Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
THE EARLY settlers of New England were no less distinguished for their attachment to letters than for their strong religious character; and although their taste and partialities lay rather toward the substantial than the ornamental parts of literature, yet the commune vinculum, the natural and intimate connexion of all liberal pursuits, unavoidably turned their studies in some degree in the latter direction. A great number of the earliest emigrants were men of the first attainments in the principal sciences held in repute at that period, and their writings reflect no small honor on their character for learning and ability. Their earliest attempts in the department of polite literature, must certainly be considered rude and feeble, when compared with the contemporaneous productions of Europe, but they deserve attention from the influence which they undoubtedly exercised upon the writers who succeeded them, no less than from the light they throw upon the character of the writers and the state of society. They also possess an interest arising from the curiosity we naturally feel to view the most ancient memorials of literary effort on record among us. We shall proceed therefore to enumerate such of the first settlers of the country as were known for any productions in verse which have remained to the present day, and give a brief historical sketch of the early poetical literature of the English Colonies.  1
  It was hardly three years from the arrival of the pilgrims that the first essay of this kind was made by William Morell, an episcopal clergyman, who wrote a description of New England in Latin hexameter verse. Morell came to this country in 1623 and remained about a year. Except therefore, as being the earliest attempt at versification within the present limits of the country, his performance can hardly claim any remark here. It was published in England with a translation by the author. Both have been reprinted in the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  2
  The next poetical production which offers itself to our notice is the version of the Psalms published at Cambridge in 1640, and which was the first book printed in the United States. 1 About the year 1639 the clergymen of New England considering that in their new residence they had been enabled to enjoy most of the ordinances of christian worship in all desirable purity, were induced to extend the reform they had thus effected, to the ordinance of the singing of psalms. The common metrical translation of the psalms was considered to deviate so far from the original as to be an unsatisfactory help to their devotions. A new version was therefore resolved upon, and the several portions of the work were assigned to the most eminent divines of the country. The principal of these whom we find mentioned were John Eliot of Roxbury, the celebrated Indian Apostle, Thomas Welde of Roxbury, and Richard Mather of Dorchester. The work thus produced was such as might have been expected from the plan. The main object of the translators was of course to make the version as literal as possible. An extract from their preface may serve to give the reader the views which they entertained of the nature of their task.  3
  “If therefore the verses are not always so smooth and elegant as some may desire and expect, let them consider that God’s altar needs not our polishings; for wee have respected rather a plain translation, than to smooth our verses with the sweetness of any paraphrase, and so have attended to conscience rather than elegance, fidelity rather than poetry, in translating the Hebrew words into English language, and David’s poetry into English meetre.”  4
  This book was called The Bay Psalm Book. The version is exact enough in respect of adherence to the original to satisfy the scruples of the most rigid critic. But the versification is harsh and unmusical to the last degree, and it was soon found expedient to give it a little more polish. The following extract will convey some idea of the rest of the work.

1.  The rivers on of Babilon,
    there when wee did sit downe,
  Yea even then wee mourned when
    wee remembered Sion.
2.  Our harp wee did hang it amid,
    Upon the willow tree,
3.  Because there they that us away
    led in captivitee
  Requir’d of us a song, and thus
    ask’t mirth us waste who laid,
  Sing us among a Sion’s song,
    unto us then they said.
4.  The Lord’s song sing can wee? being
    in strangers land, then let
5.  loose her skill my right hand if I
    Jerusalem forget.
6.  Let cleave my tongue my pallate on
    if minde thee doe not I,
  if chiefe joyes o’re I prize not more
    Jerusalem my joy.
7.  Remember Lord, Edoms sons’ word,
    unto the ground said they,
  it rase it rase, when as it was
    Jerusalem her day.
8.  Blest shall hee bee that payeth thee
    daughter of Babilon,
  who must be waste, that which thou hast
    rewarded us upon.
9.  O happie hee shall surely bee
    that taketh up, that eke
  thy little ones against the stones
    doth into pieces breake.
  After two editions had been printed, an improvement of the language was declared necessary. It was therefore put into the hands of the Rev. Henry Dunster, President of Harvard College and Mr Richard Lyon, a tutor to a young student at Cambridge. These editors gave the work a revision “with a special eye,” as they inform us, “both to the gravity of the phrase of sacred writ, and sweetness of the verse.” They added versifications of some other portions of scripture, entitling them The Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testament. This “improved version” has gone through more than thirty editions in this country, and has been often reprinted in Scotland and England, and used in many of the English dissenting congregations.  6
  The earliest poet of New England, however, was ANNE BRADSTREET, the wife of Simon Bradstreet, Governor of the Massachusetts colony, and daughter of Thomas Dudley, also Governor. She was born in 1612, probably at Northampton or Boston in England. She was married to Mr Bradstreet at the age of sixteen, and came the next year, 1630, with her husband to this country. The preface to the second edition of her poems published after her death, declares the volume to be “the work of a woman honored and esteemed, where she lives, for her gracious demeanor, her eminent parts, her pious conversation, her courteous disposition, her exact diligence in her place, and discreet managing of her family occasions; and more than so these poems are the fruit but of some few hours, curtailed from her sleep and other refreshments.” She died September 16th, 1672. One of the pieces in her volume bears the date of 1632, Ætatis suæ 19.  7
  Her writings gained her great celebrity among her contemporaries. Cotton Mather is warm in her praise and declares that “her poems, divers times printed, have afforded a grateful entertainment unto the ingenious, and a monument for her memory beyond the stateliest marbles.” The learned and excellent John Norton of Ipswich calls her the “mirror of her age and glory of her sex.” He wrote a funeral eulogy in which he did not scruple to pun upon her name according to the fashion of the time.
        “Her breast was a brave pallace, a broad street,
Where all heroic, ample thoughts did meet,
Where nature such a tenement had tane
That other souls to hers dwelt in a lane.”
