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Posted December 29, 2007
God's Will Is Not Always Pleasant to Contemplate
It is 1755 in British-occupied maritime Canada on the tide-swept Bay of Fundy. On a peaceful autumn evening 17 year old Evangeline Bellefontaine was formally engaged to marry Gabriel Lajeunesse. She was the daughter of the 70 year old widower Benedict Bellefontaine, wealthiest farmer of the village of Grand-Pre. Evangeline's affianced was son of the respected blacksmith Basil Lajeunesse. The young couple had grown up together almost as brother and sister in French, now British, Acadia/Nova Scotia. *** Next morning Evangeline and her father stayed home and received the congratulations of their French-speaking neighbors. Then at noon the governor of the occupying British power summoned all the Acadian men to the village church. He told them that their lands were forfeit to the crown and, on national security grounds, the French Acadians were to be scattered South up and down the 13 British colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. Families were torn apart, including Evangeline and Gabriel, and shipped to different colonies. Evangeline's father died of shock before embarking. *** For the rest of her very long life Evangeline followed rumors along the trail of Gabriel and his father: to Louisiana, to the Western prairies. In the end, as a Sister of Charity, administering to cholera victims in Philadelphia, Evangeline found her pestilence stricken lost love. After a final kiss, Gabriel died in her arms. She did not long survive him. Her last words were, 'Father I thank Thee.' *** Decades earlier on the beach where they were about to part Evangeline had cried: ''Gabriel! be of good cheer! for if we love one another/ Nothing, in truth, can harm us, whatever mischances may happen!'' *** What was God's plan for Evangeline and Gabriel? Should they have simply faced facts, forgotten each other and made new married lives for themselves? Evangeline Bellefontaine grew through and beyond sorrowing over lost love into a precursor of Mother Teresa. Gabriel Lajeunesse seems to have never recovered from or risen above his loss. *** You can read this poem aloud from beginning to end in an hour or so. And its unusual dactylic hexameter lines -- see sample above -- work surprisingly well. Students of the American 'Cajun Revival' will read EVANGELINE as the founding myth of the devoutly Catholic French speakers of Southwestern Louisiana. Religious souls will be reminded that behind the Christian cross is the mystery of Christ crucified. -OOO-
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