FRANCE AND CANADA
AN ADDRESS BY DR. PAUL, CLAUDEL, D.S.P., LL.D., FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES.
8th November, 1928.
PRESIDENT FENNELL introduced the speaker, who had just received the degree of LL.D. from Toronto University, and was received with hearty applause, the audience rising and giving three cheers. He said
When I arrived in Toronto the President gave me a small slip of paper on which I read the programme of my time, and I saw, "8th November, one o'clock. Lunch at the Empire Club." I should have been delighted to lunch at the Empire Club and meet so many distinguished citizens of Toronto, if I had not read, under those lines, another line of sinister import-" The Ambassador is expected to make an address." (Laughter.)
Well, I know that in America-and I suppose in Canada alsoeverything begins by an address, which is a token of friendship; but I am greatly hindered by two things. I see on my table a book which is called, "Addresses to the Empire Club," and in that book I see such speeches as apply to the Welfare of Canada, the Situation in China, and so on, and I am perfectly unable to treat you with such heavy meals as these. (Laughter.) Moreover, I have to address you in a language which is not mine, which I read all my life, but which I speak, as you see, in a very imperfect manner. But my preparation is such that if I make mistakes you will say, " Oh, well, that poor man speaks badly, but, after all, it is not his own language." So I can make many more mistakes than if I spoke our language. (Laughter.) However, we will have great pleasure to see practically how much better English sounds in another mouth than the French Ambassador in Washington. (Laughter.)
As you know, as Ambassador I have to assist at many social functions, and to have conversations with the lady at my right and the lady at my left. Generally those conversations are very interesting indeed-they are not always (Laughter) but when I have a neighbour and see that the conversation is languishing, sometimes I see a sparkle in her eye, and know she has a good subject, and she turns to me and says, with that sly and meaning smile, " Well, Mr. Ambassador, I hear that you are not only an Ambassador, but you are a poet, too." (Laughter), and I am obliged to confess that this is true. I have a high work, but always have with me a very unfortunate and sometimes annoying companion, which is a poet, and I am slightly ashamed of such failing. (Laughter.) But I may say I am less ashamed in Canada than in any other country.
My friend Moline was a poet with a special talent, and when he was asked what made poets he said, What makes poetry is white paper." (Laughter.) That is exactly what was told by a Japanese poet of one thousand years ago, who wrote a very charming book, for that simple reason that the Emperor had given to him a bigger bundle of white paper, and that inspired him every day to write what came to his mind, and it made one of the most charming books of Japanese poetry. After all, "Poetry" comes from a Greek work which means "to make," so Poetry is the art of making something out of nothing. (Laughter.)
I cannot help but think that the same gift of white paper which is given to poets was given also to Canada by the Creator. Canada is a country with big white paper of tremendous possibilities, and I think it is what is most inspiring in your beautiful country. It is not only to think of the past, which is so glorious, and the present, which is so grand and impressive, but also of the future, which is so full of inspiration. I think that Canada is only at the beginning of its glorious and splendid career.
I am especially pleased to think that the particular nation which keeps such a strong individuality, and which has such a special vocation as Canada, has as one of its most necessary ingredients the French elements, our French-Canadians, which are the best of friends of Canada, the strongest partizans of Empire, and the truest subjects of His Majesty the King. (Hear, hear, and applause.)
As a Frenchman I feel specially gratified to be among you on the day when the poppy of Flanders is sold everywhere in your streets. I have one myself-not outside, but inside-(Laughter)-and I feel that one of the strongest ties between the different parts of that big concern, the British Empire, was sealed in France. (Applause.) The soil of France was the place where all the parts of the British Empire centered as one, because they fought for a common ideal and on a common field. The union of all the parts of the British Empire was seen on French soil; they were to be for ever friends and brothers. (Applause.)
My only ambition as a Frenchman, as a brother of your countrymen in Canada, is to ask you to never consider our French, either in Canada or in France, as foreigners, and to always consider them as people who are accustomed to see in each other the best friends of our common country. (Applause.)
It is a great privilege to be today among you. I am on the last day of my trip to Canada. I could not conclude it better than in this fine city of Toronto, which I learned to admire during my term of office. I am much obliged to my friend, Mr. Massey, who is such a credit to Canada, and so many friends in Washington, who invited me specially to come to Toronto, and who told me that I would find here many friends of myself and of my country(Applause)-and I see, by your kind recognition, that it is only the truth; and I hope, if I have another opportunity to come to Canada, to find myself again among my good friends of Toronto. I thank you. (Loud applause.)
SIR ROBERT FALCONER voiced the thanks of the Club to the speaker for his fraternal and interesting address.