Study Guide

Evangeline Part 1, Section 4

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Part 1, Section 4

This is a long one, so check out the full poem here.

  • The next morning, folks are out and about in the beautiful weather. It seems to be some sort of holiday, as the villagers all get dressed up and call upon one another's houses. Folks knock off work and instead spend time socializing.
  • Benedict's house is a particularly popular destination, and at last we find out why: he's hosting a wedding (Evangeline and Gabriel's, to be precise).
  • In his orchard, Benedict's got a wedding feast all laid out for the guests. Michael the fiddler is there, pumping out the jams and singing French ditties. 
  • Evangeline is the "Fairest of all the maids" at this gathering, while Gabriel is the "Noblest of all the youths" (418-419). These two crazy kids are the seventeenth-century version of a power couple.
  • The good times go on all morning, but then a bell from the church tower interrupts. It's time to meet the English soldiers (remember?). The men-folk head into the church, while the women wait outside. The English commander shows up to the church and breaks out "with its seals, the royal commission" (431). He has some news:
  • Firstly, all the villagers' land, houses, and cattle now belong to the King of England. Secondly, everybody's got to pack up their stuff and move on out of the village "to other lands" (439). Thirdly, everyone there is now a prisoner. This is how the King wants things to go down.
  • That's it. This is not one of those "bad news first, then the good news" scenarios. Dude only has bad news, and then more bad news, for the poor villagers.
  • Our speaker describes how the villagers sit in stunned silence for a minute, but then they let fly "ever louder a wail of sorrow and anger" (449) and try to make a run for it—no soup. The church exit is blocked and the village men are indeed all prisoners.
  • Basil is not having this. He shouts "Down with the tyrants of England!" but gets socked in the chops by an English solider (456).
  • Somehow, in all the confusion, a priest named Father Felician manages to sneak his way into the church. He makes it up to the altar and gets everyone to stop freaking out for a minute. He reminds them of his past lessons that he's taught in that church, namely: love one another. He leads the group in a prayer, asking God to forgive the English for their wicked deeds against the villagers. After that, he leads a full service. The villagers sing "Ave Maria" and fall to their knees in a devotional attitude.
  • Meanwhile, rumors have started to circulate about what has gone down at the church. The women and children are left in the village, and Evangeline is left to watch over an abandoned wedding feast. She decides to investigate further, joining some of the other women who are heading into town to find out what in the Sam Hill is going on.
  • She makes it to the church, but everything is quiet inside and she can't see through the door or the windows.
  • She shouts out Gabriel's name, but she gets no reply. 
  • Evangeline heads back to her dad Benedict's pad. Everything is dark and abandoned and—to top it all off—it starts to rain. 
  • It seems like bad times are here to stay, but then a flash of lightning reminds Evangeline about René's story about the statue of justice. The lightning, then, "Told her that God was in heaven!" (521). Evangeline's able to sleep peacefully after that.

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