William Bradford

SOME OBSERVATIONS OF GOD'S MERCIFUL DEALING WITH US IN THIS WILDERNESS, AND HIS

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1
I. The Specter of the Indians
In this wilderness, we have lived here,
In happy peace, this four and thirty year,
Among a people without God, or law,
Or fear of ought that might keep them in awe.
Their government, if any such there be,
Is nothing else, but a mere tyranny.
Some customs they have, and they still pretend;
Yet lust 's their law, and will's their utmost end;
For the strongest the weaker still oppress--
They may complain, but seldom find redress.
Their lords the chiefest men seek for to please,
By them to grub the rest with greater ease.
Their lands, their goods, daughters, or wives they'll take,
And keep and use them, for their pleasure's sake;
Or else dispose of them, to such they will,
As their covetous humor will fulfill;
And if any do their force oppose,
In great danger they go, their lives to lose.
Their weakest neighbors they rush to invade,
Sans cause, and when some slaughter they have made,
And captives, with pillage, have tane away,
The rest, poor wretches, do, without delay,
As now subdued, sue for peace, and submit
To such hard terms as their new lords think fit;
And them with gifts and yearly tribute please,
If they will live in any peace or ease.
When as these things I deeply think upon,
I may admire, that we have lived so long,
Among these folk, so brutish and savage,
Without tasting of their injur'ous rage:
It is God's goodness--and only mercy--
That hath us kept from their fierce cruelty;
For else, long before this, we might have been
Made as mis'rable, as any have been seen.
Hereto, through grace, we have lost no blood,
But rather by them often have found good;
Nor woman wronged, in her chastity,
By any of them, through God's great mercy.
He that kept Abraham, in that heathen land,
And Isaac, while in Gerar he remained,
And caused that their wives should not wronged be,
By those great princes, in their chastity;
He only it is, that hath kept us here,
'Mongst those rude-men, who law nor God do fear,
And hath upon their hands put such a dread,
As they of us have rather stood afraid.
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II. The Founding of Plymouth
When we came first, we were in number small,
Not much above a hundred, in all;[1]
And in a number, we did here arrive,
And, by God's mercy, were all brought alive.
But when we came, here was no house nor town,
Nor certain place we knew, where to sit down,
Nor any friends, of whom we could expect
Us for to help, or any way direct.
Some forth were sent, to seek a place fitting,
Where we might harbor, and make our dwelling.
But in a place, where one cold night they lay,
They were assaulted, about break of day,
By these Indians, with great clamor loud,
Whose arrows fell, like to a dropping cloud.
Yet none were hurt, though some had clothes shot through;
But them repelled, from this their rendezvous,
And, with their musket, made them fly and run;
So that long after none at us would come.
But now sharp winter storms came us upon,
So here we made our habitation;
And till such time as we could houses get,
We were exposed to much cold and wet,
With such disease as our distempers bred;
So that within the space of three months' tide,
The full half of our weak company died;
And the condition of the rest was sad,
But the Lord compassion on them had,
And them again to health and strength restored,
And cheered them up; with courage as before,
And hath enabled them for to go on,
And, with comfort, the work to lead along.
And many of them still there be,
And some their children's children married see.
Famine once we had, wanting corn and bread;
But other things God gave us in the stead,
As fish and ground-nuts, to supply our meat,
That we might learn on providence to wait,
And know, by bread man lives not in his need,
But by each word that doth from God proceed.
But a while after, plenty did come in,
From His hand only, who doth pardon sin;
And all did flourish, like the pleasant green,
Which, in the joyful spring, is to be seen.
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III. The Growth of New England After 1630
Almost ten years we lived here alone;
In other places there were few or none.
For Salem was the next, of any fame,
That began to augment New England's name.
But after, multitudes began to flow,
More than well knew themselves where to bestow.
Boston then began her roots to spread,
And quickly then she grew to be the head;
Not only of the Massachusetts Bay,
But all trade and commerce fell in her way.
And truly, 'tis admirable to know,
How greatly all things here began to grow.
New plantations were in each place begun,
And with inhabitants were filled soon.
All sorts of grain, which our own land doth yield,
Was hither brought, and sown in every field,
As wheat and rye, barley, oats, beans and peas--
Here all thrive, and they profit from them raise.
