Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, is an epic poem
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 published in 1847 by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

. The poem follows an Acadia
Acadia was the name given to lands in a portion of the French colonial empire of New France, in northeastern North America that included parts of eastern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and modern-day Maine. At the end of the 16th century, France claimed territory stretching as far south as...

n girl named Evangeline and her search for her lost love Gabriel, set during the time of the Expulsion of the Acadians.

The idea for the poem came from Longfellow's friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

. Longfellow used dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter is a form of meter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. It is traditionally associated with the quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin, and was consequently considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry...

 reminiscent of Greek and Latin classics, though the choice was criticized. It was published in 1847 and became Longfellow's most famous work in his lifetime. It remains one of his most popular and enduring works.

The poem had a powerful effect in defining both Acadian history and identity in the nineteenth and twentieth century. More recent scholarship has revealed the historical errors in the poem and the complexity of the Expulsion and those involved, which the poem ignores.


Evangeline describes the betrothal of a fictional Acadian girl named Evangeline Bellefontaine to her beloved, Gabriel Lajeunesse, and their separation as the British deport the Acadians from Acadie in the Great Upheaval. The poem then follows Evangeline across the landscapes of America as she spends years in a search for him, at some times being near to Gabriel without realizing he was near. Finally she settles in Philadelphia and, as an old woman, works as a Sister of Mercy
Sisters of Mercy
The Religious Order of the Sisters of Mercy is an order of Catholic women founded by Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland, in 1831. , the order has about 10,000 members worldwide, organized into a number of independent congregations....

 among the poor. While tending the dying during an epidemic she finds Gabriel among the sick, and he dies in her arms.

Composition and publication history

Longfellow was introduced to the true story of the Acadians in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

 by his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

. Hawthorne and Longfellow had attended Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College , founded in 1794, is an elite private liberal arts college located in the coastal Maine town of Brunswick, Maine. As of 2011, U.S. News and World Report ranks Bowdoin 6th among liberal arts colleges in the United States. At times, it was ranked as high as 4th in the country. It is...

 together, though they were not friends at the time. Years later, in 1837, Hawthorne contacted Longfellow for his opinion on his recently published tales in the North American Review, which Longfellow praised as works of genius; the two became lifelong friends. Hawthorne was not interested in fictionalizing it so Longfellow turned it into a poem after months of studying the histories of Nova Scotian families.

Longfellow, who had never visited the setting of the true story, relied heavily on Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Thomas Chandler Haliburton was the first international best-selling author from Canada. He was also significant in the history of Nova Scotia.-Life:...

's An Historical and Statistical Account of Nova Scotia and other books for further background information. Evangeline was published in book form on November 1, 1847, and by 1857 it had sold nearly 36,000 copies. During this time, Longfellow's literary payment was at its peak; for Evangeline, he received "a net of twenty-five and sixteenths per cent" royalties, believed to be an all-time high for a poet.

Longfellow said of his poem: "I had the fever a long time burning in my own brain before I let my hero take it. 'Evangeline' is so easy for you to read, because it was so hard for me to write".


The poem is written in dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter is a form of meter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. It is traditionally associated with the quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin, and was consequently considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry...

, possibly inspired by Greek and Latin classics, including Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, whose work Longfellow was reading at the time he was writing Evangeline. He also had recently, in 1841, translated "The Children of the Lord's Supper", a poem by Swedish writer Esaias Tegnér
Esaias Tegnér
Esaias Tegnér , was a Swedish writer, professor of Greek language, and bishop. He was during the 19th century regarded as the father of modern poetry in Sweden, mainly through the national romantic epos Frithjof's Saga. He has been called Sweden's first modern man...

, which also used this meter. Evangeline is one of the few nineteenth-century compositions in that meter which is still read today.

Some criticized Longfellow's choice of dactylic hexameter, including poet John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. He is usually listed as one of the Fireside Poets...

, who said the poem would have been better in a prose style similar to Longfellow's Hyperion
Hyperion (Longfellow)
Hyperion: A Romance is one of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's earliest works, published in 1839. It is a prose romance which was published alongside his first volume of poems, Voices of the Night.-Overview:...

. Longfellow was conscious of the potential criticism. When sending a copy of the poem to Bryan Procter
Bryan Procter
Bryan Waller Procter was an English poet.Born at Leeds, Yorkshire, he was educated at Harrow School, where he had for contemporaries Lord Byron and Robert Peel. On leaving school he was placed in the office of a solicitor at Calne, Wiltshire, remaining there until about 1807, when he returned to...

