The Home of Evangeline – "In the Acadian Land"

Frances Flora Bond Palmer American, born England
Lithographed and published by Currier & Ives American
Related author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow American

Not on view

This idyllic scene was inspired by "Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie," the first epic narrative poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), a monumental figure in nineteenth-century American literature. First published in 1847, "Evangeline" is a tale about the devoted, lifelong journey of a fictional mid-eighteenth-century young woman searching for her lost love across the landscapes of North America; "Acadie" (French for "Acadia") refers to an early French colony in the region of what is now northeastern maritime Canada and part of Maine. The poem was immediately a popular success prompting multiple re-printings, thereby elevating Longfellow's reputation as a preeminent poet and mythmaker of early American history.

Currier & Ives, the most successful lithography firm in America, excelled at producing mass-marketed, inexpensive prints for a public eager to have affordable pictures to decorate their homes. Frances (Fanny) Flora Palmer, the only woman artist employed by Currier & Ives, ranked among the most prolific; she was responsible for creating many of the best-selling lithographs, including this one illustrating early passages of this much beloved Longfellow poem. At the left of this print, Palmer shows Evangeline and her aged father seated contentedly at the entry of their thatched roof cottage nestled within a picturesque landscape. Paying close attention to Longfellow's words, Palmer skillfully pictured Evangeline's charming home set near the sea (glimpsed at far left), her father's bustling farm (right), the village of Grand Pré in the middle distance, and then beyond, the sweeping valley and mountain range. The excerpted lines of Longfellow's poem imprinted beneath the image enhance the viewer's understanding of Evangeline's goodness and the beauty of her home, which (as the poem subsequently relates) would later be taken from her:

"Somewhat apart from the village, and nearer the Basin of Minas, / Benedict Bellefontaine, the wealthiest farmer of Grand Pré, / Dwelt on his goodly acres, and with him, directing his household,/ Gentle Evangeline lived, his child, and the pride of the village./ Firmly builded with rafters of oak, the house of the farmer/ Stood on the side of a hill commanding the sea; and a shady/ Sycamore grew by the door, with a woodbine wreathing around it./ Rudely carved was the porch,with seats beneath, and a footpath/ Led through an orchard wide, and disappeared in the meadow./ Farther down, on the slope of the hill, was the well with its moss-grown/ Bucket, fastened with iron, and near it a trough for the horses./ Shielding the house from storms, on the north, were the barns and the farm yard./ There stood the broad wheeled wains and the antique ploughs and the harrows;/ Bursting with hay were the barns, themselves a village./ Thus at peace with God and the world, the farmer of Grand Pré/ Lived on his sunny farm, and Evangeline governed his household/ She was a woman now, with the heart and hopes of a woman./ Happy was he who might touch her hand or the hem of her garment!"

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