  Many others wrote verses in her commendation, and it is much to their credit that they so justly appreciated her talents; for we must come down to a late period in the literary annals of the country before we find her equal, although her productions are not without the marks of the barbarous taste of the age. Her first essays in polite composition had but an untoward guidance from the authors most esteemed at that time. The models they presented were not adapted to promote either good taste or excellence of any sort, in writing. Du Bartas 2 was the favorite poet of the day, and his conceits seem to have been, in particular, the admiration of our author. She appears also to have caught something of his spirit.  9
  The contents of her volume are a poem upon the Four Elements, upon the Four Humors in Man’s Constitution, upon the Four Ages of Man, and the Four Seasons of the Year. In these we are presented with personifications of Fire, Air, Earth and Water; Choler, Blood, Melancholy and Phlegm; and Childhood, Youth, Middle Age and Old Age, each of whom comes forward with an address in which its peculiar excellences are set forth. Then follows a versified history of the Four Monarchies of the World, and some shorter pieces, one of which, for its great merit, we shall extract; it shows Mrs Bradstreet to have possessed genuine poetical feeling. This poem is entitled

SOME time now past in the Autumnal Tide,
When Phœbus wanted but one hour to bed,
The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,
Were gilded o’er by his rich golden head.
Their leaves and fruits seem’d painted, but was true
Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hew,
Wrapt were my senses at this delectable view.
I wist not what to wish, yet sure thought I,
If so much excellence abide below;
How excellent is He, that dwells on high!
Whose power and beauty by his works we know.
Sure he is goodness, wisdome, glory, light,
That hath this under world so richly dight:
More heaven than earth was here no winter and no night.
Then on a stately oak I cast mine eye,
Whose ruffling top the clouds seem’d to aspire;
How long since thou wast in thine infancy?
Thy strength, and stature, more thy years admire.
Hath hundred winters past since thou wast born?
Or thousand since thou brak’st thy shell of horn,
If so, all these as nought, eternity doth scorn.
Then higher on the glistering sun I gaz’d,
Whose beams were shaded by the leavie tree,
The more I look’d, the more I grew amaz’d,
And softly said, what glory’s like to thee?
Soul of this world, this Universe’s eye,
No wonder, some made thee a deity;
Had I not better known, (alas) the same had I.
Thou as a bridegroom from thy chamber rushest,
And as a strong man, joyes to run a race,
The morn doth usher thee, with smiles and blushes,
The earth reflects her glances in thy face.
Birds, insects, animals with vegetive,
Thy heart from death and dulness doth revive:
And in the darksome womb of fruitful nature dive.
Thy swift annual, and diurnal course,
Thy daily straight, and yearly oblique path,
Thy pleasing fervor, and thy scorching force,
All mortals here the feeling knowledge hath.
Thy presence makes it day, thy absence night,
Quaternal seasons caused by thy might:
Hail creature, full of sweetness, beauty and delight.
Art thou so full of glory, that no eye
Hath strength, thy shining rayes once to behold?
And is thy splendid throne erect so high?
As to approach it, can no earthly mould.
How full of glory then must thy Creator be,
Who gave this bright light luster unto thee!
Admir’d, ador’d for ever, be that Majesty.
Silent alone, where none or saw, or heard,
In pathless paths I lead my wandering feet,
My humble eyes to lofty skyes I rear’d
To sing some song, my mazed Muse thought meet.
My great Creator I would magnifie,
That nature had, thus decked liberally:
But Ah, and Ah, again, my imbecility!
I heard the merry grasshopper then sing,
The black clad cricket, bear a second part,
They kept one tune, and plaid on the same string,
Seeming to glory in their little art.
Shall creatures abject, thus their voices raise?
And in their kind resound their maker’s praise:
Whilst I as mute, can warble forth no higher layes.
When present times look back to ages past,
And men in being fancy those are dead,
It makes things gone perpetually to last,
And calls back months and years that long since fled.
It makes a man more aged in conceit,
Than was Methuselah, or’s grand-sire great;
While of their persons and their acts his mind doth treat.
Sometimes in Eden fair he seems to be,
Sees glorious Adam there made Lord of all,
Fancyes the Apple, dangle on the Tree,
That turn’d his Sovereign to a naked thral.
Who like a miscreant’s driven from that place,
To get his bread with pain, and sweat of face:
A penalty impos’d on his backsliding race.
Here sits our Grandame in retired place,
And in her lap, her bloody Cain new born,
The weeping Imp oft looks her in the face,
Bewails his unknown hap, and fate forlorn;
His mother sighs, to think of Paradise,
And how she lost her bliss, to be more wise,
Believing him that was, and is, Father of lyes.
Here Cain and Abel come to sacrifice,
Fruits of the earth, and fatlings each do bring;
On Abel’s gift the fire descends from skies,
But no such sign on false Cain’s offering;
With sullen hateful looks he goes his wayes.
Hath thousand thoughts to end his brothers dayes,
Upon whose blood his future good he hopes to raise.
There Abel keeps his sheep, no ill he thinks,
His brother comes, then acts his fratricide,
The Virgin Earth, of blood her first draught drinks,
But since that time she often hath been cloy’d;
The wretch with ghastly face and dreadful mind,
Thinks each he sees will serve him in his kind,
Though none on Earth but kindred near then could he find.
Who fancyes not his looks now at the barr,
His face like death, his heart with horror fraught,
Nor male-factor ever felt like warr,
When deep despair, with wish of life hath sought,
Branded with guilt, and crusht with treble woes,
A vagabond to Land of Nod he goes,
A city builds, that wals might him secure from foes.
Who thinks not oft upon the Fathers ages.
Their long descent, how nephew’s sons they saw,
The starry observations of those Sages,
And how their precepts to their sons were law
How Adam sigh’d to see his progeny,
Clothed all in his black sinfull livery,
Who neither guilt, nor yet the punishment could fly.
Our Life compare we with their length of dayes,
Who to the tenth of theirs doth now arrive?
And though thus short, we shorten many ways,
Living so little while we are alive;
In eating, drinking, sleeping, vain delight,
So unawares comes on perpetual night,
And puts all pleasures vain unto eternal flight.
When I behold the heavens as in their prime,
And then the earth (though old) still clad in green,
The stones and trees, insensible of time,
Nor age nor wrinkle on their front are seen;
If winter come, and greenness then do fade,
A Spring returns, and they more youthful made;
But Man grows old, lies down, remains where once he ’s laid.
By birth more noble than those creatures all,
Yet seems by nature and by custome cursed,
No sooner born, but grief and care make fall
That state obliterate he had at first.