All sorts of roots and herbs in garden grow:
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, or what you'll sow;
Onions, melons, cucumbers, radishes,
Skirrets, beets, coleworts, and fair cabbages.
Here grows fine flowers many, and 'mongst those,
The fair white lily, and th'sweet, fragrant rose.
Many good wholesome berries here you'll find,
Fit for man's use, almost of every kind.
Pears, apples, cherries, plums, quince, and peach
Are now no dainties; you may have of each.
Nuts and grapes, of several sorts, here are,
If you will take the pains, them to seek for.
Cattle, of ev'ry kind, do fill the land;
Many now are killed, and their hides are tanned,
By which men are supplied, with meat and shoes,
Or what they can, though much by wolves they lose.
Here's store of cows, which milk and butter yield;
And also oxen, for to till the field,
Of which great profit many now do make,
If th'ave a fit place, and able pains to take.
Horses, likewise, here now do multiply;
They prosper well, and yet their price is high.
Here are swine, good store; and some goats do keep;
But now most begin to get store of sheep,
That, with their wool, their bodies may be clad,
In time of straits, when things cannot be had;
For merchants keep the price of cloth so high,
As many are not able the same to buy.
And happy would it be, for the people here,
If they could raise cloth, for themselves to wear;
And if they do themselves hereto apply,
They would not be so low, nor some so high.
When I look back, I cannot but smile,
For to think, how some did themselves beguile:
When cattle first went at so high a rate,
They did not think how soon they might abate;
For many, then, began to look too high,
Whose hopes, soon after, in the dust did lie,
So vain is man! If riches do abide
A little, he's soon lift up with pride.
A cow, then, was at twenty pounds and five;
Those who had increase could not choose but thrive.
And a cow-calf ten or twelve pounds would give,
As soon as weaned, if that it did live.
A lamb, or kid, was forty shillings' price;
Men were earnest for them, lest they should rise.
And a milk-goat was at three or four pound;
All cattle at such prices went of round.
In money, and good cloth, they would you pay,
Or what good thing else that you would say.
And both swine and corn was in good request;
To the first comers, this was a harvest.
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IV. The Spiritual Excellence of the Early Years of Colonization
But that which did, above all the rest, excel.
God, in his word, with us he here did dwell.
Well ordered churches in each place there were,
And a learn'd ministry was planted here.
All marveled and said: Lord, this work is thine,
In th'wilderness to make such lights to shine.
And, truly, it was a glorious thing,
Thus to hear men pray; and God's praises sing,
Where these natives were wont to cry and yell
To Satan, who 'mongst them doth rule and dwell.
Ho! How great comfort was it now, to see
The churches to enjoy free liberty,
And to have the gospel preached here with pow'r,
And such wolves repelled, as would else devour.
And now with plenty their poor souls were fed,
With better food than wheat or angels' bread.
I'th green pastures they may themselves solace,
And drink freely of the sweet springs of grace.
A pleasant banquet is prepared for these,
Of fat things, and rich wine upon the lees.
Ho eat, my friends, saith Christ, and drink freely;
Here's wine, and milk, and all sweet spicery;
The honey, and its comb, is here to be had;
I myself for you have this banquet made.
Be not dismayed, but let your heart rejoice;
In this wild'rness, Oh let me hear your voice!
My friends you are, whilst you my ways do keep;
Your sins I'll pardon, and your good I'll seek.
And they, poor souls, again to Christ do say:
Oh Lord, thou art our hope, our strength and stay,
Who giv'st unto us all these, thy good things;
Us shelter still, in th'shadow of thy wings.
So we shall sing, and laud thy name with praise;
'Tis thine own work, to keep us in thy ways,
Uphold us still, oh Thou which art most high;
We then shall be kept, and thy name glor'fy.
Let us enjoy thy self, with these means of grace,
And in our hearts shine, with light of thy face;
Take not away thy presence, nor thy word;
But, we humbly pray, us the same afford.
To the north or south, or which way you'll wind,
Churches now are spread, and you'll pasture find.
Many men of worth, for learning and great fame,
Grave and godly, into these parts here came,
As Hooker, Cotton, Damford, and the rest,
Whose names are precious, and elsewhere expressed;
And many among these you might find,
Who, in some things, left not their like behind.
