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A TALE OF ACADIE.
The story of “EVANGELINE” is founded on a painful occurrence which took place in the early period of British colonization in the rorthern part of America.
In the year 1713, Acadia, or, as it is now named, Nova Scotia, was ceded to Great Britain by the French. The wishes of the inhabitants scem to have been little consulted in the change, and they with great difficulty were induced to take the oaths of allegiance to the British Government. Some time after this, war having again broken out between the French and British in Canada, the Acadians were accused of having assisted the French, from whom they were descended, and connected by many ties of friendship, with provisions and ammunition, at the siege of Beau Séjour. Whether the accusation was founded on fact or not, has not been satisfactorily ascertained; the result, however, was most disastrous to the primitive, simple-minded Acadians. The British Government ordered them to be removed from their homes, and dispersed throughout the other colonies, at a distance from their much-loved land. This resolution was not communicated to the inhabitants till measures had been matured to carry it into immediate effect; when the Governor of the colony, having issued a summons calling the whole people to a meeting, informed them that their lands, tenements, and cattle of all kinds were forfeited to the British crown, that he had orders to remove them in vessels to distant colonies, and they must remain in custody till their embarkation.
The poem is descriptive of the fate of some of the persons involved in these calamitous proceedings. This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinctin 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 neighbouring 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 for ever departed ! Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them faro'er the ocean. Nought but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pré.
Yewho 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.
Part the First.
In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas,
Somewhat apart from the village, and nearer the Basin of Minas, Benedict Bellefontaine, the wealthiest farmer of Grand-Pré, Dwelt on his goodly acres; and with him, directing his household, Gentle Evangeline lived, his child, and the pride of the village. Stalworth and stately in form was the man of seventy winters; Hearty and hale was he, an oak that is covered with snow-flakes; White as the snow were his locks, and his cheeks as brown as the
oak-leaves. Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers. Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the
way-side, Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of
her tresses ! Sweet was her breath as the breath of kine that feed in the meadows. When in the harvest heat she bore to the reapers at noontide Flagons of home-brewed ale, ah! fair in sooth was the maiden. Fairer was she when, on Sunday morn, while the bell from its turret Sprinkled with holy sounds the air, as the priest with his hyssop Sprinkles the congregation, and scatters blessings upon them, Down the long street she passed, with her chaplet of beads and her
missal, Wearing her Norman cap, and her kirtle of blue, and the ear-rings, Brought in the olden time from France, and since, as an heir-loom, Handed down from mother to child, through long generations. But a celestial brightness - -a more ethereal beautyShone on her face and encircled her form, when, after confession, Homeward serenely she walked with God's benediction upon her. When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music, Firmly builded with rafters of oak, the house of the farmer Stoo:1 on the side of a hill commanding the sea; and a shady Sycamore grew by the door, with a woodbine wreathing around it. Ru lely carved was the porch, with seats beneath; and a footpath Led through an orchard wide, and disappeared in the meadow. Under the sycamore-tree were hives overhung by a penthouse, Such as the traveller sees in regions remote by the road-side, Built o'er a box for the poor, or the blessed image of Mary. Farther down, on the slope of the hill, was the well with its moss
grown Bucket, fastened with iron, and near it a trough for the horses. Shielding the house from storms, on the north,
were the barns and the farmyarl: There stood the broad-wheeled wains and the antique ploughs and
the harrows; There were the folds for the sheep; and there, in his feathered seraglio, Strutted the lorlly turkey, an I crowed the cock, with the selfsame Voice that in ages of old hal startled the penitent Peter. Bursting with hay were the barns, themselves a village. In each one Far o'er the gable projected a roof of thatch; and a staircase, Under the sheltering caves, led up to the odorous corn-loft. There too the dove-cot stood, with its meek and innocent inmates Murm'ıring ever of love; while above in the variant breezes Numberless noisy weathercocks rattled and sang of mutation.
Thus, at peace with God and the world, the farmer of Grand-Pré Lived on his sunny farm, and Evangeline governed his household. Many a youth, as he knelt in the church and opened his missal,
Fixed his eyes upon her, as the saint of his deepest devotion ;
letters Out of the selfsame book, with the hymns of the church and the
plain-song. But when the hymn was sung, and the daily lesson completed, Swiftly they hurried away to the forge of Basil the blacksmith. There at the door they stood, with wondering eyes to behold him Take in his leathern lap the hoof of the horse as a plaything, Nailing the shoe inits place; while near him the tire of the cart-wheel Lay like a fiery snake, coiled round in a circle of cinders. Oft on autumnal eves, when without in the gathering darkness Bursting with light seemed the smithy, through every cranny and
crevice, Warm by the forge within they watched the labouring bellows, And as its panting ceased, and the sparks expired in the ashes, Merrily laughed, and said they were nuns going into the chapel. Oft on sledges in winter, as swift as the swoop of the eagle, Down the hill-side bounding, they glided away o'er the meadow. Oft in the barns they climbed to the populous nests on the rafters, Seeking with eager eyes that wondrous stone, which the swallow Brings from the shore of the sea to restore the sight of its fledglings; Lucky was he who found that stone in the nest of the swallow! Thus passed a few swift years, and they no longer were children. He was a valiant youth, and his face, like the face of the morning, Gladdened the earth with its light, and ripened thought into action. She was a woman now, with the heart and hopes of a woman. “Sunshine of St. Eulalie" was she called; for that was the sunshine Which, as the farmers believed, would load their orchards with
apples; She, too, would bring to her husband's house delight and abundance, Filling it full of love and the ruddy faces of children.
Now had the season returned, when the nights grow colder and longer, And the retreating sun the sign of the Scorpion enters.
Birds of passage sailed through the leaden air, from the ice-bound,
homestead. Pawing the ground they came, and resting their necks on each other, And with their nostrils distended inhaling the freshness of evening. Foremost, bearing the bell, Evangeline's beautiful heifer, Proud of her snow-white hide, and the ribbon that waved from
her collar, Quietly paced and slow, as if conscious of human affection. Then came the shepherd back with his bleating flocks from the
sea-side, Where was their favourite pasture. Behind them followed the
watch-dog, Patient, full of importance, and grand in the pride of his instinct, Walking from side to side with a lordly air, and superbly Waving his bushy tail, and urging forward the stragglers; Regent of flocks was he when the shepherd slept; their protector, When from the forest at night, through the starry silence, the
wolves howled. Late, with the rising moon, returned the wains from the marshes, Laden with briny hay, that filled the air with its odour. Cheerily neighed the steeds, with dew on their manes and their
fetlocks, While aloft on their shoulders the wooden and ponderous saddles, Painted with brilliant dyes, and adorned with tessels of crimson, Nodded in bright array, like hollyhocks heavy with blossoms.