Nor youth, nor strength, nor wisdom spring again,
Nor habitations long their names retain,
But in oblivion to the final day remain.
Shall I then praise the heavens, the trees, the earth,
Because their beauty and their strength last longer?
Shall I wish their, or never to had birth,
Because they’re bigger, and their bodyes stronger?
Nay, they shall darken, perish, fade and dye,
And when unmade, soever shall they lye,
But man was made for endless immortality.
Under the cooling shadow of a stately elm
Close sate I by a goodly River’s side,
Where gliding streams the rocks did overwhelm;
A lonely place, with pleasures dignified.
I once that lov’d the shady woods so well,
Now thought the rivers did the trees excell,
And if the sun would ever shine, there would I dwell.
While on the stealing stream I fixt mine eye,
Which to the long’d-for Ocean held its course,
I markt nor crooks, nor rubs that there did lye
Could hinder aught, but still augment its force:
O happy Flood, quoth I, that holdst thy race
Till thou arrive at thy beloved place,
Nor is it rocks or shoals that can obstruct thy pace.
Nor is ’t enough, that thou alone may’st slide,
But hundred brooks in thy cleer waves do meet,
So hand in hand along with thee they glide
To Thetis’ house, where all embrace and greet:
Thou Emblem true, of what I count the best,
O could I lead my Rivulets to rest,
So may we press to that vast mansion, ever blest.
Ye Fish which in this liquid region ’bide,
That for each season, have your habitation,
Now salt, now fresh, where you think best to glide,
To unknown coasts to give a visitation,
In lakes and ponds, you leave your numerous fry,
So nature taught, and yet you know not why,
You watry folk that know not your felicity.
Look how the wantons frisk to taste the air,
Then to the colder bottome straight they dive,
Eftsoon to Neptune’s glassie Hall repair
To see what trade the great ones there do drive,
Who forrage o’er the spacious sea-green field,
And take the trembling prey before it yield,
Whose armour is their scales, their spreading fins their shield.
While musing thus with contemplation fed,
And thousand fancies buzzing in my brain,
The sweet-tongued Philomel percht o’er my head,
And chanted forth a most melodious strain
Which rapt me so with wonder and delight,
I judg’d my hearing better than my sight,
And wisht me wings with her a while to take my flight.
O merry Bird (said I) that fears no snares,
That neither toyles nor hoards up in thy barn,
Feels no sad thoughts, nor cruciating cares
To gain more good, or shun what might thee harm;
Thy cloaths ne’er wear, thy meat is every where,
Thy bed a bough, thy drink the water cleer,
Reminds not what is past, nor what’s to come dost fear
The dawning morn with songs thou dost prevent, 3
Setts hundred notes unto thy feather’d crew,
So each one tunes his pretty instrument,
And warbling out the old, begins anew,
And thus they pass their youth in summer season,
Then follow thee into a better Region,
Where winter’s never felt by that sweet airy legion.
Man’s at the best a creature frail and vain,
In knowledge ignorant, in strength but weak:
Subject to sorrows, losses, sickness, pain,
Each storm his state, his mind, his body break:
From some of these he never finds cessation,
But day or night, within, without, vexation,
Troubles from foes, from friends, from dearest, near’st Relation.
And yet this sinfull creature, frail and vain,
This lump of wretchedness, of sin and sorrow,
This weather-beaten vessel wrackt with pain,
Joyes not in hope of an eternal morrow:
Nor all his losses, crosses and vexation,
In weight, in frequency and long duration
Can make him deeply groan for that divine Translation.
The Mariner that on smooth waves doth glide,
Sings merrily, and steers his barque with ease,
As if he had command of wind and tide,
And now become great Master of the seas;
But suddenly a storm spoils all the sport,
And makes him long for a more quiet port,
Which ’gainst all adverse winds may serve for fort.
So he that saileth in this world of pleasure,
Feeding on sweets, that never bit of th’ sowre,
That’s full of friends, of honour and of treasure,
Fond fool, he takes this earth ev’n for heav’ns bower.
But sad affliction comes and makes him see
Here’s neither honor, wealth, nor safety;
Only above is found all with security.
O Time the fatal wrack of mortal things,
That draws oblivion’s curtains over kings,
Their sumptuous monuments, men know them not,
Their names without a Record are forgot,
Their parts, their ports, their pomp’s all laid in th’ dust,
Nor wit nor gold, nor buildings scape time’s rust;
But he whose name is grav’d in the white stone
Shall last and shine when all of these are gone.
  The sister of Mrs Bradstreet, Mrs Woodbridge, the wife of John Woodbridge, minister at Andover and Newbury, was likewise an adventurer in verse. An epistle which she addressed to her sister upon the subject of her volume, is still extant. The poetry is respectable, but has no striking passages.  11
  Governor Dudley, the father of Mrs Bradstreet, was a versifier. He wrote an epitaph on himself which was found in his pocket after his death; it is hardly worth quoting, and we know not whether any other of his rhymes have been preserved. William Bradford, the second Governor of Plymouth Colony, who came over in the first ship in 1620, figured also as a poet. He died in 1657. His Descriptive and Historical Account of New England in verse, containing about three hundred lines, may be found in the Historical Collections. He is commended by the author of the Magnalia for his great learning and particularly for his skill in various languages. His verses however have little to recommend them.  12
  JOHN COTTON, the minister of Boston, must be recorded among those who attempted poetry. Some of his verses upon the death of two of his children have been preserved, written in Greek letters upon the blank leaves of his Almanack. His elegy upon the death of Thomas Hooker, the first minister of Hartford, Connecticut, who died in 1647, has been commended as sensible and correct. We give a short extract.
        ’Twas of Geneva’s worthies said with wonder,
(Those worthies three) Farel was wont to thunder;
Viret like rain on tender grass to shower,
But Calvin, lively oracles to pour.
All these in Hooker’s spirit did remain,
A son of thunder and a shower of rain;
A pourer forth of lively oracles,
In saving soul the summ of miracles.
  EZEKIEL ROGERS the minister of Rowley, who gave that town its name, and died in 1660, also ‘embalmed’ the memory of Hooker in the following epitaph, every line of which, in the judgment of Cotton Mather, deserved a reward equal to that which Virgil received for his verses upon Marcellus in the Æneid.
