Friday, November 7, 2014

believing poetry

Before I went to Nova Scotia, I read Longfellow's Evangeline. It was compelling, if a little melodramatic. I thought he was exaggerating, possibly to increase sales.

He was not.

The story of the "Great Expulsion" was all too true.

The Acadians had settled Nova Scotia in the mid-1600s. When the British conquered the province in 1710, they had no great affection for the French-speaking farmers. Suspicion grew into contempt then distrust then intolerance.

From 1755 - 1764, they kicked the Acadians out -- 11,500 men, women, and children were forcibly deported -- scattered along the eastern seaboard of the United States (or some to France).  Families were separated. Farms and homes destroyed. One third of them died.

It was not until July 28, 2003 -- more than two centuries later -- that Canada's Governor General (representing the Queen of England) declared July 28 "A Day of Commemoration of the Great Upheaval."

Now there is a national park at Grand Pre, Nova Scotia.

In the park, there is a statue of Evangeline -- a fictional character representing the thousands forced from the lands they had transformed into farms and homes.

And in the memorial chapel, there is a blue stained glass window depicting the people being separated from the land . . . and from each other.

Sometimes it is important to believe in poetry.

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