Sunday 22 July 2012

Summer's Longest Day

Lyrics by Marion Parsons © 2008, music traditional

Marie-Joseph Angelique was a slave who was hanged on June 21, 1734 for setting her mistress' house on fire; the fire spread and destroyed most of old Montreal. After being hanged, Angelique's body was burned and the ashes thrown to the wind. Please see further notes below the lyrics.

Up the streets of Montreal, a captive slave did ride
A woman bare of head and foot, a grim and silent pride
A flaming torch to mark the crime for which her neck must pay
And Marie-Joseph is gone to die on summer’s longest day.

The widow Francheville made it known if she would not obey
Then when the icy river broke, she must be sold away
She will not go to les Antilles, but neither will she stay
Marie-Joseph is gone to die on summer’s longest day.

Marie-Joseph she swore to burn the widow in her bed
The fire leapt from house to house and through the city spread
The merchant shops, the Hotel-Dieu in smoldering ashes lay
And Marie-Joseph is gone to die on summer’s longest day.

Voila ecrit sur sa chemise la crime de l’incendiare
Voila ses jambes, ses pieds cassées: la question extraordinaire!
Marie-Joseph, Marie-Joseph est allée au gibet
Devant les cendres de rue Saint-Paul, la jour plus long d’l’année.

The bells of Notre-Dame ring out an ancient, mournful song
The vengeful stare and curse the name of she who did them wrong
The tender sign a trembling cross and turn their eyes away
Marie-Joseph is gone to die on summer’s longest day.

les Antilles - the West Indies (I said it wrong in the demo; the Ls are silent, i.e., “laiz on-TEE”) 
Hotel-Dieu - a convent/hospital (rebuilt in a different part of the city) 
Notre-Dame - the Notre Dame basilica, a church in the heart of old Montreal 

The fourth verse: 
See the arsonist’s crime written on her shirt 
See her legs and feet broken by torture 
Marie-Joseph is gone to the gallows 
Before the ashes of Saint Paul street, the longest day of the year. 
(“la question extraordinaire” is an archaic legal term for torture)

 I have written another song about Angelique: Angelique's Farewell ; both songs are based on Afua Cooper's book The Hanging of Angelique.  Wikipedia has an article about her as well. The tune I used, Roddy McCorley, is an Irish rebel song about a hanging.

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