Part the First:
Part the Second:
A Tale of Arcadie
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Part the Second
- IT was the month of May. Far down the Beautiful River,
- Past the Ohio shore and past the mouth of the Wabash,
- Into the golden stream of the broad and swift Mississippi,
- Floated a cumbrous boat, that was rowed by Acadian boatmen.
- It was a band of exiles; a raft, as it were, from the shipwrecked
- Nation, scattered along the coast, now floating together,
- Bound by the bonds of a common belief and a common misfortune;
- Men and women and children, who, guided by hope or by hearsay,
- Sought for their kith and their kin among the few-acred farmers
- On the Acadian coast, and the prairies of fair Opelousas.
- With them Evangeline went, and her guide, the Father Felician.
- Onward, o'er sunken sands, through a wilderness somber with forests,
- Day after day they glided adown the turbulent river;
- Night after night, by their blazing fires, encamped on its borders,
- Now through rushing chutes, among green islands, where plumelike
- Cotton-trees nodded their shadowy crests, they swept with the current,
- Then emerged into broad lagoons, where silvery sandbars
- Lay in the stream, and along the wimpling waves of their margin,
- Shining with snow-white plumes, large flocks of pelicans waded.
- Level the landscape grew, and along the shores of the river,
- Shaded by china-trees, in the midst of luxuriant gardens,
- Stood the houses of planters, with negro-cabins and dove-cotes.
- They were approaching the region where reigns perpetual summer,
- Where through the Golden Coast, and groves of orange and citron,
- Sweeps with majestic curve the river away to the eastward.
- They, too, swerved from their course; and, entering the Bayou of Plaquemine,
- Soon were lost in a maze of sluggish and devious waters,
- Which, like a network of steel, extended in every direction.
- Over their heads the towering and tenebrous boughs of the cypress
- Met in a dusky arch, and trailing mosses in mid-air
- Waved like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals.
- Deathlike the silence seemed, and unbroken, save by the herons
- Home to their roosts in the cedar-trees returning at sunset,
- Or by the owl, as he greeted the moon with demoniac laughter.
- Lovely the moonlight was as it glanced and gleamed on the water,
- Gleamed on the columns of cypress and cedar sustaining the arches,
- Down through whose broken vaults it fell as through chinks in a ruin.
- Dreamlike, and indistinct, and strange were all things around them;
- And o'er their spirits there came a feeling of wonder and sadness --
- Strange forebodings of ill, unseen and that cannot be compassed.
- As, at the tramp of a horse's hoof on the turf of the prairies,
- Far in advance are closed the leaves of the shrinking mimosa,
- So, at the hoof-beats of fate, with sad forebodings of evil,
- Shrinks and closes the heart, ere the stroke of doom has attained it.
- But Evangeline's heart was sustained by a vision, that faintly
- Floated before her eyes, and beckoned her on through the moonlight.
- It was the thought of her brain that assumed the shape of a phantom.
- Through those shadowy aisles had Gabriel wandered before her,
- And every stroke of the oar now brought him nearer and nearer.
- Then in his place, at the prow of the boat, rose one of the oarsmen,
- And, as a signal sound, if others like them peradventure
- Sailed on those gloomy and midnight streams, blew a blast on his bugle.
- Wild through the dark colonnades and corridors leafy the blast rang,
- Breaking the seal of silence, and giving tongues to the forest.
- Soundless above them the banners of moss just stirred to the music.
- Multitudinous echoes awoke and died in the distance,
- Over the watery floor, and beneath the reverberant branches;
- But not a voice replied; no answer came from the darkness;
- And when the echoes had ceased, like a sense of pain was the silence.
- Then Evangeline slept; but the boatmen rowed through the midnight,
- Silent at times, then singing familiar Canadian boat-songs,
- Such as they sang of old on their own Acadian rivers,
- And through the night were heard the mysterious sounds of the desert,
- Far off, indistinct, as of wave or wind in the forest,
- Mixed with the whoop of the crane and the roar of the grim alligator.
- Thus ere another noon they emerged from those shades; and before them
- Lay, in the golden sun, the lakes of the Atchafalaya.
- Water-lilies in myriads rocked on the slight undulations
- Made by the passing oars, and, resplendent in beauty, the lotus
- Lifted her golden crown above the heads of the boatmen.
