In September I will start teaching a new course I have devised called ‘Paradise in Early Modern English Literature’. So I will on this blog occasionally look at texts that use the Garden of Eden as an idea or point of reference.
I intended to set off with an informal essay on William Morrell’s New-England. Or A briefe enarration of the ayre, earth, water, fish and fowles of that country (1625) but repeatedly found that I was stumbling over the sense of the text. No doubt a scholarly edition will have been produced by someone, but I had no access to such, nor will my students have one, so I here present a reading edition of the poem.
I have modernized spelling, made amendments as best I could where the printed text makes no obvious sense, and added some notes.
Morrell’s English version is an expansive version of his original Latin. I did spend a deal of time trying to compare the two texts, especially when trying to make sense of his English version (which sometimes or often has the stilted manner of a translation). I found this hard to do; I would need a Latinist to help me.
Things to look out for in this work are Morrell’s close attention to the native Indians (though, in his interested sympathy, he projects a lot of incipiently Christian belief onto them). His ethnographical account culminates with his description of the appearance, art, agriculture and personal politics of the Indian women. Morrell reports the Indian men mocking the Europeans for letting their women lead such leisured lives. New England (Morrell’s use of the term is actually an OED antedating) really emerges as a potential Eden. He tries to stress its natural abundance, but is too truthful to conceal either its extremes of weather or the potential danger of the native population. He represents New England as a sound business opportunity with resources which will repay “their Merchants debt and interest”.
New-England. Or A briefe enarration of the ayre, earth, water, fish and fowles of that country.[i]
Feare not poore Muse, 'cause first to sing her fame,
That’s yet scarce known, unless by Map or name;
A Grand-childe to earth’s Paradise is borne,
Well limb’d, well nerv’d, faire, rich, sweet, yet forlorn.
Thou blest director so direct my Verse,
That it may win her people, friends commerce;
Whilst her sweet air, rich soil, blest Seas, my pen
Shall blaze, and tell the natures of her men.[ii]
New-England, happy in her new true stile,
Weary of her cause she’s to sad exile
Expos’d by heirs[iii] unworthy of her Land,
Entreats with tears Great Britain to command
Her Empire, and to make her know the time,
Whose act and knowledge only makes divine.
A Royal work well worthy England’s King,
These Natives to true truth and grace to bring.
A Noble work for all these Noble Peers
Which guide this State in their superior spheres.[iv]
You holy Aarons[v] let your Censers ne’er
Cease burning, till these men Jehovah fear.
Westward a thousand leagues a spacious land,
Is made unknown to them that it command.
Of fruitful mould, and no less fruitless main[vi]
Enrich’d with springs and prey, high land and plain.
The light, well temp’red, humid air, whose breath
Fills full all concaves betwixt heaven and earth,
So that the Region of the air is blest
With what Earths mortals wish to be possest.
Great Titan darts on her his heavenly rays,
Whereby extremes he quells, and oversways.
Blest is this air with what the air can bless;
Yet frequent gusts do much this place distress
Here unseen gusts do instant onset give,
As heaven and earth they would together drive.
An instant power doth surprise their rage,
In their vast prison, and their force assuage.[vii]
Thus in exchange a day or two is spent,
In smiles and frowns: in great yet no content.
The earth grand-parent to all things on earth,
Cold, dry, and heavy, and the next beneath
The air by Natures arm with low descents,
Is as it were entrencht; again ascents
Mount up to heaven by Jove’s omnipotence,
Whose looming greenness joys the Seaman’s sense.
Invites him to a land if he can see,
Worthy the Thrones of stately sovereignty.[viii]
The fruitful and well watered earth doth glad
All hearts; when Flora with her spangles clad,
And yields an hundred fold for one,
To feed the Bee and to invite the drone.[ix]
O happy Planter[x] if you knew the height
Of Planter’s honours where there’s such delight;
There Nature’s bounties though not planted are,[xi]
Great store and sorts of berries great and faire:
The Filbert, Cherry, and the fruitful Vine,
Which cheers the heart and makes it more divine.
