Mudcat Café message #1006619 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #10483   Message #1006619
Posted By: GUEST,LongJohn
22-Aug-03 - 03:25 PM
Thread Name: Lyr Add: Life of a Voyageur/Voyager
Subject: ADD: Life of a Voyageur
Hi all -

I'm an off and on lurker here, but I finally may have something to contribute.

I learned this song in the mid-'70's at Camp Manito-Wish in northern Wisconsin. It was written by a woman affiliated with that camp, and I believe it must have dispersed from there.

It's a beautiful song and well received whenever I sing it.

Quoting from: "Songs of the Northland, Manito-Wish Song Book."

"... written in 1960 by Mary Satterfield Swanson. On the first of many trips back to the Quetico, Mary brought along her baritone ukulele, which she fondly named Sarah after her adventures on Sarah Lake as a camper in 1959. It was on Sarah Lake that the words and music to 'The Life of a Voyageur' came to her. Mary brought the song to camp with her that summer and taught it to her cabin and later to the entire camp community."

"Roger Perry wrote a third verse in 1971 that is still sung today."

Unfortunately, the editors of this book accidentally omitted the 2nd and 3rd verses, but here's the first verse and chorus as written and the other 2 verses from my notes.


VERSE: The life of a voyageur
That of a sojourner
Traveling around and 'round
But not from town to town
Paddles the lakes and streams
Follows his distant dreams
Peace on the water ways
Clear skies, no cloudy days

CHORUS: My heart has but one home
From which I'll never roam
Land of true happiness
Canadian wilderness

The call of the lonely loon
Coyotes howling at the moon
Wind rustling through the trees
That's the Canadian breeze
Smoke rising from the fire
Up through the leaves of the stately spires
Down to the hearth in an evening glow
Sun goes down no north winds blow

The still waters of the morn
Reflect one lonely soul
Paddling so silently
That none's disturbed by he
Untouched by human flesh
Water so pure and fresh
His life is rough but good
This is his chosen home

Twice, now, I've heard this song in other contexts and each time it was sung with a different 3rd verse - not the one by Roger Perry. That's what got me to thinking and doing some digging. Some 'net searching turned up several versions of the first 2 verses - more-or-less the same as I learned. A couple versions, including the one at the top of the thread, include alternate 3rd and 4th verses. So far, I have found 6 verses in addition to the "original" three. All but one of the references I found are from or suggest a link to a summer camp.

I find it interesting that this song evidently found its way into the folk tradition, but that it must have happened between 1960 and 1971, because the Roger Perry verse is not included. Makes me wonder if there are others around with no connection to the original source who know the Perry verse.

- John