Jonathan Odell


  1. Biography
  2. Why Should We Read and Study Odell?
  3. Literature
    • “Our Thirty-Ninth Wedding Day”
    • “Ode for the New Year”
  4. Questions and Considerations for Reflection
  5. Strategies for Teachers
  6. Further Reading
  7. Copyright


Born in 1737 in Newark, New Jersey, Jonathan Odell was a British army surgeon, a vocal minister of the Church of England, a colonial politician, and poet-propagandist able to deliver cutting satire. He came to New Brunswick in 1784 with Loyalists fleeing post-revolutionary America. As the province’s first Provincial Secretary, he was instrumental in working toward what would become the University of New Brunswick.

For much more detailed primary and secondary source bibliographies of Odell, see his New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia entry.

Why Should We Read and Study Odell?

  • Jonathan Odell was one of the important literary and political figures of the influential group of Loyalists who came to New Brunswick in the 1780s. More than any other group in the province, the Loyalists influenced English-language society and culture to an extent still felt today. Odell’s poem “Song,” written in the U.S. for a fishing party on the Delaware River in 1776, describes some of those Loyalist values that inhere in us today:

           “True Protestant friends to Fair Liberty’s cause, 
            To decorum, good order, religion and laws, 
            From avarice, jealousy, perfidy, free; 
            We wish all the world were as happy as we.” (42) 


“Our Thirty-Ninth Wedding Day”

      Twice nineteen years, dear Nancy, on this day
Complete their Circle, since the smiling May

Beheld us, at the altar, kneel and join
In holy rites and Vows which made thee mine.
Then, like the reddening East, without a cloud,
Bright was my dream of joy. To heaven I bowed
In thankful exultation, well assured
That all my heart could covet was secure.

      But ah, how soon this dawn of joy, so bright,
Was followed by a dark and stormy Night!

The howling tempest, in a fatal hour,
Drove me, an Exile from our nuptial Bower,
To seek for refuge in the tented field,
Till democratic Tyranny should yield.
Thus, torn asunder, we, from year to year,
Endured the alternate Strife of hope and fear,
Till, from Suspense deliver’d by defeat,
I came hither, and found a safe retreat.

      Here join’d by thee and thy young playful train,
I was o’erpaid for years of toil and pain.

We had renounced our native hostile Shore
And met, I trust, till death to part no more.
But now, approaching fast the verge of life,
With what emotions do I see a Wife
And children, smiling with affection dear,
And think how sure that parting and how near!

      The solemn thought I wish not to restrain.
Though painful, ‘tis a salutary pain—

Then let this Verse in your remembrance live;
That when from life releas’d, I still may give
Some token of my love, may whisper still
Some fault to shun, some duty to fulfill;
May prompt your Sympathy some pain to share,
Or warn you of some pleasure to beware;
Remind you that the arrow’s silent flight,
Unseen alike at noon or dead of night,
Should cause no perturbations or dismay,
But teach you to enjoy the passing day
With dutiful tranquility of mind,
Active and diligent, but still resign’d.
For our Redeemer liveth, and we know,
How or whenever parted here below,
His faithful Servants, in the Realm above,
Shall meet again as Heirs of his eternal Love.

“Ode for the New Year”

When rival Nations first descried,
Emerging from the boundless Main
This Land by Tyrants yet untried,
On high was sung this lofty strain:
Rise Britannia beaming far!
Rise bright Freedom’s morning star!

To distant Regions unexplor’d
Extend the blessings of thy sway;
To your benighted World afford
The light of thy all-cheering ray;
Rise Britannia, rise bright star!
Spread thy radiance wide and far!

The shoots of Science rich and fair,
Transplanted from thy fostering Isle
And by thy Genius nurtur’d there,
Shall teach the Wilderness to smile.
Shine, Britannia, rise and shine!
To bless Mankind the task be thine!

Nor shall the Muses now disdain
To find a new Asylum there;
And ripe for harvest see the plain,
Where lately rov’d the prowling Bear,
Plume Britannia, plume thy wing!
Teach the savage Wild to sing!

From thee descended there the Swain
Shall arm the Port and spread the Sail,
And speed his traffick o’er the Main
With skill to brave the sweeping Gale;
Skill, Britannia, taught by thee,
Unrivall’d Empress of the Seal

This high and holy strain how true
Had now from age to age been shown;
And to the World’s admiring view
Rose Freedom’s transatlantic throne:
Here, Britannia, here thy fame
Long did we with joy proclaim.

But ah! what frenzy breaks a band,
Of love and union held so dear!
Rebellion madly shakes the land,
And love is turn’d to hate and fear.
Here, Britannia, here at last
We feel Contagion’s deadly blast.

