DECONSCRIPTION-Writings of Curtis Cottrell


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Photo by J.K. Potter
























Evangeline lies on her deathbed with a towel on her brow and

a thermometer in her mouth.  She rises to act out flashbacks as she swoons in feverish delirium.

Her lines are performed live; others are voiceovers on video depicting scenery and close-ups.



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 old, 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.




Evangeline passes through the farmlands of Acadia



Sunshine of Saint Eulalie




Basil and Gabriel enter Bellefontaine farmhouse.





Shakes Basil’s and Gabriel’s hands.


Welcome, Basil, my friend!  Come, take thy place on the settle

Close by the chimney-side, which is always empty without thee;

Take from the shelf overhead thy pipe and the box of tobacco;

Never so much thyself art thou as when through the curling

Smoke of the pipe or the forge thy friendly and jovial face gleams

Round and red as the harvest moon through the mist of the marshes.




Benedict Bellefontaine, thou hast ever thy jest and thy ballad!

Ever in cheerfullest mood art thou, when others are filled with

Gloomy forebodings of ill, and see only ruin before them.

Happy art thou, as if every day thou hadst picked up a horseshoe.


Basil sits by the fire, and Evangeline brings him the pipe, which he lights with a coal.


Four days now are passed since the English ships at their anchors

Ride in the Gaspereau’s mouth, with their cannon pointed against us.

What their design may be is unknown; but all are commanded

On the morrow to meet in the church, where his Majesty’s mandate

Will be proclaimed as law in the land.  Alas! In the mean time

Many surmises of evil alarm the hearts of the people.



Perhaps some friendlier purpose

Brings these ships to our shores.  Perhaps the harvests in England

By untimely rains or untimelier heat have been blighted,

And from our bursting barns they would feed their cattle and children.



Louisburg is not forgotten, nor Beau Sejour, nor Port Royal.

Many already have fled to the forest, and lurk on its outskirts,

Waiting with anxious hearts the dubious fate of to-morrow.

Arms have been taken from us, and war-like weapons of all kinds;

Nothing is left but the blacksmith’s sledge and the scythe of the mower.



Safer are we unarmed, in the midst of our flocks and our cornfields,

Safer within these peaceful dikes, besieged by the ocean,

Than our fathers in forts, besieged by the enemy’s cannon.

Fear no evil, my friend, and to-night may no shadow of sorrow

Fall on this house and hearth; for this is the night of the contract,

Built are the house and the barn.  The merry lads of the village

Strongly have built them and well; and, breaking the glebe round about them;

Filled the barn with hay, and the house with food for a twelvemonth.

Rene Leblanc will be here anon, with his papers and inkhorn.

Shall we not then be glad, and rejoice in the joy of our children?




Rene Leblanc enters followed by his son Baptiste, who eyes Evangeline.



Shakes Rene’s hand.


Father Leblanc, thou has heard the talk in the village,

And, perchance, canst tell us some news of these ships and their errand.




Sits by the hearth.

Gossip enough have I heard, in sooth, yet am never the wiser;

And what their errand may be I know not better than others.

Yet am I not of those who imagine some evil intention

Brings them here, for we are at peace; and why then molest us?



Sits beside him.

God’s name!

Must we in all things look for the how, and the why, and the wherefore?

Daily injustice is done, and might is the right of the strongest!



To the tune of “The Thieving Magpie”

Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice

Triumphs; and well I remember a story, that often consoled me,

When as a captive I lay in the old French fort at Port Royal.

Once in an ancient city, whose name I no longer remember,

Raised aloft on a column, a brazen statue of Justice

Stood in the public square, upholding the scales in its left hand,

And in its right a sword, as an emblem that justice presided

Over the laws of the land, and the hearts and homes of the people.

Even the birds had built their nests in the scales of the balance,

Having no fear of the sword that flashed in the sunshine above them.

But in the course of time the laws of the land were corrupted;

Might took the place of right, and the weak were oppressed, and the mighty

Ruled with an iron rod.  Then it chanced in a nobleman’s palace

That a necklace of pearls was lost, and erelong a suspicion

Fell on an orphan girl who lived as a maid in the household,

She, after form of trial condemned to die on the scaffold,

Patiently met her doom at the foot of the statue of Justice.

As to her Father in heaven her innocent spirit ascended,

Lo! o’er the city a tempest rose; and the bolts of the thunder

Smote the statue of bronze, and hurled in wrath from its left hand

Down on the pavement below the clattering scales of the balance,

And in the hollow thereof was found the nest of a magpie,

Into whose clay-built walls the necklace of pearls was inwoven..





The Acadian church.  Bells summoning Acadians drowned out by drums of soldiers.



Standing on church steps.

You are convened this day, by his Majesty’s orders.

Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness,

Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper

Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous,

Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch;

Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds

Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves from this province

Be transported to other lands.  God grant you may dwell there

Ever as faithful subjects, a happy and peaceable people!

Prisoners now I declare you; for such is his Majesty’s pleasure!



Down with the tyrants of England!  We never have sworn them allegiance!

Death to these foreign soldiers, who seize on our homes and our harvest!


Soldier strikes Basil in the mouth.



Holding up his hand.

What is this that ye do, my children?  What madness has seized you?

Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and taught you,

Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another!

Is this the fruit of my toils, of my vigils and prayers and privations?

Have you so soon forgotten all lessons of love and forgiveness?

This is the house of the Prince of Peace, and would you profane it

Thus with violent deeds and hearts overflowing with hatred?

Lo!   where the crucified Christ from his cross is gazing upon you!

See!  In those sorrowful eyes what meekness and holy compassion!

Hark!  How those lips still repeat the prayer, ‘O father, forgive them!’

Let us repeat that prayer in the hour when the wicked assail us,

Let us repeat it now, and say, ‘O Father, forgive them!’



‘O Father, forgive them!’


Sings “Ave Maria.”



Enters church looking for Gabriel while chorus sings.



Thunder and lightning.




The Acadian shore.



Sacred heart of the Saviour!  O inexhaustible fountain!


The elders  join in.

Fill our hearts this day with strength and submission and patience!



Clasps his hands.

Gabriel!  Be of good cheer! For if we love one another


Lays her head on his shoulder.

Nothing, in truth, can harm us, whatever mischances may happen!







We shall behold no more our homes in the village of Grand-Pre!


Clutching his heart, Benedict Bellefontaine falls dead.



Let us bury him here by the sea.  When a happier season

Brings us again to our homes from the unknown land of our exile,

Then shall his sacred dust be piously laid in the churchyard.




Evangeline seeks Gabriel when she arrives in Louisiana.



Gabriel Lajeuness!  Oh yes!  We have seen him.

He was with Basil the blacksmith, and both have gone to the prairies;

Coureurs-de-Bois are they, and famous hunters and trappers.



Gabriel Lajeuness!  Oh yes, we have seen him.

He is a Voyageur in the lowlands of Louisiana.



Dear child! Why dream and wait for him longer?



Are there not other youths as fair as Gabriel? Others

Who have hearts as tender and true, and spirits as loyal?



Here is Baptiste Leblanc, the notary’s son, who has loved thee

Many a tedious year; come, give him thy hand and be happy!



Thou art too fair to be left to braid St. Catherine’s tresses.



I cannot!

Whither my heart has gone, there follows my hand, and not elsewhere.

For when the heart goes before, like a lamp, and illumines the pathway,

Many things are made clear, that else lie hidden in darkness.



O daughter!  Thy God thus speaketh within thee!

Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted;

If it enrich not the heart of another, its waters, returning

Back to their springs, like the rain, shall fill them full of refreshment;

That which the fountain sends forth returns again to the fountain.

Patience; accomplish thy labor; accomplish thy work of affection!

Sorrow and silence are strong, and patient endurance is godlike.

Therefore accomplish thy labor of love, till the heart is made godlike,

Purified, strengthened, perfected, and rendered more worthy of heaven!



Despair not!




Evangeline and Felician search Louisiana swamps for Gabriel.



O Father Felician!

Something says in my heart that near me Gabriel wanders.

Is it a foolish dream, an idle and vague superstition?

Or has an angel passed, and revealed the truth to my spirit?

Alas for my credulous fancy!

Unto ears like thine, such words as these have no meaning.




Daughter, thy words are not idle; nor are they to me without meaning.

Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface

Is as the tossing buoy that betrays where the anchor is hidden.

Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions.

Gabriel truly is near thee; for not far away to the southward,

On the banks of the Teche, are the towns of St. Maur and St. Martin.

There the long-wandering bride shall be given again to her bridegroom,

There the long-absent pastor regain his flock and his sheepfold.

Beautiful is the land, with its prairies and forests of fruit-trees;

Under the feet a garden of flowers, and the bluest of heavens

Bending above, and resting its dome on the walls of the forest.

They who dwell there have named it the Eden of Louisiana!”




Evangeline in Basil’s bayou home.



If you came by the Atchafalaya,

How have you nowhere encountered my Gabriel’s boat on the bayous?



Gone?  Is Gabriel gone?



Be of good cheer my child; it is only today he departed.

Foolish boy!  He has left me alone with my herds and my horses.