Earths spangled beauties pleasing smell and sight;
Objects for gallant choice and chief delight.
A ground-Nut there runs on a grassy thread,
Along the shallow earth, as in a bed,
Yellow without, thin, film’d, sweet, lily white,
Of strength to feed and cheer the appetite. [xii]
From these our natures may have great content,
And good subsistence when our means is spent.
With these the Natives do their strength maintain
The Winter season, which time they retain
Their pleasant virtue, but if once the Spring
Return, they are not worth the gathering.[xiii]
All ore that Maine the Vernant[xiv] trees abound,
Where Cedar, Cypress, Spruce, and Beech are found.
Ash, Oak, and Walnut, Pines and Juniper;
The Hazel, Palm, and hundred more are there.
There’s grass and herbs contenting man and beast,
On which both Dear, and Bears, and Wolves do feast.
Foxes both gray and black, (though black I never
Beheld,[xv]) with Muscats[xvi], Lynxs, Otter, Beaver;
With many other which I here omit,
Fit for to warm us, and to feed us fit.
The Fowls that in those Bays and Harbours breed,
Though in their seasons they do else-where breed,
Are Swans and Geese, Herne, Pheasants, Duck & Crane,
Culvers and Divers all along the Maine:
The Turtle, Eagle, Partridge, and the Quail,
Knot, Plover, Pigeons, which do never fail,
Till Summer’s heat commands them to retire,
And Winter’s cold begets their old desire.[xvii]
With these sweet dainties man is sweetly fed,
With these rich feathers Ladies plume their head;
Here’s flesh and feathers both for use and ease,
To feed, adorn, and rest thee if thou please.[xviii]
The treasures got, on earth, by Titan’s beams,
They best may search that have best art and means.[xix]
The air and earth if good, are blessings rare,
But when with these the waters blessed are,
The place is complete, here each pleasant spring,
Is like those fountains where the Muses sing.
The easy channels gliding to the East,
Unless oreflowed, then post to be releas’d,
The Ponds and places where the waters stay,
Content the Fowler with all pleasant prey.
Thus air and earth and water give content,
And highly honour this rich Continent.
As Nature hath this Soil blest, so each port
Abounds with bliss, abounding all report.
The careful Naucleare[xx] may a-far descry
The land by smell, as’t looms below the sky.
The prudent Master there his Ship may moor,
Past wind and weather, then his God adore,
Man forth each Shallop with three men to Sea,
Which oft return with wondrous store of prey;
As Oysters, Crayfish, Crab, and Lobsters great,
In great abundance when the Seas retreat:
Tortoise[xxi], and Herring, Turbot, Hake and Bass,
With other small fish, and fresh bleeding Plaice;
The mighty Whale doth in these Harbours lye,
Whose Oil the careful Merchant dear will buy.
Besides all these and others in this Maine:
The costly Cod doth march with his rich train:
With which the Sea-man fraughts his merry Ship:
With which the Merchant doth much riches get:
With which Plantations richly may subsist,
And pay their Merchants debt and interest.
Thus air and earth, both land and Sea yields store
Of Nature’s dainties both to rich and poor;
To whom if heavens a holy Viceroy give,
The state and people may most richly live:[xxii]
And there erect a Pyramy of estate,
Which only sin and Heaven can ruinate.[xxiii]
Let deep discretion this great work attend,
What’s well begun for’th’most part well doth end:
So may our people peace and plenty find,
And kill the Dragon that would kill mankind.[xxiv]
Those well seen Natives in grave Nature’s hests,
All close designs conceal in their deep breasts:
What strange attempts so ere they do intend,
Are fairly usher’d in, till their last end.[xxv]
Their well advised talk evenly conveys
Their acts to their intents, and ne’er displays
Their secret projects, by high words or light,[xxvi]
Till they conclude their end by fraud or might.
