Évangéline (English version)

voir en francaisI’ve written elsewhere about the Great Upheaval of 1755, when the Council of Nova Scotia decided to deport the Acadians from what we now know as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

As many as 10,000 of them were forced onto ships that took them as far away as South Carolina and Georgia.

 Statue d'Evangéline - héroïne de la déportation acadienne - à Saint Martinville en Louisiane
Statue of Evangéline, the heroine of the Acadian deportation, in Saint Martinville, Louisiana (photo from Wikipedia Commons)

In 1847, 90 years later, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote Evangeline: a Tale of Acadia. 

This epic told the story of Évangéline Bellefontaine and her fiancé Gabriel Lajeunesse, who were torn apart by the deportation.

For years, Évangéline searched for Gabriel, all across America. Eventually, in Philadelphia, where she was working as a nurse, she found him — aged and unknown. He died in her arms.

In 1865, Phamphile Le May made what French Wikipedia calls “a free translation” of Longfellow’s poem. This became very popular among French-Canadians, especially the descendants of the Acadians. Le May’s version is quite different from Longfellow’s; Le May added his own ideas about “propagating on American soil the spiritual value of Catholic and French civilization.”

Be that as it may, this song, composed in 1971 by Michel Conte, was inspired by the poem, and by the role that its fictional heroine plays in the culture and the mythology of l’Acadie.

Les étoiles étaient dans le ciel
Toi dans les bras de Gabriel
Il faisait beau, c’était dimanche
Les cloches allaient bientôt sonner
Et tu allais te marier
Dans ta première robe blanche

The stars were in the sky
And you were in Gabriel’s arms
The weather was fine; it was Sunday
The church bells were soon going to ring out
And you were going to be married
In your first white dress

L’automne était bien commencé
Les troupeaux étaient tous rentrés
Et parties toutes les sarcelles
Et le soir au son du violon
Les filles et surtout les garçons
T’auraient dit que tu étais belle

Autumn had truly begun
The flocks had all returned home
And all the teal ducks had flown
And at evening, to the strains of the fiddle
The girls, and especially the boys,
Would have told you that you were beautiful.

Évangéline, Évangéline

Mais les Anglais sont arrivés
Dans l’église ils ont enfermé
Tous les hommes de ton village
Et les femmes ont dû passer
Avec les enfants qui pleuraient
Toute la nuit sur le rivage

But the English came
In the church, they shut in
All the men from the village
And the women had to wait
with their crying children
all night, on the river bank

Au matin ils ont embarqué
Gabriel sur un grand voilier
Sans un adieu, sans un sourire
Et toute seule sur le quai
Tu as essayé de prier
Mais tu n’avais plus rien à dire

In the morning, they took him away –
Gabriel – on a great sailing ship
without a goodbye, without a smile
And all alone on the dock
you tried to pray
but you couldn’t say a word.

Évangéline, Évangéline

Alors pendant plus de vingt ans
Tu as recherché ton amant
À travers toute l’Amérique
Dans les plaines et les vallons
Chaque vent murmurait son nom
Comme la plus jolie musique

And so, for more than twenty years
you searched for your lover
across all of America
in the plains, in the valleys
each breeze whispered his name
like the sweetest music.

Même si ton coeœur était mort
Ton amour grandissait plus fort
Dans le souvenir et l’absence
Il était toutes tes pensées
Et chaque jour il fleurissait
Dans le grand jardin du silence

Even though your heart had died
your love grew stronger
in memory and in absence
he was your every thought
and every day, he bloomed
in the great garden of silence

Évangéline, Évangéline

Tu vécus dans le seul désir
De soulager et de guérir
Ceux qui souffraient plus que toi-même
Tu appris qu’au bout des chagrins
On trouve toujours un chemin
Qui mène à celui qui nous aime

You survived with a single desire
to care for and to heal
those who suffered more than you
you learned that at the end of sorrow
we always find a road
that leads to the ones we love

Ainsi un dimanche matin
Tu entendis dans le lointain
Les carillons de ton village
Et soudain alors tu compris
Que tes épreuves étaient finies
Ainsi que le très long voyage

And so it was, one Sunday morning,
you heard in the distance
the bells of your home village
and you suddenly understood
that your trails were over
and so was this long, long journey

Évangéline, Évangéline

Devant toi était étendu
Sur un grabat un inconnu
Un vieillard mourant de faiblesse
Dans la lumière du matin
Son visage sembla soudain
Prendre les traits de sa jeunesse

Before you was laid out
a nameless man on a cot
an old man, dying from his fraility
in the light of the morning
his face seemed suddenly
to take on the features of his youth

Gabriel mourut dans tes bras
Sur sa bouche tu déposas
Un baiser long comme ta vie
Il faut avoir beaucoup aimé
Pour pouvoir encore trouver
La force de dire merci

Gabriel died in your arms
on his lips, you placed
a kiss as long as your life
he must have been greatly loved
to have be able to find
the strength to say “thank you”

Évangéline, Évangéline

Il existe encore aujourd’hui
Des gens qui vivent dans ton pays
Et qui de ton nom se souviennent
Car l’océan parle de toi
Les vents du sud portent ta voix
De la forêt jusqu’à la plaine

Even today, there are
people still living in your homeland
and who recall your name
because the ocean speaks of you
the winds from the south carry your voice
from the forest to the plain

Ton nom c’est plus que l’Acadie
Plus que l’espoir d’une patrie
Ton nom dépasse les frontières
Ton nom c’est le nom de tous ceux
Qui malgré qu’ils soient malheureux
Croient en l’amour et qui espèrent

Your name is more than l’Acadie
more than the hope of a homeland
you name goes beyond borders
your name is the name of all those
who, despite their misery,
believe in love, and who hope

Évangéline, Évangéline

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