Maypole of Merrymount: a Failed Attempt to Escape English Romanticism

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Maypole of Merry Mount” still seems to follow the traditions and conventions of English Romanticism, despite having an American concept as its subject, in its use of several Romantic themes and figures.

First among these themes is that of revelry and carelessness, as the Lord of May emphasizes:

O, Edith, this is out golden time! Tarnish it not by any pensive shadow of mind; for it may be that nothing of futurity will be brighter than the mere remembrance of now passing. (Hawthorne, 1147)

Another theme emphasized in the story is emotion, exhibited by the Lord and Lady of May. Reminiscent of many English Romantic poems, the idea of “love conquers all” is reflected on the thoughts, decisions and actions the couple make.

There they stood, pale, downcast, and apprehensive. Yet there was an air of mutual support, and of pure affection, seeking aid and giving it, that showed them to be man and wife, with the sanction of a priest upon their love. The youth, in the peril of the moment, had dropped his gilded staff, and thrown his arm about the Lady of May, who leaned against his breast, too lightly to burden him, but with weight enough to express that their destinies were linked together, for good and evil. They looked first at each other, and then into the grim captain’s face. There they stood, in the first hour of wedlock, while the idle pleasures, of which their companions were the emblems, had given place to the sternest cares of life, personified by these dark Puritans. But never had their youthful beauty seemed so pure and high as when its glow was chastened by adversity. (Hawthorne, 1150-51)

The vividness and attention to detail is also a subliminal emphasis to this failed attempt to escape English Romanticism. The mellifluous language that Hawthorne used renders the imagery in the text dreamlike and almost exotic.

Garden flowers, and blossoms of the wilderness, laughed gladly forth amid the venture, so fresh and dewy that...
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