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Volume 10, Number 1 (1985)

Alchemical Transmutation in Duncan Campbell Scott's "At Gull Lake: August, 1810," and Some Contingent Speculations

  • D.M.R. Bentley
May 22, 2008


One of the most intriguing passages in any of D.C. Scott's Indian poems occurs near the end of "At Gull Lake: August, 1810." In the passage, Keejigo, the half-breed protagonist of the poem, goes through a process of alchemical transmutation, as suggested by Scott's description of the rainbow that forms after her death. Thus, a full understanding of Scott's poem depends on the recognition that in the poem's conclusion Scott draws upon the alchemical notion of a close correspondence, almost an identity, between the transmutation of metals and spiritual purification and regeneration. As well, it can be argued that in a small amount of Scott's work there is the presence of various images and ideas which are evocative of hermeticism and that the poet may have been acquainted with the hermetical writings of such writers as Henry and Thomas Vaughan.