Moody and restless grown, and tried and troubled, his spirit

Could no longer endure the calm of this quiet existence,

Thinking ever of thee, uncertain and sorrowful ever,

Ever silent, or speaking only of thee and his troubles,

He at length had become so tedious to men and to maidens,

Tedious even to me, that at length I bethought me, and sent him

Unto the down of Adayes to trade for mules with the Spaniards.

Thence he will follow the Indian trails to the Ozark Mountains,

Hunting for furs in the forests, on rivers trapping the beaver.

Therefore be of good cheer; we will follow the fugitive lover;

He is not far on his way, and the Fates and the streams are against him.

Up and away tomorrow, and through the red dew of the morning

We will follow him fast and bring him back to his prison.


Basil lights his pipe.


Michael The Fiddler enters with Acadian comrades and plays.



Long live Michael, our brave Acadian minstrel!



While Michael fiddles.

Welcome once more, my friends, who long have been friendless and homeless,

Welcome once more to a home, that is better perchance than the old one!

Here no hungry winter congeals our blood like the rivers;

Here no stony ground provokes the wrath of the farmer.

Smoothly the ploughshare runs through the soil, as a keel through the water.

All the year round the orange-groves are in blossom; and grass grows

More in a single night than a whole Canadian summer.

Here, too, numberless herds run wild and unclaimed in the prairies;

Here, too, lands may be had for the asking, and forests of timber

With a few blows of the axe are hewn and framed into houses.

After your houses are built, and your fields are yellow with harvest,

No King George of England shall drive you away from your homesteads,

Burning your dwellings and barns, and stealing your farms and your cattle.


Basil blows cloud of smoke from his nostrils; his hand thunders on table startling all the guests into silence.

Father Felecian, astounded, pauses with a pinch of snuff half-way to his nostrils.


Only beware of the fever, my friends, beware of the fever!

For it is not like that of our cold Acadian climate,

Cured by wearing a spider hung round one’s neck in a nutshell!


Evangeline goes outside to sit under an oak.



O Gabriel! O my beloved!

Art thou so near unto me, and yet I cannot behold thee?

Art thou so near unto me, and yet thy voice does not reach me?

Ah!  How often thy feet have trod this path to the prairie!

Ah! How often beneath this oak, returning from labor,

Thou hast lain down to rest, and to dream of me in thy slumbers!

When shall these eyes behold, these arms be folded about thee?


As Evangeline rises to leave, a blazing comet writes “Upharsin.”









At the door.


See that you bring us the Prodigal Son from his fasting and famine,

And, too, the Foolish Virgin, who slept when the bridegroom was coming.







Evangeline  approaches the Shawnee Mission



On the western slope of these mountains

Dwells in his little village the black robe chief of the Mission.

Much he teaches the people, and tells them of Mary and Jesus,

Loud laugh their hearts with joy, and weep with pain, as they hear him.



Let us go to the Mission, for there good things await us!


Shawnee Mission



Not six suns have risen and set since Gabriel, seated

On this mat by my side, where now the maiden reposes,

Told me this same sad tale; then arose and continued his journey!


Evangeline clasps her heart.


Far to the north he has gone, but in autumn,

When the chase is done, will return again to the Mission,



In a voice meek and submissive.

Let me remain with thee, for my soul is sad and afflicted.



Patience! Have faith, and thy prayer will be answered!

Look at this vigorous plant that lifts its head from the meadow,

See how its leaves are turned to the north, as true as the magnet;

This is the compass-flower, that the finger of God has planted

Here in the houseless wild, to direct the traveler’s journey

Over the sea-like, pathless, limitless waste of the desert.

Such in the soul of man is faith.  The blossoms of passion,

Gay and luxuriant flowers, are brighter and fuller of fragrance,

But they beguile us, and lead us astray, and their odor is deadly.

Only this humble plant can guide us here, and hereafter

Crown us with asphodel flowers that are wet with the dews of nepenthe.




Evangeline searches the city.



The poor ye always have with you.


Belfry chimes and psalms are sung in nearby church.



To herself.

At length, thy trials are ended.


Finds Gabriel dying of fever, drops flowers and cries loudly in anguish.


Approaches him and whispers.

Gabriel!  O my beloved!



Vainly tries to rise and whispers.



She kisses his dying lips.



Bows her head

Father, I thank thee!



Still stands the forest primeval; but far away from its shadow,

Side by side, in their nameless graves, the lovers are sleeping.

Under the humble walls of the little Catholic churchyard,

In the heart of the city, they lie, unknown and unnoticed.

Daily the tides of life go ebbing and flowing beside them,

Thousands of throbbing hearts, where theirs are at rest and forever,

Thousands of aching brains, where theirs no longer are busy,

Thousands of toiling hands, where theirs have ceased from their labors,

Thousands of weary feet, where theirs have completed their journey!


While from its rocky caverns the deep-voiced, neighboring ocean

Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.