National Anthem

O Canada!
The Man Behind the French Lyrics

Adolphe Routhier was born in 1839 in Saint-Placide, Lower Canada (Quebec). He became a rather distinguished lawyer and was appointed a judge in 1873. He was a founding member of the Royal Society of Canada.

Routhier was also an accomplished French-Canadian poet and was actually better known as a poet than a judge. For the Honourable Théodore Robitaille, then the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, to ask him to write the lyrics for a hymn which would be performed at the 'Congrès National des Canadiens-Français' in 1880 was, indeed, a great honour. The Congress would be held on the same day as the St. Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations on June 24. Since Routhier was the president of the Congress at the time, Robitaille could not have made a better choice.

Routhier's poem was well-received and highly-praised following its debut. Despite numerous English versions, Routhier's French version remains unchanged to this day:

O Canada! Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux.
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix.
Ton histoire est une épopée,
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

(English Translation)

O Canada! Land of our forefathers
Thy brow is wreathed with a glorious garland of flowers.
As in thy arm ready to wield the sword,
So also is it ready to carry the cross.
Thy history is an epic of the most brilliant exploits.
Thy valour steeped in faith
Will protect our homes and our rights
Will protect our homes and our rights.

Adolphe-Basile Routhier (who wrote under the nom-de-plume 'Jean Piquefort') was later appointed Chief Justice of Quebec where he remained until his retirement in 1906. He died in 1920.

Read and Hear 'O Canada!'
Complete History of 'O Canada!'
Calixa Lavallee (composer)
Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier (French lyricist)
The Honourable Robert Stanley Weir (English lyricist)