But some of these are dead, and oth'rs aged be.
Lord do thou supply, in thy great mercy,
How these their flocks did feed, with painful care,
Their labors, love, fruitful works declare.
They did not spare their time and lives to spend
In the Lord's work, unto their utmost end;
And such as still survive do strive the more,
To do like them that have gone before.
Take courage, then, for you shall have reward,
That, in this work, are faithful to the Lord.
Example take hereby, you that shall come,
In aftertime, when these their race have run.
A prudent magistracy here was placed,
By which the churches defended were and graced,
And this new commonwealth in order held,
And sin and foul iniquity was quelled.
Due right and justice unto all was done,
Without delay; men's suits were ended soon.
Here were men sincere, and upright in heart,
Who from justice and right would not depart.
Men's causes they would scan, and well debate,
But all bribes and corruption they did hate.
The truth to find out they would use all means,
And so for that end they would spare no pains.
While things thus did flour'sh, and were in their prime,
Men thought it happy and a blessed time.
To see how sweetly all things did agree:
Both in th' church and state there was amity;
Each to other mutual help did lend,
And to God's honor all their ways did tend--
In love and peace his truth for to retain,
And God's service how best for to maintain.
Some of these are gone; others do grow gray,
Which doth show us they have not long to stay.
But God will still for his people provide
Such as be able them to help and guide;
If they cleave to him, and do not forsake
His laws and truth, and their own ways do take.
If thou hast viewed the camp of Israel,
How God in th'wilderness with them did dwell,
And led them long, in that dangerous place,
Through fears and trials, for so long a space;
And yet they never saw more of his glory,
Than in this time, when he advanced them high.
His great and marvelous works they here saw,
And he them taught, in his most holy law.
This small emblem hereof thou mayest see
How God hath dealt with these, in some degree;
For much of himself they now here have seen,
And marvelous to them his works have been.
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V. The "Great Change" for the Worse in New England
I am loath, indeed, for to change my theme,
Thus of God's precious mercies unto them.
Yet I must do it, though it is most sad;
And if it prove otherwise, I shall be glad.
Methinks I see some great change at hand,
That, ere long, will fall upon this poor land.
Not only because many are took away,
Of the best rank, but virtue doth decay,
And true godliness doth not now so shine,
As some whiles it did in the former time;
But love and fervent zeal do seem to sleep;
Security and th' world on men do creep;
Pride and oppression--they do grow so fast,
As all goodness they will eat out at last.
Whoredom and drunkenness, with other sin,
Will cause God's judgments soon for to break in.
And whimsy errors have now got such head,
And, under notion of conscience, do spread,
So as whole places with them now are stained,
Whereas goodness sometime before hath reigned.
Where godliness abates, ill will succeed,
And grow up apace, like to the noisome weed;
And if there be not care, their growth to stop,
All godliness it soon will overtop.
Another cause of our declining here
Is a mixed multitude, as doth appear:
Many for servants hither were brought;
Others came for gain, or worse ends they sought;
And of these many grow loose and profane,
Though some are brought to know God and his name.
But thus it is, and hath been so of old,
As by the scriptures we are plainly told;
For when as from Egypt God's people came,
A mixed multitude got in 'mongst them;
Who, with the rest, murmur and lust did they,
In wants, and fell at Kibroth-hattaavah.
And whereas the Lord doth sow his good seed,
The enemy he brings in tares and weed.
What need, therefore, there is that men should watch,
That Satan them not at advantage catch.
For ill manners and example are such,
As others do infect and corrupt much;
Chiefly, if they be unstaid and young,
And with ill persons do converse among.
Yea, some are so wretched, and full of vice,
As they take pleasure others to entice;
And though it be a thing most vile and bad,
Yet they will do it, and thereat be glad,
And laugh and scoff, when any they draw in,
For to do evil, and to commit sin.
But let these, and all, profane scoffers know,
That unto God they do a reck'ning owe;
And to account, ere long, he will them bring,
When they must answer for this, their foul sin.
Was not it enough for them, ill to do,
But they must needs cause others do so too?
Herein, indeed, they act the Devil's part,
And if they repent not, with him they'll smart;
For God to such is a consuming fire,
And they shall perish in his dreadful ire.