Thus blind, alas! when all is well,
Thus blind are Mortals here below:
As when apostate Angels fell,
Ambition turns our bliss to woe.
Now, Britannia, now beware:
For other conflicts now prepare!

By thee controlled for ages past,
See now half Europe in array;
For wild Ambition hopes at last
To fix her long projected sway.
Rise, Britannia, rise again
The scourge of haughty France and Spain!
The howling tempest fiercely blows,
And Ocean rages in the storm:
‘Tis then the fearless Pilot shows
What British courage can perform.
Rule, Britannia, rule the waves
And ruin all intruding slaves!

Questions and Considerations for Reflection

► Odell, like all writers, was situated in a particular time and place. For him, revolutionary and post-revolutionary America. He left America as part of a Loyalist group vanquished by a war of independence, and he arrived in New Brunswick with strong feelings about the republican “tyrants” who had broken from an empire to which he wanted to remain loyal. His aggressive tone should be seen in that light. Rereading the poems above from the point of view of a soldier defeated and cast off deepens our understanding of his disappointment and his hope for a new start in New Brunswick.

► At the same time, the absolutism that Odell’s language shows had (and continues to have) particular effects in a linguistically diverse province, for it must be remembered that Odell and the more than 10,000 Loyalists who arrived in New Brunswick joined Aboriginal and Acadian populations that did not share Odell’s political beliefs and allegiances. Is it reasonable to conclude, then, that the strong anti-French sentiment in New Brunswick today is partially rooted in the political ethos that Odell espouses?

Strategies for Teachers

Strategy 1: Loyalist Influence (All poems)

Jonathan Odell came to New Brunswick as a Loyalist. As a first strategy, have students consider the word “Loyalist.” What does it mean, and, importantly, what does it mean in a New Brunswick, New World context? Odell’s strong political beliefs are evident in much of his work. Ask students to find at least one metaphor and at least one other word/phrase in each poem that reveals Odell’s Loyalist leanings. Do students find Odell’s language and tone politically persuasive? Why or why not?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Reading and Viewing: Describe, discuss, and evaluate the language, ideas, and other significant characteristics of a variety of texts and genres

Strategy 2: Apostate Angels (“Ode for the New Year”)

Ask students if they know the meaning of the term “apostate Angels,” defining the word “apostate” if no students are able. Students should carefully read the lines and verses surrounding this term, and consider any knowledge they have about other texts and historical events that refer to the fallen, to answer the following: 1) Why might Odell associate fallen angels with the revolution? 2) Who are the angels in this context, and which god are they rebelling against? 3) What is the effect of using a clearly biblical language and symbolism, and what does its use reveal about the audience Odell was imagining?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Reading and Viewing: Use the cueing systems and a variety of strategies to construct meaning in reading and viewing complex and sophisticated print and media texts

Further Reading

Anderson, Joan J. “A Collection of the Poems of Jonathan Odell With a Biographical and Critical Introduction.” MA Thesis. University of British Columbia, 1961.

Bailey, Alfred G. “Odell, Jonathan.” Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol. 5 (1801-1820). U of Toronto/U of Laval, 1983-. 13 July 2020 <>.

Edelberg, Cynthia D.Jonathan Odell: Loyalist Poet of the American Revolution. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1987.

Odell, Jonathan. “Song.”Literature in Canada, Vol. 1. Ed. Douglas Daymond and Leslie Monkman. Toronto: Gage, 1978. 41-42.

Sargent, Winthrop, ed. The Loyal Verses of Joseph Stansbury and Doctor Jonathan Odell: Relating to the American Revolution. Albany, NY: Munsel, 1860.

Vincent, Thomas B. Jonathan Odell. An Annotated Chronology Of The Poems 1759-1818. Kingston, ON: Loyal Colonies Press, 1980.

For much more detailed primary and secondary source bibliographies of Odell, see his New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia entry.


Both poems above have been in the Canadian public domain for 50 years after publication and 50 years after the author’s death. As such, they are no longer protected by copyright in Canada. However, they may still be under copyright in some countries. Readers outside Canada must comply with the respective copyright laws of the country in which they live.

“Our Thirty-Ninth Wedding Day” appears in Stubborn Strength: A New Brunswick Anthology. Ed. Michael O. Nowlan. Don Mills, ON: Academic Press Canada, 1983. 3-4. “Ode for the New Year” appears in Literature in Canada, Vol. 1. Ed. Douglas Daymond and Leslie Monkman. Toronto: Gage, 1978. 42-44.

All contents except for poetry and fiction copyright © Tony Tremblay, James W. Johnson, and Alexandra Cogswell.