THE R.M.S. EMPRESS OF IRELAND COMMUNITY

Songs for the Empress of Ireland

 

Few songs and poems were composed about the Empress in the aftermath of her sinking. Perhaps by the time song-writers got around to the tragedy in the St. Lawrence, a greater tragedy was already unfolding in Europe. In the interest of preserving a few pieces of history, we have resurrected a local Quebec song dealing with the ship. The English translations is below the French.

 

COMPLAINTE DE L'EMPRESS

Le Saint-Laurent à l'onde enchanteresse

Suivait son cours lent et majestueux

L'Empress filait diminuant sa vitesse

Car le brouillard enveloppait les cieux

Sur ce vaisseau qui portait tout un monde

Chacun dormait ignorant le danger.

Un cri soudain vint de la nuit profonde

Debout, debout car l'Empress va couler. (bis)

 

Un charbonnier a frappé le navire

Semant la mort par un grand trou béant.

Les passagers pleurant dans leur délire

Cherchaient partout leurs amis, leurs parents

Ils s'élancaient dans les vagues perfides

Tout affolés, le corps à moitié nu.

En un instant, dans l'élément liquide

Horreur, horreur l'Empress est disparu. (bis)

 

Il entraînait dans les eaux du grand fleuve

Ses occupants hier contents, joyeux,

Mais aujourd'hui les orphelins, les veuves

Sentent couler les larmes de leurs yeux

L'Empress brisa par la mort les familles

Ce souvenir doit rester dans leurs coeurs

Peuple habitant les campagnes ou les villes

Prions, prions pour eux le Rédempteur. (bis)

 

Le fond du fleuve est aujourd'hui leur tombe

Dernier sommeil précédent le Grand Jour.

Mais aujourd'hui un devoir nous incombe

Aux affligés if faut porter secours

Pour adoucir leur peine et leur misère

A pleine main, donnons, donnons pour eux

La charité suivre notre prière

Donnons, donnons pour tous ces malheureux. (bis)

 

melody: Minuit, Chrétiens

 

EMPRESS LAMENT

The St. Lawrence weaves an enchanting spell

As it follows its slow and majestic course.

The Empress has eased off her speed

'Cause fog was clouding the skies that night.

Aboard this ship is a whole world unto itself

Where everyone sleeps on, unaware that danger lurks.

A sudden cry splits the darkness--

"Get up! Get up!"--for the Empress is going to sink.

 

A lowly collier has struck the majestic ship,

Spreading death through a great gaping wound.

Passengers cry out in shock,

Looking for friends, for parents.

They throw themselves into the treacherous waves,

Panic-stricken, only half-dressed.

In an instant, under the dark roiling water,

Horror! Horror!--the Empress disappears.

 

She has taken them down into the great river's depths,

The happy and laughing souls of yesterday.

And today the orphans and widows

Face their future with tear-stained faces.

The Empress has ripped apart families through death

Leaving memories that will remain forever in their hearts,

Those of us in the countryside as well as the towns--

Pray, let us pray for them, O Redeemer.

 

The river bottom today is their tomb

Where they will sleep 'til Judgment Day.

But now a duty falls on us:

To the afflicted, we must bring help

And relieve their sorrow and suffering.

With open hearts, let us give, let us give to them,

And may charity follow our prayer,

Give, let us give for all these unfortunates.

 

--free translation by Derek Grout