By Wallace Havelock Robb
(article published around 1890, publication unknown)
If I were to go on a trip to Europe, and someone were to ask me if I had seen my own country, what answer would I give? A month ago, if I had been asked this question, my answer should have been “Why, of course, for I have been in every province of Canada, have camped and toured and worked from Victoria, B.C. to Halifax. Know my country? I should say I do!” That has been my song for many a day, that I have seen my own country. If I had gone to Europe last month, that should have been my answer. Not so now!
Listen my friends: I’ve been down to Lyn! Oh, what a bonnie place is Lyn! If I were to go to Europe, or some other country no matter what my answer and self-satisfied pride might have been, say, a month ago, I very much fear I could answer only this, that I thought I knew my Canada like a book, but I have seen Lyn, and all my confidence is shaken Lyn has awakened me to the simple fact that Canada has not yet been found by me. How many other Lyns are there, and to which I have never been? Quaint little villages, off the beaten highway, serene, pure, gentle and oh, what shall I say? Very lovely indeed.
No, if I were to venture abroad and be asked how much I know of my own land, well, my answer is going to be, henceforth. “I’m not very sure about my knowledge of Canada, not very sure, but I’ve been down to Lyn.” And they will not know what I mean and they will ask me, and I shall answer them somewhat like this: Did you ever hear of the small river Afron, the “Sweet Afton” of the poet Robert Burns “How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills, Far marked with the courses of clear winding rills!” Or again, in another verse, “How peasant thy banks and green valleys below, Where wild in the woodlands the primroses blow.” You know these lines? Do you know, or can you picture the sweet and gentle scene of Burns’ day? Well, if Burns had passed through Lyn, Ontario, his poem, “Sweet Afton”, might have found its setting there.
Lyn is a quaint and lovely village near Brockville. But no! For shame! I am in error: Brockville is a town not far from the beautiful village of Lyn. But, perhaps, that is unfair to Brockville, for, after all, Brockville just hasn’t the natural endowment of beauty to be found at Lyn. The same thing is true, largely, of nearly all the lake or river front towns of Ontario, they haven’t the rolling countryside of the towns back a wee bit in the counties. And Lyn is a typical case, for it is set in a picturesque frame of hills and valleys and rhythmic watercourses. Lyn is an idyll ! It is a village unspoiled in an age of ruin through so-called improvement. It is a psalm in a world of noise and destruction. Its tranquil vales and placid, ambling waters are a rebuke to modern ways of men. It seems to have an atmosphere untouched by the rot and decay of modern hurry, and it knows not the panic of haste of today, that impatience with life which makes the builders poison their mortar so that disintegration starts in the foundation before the roof is finished. Lyn is a pastoral, a poem of peace and quaint beauty, a song of life, a melody in the wistful and yearning key of a shepherd piping ‘neath a tree in the meadow. Ah, yes, all this, and more: It is the soul of true life floating up from the valley on the wind, the fluting of Pan, as he muses on the rim of the river down in the glade where the stream meanders from the meadow over against the wooded hill.
Yes, we, Mrs. Robb and I, went down to Lyn. I gave a recital there. The trees are old, the houses look, each one, like home. There is a well-kept lawn, the tidy walk and friendly feeling. It is off the main route of travel.
And so, if I seem to have gone mad over Lyn, well, hold your horses a bit; don’t condemn me too hastily. Go down to Lyn yourself, and, I dare to say it, I’ll have company in my madness.