, Longfellow wrote: "I hope you will not reject it on account of the metre. In fact, I could not write it as it is in any other; it would have changed its character entirely to have put it into a different measure." Even Longfellow's wife Fanny defended his choice, writing to a friend: "It enables greater richness of expression than any other, and it is sonorous like the sea which is ever sounding in Evangeline's ear". As an experiment, Longfellow reassured himself that he was using the best meter by attempting a passage in blank verse. Even so, while looking over the proofs
Galley proof
In printing and publishing, proofs are the preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra wide margins. Galley proofs may be uncut and unbound, or in some cases electronic...

 for a second edition, Longfellow briefly wished he had used a different poetic structure:
The name Evangeline comes from the Latin word "evangelium" meaning "gospel". The Latin word itself is derived from the Greek words "eu"—"good"—and "angela"—"news".

Critical response

Evangeline became Longfellow's most famous work in his lifetime and was widely read. Contemporary reviews were very positive. A reviewer for the Metropolitan said, "No one with any pretensions to poetic feeling can read its delicious portraiture of rustic scenery and of a mode of life long since defunct, without the most intense delight". Longfellow's friend Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner
Charles Sumner was an American politician and senator from Massachusetts. An academic lawyer and a powerful orator, Sumner was the leader of the antislavery forces in Massachusetts and a leader of the Radical Republicans in the United States Senate during the American Civil War and Reconstruction,...

 said he had met a woman who "has read 'Evangeline' some twenty times and thinks it the most perfect poem in the language". Other admirers of the poem included King Leopold I of Belgium
Leopold I of Belgium
Leopold I was from 21 July 1831 the first King of the Belgians, following Belgium's independence from the Netherlands. He was the founder of the Belgian line of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha...

. It has been called the first important long poem in American literature.


Prior to the influence of Longfellow's poem, historians generally focused on the British founding of Halifax
City of Halifax
Halifax is a city in Canada, which was the capital of the province of Nova Scotia and shire town of Halifax County. It was the largest city in Atlantic Canada until it was amalgamated into Halifax Regional Municipality in 1996...

 (1749) as the beginning of Nova Scotia. Longfellow's poem shed light on the 150 years of Acadian settlement that preceded the establishment of Halifax.

The Expulsion was planned and executed by New Englanders and British. Longfellow omitted from the poem New England's responsibility for the event. Through his poem, Longfellow defines the British as responsible for the expulsion and America is cast as a place of refuge. This omission may explain in part why Americans were able to celebrate a poem that was based on a traumatic historic event for which they were significantly responsible. Longfellow's account was later challenged by Francis Parkman
Francis Parkman
Francis Parkman was an American historian, best known as author of The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky-Mountain Life and his monumental seven-volume France and England in North America. These works are still valued as history and especially as literature, although the biases of his...

 in his book Montcalm and Wolfe
Montcalm and Wolfe
Montcalm and Wolfe is the sixth volume in Francis Parkman's seven-volume history, France and England in North America, originally published in 1884. It tells the story of the French and Indian War...

(1884). Rather than blaming the British, Parkman defined the real problem in expulsion as the French influence on Acadians, particularly by Abbe Jean-Louis Le Loutre
Jean-Louis Le Loutre
Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre was a Catholic priest and missionary for the Paris Foreign Missions Society...

. American historian John Brebner eventually wrote New England's Outpost (1927), which identified how instrumental New Englanders were in the expulsion of the Acadians.

The poem had a powerful impact in both defining Acadian history and identity in the nineteenth and twentieth century. More recent scholarship has revealed the historical errors in the poem and the complexity of the Expulsion and those involved, which the poem obscures. For example, Longfellow's poem renders Acadia a utopia and the Acadians as simply a homogeneous, passive, peaceful, innocent people. This account obscured the resistance that many Acadians demonstrated — both politically and militarily — against the British occupation of Acadia.

The poem also led generations of Protestant anglophones to sympathize with the plight of a people who they often demonized and persecuted for being Catholic. The poem also provided a safe symbolic space for Acadians to develop arguments for more recognition and respect.

Landmarks and statues

In 1920, at Grand Pre, Nova Scotia
Grand Pre, Nova Scotia
Grand-Pré is a Canadian rural community in Kings County, Nova Scotia. Its French name translates to "Great Meadow" and the community lies at the eastern edge of the Annapolis Valley several kilometres east of the town of Wolfville on a peninsula jutting into the Minas Basin, framed by the Gaspereau...

