Study Guide

Evangeline Part 1, Section 5

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Part 1, Section 5

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

  • It's five days later, and the women and children are putting their worldly possessions into carts ("wains") and hauling them out of their houses and down toward where the Gaspereau River meets the Atlantic Ocean (528).
  • They all gather on the beach among the piles of their belongings.
  • Later in the day, the church bells ring and the men folk are all released from their imprisonment. They march solemnly down to the shore, singing "a chant of the Catholic Missions" as they go: "Sacred heart of the Saviour! O inexhaustible fountain! / Fill our hearts this day with strength and submission and patience!" (547-549). Yeah, that sounds pretty appropriate for the occasion.
  • The young men start the song, then the older men and the women join in, and then even the birds chime in (who knew that birds were familiar with Catholic Mission chants?).
  • Evangeline is waiting patiently, and soon enough she sees Gabriel come walking up. She hugs him and tells him, basically, that nothing can go wrong as long as they love each other. Then she sees her dad and tells him that she loves him, too.
  • Down on the beach, things are pretty chaotic. A bunch of smaller boats are taking the villagers and their possessions to larger boats that wait farther out to sea. In all of the hubbub, families are getting split up. For instance, Gabriel and his dad Basil wind up on separate boats—bummer.
  • Meanwhile, Evangeline and her dad are left to wait on shore. They don't make it into a boat before night fall, so they have to camp on the beach with a bunch of other villagers whose stuff is scattered all about.
  • The tide goes way out, stranding the smaller boats on the beach, and the cows come back from their pastures expecting to milked. The only trouble is: all the villagers are either on the boats or waiting to board. Nobody's around to ring the church bell or milk the cows, who have to just stand around and moo disappointedly.
  • Back on the beach, Evangeline is sitting around a driftwood fire with her dad Benedict, trying to console him.
  • No dice—he won't eat, he won't talk, and he definitely won't cheer up. A priest is walking among all the sad, cold villagers and he tries to encourage Benedict, too, but to no effect. So, he just sits down next to him and the three of them have a good cry. 
  • All of a sudden, a bright light starts to rise from the direction of the village. As it gets brighter, flames and smoke become visible. Then a horrible sound accompanies the sight: the animals are all bellowing in terror as they break free of their corrals.
  • The priest and Evangeline look at the sight of Grand-Pré in flames with horror. They turn to Benedict, but he's sprawled out in the sand: dead.
  • Evangeline is understandably even more upset. She rests her head on her dead father and passes out. 
  • The next morning, she realizes that it wasn't just a bad dream. The other villagers look at her with sadness in their eyes. 
  • The priest suggests that they bury poor Benedict on the beach. They can move his "sacred dust" to a respectable burying ground once they're able to return and rebuild the village (654). The villagers all pitch in, and the priest improvises a funeral service right there on the beach.
  • As they're burying him, the tide begins to come back in. The boats can now return to take the remaining villagers and their belongings to the waiting ships.
  • And that's the end of part one—bad times all around, Shmoopers.