        America, although she do not boast
Of all the gold and silver from that coast,
Lent to her sister Europe’s need and pride;
(For that repaid her with much gain beside,
In one rich pearl which heaven did thence afford,
As pious Herbert gave his honest word;)
Yet thinks she in the catalogue may come
With Europe, Africk, Asia, for one tomb.
  The same event was lamented in an elegy by Peter Bulkly, the first minister of Concord, whose latin verses written at the age of seventy-six, are preserved in the Magnalia, along with the latin poetry of Elijah Corlet of Cambridge upon the character of Hooker.  15
  The death of any noted divine in those days seems to have been very certain to arouse the muse of our ancestors. Scarcely one of any eminence closed his mortal career without drawing forth a profusion of elegiac strains. When John Cotton died in 1652, the event afforded a theme to BENJAMIN WOODBRIDGE for a poem which contains a somewhat remarkable passage, as it has been conjectured that it suggested to Franklin the hint for his celebrated epitaph upon himself. Benjamin Woodbridge was educated partly at Oxford in England, and coming to this country finished his studies at Harvard College, of which he had the honor of being the first graduate. He afterwards returned to England and became one of the chaplains of Charles II. The passage referred to is this.
        A living breathing bible; tables where
Both covenants at large engraven were;
Gospel and law in ’s heart had each its column,
His head an index to the Sacred volume,
His very name a title-page, and next
His life a commentary on the text.
O what a monument of glorious worth,
When in a new edition he comes forth,
Without erratas, may we think he ’ll be,
In leaves and covers of eternity!
  JOSEPH CAPEN, minister of Topsfield, wrote some lines upon the death of Mr John Foster, a mathematician and printer, which have a still more remarkable similarity to the epitaph of Franklin.
        THY body which no activeness did lack,
Now ’s laid aside like an old almanack;
But for the present only ’s out of date,
’T will have at length a far more active state:
Yea, though with dust thy body soiled be,
Yet at the resurrection we shall see
A fair edition, and of matchless worth,
Free from erratas, new in heaven set forth;
Tis but a word from God the great Creator,
It shall be done when he saith Imprimatur.
  John Norton also commemorated the death of Cotton by an elegy; his verses in praise of Mrs Bradsheet have already been mentioned. Nathaniel Ward, the Simple Cobler of Agawam, wrote poetry in his facetious way Edward Johnson the author of the Wonder Working Providence, interspersed his history with a multitude of verses, laudatory of the several worthy and eminent men of whom he had occasion to speak. His poetry is to be found in the records of Woburn, the town where he passed the latter part of his life.  18
  ROGER WILLIAMS wrote verses among his other works during his banishment; some of them have been preserved in his Key to the Indian Languages. We offer a short specimen.
        YEERES thousands since God gave command,
  As we in scripture find,
That earth and trees and shrubs should bring
  Forth fruits each in his kind.
The wilderness remembers this;
  The wild and howling land
Answers the toiling labour of
  The wildest Indian’s hand.
But man forgets his maker who
  Fram’d him in righteousnesse
A Paradise in Paradise now worse
  Than Indian wildernesse.
  JONATHAN MITCHEL, Pastor of the church in Cambridge, deserves some notice for his attempts at poetry. Upon the death of Henry Dunster, one of the translators of the Bay Psalm Book, who was dismissed from his office as President of Harvard College for his heterodox opinions upon the subject of baptism, Mitchel wrote an elegy, some stanzas of which deserve transcribing for the strain of liberal sentiment which they breathe on the subject of the President’s religious notions.
        WHERE faith in Jesus is sincere,
  That soul, he saving, pardoneth;
What wants or errors else be there,
  That may and do consist therewith.
And though we be imperfect here,
  And in one mind can’t often meet,
Who know in part, in part may err,
  Though faith be one, all do not see ’t.
Yet may we once the rest obtain,
  In everlasting bliss above,
Where Christ with perfect Saints doth reign,
  In perfect light and perfect love.
Then shall we all like-minded be,
  Faith’s unity is there full grown;
There one truth all both love and see,
  And thence are perfect made in one.
There Luther both and Zuinglius,
  Ridley and Hooper there agree
There all the truly righteous
  Sans feud live to eternity.
  John Wilson, the Paul of New England, who is celebrated by Cotton Mather as the greatest “anagrammatizer” 4 since the days of Lycophron, and who even uttered anagrams by improvisation, has also left specimens of his verse behind him; they may be found in the Magnalia. Thomas Shepard of Charlestown, who died in 1677, has left similar relics. He is better known by the Elegy which URIAN OAKES, the President of Harvard College wrote upon his death. President Oakes was styled the Lactantius of New England; his fame as a scholar was widely extended, and his character pre-eminent for piety and benevolence. His elegy on Shepard’s death was printed in 1677; a good authority has pronounced it a highly meritorious performance. We give a few stanzas taken from different parts of the poem.
        ART, nature, grace in him were all combined
  To show the world a matchless paragon,
In whom of radiant virtues no less shined
  Than a whole constellation, but hee ’s gone!
Hee ’s gone, alas! down in the dust must ly
As much of this rare person as could die!
To be descended well, doth that commend?
  Can sons their fathers’ glory call their own?
Our Shepard justly might to this pretend,
  (His blessed father was of high renown:
Both Englands speak him great, admire his name,)
But his own personal worth’s a better claim.
His look commanded reverence and awe,
  Though mild and amiable, not austere:
Well humour’d was he as I ever saw,
  And ruled by love and wisdom more than fear.
The muses and the graces too conspired
To set forth this rare piece to be admired.
He breathed love and pursued peace in his day,
  As if his soul were made of harmony.
Scarce ever more of goodness crowded lay
  In such a piece of frail mortality.
Sure Father Wilson’s genuine son was he,
New England’s Paul had such a Timothy.
  The successor of President Oakes at Harvard was JOHN ROGERS. He came in his youth to New England and was educated at the College over which he was called to preside. Before he was chosen to the presidency he had been first a preacher and then a physician. He died suddenly in 1684, having been President but two years. His verses addressed to Mrs Bradstreet merit an insertion here. They have more correctness and elegance than are to be found in any we have yet noticed except those of the writer to whom they are addressed.
