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“Must I relinquish it all, the joy, the hope, the illu
sion ? Was it for this I have loved, and waited, and wor
shipped in silence ? Was it for this I have followed the flying feet and the
shadow Over the wintry sea, to the desolate shores of New
England ? Truly the heart is deceitful, and out of its depths of
corruption Rise, like an exhalation, the misty phantoms of passion; Angels of light they seem, but are only delusions of
Satan. All is clear to me now; I feel it, I see it distinctly! This is the hand of the Lord; it is laid upon me in
anger, For I have followed too much the heart's desires and devices,
205 Worshipping Astaroth blindly, and impious idols of
198, 199 Longfellow supposes Alden's attachment to have begun in England. See the sketch of the poem in the preface.
206 Astaroth and Baal: these were Phænician deities, Astaroth, also spelled Astarte, being about the same as the Roman Venus. Look up Judges ii. 12, 13, and I Samuel xii. 10. What Commandment was broken by such worship?
This is the cross I must bear; the sin and the swift
So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went
on his errand; Crossing the brook at the ford, where it brawled over
pebble and shallow, Gathering still, as he went, the Mayflowers blooming
around him, Fragrant, filling the air with a strange and wonderful
sweetness, Children lost in the woods, and covered with leaves in
their slumber. “Puritan flowers," he said, "and the type of Puritan
maidens, Modest and simple and sweet, the very type of Pris
cilla! So I will take them to her; to Priscilla the Mayflower of Plymouth,
210 Mayflowers: the trailing arbutus. The name is applied in England to the hawthorn. It is said that the Pilgrims called the trailing arbutus thus after the hawthorn of their old home.
208, 209 These lines would seem to indicate that there were other houses in the settlement that winter than the little cluster on Ley. den St. Another instance of poetic license.
212 What story is referred to ?
Modest and simple and sweet, as a parting gift will I
take them; Breathing their silent farewells, as they fade and
wither and perish, Soon to be thrown away as is the heart of the
giver." So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on
his errand; Came to an open space, and saw the disk of the
ocean, Sailless, sombre and cold with the comfortless breath
of the east-wind; Saw the new-built house, and people at work in a
meadow; Heard, as he drew near the door, the musical voice of
Priscilla Singing the hundredth Psalm, the grand old Puritan
anthem, Music that Luther sang to the sacred words of the Psalmist,
225 Full of the breath of the Lord, consoling and comfort
224 Who wrote the words of the hundredth Psalm?
225 Who was Luther? Who was the Psalmist, and why was he so called ?
226 Look up Genesis ii. 7.
Then, as he opened the door, he beheld the form of
the maiden Seated beside her wheel, and the carded wool like a
snow-drift Piled at her knee, her white hands feeding the raven
ous spindle, While with her foot on the treadle she guided the wheel in its motion.
230 Open wide on her lap lay the well-worn psalm-book of
Ainsworth, Printed in Amsterdam, the words and the music to
gether, Rough-hewn, angular notes, like stones in the wall of
a churchyard, Darkened and overhung by the running vine of the
228 Wheel: what sort of wheel is this? Can you give a descrip tion of it? Where did she get the wool?
229 Ravenous: why is the spindle called ravenous ?
231 Ainsworth: a saintly leader and teacher among the Puritans. He was forced to remove to Holland, and there occupied his life with writings on the different books of the Bible. He died about 1622.
233, 234 A good description of a page of the hymn book. The art of printing was introduced in 1454. The use of such an art grows slowly, so that after the lapse of a century and a half the printing was still rough.
Such was the book from whose pages she sang the old Puritan anthem,
235 She, the Puritan girl, in the solitude of the forest, Making the humble house and the modest apparel of
homespun Beautiful with her beauty, and rich with the wealth of
her being ! Over him rushed, like a wind that is keen and cold
and relentless, Thoughts of what might have been, and the weight and woe of his errand;
240 All the dreams that had faded, and all the hopes that
had vanished, All his life henceforth a dreary and tenantless man
sion, Haunted by vain regrets, and pallid, sorrowful faces. Still he said to himself, and almost fiercely he said it, “Let not him that putteth his hand to the plough look backwards ;
245 Though the ploughshare cut through the flowers of
life to its fountains,
237, 238 Compare these lines from Herbert's “Elixir":
“Who sweeps a room as by Thy laws
Makes that and the action fine." 246 Look up Luke ix. 62.