- Faint was the air with the odorous breath of magnolia blossoms,
- And with the heat of noon; and numberless sylvan islands,
- Fragrant and thickly embowered with blossoming hedges of roses,
- Near to whose shores they glided along, invited to slumber.
- Soon by the fairest of these their weary oars were suspended.
- Under the boughs of Wachita willows, that grew by the margin,
- Safely their boat was moored; and scattered about on the greensward,
- Tired with their midnight toil, the weary travelers slumbered.
- Over them vast and high extended the cope of a cedar.
- Swinging from its great arms, the trumpet-flower and the grape-vine
- Hung their ladder of ropes aloft like the ladder of Jacob,
- On whose pendulous stairs the angels ascending, descending,
- Were the swift humming-birds, that flitted from blossom to blossom.
- Such was the vision Evangeline saw as she slumbered beneath it.
- Filled was her heart with love, and the dawn of an opening heaven
- Lighted her soul in sleep with the glory of regions celestial.
- Nearer and ever nearer, among the numberless islands,
- Darted a light, swift boat, that sped away o'er the water,
- Urged on its course by the sinewy arms of hunters and trappers.
- Northward its prow was turned, to the land of the bison and beaver.
- At the helm sat a youth, with countenance thoughtful and careworn.
- Dark and neglected locks overshadowed his brow, and a sadness
- Somewhat beyond his years on his face was legibly written.
- Gabriel was it, who, weary with waiting, unhappy and restless,
- Sought in the Western wilds oblivion of self and of sorrow.
- Swiftly they glided along, close under the lee of the island,
- But by the opposite bank, and behind a screen of palmettos,
- So that they saw not the boat, where it lay concealed in the willows,
- And undisturbed by the dash of their oars, and unseen, were the sleepers;
- Angel of God was there none to awaken the slumbering maiden.
- Swiftly they glided away, like the shade of a cloud on the prairie.
- After the sound of their oars on the tholes had died in the distance,
- As from a magic trance the sleepers awoke, and the maiden
- Said with a sigh to the friendly priest -- "O Father Felician!
- Something says in my heart that near me Gabriel wanders.
- Is it a foolish dream, an idle vague superstition?
- Or has an angel passed, and revealed the truth to my spirit?"
- Then, with a blush, she added -- "Alas for my credulous fancy!
- Unto ears like thine such words as these have no meaning."
- But made answer the reverend man, and he smiled as he answered --
- "Daughter, thy words are not idle; nor are they to me without meaning.
- Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface
- Is as the tossing buoy, that betrays where the anchor is hidden.
- Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions.
- Gabriel truly is near thee; for not far away to the southward,
- On the banks of the Teche are the towns of St. Maur and St. Martin.
- There the long-wandering bride shall be given again to her bridegroom,
- There the long-absent pastor regain his flock and his sheepfold.
- Beautiful is the land, with its prairies and forests of fruit-trees;
- Under the feet a garden of flowers, and the bluest of heavens
- Bending above, and resting its dome on the walls of the forest.
- They who dwell there have named it the Eden of Louisiana."
- With these words of cheer they arose and continued their journey.
- Softly the evening came. The sun from the western horizon
- Like a magician extended his golden wand o'er the landscape;
- Twinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest
- Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together.
- Ranging between two skies, a cloud with edges of silver,
- Floated the boat, with its dripping oars, on the motionless water.
- Filled was Evangeline's heart with inexpressible sweetness.
- Touched by the magic spell, the sacred fountains of feeling
- Glowing with the light of love, as the skies and waters around her.
- Then from a neighboring thicket the mocking-bird, wildest of singers,
- Swinging aloft on a willow spray that hung o'er the water,
- Shook from his little throat such floods of delirious music,
- That the whole air and the woods and the waves seemed silent to listen.
- Plaintive at first were the tones and sad; then soaring to madness
- Seemed they to follow or guide the revel of frenzied Bacchantes.
- Single notes were then heard, in sorrowful, low lamentation;
- Till, having gathered them all, he flung them abroad in derision,
- As when, after a storm, a gust of wind through the tree-tops
- Shakes down the rattling rain in a crystal shower on the branches.
- With such a prelude as this, and hearts that throbbed with emotion,
- Slowly they entered the Teche, where it flows through the green Opelousas,
- And through the amber air, above the crest of the woodland,
- Saw the column of smoke that arose from a neighboring dwelling;
- Sounds of a horn they heard, and the distant lowing of cattle.
to Part II, Canto III.