        MADAM, twice through the Muses’ grove I walkt,
Under your blissfull bowres, I shrowding there,
It seem’d with Nymphs of Helicon I talkt,
For there those sweet-lip’d sisters sporting were.
Apollo with his sacred lute sate by,
On high they made their heavenly sonnets flye,
Posies around they strow’d, of sweetest poesie.
Twice have I drunk the nectar of your lines,
Which high sublim’d my mean born phantasie,
Flusht with these streams of your Maronean wines
Above myself rapt to an extasie:
Methought I was upon mount Hybla’s top,
There where I might those fragrant flowers lop,
Whence did sweet odors flow, and honey spangles drop.
To Venus’ shrine no altars raised are,
Nor venom’d shafts from painted quiver fly:
Nor wanton Doves of Aphrodite’s carr,
Or fluttering there, nor here forlornly lie:
Lorne paramours, not chatting birds tell news,
How sage Apollo Daphne hot pursues,
Or stately Jove himself is wont to haunt the stews.
Nor barking Satyrs breathe, nor dreary clouds
Exhaled from Styx, their dismal drops distil
Within these fairy, flowry fields, nor shrouds
The screeching night raven, with his shady quill:
But lyrick strings here Orpheus nimbly hitts,
Arion on his sadled dolphin sits,
Chanting as every humour, age and season fits.
Here silver swans, with nightingales set spells,
Which sweetly charm the traveller, and raise
Earth’s earthed monarchs, from their hidden cells,
And to appearance summon lapsed dayes,
Their heav’nly air becalms the swelling frayes,
And fury fell of elements allayes,
By paying every one due tribute of his praise.
This seem’d the scite of all those verdant vales,
And purled springs, whereat the Nymphs do play:
With lofty hills, where Poets rear their tales,
To heavenly vaults, which heav’nly sound repay
By echo’s sweet rebound: here ladye’s kiss,
Circling nor songs, nor dance’s circle miss;
But whilst those Syrens sung, I sunk in sea of bliss.
Thus weltring in delight, my virgin mind
Admits a rape; truth still lyes undescri’d,
Its singular that plural seem’d: I find
’T was fancie’s glass alone that multipli’d;
Nature with art so closely did combine,
I thought I saw the Muses treble trine,
Which prov’d your lonely Muse superiour to the Nine.
Your only hand those poesies did compose:
Your head the source, whence all those springs did flow:
Your voice, whence changes sweetest notes arose:
Your feet that kept the dance alone, I trow:
Then vail your bonnets, Poetasters all,
Strike, lower amain, and at these humbly fall,
And deem yourselves advanc’d to be her pedestal.
Should all with lowly congees laurels bring,
Waste Flora’s magazine to find a wreathe,
Or Pineus’ banks, ’twere too mean offering;
Your Muse a fairer garland doth bequeath
To guard your fairer front; here ’t is your name
Shall stand immarbled; this your little frame
Shall great Colossus be, to your eternal fame.
  PETER FOLGER, who settled at Nantucket, where he kept a school, was the author of a poetical work entitled “A Looking Glass for the Times.” This was published in 1675 or 1676. Folger’s daughter was the mother of Benjamin Franklin, and Franklin in his own life has given a description of the poem. We have not been able to obtain a sight of this performance. The only copy we have yet heard of, was in the possession of a friend a year or two since but is now lost. A few extracts have been published in one of our literary journals. We will quote the words of Franklin in describing the poem. “The author addresses himself to the governors for the time being; speaks for liberty of conscience, and in favor of the Anabaptist Quakers, and other sectaries who had suffered persecution. To this persecution he attributes the war with the natives and other calamities which afflicted the country, regarding them as the judgments of God in punishment of so odious an offence; and he exhorts the government to the repeal of laws so contrary to charity. The poem appeared to be written with a manly freedom and a pleasing simplicity.” Folger’s book we understand is accurately described in the above paragraph, and a short extract which we have at hand will give an idea of the poetry.
        THE RULERS in the country I
  do own them in the Lord!
And such as are for government,
  with them I do accord.
But that which I intend hereby
  is that they would keep bound,
And meddle not with God’s worship
  for which they have no ground.
And I am not alone herein,
  there many hundreds more,
That have for many years ago
  spoke much upon that score.
Indeed I really believe
  it ’s not your business,
To meddle with the church of Christ
  in matters more or less.
  The Rev. Samuel Danforth, of Roxbury, was a writer of verse. He was more celebrated, however, as a mathematician and astronomer. He calculated the trajectory of the great comet which appeared in 1664, and published a treatise on it entitled, “An astronomical description of the late comet with a brief theological description thereof.”  24
  JOHN DANFORTH, of Dorchester, son of the above, claims to be mentioned for his verses; he wrote against religious controversy in the following strains.
        BY hot contention’s thunderbolts
  Are armies rent in twain.
Armies of Abels too advance
  Arm’d with the clubs of Cain.
Batter’d and shatter’d by such storms
  Are best men’s reputation.
In vain they talk while strife is loud
  Of waking reformation.
  In the following verses written in 1690, he attempted to point out the best method of christianizing the Indians.
        ADDRESS I pray, your Senate for good orders
To civilize the heathen in our borders.
Virtue must turn into necessity,
Or this brave work will in its turn still lie.
Till agriculture and cohabitation
Come under full restrain and regulation,
Much you would do you ’ll find impracticable,
And much you do will prove unprofitable.
In common lands that lie unfenced, you know,
The husbandman in vain doth plough and sow.
We hope in vain the plant of grace will thrive
In forests where civility can’t live.