No former friendship they in mind retain,
If you offend once, or your love detain:[xxvii]
They’re wondrous cruel, strangely base and vile,
Quickly displeas’d, and hardly reconcil’d;
Stately and great, as read in Rules of state:
Incens’d, not caring what they perpetrate.
Whose hair is cut with greeces[xxviii], yet a lock
Is left; the left side bound up in a knot:
Their males small labour but great pleasure know,
Who nimbly and expertly draw the bow;[xxix]
Train’d up to suffer cruel heat and cold,
Or what attempt so ere may make them bold;
Of body straight, tall, strong, mantled in skin
Of Deer or Beaver, with the hair-side in:
An Otter skin their right arms doth keep warm,
To keep them fit for use, and free from harm·
A Girdle set with forms of birds or beasts,
Begirts their waste, which gently gives them ease.
Each one doth modestly bind up his shame,
And Deer-skin Start-ups reach up to the same;[xxx]
A kind of Pinsen[xxxi] keeps their feet from cold,
Which after travels they put off, up-fold,
Themselves they warm, their ungirt limbs they rest
In straw, and houses, like to sties: distressed
With Winter’s cruel blasts, a hotter clime
They quickly march to, when that extreme time
Is over, then contented they retire
To their old homes, burning up all with fire.
Thus they their ground from all things quickly clear,
And make it apt great store of Corn to bear.
Each people[xxxii] hath his[xxxiii] orders, state, and head,
By which they’re rul’d, taught, ordered, and lead.
The first is by descent their Lord and King,
Pleas’d in his name likewise and governing:
The consort of his bed must be of blood
Coequal, when an off-spring comes as good,
And highly bred in all high parts of state,
As their Commanders of whom they’re prognate[xxxiv].
If they unequal loves at Hymen’s hand
Should take, that vulgar seed would ne’er command
In such high dread, great state and deep decrees
Their Kingdoms, as their Kings of high degrees:
Their Kings give laws, rewards to those they give,
That in good order, and high service live.
The aged Widow and the Orphans all,
Their Kings maintain, and strangers when they call,
They entertain with kind salute for which,
In homage, they have part of what's most rich.[xxxv]
These heads are guarded with their stoutest men,
By whose advice and skill, how, where, and when,
They enterprise all acts of consequence,
Whether offensive or for safe defence.
These Potents do invite all once a year,
To give a kind of tribute to their peer.[xxxvi]
And here observe thou how each childe[xxxvii] is train’d,
To make him fit for Arms he is constrain’d
To drink a potion made of herbs most bitter,
Till turn’d to blood with casting, whence he’s fitter,
Enduring that to undergo the worst
Of hard attempts, or what may hurt him most.[xxxviii]
The next in order are their well seen men
In herbs and roots, and plants, for medicine,
With which by touch, with clamors, tears, and sweat,
With their curst Magic, as themselves they beat,
They quickly ease: but when they cannot save,
But are by death surpris’d, then with the grave
The devil tells them he could not dispence;
For God hath kill’d them for some great offence.[xxxix]
The lowest people are as servants are,
Which do themselves for each command prepare:
They may not marry nor Tobacco use,
Till certain years, least they themselves abuse.
At which years to each one is granted leave,
A wife, or two, or more, for to receive; [xl]
By having many wives, two things they have,
First, children, which before all things to save
They covet, 'cause by them their Kingdoms fill’d,
When as by fate or Arms their lives are spill’d.
Whose death as all that die they sore lament,
And fill the skies with cries: impatient
Of nothing more then pale and fearful death,
Which old and young bereaves of vital breath;
Their dead wrapt up in Mats to th’grave they give,
Upright from th’knees, with goods whilst they did live,
Which they best lov’d: their eyes turn’d to the East,
To which after much time, to be releas’t
They all must March, where all shall all things have
That heart can wish, or they themselves can crave.[xli]
A second profit which by many wives
They have, is Corn, the staff of all their lives.
