Antoine Gérin-Lajoie

1824 – 1882


A French Canadian poet and author, Gérin-Lajoie is best remembered for having penned the lyrics of Un Canadien errant, a song about the exiled Patriotes of the 1837 Rebellion, and Jean Rivard, défricheur canadien, one of the first Canadian novels in French, which extolled the virtues of rural life. He also contributed to literary journals and wrote a history of Canada’s transition to a representative democracy.

Gérin-Lajoie lived at 300 Wilbrod St. from about 1875 to the day he died in 1882 (he had lived on Besserer St. before that).  Born in Yamachiche west of Quebec City, he distinguished himself at a young age as a poet and writer when he wrote the lyrics of Un Canadien errant to a traditional melody at the age of 18. The ballad remains popular to this day. Although he was very active in literary circles during his entire life, he also had to earn a living and, during his career, he worked variously as a journalist, lawyer, politician and civil servant.  It was this last job that brought him to Ottawa in 1865 as deputy-librarian to the then-Canadian legislative assembly.


All his life, Gérin-Lajoie remained strongly attached to his native land. A colleague remembers him being moved to tears upon hearing a rafstman singing Un Canadien errant on the Ottawa River below Parliament Hill.  His funeral took place at St Joseph church (Sacré-Coeur had not yet been built).

Un Canadien errant (1842)


Un Canadien errant,

Banni de ses foyers, (bis)

Parcourait en pleurant

Des pays étrangers. (bis)


Un jour, triste et pensif,

Assis au bord des flots, (bis)

Au courant fugitif

Il adressa ces mots : (bis)


« Si tu vois mon pays,

Mon pays malheureux, (bis)

Va dire à mes amis

Que je me souviens d’eux. (bis)


Ô jours si pleins d’appas

Vous êtes disparus… (bis)

Et ma patrie, hélas!

Je ne la verrai plus! (bis)


Non, mais en expirant,

Ô mon cher Canada! (bis)

Mon regard languissant

Vers toi se portera… » (bis)