  The next poet that offers himself to our notice is BENJAMIN TOMPSON the “learned schoolmaster and physician.” By the Boston Records it appears that he was master of the public school in Boston from 1667 to 1670, when having had and accepted a call to Charlestown, he removed thither and was succeeded by Cheever. He was the son of William Thompson or Tompson, the minister of Braintree, and was born at that place within the limits of the present town of Quincy, in 1640, and received a degree at Cambridge in 1662. To Benjamin Tompson 5 must therefore be awarded all distinction of being the first native American poet. All his poetry hitherto known, was thought to be comprised in an Elegy upon the Rev. Samuel Whiting of Lynn, a poem addressed to Hubbard, and a few lines upon Cotton Mather. But we have lately discovered another work of his, which we consider the greatest curiosity as an antiquarian relic, that the early writings of New England present to us. It is a Poem on Philip’s War, written and published, according to undoubted internal evidence, during that desperate struggle with the natives in which the very existence of the New England colonies was at stake. The poem is entitled New England’s Crisis. We shall offer the reader one or two extracts of some length, no less to set in a fair light the merits of Tompson’s poetry, than to gratify the curious with an exhibition of the strains in which our first native bard sung the wars which threatened the extinction of his nation.  27
  The author begins with a “Prologue,” in which he complains seriously of the great increase of luxurious habits in the country! One would think the land of the Pilgrims stood hardly in danger from this cause in 1675, when the females personally assisted to build a fortification on Boston neck for a protection against the savages.

THE TIMES wherein old Pompion was a saint,
When men fared hardly yet without complaint,
On vilest cates; the dainty indian maize
Was eat with clamp-shells out of wooden trayes,
Under thatch’d hutts without the cry of rent,
And the best sawce to every dish, content.
When flesh was food and hairy skins made coats,
And men as wel as birds had chirping notes.
When Cimnels 6 were accounted noble bloud;
Among the tribes of common herbage food.
Of Ceres’ bounty form’d was many a knack,
Enough to fill poor Robin’s Almanack.
These golden times (too fortunate to hold,)
Were quickly sin’d away for love of gold.
’T was then among the bushes, not the street,
If one in place did an inferior meet,
“Good morrow brother, is there aught you want?
“Take freely of me, what I have you ha’nt.”
Plain Tom and Dick would pass as currant now, 7
As ever since “Your Servant Sir,” and bow.
Deep-skirted doublets, puritanick capes,
Which now would render men like upright apes,
Was comlier wear, our wiser fathers thought,
Than the cast fashions from all Europe brought.
’T was in those dayes an honest grace would hold
Till an hot pudding grew at heart a cold.
And men had better stomachs at religion,
Than I to capon, turkey-cock, or pigeon;
When honest sisters met to pray, not prate,
About their own and not their neighbour’s state.
During Plain Dealing’s reign, that worthy stud
Of the ancient planters’ race before the flood,
Then times were good, merchants car’d not a rush
For other fare than Jonakin and Mush.
Although men far’d and lodged very hard,
Yet innocence was better than a guard.
’T was long before spiders and worms had drawn
Their dungy webs, or hid with cheating lawne
New England’s beautyes, which stil seem’d to me
Illustrious in their own simplicity.
’T was ere the neighbouring Virgin-Land had broke
The hogsheads of her worse than hellish smoak.
’T was ere the Islands sent their presents in,
Which but to use was counted next to sin.
’T was ere a barge had made so rich a fraight
As chocolate, dust-gold and bitts of eight.
Ere wines from France and Moscovadoe to,
Without the which the drink will scarsly doe.
From western isles ere fruits and delicacies
Did rot maid’s teeth and spoil their handsome faces.
Or ere these times did chance, the noise of war
Was from our towns and hearts removed far.
No bugbear comets in the chyrstal air
Did drive our christian planters to despair.
No sooner pagan malice peeped forth
But valour snib’d it. Then were men of worth
Who by their prayers slew thousands, angel-like;
Their weapons are unseen with which they strike.
Then had the churches rest; as yet the coales
Were covered up in most contentious souls:
Freeness in judgment, union in affection,
Dear love, sound truth, they were our grand protection.
Then were the times in which our councells sate,
These gave prognosticks of our future fate.
If these be longer liv’d our hopes increase,
These warrs will usher in a longer peace.
But if New England’s love die in its youth,
The grave will open next for blessed truth.
This theame is out of date, the peacefull hours
When castles needed not, but pleasant bowers.
Not ink, but bloud and tears now serve the turn
To draw the figure of New England’s urne.
New England’s hour of passion is at hand;
No power except divine can it withstand.
Scarce hath her glass of fifty years run out,
But her old prosperous steeds turn heads about,
Tracking themselves back to their poor beginnings,
To fear and fare upon their fruits of sinnings.
So that the mirror of the christian world
Lyes burnt to heaps in part, her streamers furl’d.
Grief sighs, joyes flee, and dismal fears surprize
Not dastard spirits only, but the wise.
Thus have the fairest hopes deceiv’d the eye
Of the big-swoln expectant standing by:
Thus the proud ship after a little turn,
Sinks into Neptune’s arms to find its urne:
Thus hath the heir to many thousands born
Been in an instant from the mother torn:
Even thus thine infant cheeks begin to pale,
And thy supporters through great losses fail.
This is the Prologue to thy future woe,
The Epilogue no mortal yet can know.
  Having despatched his preliminaries the author plunges in medias res and gives us a representation of King Philip, who calls his warriors around him and makes to them a speech in choice Indian. We next have the incidents of the campaign, the marches of the troops, and the storming of an Indian fort. Then follow detached portions, celebrating battles, and the burning of towns, which items of intelligence appear to have come to hand while the author was writing his poem. In this manner we are presented with Marlburye’s Fate; the Town called Providence, its Fate; Seaconk Plain Engagement; Seaconk or Rehoboth’s Fate; Chelmsford’s Fate, and lastly Lines On a Fortification at Boston begun by women. The subjoined extract will give an idea of his general manner.
        MANY how welcomes from the natives’ arms
Hid in their sculking holes, many alarms
Our brethren had, and many weary trants:
Sometimes in melting heat and pinching wants.
Sometimes the clouds with sympathizing tears
Ready to burst, discharged about their ears.
Sometimes on craggy hills, anon in bogs,
And miry swamps, better befitting hogs;
And after tedious marches, little boast
Is to be heard of stew’d, or bakt, or roast.
Their beds are hurdles, open house they keep,
Through shady boughs the stars upon them peep:
Their chrystal drink drawn from the mother’s breast,
Disposes not to mirth, but sleep and rest.
  Thus many dayes and weeks some months run out,
To find and quell the vagabonding rout,
Who like enchanted castles fair appear,
But all is vanisht if you come but near.