, Acadians reconstructed the French church with a statue of Evangeline in the courtyard. Almost a decade later, in 1929, a statue of Evangeline — posed for by silent Mexican film star Dolores del Río
Dolores del Río
Dolores del Río was a Mexican film actress. She was a star of Hollywood films during the silent era and in the Golden Age of Hollywood...

, who starred in the 1929 film Evangeline - was donated to the town of St. Martin Louisana by the film's cast and crew. In 1934, the first state park in Louisiana was named the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site
Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site
Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, located in St. Martinville, Louisiana, showcases the cultural significance of the Bayou Teche region. It is the oldest state park site in Louisiana, founded in 1934 as the Longfellow-Evangeline State Commemorative Area. Evangeline, of course, was the epic...


Tourism in Louisiana and Nova Scotia demanded that the fictional character be made real. In response, Felix Voorhies wrote the book Acadian Reminiscences : The True Story of Evangeline and other later works of fiction expanded upon the material of the poem, claiming the "real names" of the characters had been "Emmeline LaBiche" (in Longfellow her full name is Evangeline Bellefontaine) and "Louis Arceneaux" (in the poem, Gabriel Lajeunesse). Among sites that claim a relation to these pseudohistorical figures are a house north of Lafayette, Louisiana
Lafayette, Louisiana
Lafayette is a city in and the parish seat of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, United States, on the Vermilion River. The population was 120,623 at the 2010 census...

, which supposedly belonged to Gabriel, and the grave of Emmeline in the Perpetual Adoration Garden & Historic Cemetery in St. Martin de Tours Church Square, on Main Street, St. Martinville
St. Martinville, Louisiana
St. Martinville is a city in and the parish seat of St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, United States. It lies on Bayou Teche, sixteen miles south of Breaux Bridge, eighteen miles southeast of Lafayette, and nine miles north of New Iberia. The population was 6,989 at the 2000 census. It is part of the...

 (the site having been determined for its convenience by local boosters about the turn of the 20th century). "Evangeline Oak" trees in St. Martinville also lay claim to marking the original meeting place of Emmeline and Gabriel.

Another site claiming to have relation to the historical figures that Evangeline was based upon is the Arceneaux House in Hamshire, Texas
Hamshire, Texas
Hamshire is an unincorporated community in western Jefferson County, Texas, United States. It is part of the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. Hamshire, commonly referred to by some of its inhabitants as "Hamshire, America", is on State Highway 124 twenty miles southwest of...

, which is marked by a Texas Historical Marker. The house was given to Mary Gadrac Arceneaux, great-great-granddaughter of Louis Arceneaux by her husband.

Place names

Evangeline has also been the namesake of many places in Louisiana and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. Evangeline is the name of a Parish in Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

, a rural community in Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name, as well as other islands. The maritime province is the smallest in the nation in both land area and population...

, a residence hall at Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, most often referred to as Louisiana State University, or LSU, is a public coeducational university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The University was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name...

, and a small settlement in the Acadian Peninsula
Acadian Peninsula
The Acadian Peninsula is situated in the northeastern corner of New Brunswick, Canada, encompassing portions of Gloucester and Northumberland Counties. It derives its name from the large Acadian population located there...

 in New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

. It is also often used as a street name in Acadian communities. The Evangeline Trail is a historic route in Nova Scotia that traces the Annapolis Valley, ancestral home of the Acadians. Picturesque especially in Summer and Fall, the trail runs from Grand Pré, site of the first expulsions, south to Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia
Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia
Annapolis Royal is a town located in the western part of Annapolis County, Nova Scotia. Known as Port Royal until the Conquest of Acadia in 1710 by Britain, the town is the oldest continuous European settlement in North America, north of St...

 near the original French settlement in North America, Port Royal, Nova Scotia
Port Royal, Nova Scotia
Port Royal was the capital of Acadia from 1605 to 1710 and is now a town called Annapolis Royal in the western part of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Initially Port Royal was located on the north shore of the Annapolis Basin, Nova Scotia, at the site of the present reconstruction of the...

. More than a dozen small Acadian villages line the trail.


There have also been numerous film adaptations of the poem Evangline. Evangeline
Evangeline (1913 film)
Evangeline is a 1913 Canadian drama film based on the epic poem of the same name. Directed by Edward P. Sullivan and William Cavanaugh, it is the first feature-length film in Canada.-Cast:* Laura Lyman as Evangeline Bellefontaine...

 was the first Canadian feature film, produced in 1913 by Canadian Bioscope of Halifax. It was shot in the Annapolis Valley and at Grand Pré. In 1919 Raoul Walsh
Raoul Walsh
Raoul Walsh was an American film director, actor, founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the brother of silent screen actor George Walsh...

 made a film based on the poem for 20th Century Fox
20th Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation — also known as 20th Century Fox, or simply 20th or Fox — is one of the six major American film studios...

