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The words of this song were written in 1842 following the trials of the participants of the Rebellion of 1837 in Lower Canada (now Quebec). Many of those involved in the rebellion were either executed, or exiled to USA or Australia. The song then outlines the feelings of despair for the exiles and how they long to return to their homes and friends in Lower Canada. The song has also been adopted by other groups who have been exiled from Canada (such as the Acadians) and has therefore become quite a patriotic song for them.
The tune is from an older French-Canadian folk song, "J’ai fait une maitresse". In this arrangement, the middle section highlights a bit of the frustrations of the exiles in their attempts to return to their homes, and the third section portrays the sadness and resignation that they cannot return home. The last phrase plays the opening notes of today’s national anthem, "O Canada", given here as a reminder of the exiles’ wish to return to their country.
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