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THE COURTSHIP OF MILES STANDISH
In the Old Colony days, in Plymouth the land of the Pilgrims,
To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling,
1 Old Colony: this name was applied to Plymouth after the settlements were made about Massachusetts Bay in 1628, 1630.
Pilgrims: look up Hebrews xi. 13. See also the sketch in the preface.
2 The Pilgrims built seven dwelling-houses that first winter besides three or four houses for the use of the plantation and a. platform on a small bluff, on which they mounted five guns. The houses were arranged along a short thoroughfare near the water, called Leyden St., from the city in Holland where they had lived. They were really log-cabins made of tree-trunks rough-hewn from the forest, with the cracks filled in with mud or mortar. The roofs were of thatch. Thatch roofs are common in England, where they are made of wheat or rye straw. But the Pilgrims, having no such thing, were obliged to use dry grass or rushes.
It was impossible to bring very much household furniture with them in the ship. Much was fashioned more or less skilfully after their landing. The Plymouth Museum contains an interesting collection of their cooking-utensils, a few chairs, desk, cradle, etc.
Clad in doublet and hose, and boots of Cordovan
Strode, with a martial air, Miles Standish the Puritan Captain.
Buried in thought he seemed, with his hands behind him, and pausing 5
Ever and anon to behold his glittering weapons of warfare,
Hanging in shining array along the walls of the chamber,—
Cutlass and corselet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus,
Curved at the point and inscribed with its mystical Arabic sentence,
3 Cordovan: locate Cordova. Cordovan leather was a famous preparation of goat skin.
4 Miles Standish: see the sketch of the poem in the preface.
aDamascus: locate it. The Saracens were skilful workers of the metals, and the blades manufactured at Damascus were particularly fine. The steel was often given a watered appearance and swords were engraved with some sacred word or phrase, like the word “ Kismet,” meaning fate. To show the finely tempered edge of these Arabic weapons, the story is told in Scott’s “Talisman” of the Saladin having a trial of skill with Richard Coeur de Lion of England. The Saladin tossed a down cushion into the air, and as it fell, neatly sliced it in two with his curved blade.
Both the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth claim to have the sword of Miles Standish. It is quite possible that he had more than one.
While underneath, in a corner, were fowling-piece,
musket, and matchlock. 10 Short of stature he was, but strongly built and athletic,
Broad in the shoulders, deep-chested, with muscles and sinews of iron; Brown as a nut was his face, but his russet beard was
Flaked with patches of snow, as hedges sometimes in November.
Near him was seated John Alden, his friend and household companion, 15
Writing with diligent speed at a table of pine by the window;
Fair-haired, azure-eyed, with delicate Saxon complexion,
Having the dew of his youth, and the beauty thereof, as the captives
Whom Saint Gregory saw, and exclaimed, “Not Angles but Angels.”
15 John Alden: see the sketch of the poem in the preface.
18 Dew of his youth: give the meaning of this expression in your awn language.
19 Saint Gregory: a Roman monk of the Benedictine order who afterwards became one of the greatest of the Popes. It was while a monk that he saw in the slave market at Rome some English captives. A Teutonic tribe called Angles had overrun Britain and the Romans called the inhabitants of the island by their name. So fair were the faces of the captiVes that the good monk exclaimed, “ Non Angli sed Angeli," that is, “ not Angles but angels.” When Saint Gregory became Pope, he sent Saint Augustine over to England to convert them to Christianity.
Youngest of all was he of the men who came in the Mayflower. 2°
Suddenly breaking the silence, the diligent scribe
Spake, in the pride of his heart, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth.
“ Look at these arms,” he said, “the warlike weapons that hang here
Burnished and bright and clean, as if for parade or inspection!
This is the sword of Damascus I fought with in Flanders; this breastplate, 25
Well I remember the day! once saved my life in a skirmish;
Here in front you can see the very dint of the bullet
21 Scribe: from the Latin word which means to write. It is used constantly in the Bible to mean the people whose profession it was to copy out the Scriptures, as there was no printing in those days. The Jews got all their laws from the Scriptures, and hence the scribes were their lawyers. Look up Luke v. 17. With whom are they often associated in the New Testament? To whom does the word refer here '2 Why ?
Fired point-blank at my heart by a Spanish arcabu1 cero.
Had it not been of sheer steel, the forgotten bones of Miles Standish
Would at this moment be mould, in their grave in the Flemish morasses.” - 3o
Thereupon answered John Alden, but looked not up from his writing:
“Truly the breath of the Lord hath slackened the speed of the bullet;
He in his mercy preserved you, to be our shield and our weapon ! ”
Still the Captain continued, unheeding the words of the stripling:
“ See, how bright they are burnished, as . if in an arsenal hanging; 35
That is because I have done it myself, and not left it to others.
Serve yourself, would you be well served, is an excellent adage;
So I take care of my arms, as you of your pens and your inkhorn.
29 Arcabucero: formerly a Spanish archer, now a Spanish soldier who shoots, with any sort of weapon.
32- 88 This is an instance of how the Pilgrims made use oi phrases from the Bible in ordinary speech.