Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.
Vol. III. The Growth of the National Spirit: 17101775
JOHN OSBORN was the son of a New England clergyman whose Arminian leanings had caused him to be dismissed from his parish. He was born in Sandwich, Massachusetts, in 1713, and died at Middletown, Connecticut, forty years later. Graduating at Harvard College in 1735, he studied theology, but falling under suspicion of heresy, like his father, he was refused ordination. He then studied medicine, was admitted to practice, declined a tutorship at Harvard on account of the celibacy then required there, and marrying, removed to Middletown, where he spent the rest of his life. He enjoyed considerable colonial reputation as a poet, based mainly on the Whaling Song here given, which is said to have long been popular on the hardy vessels that tracked the Pacific in search of their lucrative prey. Osborns other verses are imitative and bad, but a few stanzas of his song seem to have a truly poetic ring.
When eastward, clear of Newfoundland,
We stem the frozen pole,
We see the icy islands stand,
The northern billows roll,
may not be great poetry, but it is better than most other colonials could write. Yet Osborns production is sometimes spoken of with contempt, as, for example, by the late Professor Moses Coit Tyler.