This is a long one, so check out the full poem here.
Okay, Shmoopers, deep breath, settle in, and get comfy. We've got 1400 lines to go here, but, like that motivational poster in your gym teacher's office says, "Every journey starts with a single footstep"… or something like that.
In the case of this first section (which is not officially titled a "prologue," but it does appear at the start of the poem), our first steps are in a forest—a "forest primeval" to be exact (1).
"Primeval" here is used to mean ancient, old-timey, long-standing. The trees even have figurative beards, so we know they've been standing here awhile.
Something's missing, though. Let's see… we've got old trees, moss, even a "deep voiced neighboring ocean" (so this is a coastal place), but no people (5). No villages are here, nor are any farms or farmers to work them.
This place is deserted.
We learn that this wasn't always the case, though. The folks who once lived here are now "Scattered like dust and leaves" (13). It turns out that they once lived in a village called "Grand-Pré," but that's gone now—bummer.
Then our speaker addresses a certain kind of reader: "Ye who believe in affection that hopes and endures […]Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion" (16-17).
Do you fit that bill, Shmoopers? Then good news: you can listen to this "Tale of Love in Acadie" (19). Read on…