All are great eaters, he’s most rich whose bed
Affords him children, profit, pleasure, bread.
But if fierce Mars, begins his bow to bend,
Each King stands on his guard, seeks to defend
Himself, and his, and therefore hides his grain
In earth’s close concaves, to be fetch’d again
If he survives: thus saving of himself,
He acts much mischief, and retains his wealth.
By this deep wile, the Irish long withstood
The English power, whilst they kept their food,[xlii]
Their strength of life their Corn; that lost, they long
Could not withstand this Nation, wise, stout, strong.
By this one Art, these Natives oft survive
Their great’st opponents, and in honour thrive.
Besides, their women, which for th’most part are
Of comely forms, not black, nor very fair:
Whose beauty is a beauteous black laid on
Their paler cheek, which they most dote upon.[xliii]
For they by Nature are both fair and white,
Enricht with graceful presence, and delight;
Deriding laughter, and all prattling, and
Of sober aspect, graced with grave command:
Of man-like courage, stature tall and straight,
Well nerv’d, with hands and fingers small and right.
Their slender fingers of a grassie twine,
Make well form’d Baskets wrought with art and line;
A kind of Arras, or Straw-hangings, wrought
With divers forms, and colours, all about.
These gentle pleasures, their fine fingers fit,
Which Nature seem’d to frame rather to sit.
Rare Stories, Princes, people, Kingdoms, Towers,
In curious finger-work, or Parchment flowers:
Yet are these hands to labours all intent,
And what so ere without doors, give content.
These hands do dig the earth, and in it lay
Their faire choice Corn, and take the weeds away
As they do grow, raising with earth each hill,
As Ceres prospers to support it still.
Thus all work women do, whilst men in play,
In hunting, Arms, and pleasures, end the day.
The Indians whilst our Englishmen they see
In all things servile exercis’d to be:
And all our women freed, from labour all
Unless what’s easy: us much fools they call,
'Cause men do all things; but our women live
In that content which God to man did give:[xliv]
Each female likewise long retains deep wrath,
And’s ne’er appeas’d till wrongs reveng’d she hath:
For they when foreign Princes Arms up take
Against their Liege, quickly themselves betake
To th’adverse Army, where they’re entertain’d
With kind salutes, and presently are dain’d
Worthy faire Hymen’s favours: thus offence
Obtains by them an equal recompense.[xlv]
Lastly, though they no lines, nor Altars know,
Yet to an unknown God these people bow;[xlvi]
All fear some God, some God they worship all,
On whom in trouble and distress they call;
To whom of all things they give sacrifice,
Filling the air with their shrill shrieks and cries.
The knowledge of this God they say they have
From their forefathers, wondrous wise and grave;
Who told them of one God, which did create
All things at first, himself though increate:
He our first parents made, yet made but two,
One man one woman, from which stock did grow
Royal mankind,[xlvii] of whom they also came
And took beginning, being, form and frame:
Who gave them holy laws, for aye to last,
Which each must teach his childe till time be past:
Their gross fed bodies yet no Letters know,
No bonds nor bills they value, but their vow.
Thus without Art’s bright lamp, by Nature’s eye,
They keep just promise, and love equity.
But if once discord his fierce ensign wear,
Expect no promise unless’t be for fear:
And, though these men no Letters know, yet their
Pan’s harsher numbers we may somewhere hear:
And vocal odes which us affect with grief;
Though to their minds perchance they give relief.
Besides these rude insights in Nature’s breast,[xlviii]
Each man by some means is with sense possess’t
Of heaven’s great lights, bright stars and influence,
But chiefly those of great experience:
Yet they no feasts (that I can learn) observe,
Besides their Ceres, which doth them preserve.[xlix]
No days by them discern’d from other days,
For holy certain service kept always.[l]
Yet they when extreme heat doth kill their Corn,
Afflict themselves some days, as men forlorn.
Their times they count not by the year as we,
But by the Moon their times distinguish’t be.
