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figures of the anglers at the foot of the falls, a British officer and his lady
on the rim of the basin, and the awestruck Amerindian in the foreground,
who serves as an avatar of the watercolour's spectator and suggests the
aesthetic and emotional pleasure produced by this majestic scene.
Indeed, another possible source of the expanded and expansive
views of nature in Garneau's time is the by now repeated contact with
native Americans, whose pantheistic vision (215) tends to deify and
personify natural phenomena (216), which, for Garneau, are all the
more striking as they are grandiose: 'Lorsqu'ils étaient en marche, la
grandeur ou la beauté d'un fleuve, la hauteur ou la forme d'une mon-
tagne, la profondeur d'une crevasse dans le sol, le bruit d'une chute ou
d'un rapide, frappaient-ils leur imagination, ils offraient des sacrifices
aux esprits de ces fleuves et de ces montagnes.' (219; When they were
in transit, if the grandeur or the beauty of a river, the height or the
shape of a mountain, the depth of a crevasse in the earth, the sound of
a waterfall or a rapid, struck their imagination, they offered sacrifices to
the spirits of those rivers or those mountains.) Here beauty is repeat-
edly linked to the proportion, not the utility, of natural phenomena and
is a matter of imagination rather than reason. Certainly Garneau was
himself struck and influenced by the Amerindian vision of nature, as
evidenced by his description of their open-air burial ceremonies: 'Seule
la sombre majesté des forêts est en harmonie avec un spectacle aussi
eloquent, et dont la grandeur semble être si au-dessus de nos mœurs
artificielles et de convention.' (226; Only the sombre majesty of the for-
ests is in harmony with such an eloquent spectacle, whose grandeur
seems so above our artificial customs based on convention.)
Like Cartier and Champlain before him, Garneau was also impressed
by the ability of native Americans to read visible signs, a key to survival
in the wilderness: 'Ils découvrent la trace d'un pas sur l'herbe la plus
tendre comme sur la substance la plus dure, et ils lisent dans cette trace,
la nation, le sexe, et la stature de la personne qui l'a faite, et le temps qui
s'est écoulé depuis qu'elle a été formée.' (207; They discover the trace of
a footstep on the most tender grass as well as on the hardest substance,
and from this track they can read the nation, the sex, and the stature of
the person who made it, and the time that passed since it was formed.)
Unlike the condescension of the earlier writers, however, Garneau
displays great respect and even empathy for the Amerindian, based
perhaps on the present parallel between the displaced native and the
disenfranchised French Canadian. For example, Gilles Marcotte notes
about Garneau's poem, 'Le dernier Huron' (itself based on a painting
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