Early American Literature

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American Literature begins in the early 1600's with the written works of the new settlers coming from Europe to the New Land of America. Although the Indians lived in America before the first Europeans arrived; their literature was somewhat neglected due to it being transmitted orally with no written works. The American writings of the early seventeenth century possess no great artistic value; they are mainly valuable as a study in origins and understanding America's early experience. During its early history, America was a series of British colonies on its northern coast. Therefore, its literary tradition followed European models of style. However, it was somewhat modified by the new environment. The first Puritan colonists who settled in New England exemplified the seriousness of Reformation Christianity. They were a small group of believers, known as the "Pilgrims", who migrated from England to Holland during the time of persecutions at 1608. But being dissatisfied with the economic sufferings of their new home, they re-emigrated and planted the colony of Plymouth in 1620. William Bradford (1590-1657) was one of the young pilgrims whom insisted on this emigration and later on governed the struggling colony of Plymouth for thirty years. During these years he recorded the happenings in the most attractive early New England history called "Plymouth Plantation" (written from 1630-1650). The book begins with the rise of the Separatists in England, the class which broke away entirely from the communion of the Church of England. Bradford follows the Pilgrims in their journey to Holland, then their voyage to America. He also cites the pilgrims founding of Plymouth, and the slow growth of their colony during its first quarter-century. The author's clear style is well suited to the subject. The Puritans in Bradford's account are strong, honest, sensible folks who seek out to construct their village with their hard work and determination. They are plain-minded, pious in worship, and quite certain that God is constantly directing their lives. The works of Bradford was not literary in its original intent. Bradford just as most men in the beginning of the colonial period wrote for purposes of history or controversy due to their vital positions as representatives of their colonial life and thought. But literary works did exist as in the poetry of Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672). Born and educated in England, Anne Bradstreet was the daughter of an earl's estate manager. She emigrated with her family when she was 18. Her husband became governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She was religious but stood for freedom of expression and rights of women. She wrote of the difficulties that faced the early settlers. She also had witty poems on subjects from daily life and warm loving poems to her husband and children. She was inspired by English metaphysical poetry, and her book "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America" (1650) shows the influence of Edmund Spenser and Philip Sidney. She often uses elaborate conceits or extended metaphors. Her works are noted for their simplicity and this can be found clear in her personal poem "To My Dear and Loving Husband" (1678). This poem has a love theme and uses oriental imagery. She gives a pious meaning at the poem's conclusion: If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were loved 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
Or all the riches that the East 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.

Like Anne, Edward Taylor (1642- 1729) was born in England and wrote poetry for his own pleasure and relief. He is considered to be the finest poet in...
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