You may remember me speaking briefly of our encounter last weekend with a show at the Ordway called DRUM! which was an intricately woven carpet of music from a region I know little about. NorthEastern Canada, primarily New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and a little further to the east, Newfoundland are locations that are described in the few ficition books I've read about them, as harsh and unyielding. In E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News and Anne-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees, the people are painted as divisive and wordless. I admit not pursuing much knowledge of the area.
Then I saw DRUM!
The tale DRUM! weaves is entirely different. And it piqued my interest. So I started doing a little research today. In addition to studying maps to learn a little more about the area, and ordering the very few books I could find on the subject from the library, I learned some interesting literary facts:
Henry Wordsworth Longfellow's Poem Evangeline was written as a ficitonalized account of the french acadien expulsion in 1755 from the area by neighboring Brits. Longfellow learned of this event through his friend Hawthorne, who did not wish to take up the cause of writing a fiction based on it.
Here is the lyric and compelling opening to that poem, published by Wordsworth in 1895.
A Tale of Acadie.
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
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,--
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!
Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October
Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o'er the ocean.
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pré.
Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,
Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion,
List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.
I am going to print off this whole poem, which is available for free at Project Gutenberg, and study it with Andrew along with our geography and history research on the area.
The second interesting fact I discovered was the Anne of Green Gables is set on Prince Edward Island, which although I have read several of the books and even seen a play version of it, I had forgotten. I ordered part one of the Anne of Avonlea BBC series from the library, should be fun to watch together.
The Mi'kmaq indians were the native inhabitants of the area known today as New Brunswick, Newfoundland, labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Maine. Before outsiders arrived, they were part of an alliance with four Algonquian nations. Once the colonists began to arrive in the middle of the 17th century, they became allies with the french and intermarriage was common. One of the more famous Mi'kmaq indians was Rita Joe, who passed away last year at the age of 75. She grew up an orphan, went on to obtain doctorates in three subjects and wrote many books of poetry beginning in her 30's, so her eight children would not only see the natives portrayed in the harsh ways that were then in vogue.
Here is a lovely montage paying tribute to her and her poetry. Parts of this poem were used in the DRUM! production: