Author: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1847, 2003). Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Nimbus Publishing
Date Posted: February 7, 2014
Anyone who visits Nova Scotia and misses out on the tragic story of the Acadians and their deportation in the 18th century, has overlooked one of the great and sad stories of North America.
Evangeline takes place in a town called Grand-Prè in the land of Acadia (northern shore of present-day Nova Scotia). This village is described as a mirror of paradise as are its inhabitants. The characters are Benedict Bellefontaine, the wealthiest farmer of Grand- Prè and Evangeline’s father, Basil the blacksmith and his son Gabriel. Evangeline is a young girl around seventeen years old, beautiful and virtuous.
Evangeline and Gabriel are to be married, but English ships come with an announcement. The King has declared all land forfeit and the Acadians are to be relocated immediately.
The English acquired the peninsula of Acadia prior to the French and Indian wars; however, they were wary of the colonists’ loyalty and feared losing this strategic piece of land. As a military measure, the English army, in 1755, dispersed the Acadian settlers all along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The story of Evangeline is based on an incident that occurred during this period.
The soldiers throw people onto boats and in the confusion Gabriel and Basil are separated, with Evangeline being left ashore. From that day on, Evangeline spends her life searching for Gabriel, her lost love. When she grows old, she becomes a Sister of Mercy. A plague afflicts the people and she becomes a nurse. One day, she finds Gabriel lying on a cot, dying. After he dies, Evangeline soon dies as well.
“Still stands the forest primeval; but far away from its shadow,
Side by side, their nameless graves, the lovers are sleeping.”
My own copy was obtained in Nova Scotia at a historic site commemorating the Acadians.