. It was suggested by and starred his wife Miriam Cooper
Miriam Cooper
Miriam Cooper was a silent film actress who is best known for her work in early film including Birth of a Nation and Intolerance for D.W. Griffith and The Honor System and Evangeline for her husband Raoul Walsh...

. The film was one of the duo's biggest hits but is now lost
Lost film
A lost film is a feature film or short film that is no longer known to exist in studio archives, private collections or public archives such as the Library of Congress, where at least one copy of all American films are deposited and catalogued for copyright reasons...

. In 1929 Edwin Carewe
Edwin Carewe
Edwin Carewe was an American motion picture director, actor, producer, and screenwriter. He was born in Gainesville, Texas, as Jay Fox.-Career:...

 made a film version starring Dolores del Rio
Dolores del Río
Dolores del Río was a Mexican film actress. She was a star of Hollywood films during the silent era and in the Golden Age of Hollywood...

, shot in Louisiana and accompanied by a theme song written by Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

 and Billy Rose
Billy Rose
William "Billy" Rose was an American impresario, theatrical showman and lyricist. He is credited with many famous songs, notably "Me and My Shadow" , "It Happened in Monterey" and "It's Only a Paper Moon"...



Evangeline has also been the subject of numerous songs. A popular French song titled "Evangeline" written in 1971 by Michel Conte and originally sung by Isabelle Pierre is based on her story. This song, performed by Annie Blanchard, won the 2006 ADISQ
The ADISQ is a nonprofit organization with the mission to help the music industry in Quebec. It was created in 1978....

 award for "Most popular song". A 1998 musical adaptation
Evangeline (musical)
Evangeline is a musical with a book by Jamie Wax, lyrics by Wax and Paul Taranto, and music by Taranto.Peopled by characters introduced by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his 1847 epic poem of the same name, it tells the tale of Evangeline Bellefontaine and Gabriel Lajeunesse, born on the same...

 of the story was recorded and released on CD, and a 1999 production staged at the Strand Theatre in Shreveport, Louisiana
Shreveport, Louisiana
Shreveport is the third largest city in Louisiana. It is the principal city of the fourth largest metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana and is the 109th-largest city in the United States....

 was taped and broadcast by PBS in 2000. The poem was also mentioned in the movie Angel Heart
Angel Heart
Angel Heart is a 1987 North American/British mystery-thriller film written and directed by Alan Parker, and starring Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Bonet...

, starring Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke
Philip Andre "Mickey" Rourke, Jr. is an American actor, screenwriter and retired boxer, who has appeared primarily as a leading man in action, drama, and thriller films....

 and Robert de Niro
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro, Jr. is an American actor, director and producer. His first major film roles were in Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets, both in 1973...

. Robbie Robertson of The Band wrote the song "Evangeline," performed with Emmylou Harris, with Longfellow's character in mind. A half-hour suite of guitar music by guitarist composer Loren MazzaCane Connors
Loren Mazzacane Connors
Loren MazzaCane Connors is an American experimental musician who has recorded and performed under several different names: Guitar Roberts, Loren Mazzacane, Loren Mattei, and currently Loren Connors...

 based on scenes in the Longfellow story was released as a compact disc titled, "Evangeline" (RoadCone, 1998), with the title track vocal by Suzanne Langille.


  • A depiction of Evangeline from Longfellow's poem was incorporated into the Dominion Atlantic Railway
    Dominion Atlantic Railway
    The Dominion Atlantic Railway was a historic Canadian railway which operated in the western part of Nova Scotia, primarily through an agricultural district known as the Annapolis Valley....

     logo along with the text 'Land of Evangeline Route'. Additionally, there was once a Via Rail
    VIA Rail
    Via Rail Canada is an independent crown corporation offering intercity passenger rail services in Canada. It is headquartered near Montreal Central Station at 3 Place Ville-Marie in Montreal, Quebec....

     train known as the "Evangeline" that ran from Halifax to Yarmouth
    Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
    Yarmouth is a town and fishing port located on the Gulf of Maine in rural southwestern Nova Scotia, Canada. It is the shire town of Yarmouth County. The town is located in the heart of the world's largest lobster fishing grounds and has Canada's highest lobster catch.- History :The townsite may...

    , that was cut in 1990.
  • L'Évangeline was also an important daily newspaper in New Brunswick from 1949 to 1982.

External links

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