Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
American History
 
IN the reign of King James (and the first of the name)
George Summers, with Hacluit to Cheapside came,
Where far in the forests not doom’d to renown,
On the river Powhattan they built the first town.
 
Twelve years after this, some scores of dissenters        5
To the northernmost district came, seeking adventures;
Outdone by the bishops, those great fagot fighters,
They left them to strut with their cassocks and mitres.
 
Thus banish’d forever, and leaving the sod,
The first land they saw was the pitch of Cape Cod.        10
Where famish’d with hunger and quaking with cold,
They plann’d the New Plymouth—so call’d from the old.
 
They were without doubt a delightful collection;
Some came to be rid of a Stuart’s direction,
Some sail’d with a view of dominion and riches,        15
Some to pray without book, and a few to hang witches;
 
Some came on the Indians to shed a new light,
Convinced long before that their own must be right,
And that all who had died in the centuries past
On the devil’s lee-shore were eternally cast.        20
 
These exiles were form’d in a whimsical mould,
And were awed by their priests, like the Hebrews of old;
Disclaim’d all pretensions to jesting and laughter,
And sigh’d their lives through to be happy hereafter.
 
On a crown immaterial their hearts were intent,        25
They look’d towards Zion wherever they went,
Did all things in hopes of a future reward,
And worried mankind—for the sake of the Lord.
 
With rigour excessive they strengthen’d their reign,
Their laws were conceived in an ill-natured strain,        30
With mystical meanings the saint was perplex’d,
And the flesh and the devil were slain by a text.
 
The body was scourged for the good of the soul,
All folly discouraged by peevish control,
A knot on the head was the sign of no grace,        35
And the pope and his comrade were pictured in lace.
 
A stove in their churches, or pews lined with green;
Were horrid to think, much less to be seen,
Their bodies were warm’d with the linings of love,
And the fire was sufficient that flash’d from above.        40
 
’Twas a crime to assert that the moon was opaque,
To say the earth moved was to merit the stake;
And he that could tell an eclipse was to be
In the college of Satan had took his degree.
 
On Sundays their faces were dark as a cloud—        45
The road to the meeting was only allow’d;
And those they caught rambling, on business or pleasure,
Were sent to the stocks to repent at their leisure.
 
This day was the mournfullest day in the week—
Except on religion none ventured to speak—        50
This day was the day to examine their lives,
To clear off old scores and to preach to their wives.
 
In the school of oppression though woefully taught,
’Twas only to be the oppressors they sought;
All, all but themselves were bedevil’d and blind,        55
And their narrow-soul’d creed was to serve all mankind.
 
This beautiful system of nature below,
They neither consider’d nor wanted to know,
And call’d it a dog-house wherein they were pent,
Unworthy themselves and their mighty descent.        60
 
They never perceived that in Nature’s wide plan
There must be that whimsical creature call’d man,
Far short of the rank he affects to obtain,
Yet a link in its place in creation’s vast chain.
 
Whatever is foreign to us and our kind,        65
Can never be lasting, though seemingly join’d;
The hive swarm’d at length, and a tribe that was teased
Set out for Rhode Island, to think as they pleased.
 
Some hundreds to Britain ran murmuring home,
While others went off in the forests to roam,        70
When they found they had miss’d what they look’d for at first,
The downfall of sin and the reign of the just.
 
Hence, dry, controversial reflections were thrown,
And the old dons were vex’d in the way they had shown:
So those that are held in the workhouse all night        75
Throw dirt, the next day, at the doors, out of spite.
 
Ah! pity the wretches that lived in those days,
(Ye modern admirers of novels and plays,)
When nothing was suffer’d but musty dull rules,
And nonsense from Mather, and stuff from the schools.        80
 
No story like Rachel’s could tempt them to sigh,
Susannah and Judith employ’d the bright eye—
No fine spun adventures tormented the breast,
Like our modern Clarissa, Tom Jones, and the rest.
 
Those tyrants had chosen the books for your shelves,        85
(And trust me, no other than suited themselves,)
For always by this may a bigot be known,
He speaks well of nothing but what is his own.
 
From indwelling evil these souls to release,
The Quakers arrived with their kingdom of peace—        90
But some were transported, and some bore the lash,
And four they hanged fairly for preaching up trash.
 
The lands of New England (of which we now treat)
Were famous, ere that, for producing of wheat;
But the soil (or tradition says strangely amiss)        95
Has been pester’d with pumpkins from that day to this.
 
 
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