Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
In 1847 the epic poem, Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie was published. It is a story of separation of Evangeline and Gabriel, betrothed, married, then separated on their wedding day for a life time. Between 1755 and 1763 Acadians were forcibly removed and deported from the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The French called this area Acadie. They were sent to other British colonies, Britain, and France.
The British Conquest of Acadia happened in 1710. Over the next forty-five years the Acadians refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain. During this time period Acadians participated in various militia operations against the British and maintained vital supply lines to the French Fortress of Louisbourg and Fort Beausejour. During the French and Indian War, the British sought to neutralize any military threat Acadians posed and to interrupt the vital supply lines Acadians provided to Louisbourg by deporting Acadians from Acadia.
It is very possible that families and friends were torn apart, never to see each other again. This possibility inspired one of the greatest works of poetry ever written.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882), wrote the poem -- the idea suggested to him by his friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Although the poem has been criticized by scholars for not stating the full truth of the expulsion of the Acadians and for containing some historical errors, Evangeline became Longfellow's most famous, popular, and enduring works. It is a love story -- a tale of enduring love that has no end -- it should be looked at as a masterpiece of poetry rather than historical accuracy.
Evangeline describes the betrothal of a fictional Acadian girl named Evangeline Bellefontaine to her beloved, Gabriel Lajeunesse, and their separation as the British deport the Acadians from Acadie in the Great Upheaval.
This poem is also a great example of how legend and lore is born of historical facts.
Here is the introduction to Longfellow's poem:
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth
THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman?
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers --
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!
Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October
Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the ocean.
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pre.
Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,
Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion,
List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.
The profound love that Evangeline and Gabriel had for each other is deeply expressed by Longfellow in his poem. With words he reaches out and grabs the heart of the reader, warming and wrenching it, then softens and consoles it. Throughout the poem, the reader is pulled along, feeling every emotion that the lovers feel.
This is a timeless and enduring story. It is a story of people torn from their homeland. It is a story of lovers torn from each other in the young bloom of life then reunited in heart-wrenching splendor and grace at death's door. It is a must read for all those who have a passion for true love that cannot be destroyed by life's tragedies. It is a story one will not soon forget.