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ment, who could speak a few words of English which he had picked up from English sailors fishing at Monhegan, off the Maine coast. In a few days he brought another Indian. By means of these two, the Pilgrims established friendly relations with the great chief Massasoit. They were very anxious to do this because they lost fully half their number a few months after landing.
One hundred Pilgrims set sail from Plymouth in England. One died on the way across the ocean, and one was born. Fifty died the first winter, which was for them a terrible one, on account of the privation and suffering they endured, although the season was a mild one for New England. But weakened as they were, and half starving, not one offered to return in the Mayflower, which set out on her voyage back April 15, 1621.
In the November following, came the ship Barbara from England with more people and more supplies. In August, 1623, the Anne and the Little James arrived, the latter sent out to stay with the colony. All coming in these ships are counted in with those who came in the Mayflower, and are called the Pilgrim Forefathers.1
1 For a fuller account, see Young's "Chronicles of the Pilgrims."
"THE COURTSHIP OF MILES STANDISH," if intelligently studied, gives a very good picture of the conditions under which the settlement of Plymouth was begun, and furthermore a very good portrayal of the character of the Pilgrim Fathers. But to get this clearly in mind, it is necessary that every reference, especially those to the Bible, should be followed up.
After the Reformation was established in England and the Puritans began to multiply, they took the Bible as the source of their information as to what they ought to do and what customs they ought to observe. The Old Testament was read as it had never been read before. They likened themselves and their troubles and their deeds to personages and events of the Bible, and phrases and expressions from it were used in daily speech.
Longfellow has perfectly presented this characteristic of these particular Puritans, called Pilgrims. The poem is full of Biblical references, and as every pupil has easy access to a Bible, there can be no better time for giving him some acquaintance with a book without knowledge of which literature in general cannot be understood. The Pilgrims took the Bible to Plymouth with them, intending to draw from it all measures of government and conduct. So it
appears in the poem, even among the few books of Miles Standish, who was not originally a member of their church. It appears also on the table at the council, when they are discussing the war challenge of the Indians.
In "The Courtship of Miles Standish," Longfellow has not presented the historical facts and events exactly as they occurred. He has used with them what we call poetic license- that is, he has brought them in where they best suited the story, whether they took place in just that order or not. If he were writing history, we should not be willing to have this done. But in poetry it is permitted. The action of the tale is supposed to take place during the first year of the settlement, but in reality the events which are related occupied the first four years. For instance, the expedition against the Indians on which Miles Standish marched away was not undertaken until the third year. So, too, the converting of their first fort into a church with cannon mounted on its roof was not accomplished until later.
The chief actors in this little love story are Miles Standish, John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins.
In 1584 Queen Elizabeth took the part of the United Provinces (as Holland was then called), which were contending for their independence against Spain. She made a league with them, and sent them men and money. From that time on, there were always
English soldiers fighting in the Dutch armies until Holland was free. Among these soldiers was Captain Miles Standish. He was originally from Lancashire, England, where his family had established two homes, Standish Hall and Duxbury Park, owing to religious differences in which one branch became Protestant while the other remained Catholic. Miles Standish was presumed to be of the Protestant branch of Duxbury Park from the fact of his throwing in his lot with the Pilgrims, and later naming his estate in the New World, Duxbury. He was thought to be heir to certain family properties of which he had been deprived, and hence to be seeking his fortune in the war in Holland. While there, he fell in with the Pilgrims, and having taken a great liking to them, resolved to join them when they decided to sail for America. Although he was not of their church, they welcomed him to their ranks, for they felt that they would very much need a man of his sort in their new settlement. He went in the Mayflower, accompanied by his wife Rose, who died in those first terrible months. He had probably reached middle-age.
John Alden was among those from England who joined the Holland Pilgrims at Southampton, and was said to be a cooper. He was a much younger man. Longfellow calls him a "stripling," and in the poem (line 20) he is said to be the youngest man who came in the Mayflower. He was very different from Miles
Standish, being a student, while the other was a soldier.
There is reason to think that Priscilla Mullins was of Huguenot extraction, her people probably being refugees in England after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572. The name was perhaps anglicized from Molines, or possibly Moulins. Lines 269 to 275 imply that she was familiar with English life and scenery, but she does not speak of Holland. Hence it is clear that Longfellow does not place her among the Leyden Pilgrims. He hints that there was an acquaintance between her and John Alden before they sailed from England, and that John Alden followed her over the ocean, whither she was accompanied by her father, mother, and brother. This is not likely, as in that case the attachment between them would have been so apparent to the people about them that Miles Standish would never have thought of wooing her. John Alden formed a close friendship with Miles Standish on the voyage over, but it is more than likely that the feeling of both men for Priscilla was kindled after the founding of Plymouth. The poet has utilized the little that is known about her to describe her with such tender grace that she has served ever since as the ideal of New England maidenhood.
Like "Evangeline," the greatest of Longfellow's poems, "The Courtship of Miles Standish" is written in dactylic hexameter - the same metre in which are