"This Is The Forest Primeval"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This "Tale of Acadie" is based on a historical event–the deportation in 1755 of the French inhabitants of Nova Scotia by the British authorities. In the poem, Evangeline, an Acadian girl, is separated from her fiancé during the deportation. The lovers search for each other all their lives. Finally, when they are old, she finds him dying in a hospital. Evangeline dies from shock. In the prelude Longfellow foreshadows the approaching tragedy. The forest remains, but the Acadian inhabitants are gone, the "Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands . . . reflecting an image of heaven." The farmers have "forever departed." "Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pré." The poet asks his readers to listen to this tale "of woman's devotion." In the first stanza, the woods seem saddened by the tragic scene they have witnessed:

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.