Not by bright Phoebus, or his glorious light,
But by his Phoebe and her shadowed night.[li]
They now accustom’d are two Gods to serve,
One good, which gives all good, and doth preserve;
This they for love adore: the other bad,
Which hurts and wounds, yet they for fear are glad
To worship him:[lii] see here a people who
Are full of knowledge, yet do nothing know
Of God aright; yet say his Laws are good
All, except one, whereby their will’s withstood.
In having many wives, if they but one
Must have, what must they do when they have none.
O how far short comes Nature of true grace,[liii]
Grace sees God here; hereafter face to face:
But Nature quite enerv’d[liv] of all such right,
Retains not one poor sparkle of true light.
And now what soul dissolves not into tears,
That hell must have ten thousand thousand heirs,
Which have no true light of that truth divine,
Or sacred wisdome of th’Eternal Trine.[lv]
O blessed England far beyond all sense,
That knows and loves this Trine’s omnipotence.
In brief survey here water, earth, and air,
A people proud, and what their orders are.
The fragrant flowers, and the Vernant Groves,
The merry Shores, and Storm-affronting Coves.
In brief, a brief of what may make man blest,
If man’s content abroad can be possessed.[lvi]
If these poor lines may win this Country love,
Or kind compassion in the English move;
Persuade our mighty and renowned State,
This poor-blind people to commiserate;
Or painful men to this good Land invite,
Whose holy works these Natives may inlight:[lvii]
If Heavens grant these, to see here built I trust;
An English Kingdome from this Indian dust.
Excuse this Postscript, perchance more profitable than the Prescript. It may be a necessary Caveat for many who too familiarly do Serò sapere[lviii]. The discreet artificer is not only happy to understand what may fairly and infallibly further his duly considered designs and determinations: but to discover and remove what obstacle soever may oppose his well-advised purposes, and probable conclusions. I therefore, desiring that every man may be a Promethius, not an Epimethius, have here underwritten such impediments as I have observed wonderfully offensive to all Plantations[lix]; Quae prodesse quant & delectare legentem.[lx]
First therefore I conceive that far distance of plantations produce many inconveniences and disabilities of planters, when as several Colonies consist but of twenty, or thirty, or about that number, which in a vast uncommanded Continent, makes them liable to many and miserable exigents[lxi], which weakens all union, and leaves them difficultly to be assisted against a potent or daily enemy, and dangerously to be commanded; when as some one Bay well fortified would maintain and enrich some thousands of persons, if it be planted with men, able, ingenious, and laborious, being well furnished with all provisions and necessaries for plantations. Besides, if one Bay be well peopled, it’s easily defended, surveyed, disciplined, and commanded, be the seasons never so unseasonable, and all their Forces in few hours ready in Arms, either offensively to pursue, or defensively to subsist convenient numbers ever at sea, and sufficient ever at home for all service, intelligence and discovery.
Secondly, Ignorance of seasons, servants, situation, want of people, provisions, supplies, with resolution, courage and patience, in and against all opposition, distress, and affliction. Vincit patientia durum[lxii]. Fishermen, manual artificers, engineers, and good fowlers are excellent servants, and only fit for plantations. Let not Gentlemen or Citizens once imagine that I prejudize their reputations, for I speak no word beyond truth, for they are too high, or not patient of such service: though they may be very necessary for Martial discipline, or excellent, (if pious) for example to the seditious and inconsiderate multitude.[lxiii]
Boats with all their furniture, as sails, hooks, and lines, and other appendences, afford the paineful planter both variety of comfort, and a sufficient competent, and an happy estate. Good mastiffs are singular defences to plantations, in the terrifying or pursuing of the light-footed Natives.[lxiv] Hogs and Goats are easy, present, and abundant profit, living and feeding on the Islands almost without any care or cost.