Just so we might the pagan archers track,
With towns and merchandize upon their back:
And thousands in the South who settled down,
To all the points and winds are quickly blown.
At many meetings of their fleeting crew,
From whom like haile, arrows and bullets flew,
The English courage with whole swarms dispute,
Hundreds they hack in pieces in pursuit:
Sed haud impuné, English sides do feel
As well as tawny skins, the lead and steel;
And some such gallant sparks by bullets fell
As might have curst the powder back to hell.
Had only swords these skirmishes decided,
All pagan sculls had been long since divided.
  The ling’ring war outlives the summer sun,
Who hence departs hoping it might be done
Ere his return at spring; but ah! hee’l find
The sword still drawn, men of unchanged mind.
Cold winter now nibbles at hands and toes,
And shrewdly pinches both our friends and foes.
Fierce Boreas whips the pagan tribe together,
Advising them to fit for foes and weather.
The axe which late had tasted christian bloud,
Now sets its steely teeth to feast on wood.
The forests suffer now, by waight constrain’d
To kiss the earth with soldiers lately brain’d.
The lofty oakes and ashe doe wagge the head
To see so many of their neighbours dead.
Their fallen carcases are carried thence
To stand our enemies in their defence.
Their Myrmidons inclosed with clefts of trees,
And busie like the ants or nimble bees.
And first they limber poles fix in the ground,
In figure of the heavens convex: all round
They draw their arras-matts and skins of beasts,
And under these the elves do make their nests.
Rome took more time to grow than twice six hours,
But half that time will serve for indian bowers;
A citty shall be rear’d in one daye’s space,
As shall an hundred Englishmen out face.
Canonicus’ precints these swarmes unite,
Rather to keep a winter guard than fight.
A dern 8 and dismal swamp some scout had found,
Whose bosom was a spot of rising ground
Hedg’d up with mighty oakes, maples and ashes,
Nurst up with springs, quick boggs and miery plashes;
A place which nature coyn’d on very nonce,
For tygers, not for men to be a sconce;
Twas here these monsters shapt and fac’d like men
Took up their Rendezvouz and brumal den.
  On the whole, Tompson must be allowed considerable praise; he is exceeded by none of his contemporaries for correct and smooth versification.  30
  NICHOLAS NOYES is another native poet; he was the nephew of James Noyes, the first minister of Newbury, and was born in that town December 22d, 1647. He was graduated at Cambridge in 1667, and settled in the ministry at Salem. His poem on the death of the Rev. Joseph Green, of Salem village, we have not seen. He wrote a prefatory poem to the Magnalia, from which we take the following lines complimentary of the author.
        HEADS of our tribes whose corps are under ground,
Their names and fames in chronicles renown’d,
Begemm’d on golden ouches he hath set
Past envy’s teeth and time’s corroding fret.
Of death and malice he ’s brush’d off the dust,
And made a resurrection of the just.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  This well instructed scribe brings new and old,
And from his mines digs richer things than gold;
Yet freely gives, as fountains do their streams,
Nor more than they, himself, by giving, drains.
He ’s all design, and by his craftier wiles
Locks fast his reader, and the time beguiles;
Whilst wit and learning move themselves aright,
Through every line and colour in our sight,
So interweaving profit with delight,
And curiously inlaying both together
That he must needs find both who looks for either.
  His preaching, writing, and his pastoral care
Are very much to fall to one man’s share.
This added to the rest is admirable,
And proves the author indefatigable.
Play is his toyl, and work his recreation,
And his inventions next to inspiration.
His pen was taken from some bird of light,
Addicted to a swift and lofty flight.
Dearly it loves art, air, and eloquence,
And hates confinement, save to truth and sense.
*      *      *      *      *      *
  The stuff is true, the trimming neat and spruce,
The workman ’s good, the work of public use;
Most piously design’d, a Public Store,
And well deserves the public thanks and more.
  TIMOTHY WOODBRIDGE, minister of Hartford, brother of Benjamin Woodbridge, already quoted, also complimented Mather and his book in a poetical address. Whether he was a native of this country or England we know not. We extract a few lines from his poem.
        LET the remotest parts of earth behold
New England’s crowns excelling Spanish gold.
Here be rare lessons set for us to read,
That offsprings are of such a goodly breed.
The dead ones here so much alive are made,
We think them speaking from blest Eden’s shade.
Hark how they check the madness of this age,
The growth of pride, fierce lust and worldly rage;
They tell we shall to clam-banks come again,
If heaven still doth scourge us all in vain.
  But Sir, upon your merits heap’d will be
The blessings of all those that here shall see
Virtue embalm’d: this hand seems to put on
The laurel on your brow, so justly won.
  The death of Urian Oakes in 1681 was lamented in an Elegy by DANIEL GOOKIN, jr. son of Daniel Gookin who made the valuable Historical Collections respecting the Indians of New England. Daniel Gookin, jr. was born, as we have reason to think, at Cambridge. He was ordained as a minister there, and was afterwards a missionary among the Indians. We have never met with any mention of him as a poet. The elegy above-mentioned exists only in a single manuscript, the autograph perhaps of the author. We have a quotation of two stanzas at hand.
        THIS turns our dance to halting, lames our mirth,
  Untunes our harps, our hearts doth wound;
  No music ’s now in any sound:
Our hopes are cover’d o’er with clods of earth:
’T is this that kills the springing joys we had;
Not heads but hearts are now in mourning clad.
The time doth signalize this fatal turn:
  ’T was when the Father of the Day
  In haste was posting on his way
To bury Summer in th’ autumnal urn.
’T was when, as loath to see the dismal sight,
Phœbus had coffin’d up himself in night.
  We know not whether JOHN HAWKINS, of Boston, has left any other specimen of his metre behind him, but we will introduce here his

LORD are not ravens daily fed by thee?
And wilt thou clothe the lilies and not me?
Begone distrust, I shall have clothes and bread
While lilies flourish and the birds are fed.
  SAMUEL SEWALL, who came to America in his youth, was educated at Harvard College and afterwards became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, was also a poet. His Hymn for the New Year, written Jan. 1st, 1701, “a little before break a day, at Boston of the Massachusetts,” we will cite as the earliest specimen we have of that sort of occasional composition.
