on April 7, 2002
After more than half a century, I remembered still the sonorous rhythms of the prelude to Evangeline. Much has changed since I first read the tale of Arcadian innocence torn apart on order of the heartless King, and Longfellow and his poetry have fallen on hard times and harder hearts in the interim
His allusions and images are strained; his words pathetically romantic and sentimental; and the story of Evangeline barely tracks the actual events of 1755. All of the charges are true, yet much of value remains in the poem. The poet recognized instantly a crime against humanity when he first heard the tale, and he had the talent, drive, and fortitude to create this vehicle to memorialize the sad story of star crossed lovers, families, and communities divided and exiled from their adored homeland.
That a heart could be committed to a lifetime of wandering in search of a lost love seems archaic to the sophisticates of the twenty-first century, but I believe it possible, even today.
I read the poem - aloud and silently - and the beat of the accents, like operatic arias, added to the the sorrow of the sentimental story. I recommend this poem to parents who love to read aloud to their children. I'm sure that Evangeline and her beloved Gabriel have the power still to stir the hearts of the young - and of the readers, too.
A very useful notes section offsets an overly wordy foreword. I found it easy to find and reference words and phrases no longer in common use.
Read it aloud to your early adolescent sons and daughters and to your love. You'll be happy you did.