Plantations cannot possibly, profitably subsist without chattels and boats, which are the only means for surveying and conveying both our persons and provisions to the well advised situation. Without these, plantations may with much patience, and well fortified resolution endure but difficultly, though with much time flourish and contentedly subsist. For when men are landed upon an unknown shore, per adventure weak in number and natural powers, for want of boats and carriages, are compelled to stay where they are first landed, having no means to remove themselves or their goods, be the place never so fruitless or inconvenient for planting, building houses, boats, or stages, or the harbours never so unfit for fishing, fowling, or mooring their boats[lxv]. Of all which, and many other things necessary for plantation, I purpose to inform thee hereafter.[lxvi] Wishing thee in the interim all furtherance, all fortunateness.
[i] This is 1625: OED does not record ‘New England’ before 1638. See line 2, which implies a wider circulation of the term. ‘Enarration’, used in English between 1570 and the early 19th century meant ‘A description, detailed story or narrative’ (OED).
[ii] Morrell will praise the land first, then simply ‘tell’ ‘the natures of her men’.
[iii] ‘heirs’ - ‘her’s’ in the 1625 text may be a misprint. New England, personified, begs Great Britain to take charge of governing her empire because ‘heirs’ unworthy of her are making her exile sad (?). This would seem to apply to the native peoples, as King James is then asked to undertake the worthy royal work of bringing the ‘natives’ ‘to true truth and grace’ – Christianity.
[iv] The Privy Council
[v] Aarons: churchmen
[vi] Via a contorted double negative, Morrell says that the ‘maine’, the sea, is there as fruitful as the ‘mould’, the soil.
[vii] Morrell starts on the air of New England, a typical early modern priority about the healthiness of a place. The air is good, but prone to sudden violent gusts of wind. But these sudden tempests are just as quickly stilled by an ‘instant power’ (Morrell implies a heavenly providence), which re-imprisons the air in its heavenly vault, and so any bad weather is over in a day or two. An alternation between great ‘content’ and unsatisfactory absence of ‘content’ seems to be intended.
[viii] Morrell now turns to the earth which, by nature’s power lies beneath the air, low as if entrenched. But then again, hills, ‘ascents’ reach up towards heaven; and the sea-farer sees these first.
[ix] The fruitful soil has many ‘spangles’ (flowers), and yields 100 grains for one seed grain planted. Morrell is thinking about corn.
[x] ‘Planter’ meant one who cultivated the soil, and then from 1587 onwards, a colonist.
[xi] Morrell says that New England has the Edenic quality of displaying nature’s bounty without crops having to be sowed.
[xii] Morrell’s use of ‘ground nut’ antedates the OED’s first recorded usage, which is from 1636. His reference is not to the peanut, but Apios Americana:
“When European explorers first visited the New World they found the naives eating the seeds and tubers of Apios Americana.”
[xiii] See prior footnote - “The succulent vine is killed by freezing temperatures and will deteriorate during the winter.”
[xiv] Morrell’s Latin uses the same word, meaning ‘flourishing’, but ‘vernant’ itself was used in English c1440-1660.
[xv] Morrell’s Latin does not seem to specify two types of foxes, nor include the reservation that he didn’t himself witness a black fox. They would probably have been the same animals viewed from different angles. A black fox is also called a ‘silver’ fox because of white-tipped hairs on the rump. See
“in North America, black foxes are relatively common”.
[xvi] ‘muscat’ means the musk cat or civet (which secretes musk).
[xvii] Morrell notes seasonal changes in the bird population. ‘Hernes’ are herons, ‘culvers’ doves or pigeons.
[xviii] i.e., feathers for feather beds.
[xix] Morrell refers to veins of gold, which was believed to be produced by the influence of the sun. He lets one infer that none have been found, but that a search by experienced prospectors has yet to be made.
[xx] Not in the OED, the word may relate to an ancient Greek word meaning ‘shipowner’. The detail of it being possible to smell the land before it comes into view (from a ship) does not seem to be in the Latin version.
