Albert Ferland was a French-Canadian poet and illustrator. Born in the late 19th century he was known to be a sensitive man who always sought out the company of fellow writers and artist. He did not have the advantage of a good education, coming from a relatively modest background, but through reading copiously and much private study he taught himself the skills required to be a highly competent poet and artist.
He was born on the 23rd August 1872 in the Canadian city of Montreal. His father was engaged in the mineral water industry and Albert joined him for a short time in this field having abandoned his education at an early stage to do so. He had ambitions to be a poet though and his work was of a high enough standard to merit publication in magazines such as Le Monde Illustré. He was able to supplement his income by exploiting his talent for drawing through teaching at evening classes.
While still in his twenties he had two collections of poetry published including Poetic Melodies in 1893 and, two years later, he helped to set up the École Littéraire de Montréal. He was also involved in the publication of a literature and arts magazine. The school was an attempt to purify the French language spoken by Canadians as well as exploring new forms of literary expression. It had ambitions to delve into the “soul of the people”. Ferland, along with fellow poets such as Louis-Joseph Doucet and Hector Demers sought to concentrate their literary efforts on producing “nationalist poetry”.
Ferland’s driving ambition though was to be a famous poet in his own right and much of his work waxed lyrical about the beauties of his homeland along with nature in general terms. He was often considered to be a bit of a romantic dreamer but his work plainly showed his strong religious faith and proved that he had a deep attachment to the place of his birth.
A good example of his lyrical poetry is a piece called A Une Jeune Fille which is reproduced here in French. It tells of the joy and innocence of a young girl whose soul “fears no storm and knows only happiness”. It says that a child must enjoy the days that they have now while looking towards the future. Here is the poem:
Ferland enjoyed some success as a poet although his work was not overly enthusiastically received by literary critics and, in 1909, he headed off in a new direction, drawing maps for the Post Office of Montreal. He was undoubtedly a talented artist as well as being a skilled graphic designer and calligrapher. He often illustrated his own work, and sometimes that done by others. His drawings usually depicted sweeping vistas of mountains and forests, religious imagery or scenes from his childhood home of Saint-Benoît. He also had a remarkable talent for drawing portraits of famous people using existing photographs or artwork. The results were almost photographic in quality and were often used to illustrate textbooks covering Canadian historical themes.
Albert Ferland died in 1943, aged 65.