        ONCE more our God vouchsafe to shine,
Tame thou the rigour of our clime;
Make haste with thy impatient light
And terminate this long dark night.
Let the translated English vine
Spread further still, still call it thine.
Prune it with skill, for yield it can
More fruit to thee the husbandman.
Give the poor Indians eyes to see
The light of life, and set them free;
That they religion may profess,
Denying all ungodliness.
From hardened Jews the veil remove,
Let them their martyr’d Jesus love:
And homage unto him afford,
Because he is their rightful Lord.
So false religion shall decay,
And darkness fly before bright day;
So man shall God in Christ adore,
And worship idols vain no more.
So Asia and Africa,
Europa with America,
All four in concert join’d, shall sing
New songs of praise to Christ our King.
  Of the poetry of William Wetherell, of Scituate, we can offer no specimen. The same must be said of Joseph Rowlandson, of Lancaster, whose verses exist in some ancient manuscript files. There was an Indian youth by the name of Eleazar, who studied at Harvard College in 1678. He wrote Latin and Greek poetry, which has been preserved, but we have seen no verses in English from his pen.  36
  The Rev. Nathaniel Pitcher, of Scituate, was also a versifier. An anonymous poem on his death, compares him to Pindar, Horace and Casimir. How well he deserved this praise we have no means of knowing. The Elegy just mentioned is a curiosity. It is entitled Pitchero Threnodia; it is written in an odd metre, and with a great display of classical learning. Of the poetry nothing need be said. It was published at Boston in 1724.  37
  An anonymous performance of contemporary date and greater merit, is the Gloria Britannorum, or the British Worthies, which appeared also at Boston. In this work the political and military events of the time are sung in the manner of Addison’s Campaign, from which production the design was evidently borrowed. The versification is quite spirited and correct for the period.  38
  We must notice in this place, although a little in anticipation of the chronological order of persons, John Seccomb. He was esteemed a wit, and wrote the ballad entitled Father Abdy’s Will. It is rather of the doggerel species, but was popular in the author’s day, and pleased Governor Belcher so much that he sent it to England, where it was first published in the Gentleman’s Magazine, in 1732. Seccomb was also considered the author of an Eclogue on the death of Dr Colman, and some other anonymous pieces.  39
  FROM a review of the character of these early and imperfect endeavours in the rhyming art, and of our literature generally, down to a very recent date, we perceive the perfectly spontaneous growth to every branch of polite letters among us. The common incitements to literary exertion, rivalry and the prospect of fame and emolument, cannot be said to have exerted any material influence in prompting the efforts of American writers. Authors have been too few to create competition, and the public, to whom they addressed themselves, too much occupied with matters of direct practical interest to bestow any high consideration upon the talents which are exerted only in the embellishment of life. Hence we have never known till the present day such a thing as a professed author. All the talent and industry of the people have been called into the field of active employment, and the most of what has been written among us consists of such productions as were executed in the early days of our authors, before the serious business of life was entered upon; or in such leisure moments as were snatched from constant and laborious occupations. We have obtained therefore only the unripe fruits of their youth, or the imperfect performances of casual moments. The cultivation of literary talent has moreover been retarded by the state of dependence as to literature, in which we have continued, to the writers of Great Britain. Without searching for causes which lie deep in the character of our nation, we may assert that the “bales and hogsheads” of learning which our friends beyond the ocean speak of having supplied us with, have been dealt to us in such abundance that the great stimulus to exertion has been wanting, and no pressing necessity has thrown us upon our own resources. Still the feeling of patriotism must prompt the desire that native genius should be conspicuous in every high career of human intellect, and that a national spirit in the liberal arts should be encouraged, as instruments to nourish the civic virtues and give scope to the energies of mind among our countrymen. That this has not hitherto been effected, can hardly excite surprise in any one acquainted with our history. While we have been filling this wide land with people, it is not remarkable that as a nation, we should have found little leisure to cultivate the refinements of intellectual taste,  40
  The present state and future prospects of literature among us offer a theme for fond anticipation and sagacious conjecture, but hardly for certain calculation. There is a vast amount of intellect daily developing in the community, and again absorbed in the great purposes to which the ingenuity and enterprise of our busy population are constantly giving birth. The precise effect of this power, when settled into regular channels of action in the various departments of literature cannot be foreseen. In the twilight of the morning of letters which now dawns upon us, the general outline of the view is indistinct and wavering, and the eye meets with hardly a point upon which to rest with steadiness. But nothing lingers; every moment some new element is unfolding, the shadows flee, and the hour cometh, we doubt not, which shall usher in a new scene, and enlighten us with the fulness and splendor of a brighter day.  41
Note 1. Although this was the first book, it was not the first specimen of printing in the country. The year previous there was published an Almanack and The Freeman’s Oath. [back]
Note 2. Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas was a French poet of the time of Henry IV. His chief work was a poem on the creation, stuffed with absurdities. He called the head the lodging of the understanding, the eyes the twin stars, the nose the ‘gutter’ or ‘chimney,’ the teeth a double palisade used as a mill to the open throat. This poem was as much admired as is now Pollok’s Course of Time, and in five or six years passed through thirty editions. It was translated into English. The earliest writings of New England abound with allusions to this author. [back]
Note 3. i. e. Anticipate. [back]
Note 4. The rage for anagrams appears to have been universal in the country at that time. The biographer of Wilson cites the criticisms of the Jews upon the Old Testament in defence of the practice, and declares that much devout instruction was realized from this play upon names. He complains that there were not a greater number of anagrams made upon the name of Wilson, and insinuates that the muses looked very dissatisfied when they beheld the inscription on his tomb without this customary appendage. [back]
Note 5. His name B. Tompson, is subscribed to the original edition of one of his poems. The epitaph on his tombstone at Roxbury is as follows. SUB SPE IMMORTALI YE HERSE OF MR BENJAMIN THOMSON, LEARNED SCHOOLMASTER AND PHYSICIAN, AND YE RENOWNED POET OF NEW ENGLAND. OBIIT APRILIS 13, ANNO DOMINI 1714, ET ÆTATIS SUÆ 74. MORTUUS SED IMMORTALIS. [back]
Note 6. Simnels. [back]
Note 7. Then. [back]
Note 8. Lonely. [back]

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