Monday, October 21, 2013


Last month I reprinted a post I wrote in 2007 about my ancestor
Jonathan Abbott's relationship with some Acadian exiles in Andover
Ma. back in the 18th century. I hadn't known anything about it until
I found the story on Lucie LeBlanc Consentino's blog. Revisiting it
reminded me that back in grade school in Boston we'd read
the poem "Evangeline" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It told
the story of two starcrossed Acadian lovers but all I could recall
of it was the line "This is the forest primeval."

When I started looking for a poem for this year's Great Genealogy
Poetry Challenge, I realized Evangeline would be perfect because
of my family's brief connection with the tragedy of the Acadian exiles.
Now, it's a long poem, so I selected a passage in which Longfellow
depicts how a small French-Canadian community learned they were
losing their homes and being deported:    

So passed the morning away. And lo! with a summons sonorous           
sounded the bell from its tower, and over the meadows a drum beat.   
Thronged erelong was the church with men. Without, in the churchyard,   
Waited the women. They stood by the graves, and hung on the headstones   
Garlands of autumn-leaves and evergreens fresh from the forest.   
Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them          
Entered the sacred portal. With loud and dissonant clangor   
Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement,—   
Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal   
Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers.   
Then uprose their commander, and spake from the steps of the altar,       
Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission.   
‘You are convened this day,’ he said, ‘by his Majesty’s orders.   
Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness,   
Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper   
Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous.           
Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch;   
Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds   
Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province   
Be transported to other lands. God grant you may dwell there   
Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people!           
Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty’s pleasure!’   
As, when the air is serene in sultry solstice of summer,   
Suddenly gathers a storm, and the deadly sling of the hailstones   
Beats down the farmer’s corn in the field and shatters his windows,   
Hiding the sun, and strewing the ground with thatch from the houseroofs,           
Bellowing fly the herds, and seek to break their enclosures;   
So on the hearts of the people descended the words of the speaker.   
Silent a moment they stood in speechless wonder, and then rose   
Louder and ever louder a wail of sorrow and anger,   
And, by one impulse moved, they madly rushed to the doorway.           
Vain was the hope of escape; and cries and fierce imprecations   
Rang through the house of prayer; and high o’er the heads of the others   
Rose, with his arms uplifted, the figure of Basil the blacksmith,   
As, on a stormy sea, a spar is tossed by the billows.   
Flushed was his face and distorted with passion; and wildly he shouted,—          
‘Down with the tyrants of England! we never have sworn them allegiance!   
Death to these foreign soldiers, who seize on our homes and our harvests!’   
More he fain would have said, but the merciless hand of a soldier   
Smote him upon the mouth, and dragged him down to the pavement.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1 comment:

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thanks for posting this Bill! My Acadian ancestors are always close to my heart. They endured much and the goal was ethnic cleansing but their love of God and family kept them going and today they have millions of descendants here to prove and talk about their strength and resiliency against terrible odds.

It was one of the great uncles and some cousins who were in exile at the Abbott home. Fortunately, they were in a good situation while living there.