[xxi] A large and heavy-shelled shell fish. The OED cites R. Eden, 1555, Decades of New World, “In Cuba, are founde great Tortoyses (which are certeyne shell fysshes) of such byggenesse that tenne or fyfteene men are scarsely able to lyfte one of them owt of the water.”
[xxii] New England requires only an appointed Viceroy to govern it.
[xxiii] And with a viceroy set in charge, New England will become a state as long lasting as the pyramids. Aware of the fragility of the North American colonies, Morrell says that it can last unless brought to ruin by sin or heaven (i.e., the latter punishing the former).
[xxiv] i.e., may the settlers enjoy an Eden, but here destroy Satan.
[xxv] Morrell has just reflected that such a fair beginning promises a good outcome for the colony. He now turns to the native Americans, who also seem promising, ‘well seen’ as he puts it, in appearance. But they conceal motives that end in fraud or violence.
[xxvi] The natives will appear neither angry (with ‘high’ words spoken) or merry (speaking ‘light’ words)
[xxvii] The native people will turn on you if you detain your former love from them, or offend them.
[xxviii] Morrell seems to be saying that their hair is cut in steps, ‘greeces’, apart from the longer lock on the left side.
[xxix] Morrell will pointedly contrast the way that in native cultures, the women do all the hard work, with the ease enjoyed by European women, in which culture men do all the physical labour. Perhaps because hunting was seen as a sport, Morrell does not credit the hunting carried out by male natives as work.
[xxx] ‘start-ups’ here seems to mean gaiters, leg bindings.
[xxxi] A ‘pinsen’ was a shoe without a heel or pump: Morrell is of course describing moccasins.
[xxxii] Morrell recognises different tribes.
[xxxiii] We would say, each tribe has its upper ranks.
[xxxiv] The text reads ‘they’rs prognate’. ‘Prognate’ (cited from here in the OED) means offspring, descendents. The offspring of a marriage between two high status individuals are accepted as leaders in their turn.
[xxxv] The kings, in return for entertaining visitors from other nations, receive gifts from them.
[xxxvi] Morrell notes annual ceremonies of homage.
[xxxvii] I have not modernized to ‘child’: Morrell seems to mean, ‘youth approaching manhood’, so I have retained the spelling with a final e, latterly used to distinguish from ‘child’.
[xxxviii] An initiation rite at which emetic herbs are drunk. From this ordeal, the brave emerges better able to face the hardships of battle, etc.
[xxxix] Medicine: their doctors are ‘well seen’ in arts that blend from knowledge of herbs
into devil-inspired magic. When cures fail, the devil informs the patient
(via the shamanic doctor) that he or she must die for some sin they have
committed. There is possibly a faint memory here of Cornelius speaking to
Faustus at the start of Marlowe’s play: “The miracles that magic will perform
/ Will make thee vow to study nothing else. / He that is grounded in astrology,
Enrich'd with tongues, well seen in minerals, / Hath all the principles magic doth require.”
[xl] Morrell asserts the willingness of the lowest orders to be given their orders. He seems to say that such people (and only such) may not marry till they have reached a certain age, nor may they smoke tobacco. Morrell may be reporting facts, but he may also be thinking of truculent English lower classes, apprentices who could not marry till they were out of their apprenticeships, and King James’s attempts to restrict tobacco taking.
[xli] Burial rites, and belief in a paradisal afterlife located in the East. Again, Morrell’s report of the native peoples may be tinged by Christian beliefs in a heavenly Jerusalem, etc.
[xlii] Morrell jumps from native American to native Irish practices of hoarding grain underground in times of war.
[xliii] So Morrell comes to the native Eve’s of this Eden. He tries to express the beauty of darker eyebrows and eye lashes against a skin of pale brown coloration. He is impressed by the taciturnity they share with their menfolk, and by their ‘well nerved’ (muscular) bodies. Their artistic basketwork comes next. I read ‘of a grassy twine’, the 1625 text reads ‘on a grassie twyne’. The wall hangings are both decorative and draft-excluding, like the European ‘arras’ (tapestries). Finally, their agriculture, growing corn, and tending the crop as it grows. He observes again that they do all the work, while the men merely hunt and fight.
