Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Evangeline: Josephine Cameron & Anthony Walton

Continuing the series of posts about songs from American Songs volume 2, we come to one of my favorite stories: Evangeline.

If you've missed the stories behind the songs in previous posts and would like to catch up, please use these links:

Story behind the song:
To begin at the beginning, "Evangeline" is an epic poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1847. It's a beautiful story about two young star-crossed lovers, Evangeline and Gabriel, which has reached mythic proportions in America. You can find accounts in various parts of the country of the "actual" gravesites and homes of Evangeline and Gabriel. People have gone on journeys, tracing their paths, trying to recreate their travels. In reality, Longfellow did not base his poem on any actual historical figures. Evangeline and Gabriel are fictional, but the story and the places are very real.

In the mid 1700's, the conflict between the British and French (Acadian) settlers in Nova Scotia came to a critical point. The British government began to force Acadians out of Nova Scotia by the thousands and shipped many of them off to the American Colonies. In Longfellow's poem, Evangeline and Gabriel are just about to get married when the soldiers come, and in the chaos, Gabriel gets shipped to Louisiana while Evangeline remains in what is now Maine. They spend the rest of their lives trying to find each other.

I love the first stanza of the poem's introduction, where Longfellow describes Acadia after the exiles:

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman?
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers --

You can read the entire poem at University of Virginia's website.
You can also download it for free from Google Books.

Here's an interesting page about the importance of "Evangeline" in Creole culture in Louisiana.

So my friend and co-writer Anthony loves this story and we decided to try to write a song that captures the essence of it. And since the story is such a part of the American folk tradition, our very own American myth, I decided to include the song on American Songs volume 2. I hope you'll enjoy it!

Lyrics (Click on the title to listen to a sample)Evangeline by Josephine Cameron & Anthony Walton

We were young, beauty and grace untold
And my Gabriel, I would have and hold
But skies were gray on our wedding day
And our joy cut short when the soldiers came

He cried, "Evangeline, Evangeline"
And now I'm running through a nightmare with a dream
I know I'll never find him
But sure, I've got to try
'Cause I'll never, never say goodbye

Up and down the old Mississippi shore
For my Gabriel, I searched ever more
Louisiana all the way to Michigan
I could hardly breathe for the hurt of missing him

He cried, "Evangeline, Evangeline"
And now I'm running through a nightmare with a dream
I know I'll never find him
But sure, I've got to try
'Cause I'll never, never say goodbye

And then one day, when I was old and gray
A dying man called out my name
I knew at once it was my Gabriel
I embraced my love, and then he left this world

He said, "Evangeline, Evangeline"
And I'm still running through this nightmare with a dream
I knew I'd never find him
But sure, I had to try
'Cause I'll never, never say goodbye


Anonymous said...

Amazing! I think this is a classic! Great Job Josephine and Anthony! And the new CD is incredible.

Peg C

Josephine Cameron said...