English Settlement & A Puritan New England

Introduction:

While I enjoyed reading about William Bradford and his text on Plymouth Plantation, I really enjoyed reading Anne Bradstreet’s poetry because I feel a deeper connection to poetry. I keep a “poetry journal” and often enter in quotes or poetry that I find inspiring or interesting. After reading Bradstreet’s poetry, I entered a few parts of some of her poems into my journal. I love her optimistic and romantic outlook on marriage and relationships. I will comment more on my views of Bradstreet’s poetry later in this blog entry.

William Bradford (1590-1657):

Below is an image of William Bradford in order to better visualize him before reading about him or his works:

I found Bradford to be an interesting individual and respected him as I read about him and his passion and devotion to the welfare of the “pilgrims” or “devout group of separatists” (125). The background information section helped to fill me in on much of the information and basics that I had no known about prior to this reading. I feel that knowing a person’s background before reading text written by them enhances the readings and allows the reader to draw deeper meaning.

Bradfords “Of Plimoth Plantation”:

Below is an image of Plymouth Plantation as a reference point. Before I read Bradford’s work, I looked up images of Plymouth Plantation in order to be able to better visualize imagery while reading:

While I found Bradford’s text on Plymouth Plantation to be a bit long and repetitive at times, I did gain a much deeper understanding about the environment upon settlement at Plymouth Plantation and what life was life. I had to read Bradford’s writing slowly as the language and spelling made it difficult for me to read at the pace I normally would. For example:

“It is well known unto the godly and judicious, how ever since the first breaking out of the lighte of the gospel in our Honourable Nation of England, (which was the first of nations whom the Lord adorned ther with, after that grosse darknes of popery which had covered & overspred the Christian world,) what wars & opposissions ever since, Satan hath raised, maintained, and contined against the Saincts, from time to time, in one sorte or other” (127).

As one can see, the above passage is not only different than what might be used to verbally, it is also a lengthy sentence that requires the reader to slow down in order to absorb meaning. I often found myself re-reading passages in order to fully grasp concepts and ideas.

I like the way that Bradford split his writing up into chapters and gave each heading a chapter; if I were to ever need to do research or wanted to refer back to the reading, I would not have to read the whole text over but could simply refer to the chapter that contained the information I was looking for.

As a Puritan, Bradford attempted to “simplify forms of worship and strip churches of ornamentation” in order to help free people from the constraint that they were feeling in his opinion (126). Bradford describes the people in a positive lights as he explains that they did their best to bear “difficulties very cheerfully & with a resolute courage” but explains that the circumstances they faced were often too much to bear, killing many on both the journey and after settlement in Cape Cod (130).

When Bradford describes their arrival in Cape Cod, I felt sorry and sympathetic toward the travelers as they had no friends or even acquaintances to welcome them and help them to feel at home. Bradford explains:

“Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by that which wente before), they had now no friends to wellcome them, nor inns to entertaine or refresh their weatherbeaten bodys, no houses or much less townes to repaire too, to seeke for succoure” (134).

Plymouth Plantation Through A Modern Lens

After reading about Plymouth Plantation through Bradford’s text, this short section helped to summarize and briefly review some of the key concepts that I had just previously read about. This section explained the meeting of the native population of the Wampanoag Indians and their culture. Below is an image of the Wampanoag Indians. They were hunters and farmers who kept small, but productive fields as they grew maize, squash, pumpkins, and beans:

The narrator explains how the arrival of the pilgrims brought disease upon the natives, killing many. It is also explained that every Thanksgiving, many Native Americans mourn the genocide of the native Wampanoag people at this time in North America.

Wamsutta (Frank B.) James (1923-2001):

The section of the chapter describes a speech that Wamsutta made on the 350th anniversary of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock on September 10, 1970. Below is a picture of Wamsutta for further clarification and visualization:

 

Wamsutta explains his mixed feelings about the success of colonization, yet the destruction of many of his people. As I recognize the pain that one feels losing loved ones today, I can’t even begin to image the hurt that these natives felt as loved ones all around them were lost. Wamsutta explains:

“It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you- celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my people” (149)

I would not like to transition to discuss the poetry of this week’s readings that I enjoyed so much! The two poets who I will discuss are Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor…

Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612-1672):

Below is an image of Anne Bradstreet:

I found it interesting to read that Bradstreet was more educated that most women of her time. Bradstreet didn’t take her intelligence for granted, but instead, spent much of her time writing beautiful poetry. In fact, she may have written the first book of poetry in North America. It is said that Bradstreet wrote poems “primarily as a diversion from the rigors and tedium of colonial life,” however, I have to believe that with all of the work she produced, she must have enjoyed it (167).

Bradstreet’s two poems, “The Author to Her Book” and “Before the Birth of One of Her Children” seem to represent or serve as extended metaphors. The first of the two represents Bradstreet’s perspective as a poet wanting to perfect her “blemished” work and then send it out into the world to be read. Instead of simply stating this idea, Bradstreet uses the metaphor as an imperfect child to represent her initially flawed poetry. In the second poem listed above, Bradstreet expresses her fears of “giving birth” when she really fears the restricted life that a woman of her time lives. Poetry serves to represent her strength and intelligence as she works to resist these restrictions. I am eager to hear what other students have to say about Bradstreet’s poetry in class, as these are only interpretations.

My favorite poem by Bradstreet is titled, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” on page 182. I love that the poem is short and to the point, yet poetic, romantic, and interesting to read the same time. While this poem is able a topic that is often written about, to me, it does not come across as cliché or contrived. Since the poem is short, I will post it below:

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were love by wife, then thee;

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me, ye women, if you can.

I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold

Of all the riches that the Earth doth hold.

My love is such that rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.

Thy love is such I can no way repay,

The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.

Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere

That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Edward Taylor (c. 1642-1729):

Below is an image of Edward Taylor:

After fleeing to New England, Taylor not only became a Puritan minister but also spent time keeping a journal and writing poetry. Taylor’s poems “from specific events to poetry on abstract meditation on religious issues” really caught my attention (238). In his poem titled, “Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children,” Taylor provides an interesting perspective for individuals concerning death; he does not fear death but rather embraces it with the belief that his faith will save him.

Taylor continues to portray his religious beliefs in his poem titled, “Huswifery” on page 241. I like reading Taylor’s poetry, and this poem in particular, because I can relate to many of his views and identify with his perspectives. Taylor explains in this poem that he longs to be closer to God in order to advance his kingdom. The symbol of the spinning wheel is effective as it describes Taylor’s desire to be used by God for his will. I like the image of the spinning wheel as it is a complex instrument with lots of parts needed to function; Taylor explains that God can take everyone’s life and use it for good if people are willing to be molded.

Overall, the readings for this week have been my favorite so far! I really enjoyed the poetry and learning about each of the new characters who make up such important parts of America’s history.

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1 Response to English Settlement & A Puritan New England

  1. What I admire about the Puritans (contrary to the stereotype of their being “cold”) is their passion. We sometimes think of them as hostile to sex, but they celebrated physical and emotional intensity between husband and wife. This comes through in Bradstreet’s poetry. Religious experience is also depicted in passionate terms, like Taylor’s poetry.

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