Evangeline - Prologue

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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-Pré.
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.

Acadia (Acadie in French) was the old name for the North-Eastern French territories along the Atlantic seaboard of North America.

The village of Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, was founded by early Acadian settlers as long ago as 1680. A British force was defeated there in 1747, but the villagers were all expelled  between 1755 and 1762. This poem by Longfellow, first published in 1847, reminded people of this cruel episode in North American history.

Grand Pré is now a National Historic Site of Canada. It is now strongly associated with Longfellow's poem. There is a statue of Evangeline at Grand Pre and even an Evangeline Trail which tourists can follow.