Study Guide

Evangeline Farming

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


This poem is about an exiled community of farmers, so it's no great shock to see Longfellow till the poetic soil with some freshly-planted imagery of the farm.

For instance, we read about the Acadian farmland, with its "fields of flax, and orchards and cornfields / Spreading afar and unfenced o'er the plain" (27-28). We also get a lot of detail about the livestock of the place:

[…] the herds to the homestead.
Pawing the ground they came, and resting their necks on each other,
And with their nostrils distended inhaling the freshness of evening.
Foremost, bearing the bell, Evangeline's beautiful heifer,
Proud of her snow-white hide, and the ribbon that waved from her collar,
Quietly paced and slow, as if conscious of human affection
. (172-177)

Yeah… does anyone else think that this is just a little too much information about Evangeline's prized cow? The farming 4-1-1 doesn't stop there, though. Once the Acadians move to Louisiana, Basil the Blacksmith-turned-Herdsman has this to say about their new digs:

Here no stony ground provokes the wrath of the farmer.
Smoothly the ploughshare runs through the soil, as a keel through the water.
All the year round the orange-groves are in blossom;

His praise of their new home is couched entirely in terms of its… farmability (yes, we just made that word up). That checks out. After all, these folks are mainly farmers, so their bound to view the world in those terms. At the same time, all this farming imagery reminds readers of the poem just how closely tied the Acadians are to their land. That connection ultimately makes their exile and enforced homelessness all the more tragic.