The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In the Acadian province, in the village of Grand-Pré, live a peaceful farming people who are undisturbed by the wars between the French and British. In a land where there is enough for all, there is no covetousness and no envy, and all live at peace with their neighbors. Benedict Bellefontaine’s farm is somewhat apart from the village. His daughter, Evangeline, directs her father’s household. Although she has many suitors, she favors only one, Gabriel Lajeunesse, the son of Basil, the village blacksmith. Gabriel and Evangeline grew up together, and their fathers are friends.

One fall day, while Benedict rests by the fire and Evangeline sits at her spinning wheel, Basil brings word that the men of the village are to meet at the church the next day. They are to be told the plans of the English, whose ships are riding at anchor in the harbor. That night, Benedict and Basil sign the wedding contract that will unite their children. Then, while their fathers play checkers, Evangeline and Gabriel whisper in the darkening room until it is time to say goodnight.

The next morning everyone, including the folk from the outlying districts, comes to the village to hear the announcement the English commander is to make. They wear holiday dress, as if the occasion is one for celebration. At the Bellefontaine farm there is special joy, for with a feast and dancing the family and their guests are celebrating the betrothal of Gabriel and Evangeline. In the afternoon the church bell rings, summoning the men to the church. When they file in, they are followed by the guard from the ship. Outside, the women stand, waiting.

The news the English commander has for the little community renders a crushing blow. By order of the king, their lands, houses, and cattle are forfeited to the British crown, and the entire population of Grand-Pré is to be transported. The men are to consider themselves the king’s prisoners.

The tragic news spreads quickly through the village and to the farm where Evangeline is awaiting Benedict’s return. At sunset she starts toward the church, on her way comforting the downcast women she meets. Outside the church where the men are imprisoned, she calls Gabriel’s name, but there is no answer.

The men are held prisoner for five days. On the fifth day, the women bring their household goods to the shore to be loaded onto boats, and late that afternoon the men are led out of the church by their guards. Evangeline, standing at the side of the road, watches them coming toward her. She is able to comfort Gabriel with the assurance that their love will keep them from harm, but for her father she can do nothing. In five days he has aged greatly.

Basil and his son are put on separate ships, and Evangeline remains on the beach with Benedict. That night, the villagers of Grand-Pré watch their homes go up in flames and listen to their animals bellowing as the barns burn. Turning from the sight, Evangeline sees that her...

(The entire section is 1222 words.)