Study Guide

Evangeline Religion

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Solemnly down the street came the parish priest, and the children
Paused in their play to kiss the hand he extended to bless them.
Reverend walked he among them; and up rose matrons and maidens,
Hailing his slow approach with words of affectionate welcome. (43-46)

We guess it's possible that a bunch of kids would interrupt their lively game of tag to kiss a priest's hand. We've just never come across these kids in our lifetime. (Mainly they wipe their nose on their sleeve and kick the back of our airplane seats.) The idea here is clear, though: the Acadians are a God-fearing people who respect their religious representatives.

Under the sycamore-tree were hives overhung by a penthouse,
Such as the traveller sees in regions remote by the roadside,
Built o'er a box for the poor, or the blessed image of Mary. (87-89)

Here we see that religion and charity literally represented in the designs of the villagers. Their attachment to religion is portrayed as something entirely beneficial.

Raising his reverend hand, with a gesture he awed into silence
All that clamorous throng; and thus he spake to his people;
Deep were his tones and solemn; in accents measured and mournful
Spake he, as, after the tocsin's alarum, distinctly the clock strikes.
'What is this that ye do, my children? what madness has seized you?
Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and taught you,
Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another! (464-470)

Father Felician is the person responsible for quieting the raucous menfolk (and quite possibly saving their lives in the process, seeing as how the English are armed and the villagers are not). It's important to note the kind of authority he carries in the community—folks listen when he speaks. The words of advice also underscore the central role of religion in the villagers' lives. They're told to love everyone, even as the English soldiers are kicking them off their land.

Told her that God was in heaven, and governed the world He created!
Then she remembered the tale she had heard of the justice of Heaven;
Soothed was her troubled soul, and she peacefully slumbered till morning. (521-523)

This is not the last time that religion will help Evangeline get some sleep. It's a source of ongoing comfort for her and, brother, is she going to need it.

Foremost the young men came; and, raising together their voices,
Sang with tremulous lips a chant of the Catholic Missions:—
'Sacred heart of the Saviour! O inexhaustible fountain!
Fill our hearts this day with strength and submission and patience!' (546-549)

As they file out of the church and head off toward their exile, the men of the village chant a religious prayer, asking for patience. We'd forgive them if they went out and brained the English soldiers with the nearest bunch of rocks they could find. After all, this is their home that's being stolen. But that's not the type of people these villagers are. Religion gives them another way.

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