of the earth. Who once took too much for granted All this lush, surpassing worth. Take me back to Renfrew Valley - There is where I wish to lie, And my ashes leave with kinfolk, | In the sun-glow, when I die. | Repeat these 2.