Study Guide

Evangeline Prologue

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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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…

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