[xliv] An interesting passage: there were not many women in the first American colonies, and it is hard to imagine that they enjoyed much leisure. The native men mock the European men for doing so much work; European women are seen as still enjoying the paradise of leisure God first gave to Adam.
[xlv] The women as politically independent: a wrong done to them and (perhaps) not dealt with adequately by their king will cause women to switch sides when war comes.
[xlvi] ‘Lines’ (‘lynes’ in the 1625 text) perhaps means any written sacred text. “Yet to an unknown God these people bow” – Morrell’s Latin text does not correspond to this. He probably puts ‘an unknown God’ as object of their devotion to bring to his reader’s mind St Paul in Acts 17:23: ‘For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.’
[xlvii] Morrell (in his English text) insinuates a creation story of a male creator God (himself uncreated), who brought to life an Adam and an Eve, parents of all humankind; a God who gave laws that must be followed. In the case of the native Americans, these beliefs are orally transmitted. Like More’s Utopians, they are represented as incipient Christians, lacking a revealed gospel, but by the light of nature alone, deriving basic religious truths.
[xlviii] Their ‘insights’ in (‘into’) Nature’s secrets. They are aware of what a 17th century astrologer would have called the ‘greater luminaries’, particularly their most experienced observers.
[xlix] They observe no regular feast days apart from a ‘Cerealia’ (as the Latin version has it), a feast in honour of the harvest, Ceres being the goddess of the harvest.
[l] They observe no Sabbath day.
[li] Their calendar is lunar, not solar.
[lii] Here, the native Americans are represented as dualists, with two Gods, one good, one evil: susceptible to the basic Christian heresy.
[liii] Morrell seems to imply that the native people are quite receptive to initial conversion attempts, but that they cannot contemplate an end to polygamy. Again, the native Americans may be accurately described, but there is also a hint of More’s Utopia, where the Utopians, acting by human reason alone, allow divorce and remarriage.
[liv] The text has either ‘encru’d’ or ‘eneru’d’. I have emended to ‘enerved’, to suggest ‘deprived of the strength of revelation’.
[lv] Morrell laments that all these people will go to hell, being unaware of such things as the knowledge of the Holy Trinity, a truth loved in England, though it is in itself ‘far beyond all sense’.
[lvi] Morrell starts his peroration with a summary.
[lvii] He hopes his verses may move ‘painful’ (painstaking) men to sail to America and enlighten the native people. Like Samuel Sewall would be after him (see Richard Francis’ excellent Judge Sewall’s Apology (2005), Morrell is an optimistic promoter of the possibility of mass conversion. Sewall was ready to believe that the Indians were descended from the lost tribes of Israel, that they ‘fear God, and are true believers’. Francis explains how the ‘praying Indians’ would be few in number, and be quite cynically neglected as the colony developed.
[lviii] ‘too late come to be wise’
[lix] Morrell will use his proscript to pass on what he observes colonies use, so that each colonist may be a ‘Prometheus’, a benign giver of fire to the benefit of mankind, rather than an ‘Epimetheus’, an opener of a Pandora’s box of evils.
[lx] ‘to profit and please the readers’
[lxi] exigencies, hardships, bad circumstances.
[lxii] ‘patience conquers adversities’
[lxiii] As ever with the English colonies, the need is for people accustomed to hard work, with useful skills, not people accustomed to leisure. Morrell specifies.
[lxiv] Morrell, so interested and indeed sympathetic to the native people in his poem suggests the utility of mastiffs to let loose upon them.
[lxv] Counter to ever suggestion made in his poem of what a Paradise New England (almost) is, Morrell here observes the utility to colonists of wagons and small boats for mobility, for shifting to better sites.
[lxvi] No such further work by Morrell has survived (if it was ever carried out).