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VI. The Symbolic Evil of Gun-Running
But a most desp'rate mischief here is grown,
And a great shame it is it should be known.
But why should I conceal so foul a thing,
That quickly may our hurt and ruin bring.
For base covetousness hath got such sway,
As our own safety we ourselves betray.
For these fierce natives they are now so fill'd
With guns and muskets, and in them so skill'd,
As that they may keep the English in awe,
And, when they please, give unto them the law.
And of powder and shot they have such store,
As sometimes they refuse for to buy more.
Flints, screw-plates, and molds, for all sorts of shot,
They have, and skill how to use them have got.
And mend, and new-stock, their pieces they can,
As well, in most things, as an Englishman.
Thus, like madmen, we put them in a way,
With our own weapons us to kill and slay.
What gain hereof to make they know so well;
The fowl to kill, and us the feathers sell.
For us to seek for deer, it doth not boot,
Since now--with guns--themselves at them can shoot.
That garbage, of which we no use did make,
They have been glad to gather up and take.
But now they can--themselves--fully supply,
And the English--of them--are glad to buy.
And yet if that was all, it might be borne,
Though hereby th'English make themselves a scorn.
But now they know their advantage so well,
And will not stick, to some, the same to tell,
That now they can, when they please or will,
The English drive away, or else them kill.
Ho! Base wretched men, who thus for their gain,
Care not at all if their neighbors be slain!
How can they think that this should do them good,
Which thus they purchase with the price of blood?
I know 'tis laid upon the French and Dutch,
And freely grant, that they do use it much,
And make thereof an execrable trade,
Whereby those natives one another invade;
By which the Dutch and French do smart,
Sometimes, by teaching them this wicked art.
But these, both, from us more remote do lie,
And ours from them can have no full supply.
In these quarters, it's English guns we see,
For French and Dutch more slight and weak they be;
And these Indians are now grown so wise,
As, in regard of these, theirs do despise.
Fair fouling pieces and muskets they have,
All English, and keep them both neat and brave.
And, to our shame, speak it we justly may,
That we are not furnished so well as they;
For traders them will sell at prices high,
When as their neighbors of them cannot buy.
Good laws have been made, this ill to restrain,
But, by men's close deceit, they are made vain.
The Indians are nurtured so well,
As, by no means, can you get them to tell
Of whom they had their guns, or such supply;
Or, if they do, they will feign some false lie.
So as, if their testimony you take,
For evidence, little of it you'll make.
And, of th'English, so many are guilty,
And deal underhand, in such secrecy,
As very rare it is someone to catch,
Though you use all due means them for to watch.
Merchants, shopkeepers, traders, and planters too--
Sundry of each--spare not this thing to do;
Though many more, that do the same abhor,
Whose innocence will one day answer for,
If, which God forbid, they should come to see,
By this means, some hurt, or sad tragedy,
And these heathen, in their furious mood,
Should cruelly shed our innocent blood.
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VII. Concluding Warning and Prayer
Lord, show mercy, and graciously spare,
For thy name's sake, those that they servants are,
And let their lives be precious in thy sight;
Divert such judgments as fall on them might;
Give them not up, into these heathens' pow'r,
Who, like the greedy wolves, would them devour,
[2]And exercise on them their cruel rage, Quamque lupi saevae plus feritatis habent
With torments great, and most savage.
[3]They're not content their foes only to kill,
[4]But, most inhumanely, torment them will.
They're men that are skilful, for to destroy,
And in others' mis'ry they do take joy.
Oh Lord, take pity on thy people poor;
Let them repent, amend, and sin no more.
Forgive, dear Father, what is done and past;
Oh save us still, and not away us cast.
Our selves are weak, and have no strength to stand;
Do thou support us, Lord, with thine own hand.
When we have need, be thou our succor then;
Let us not fall into the hands of men.
When I think on what I have often read,
How when th'elders and Joshua were dead,
Who had seen these great works, and them could tell
What God had wrought and done for Israel,
Yet they did soon forget, and turn aside,
And in his truth and ways did not abide;
But, i'the next age, they did degenerate.
I wish this may not be New England's fate.
Oh you, therefore, that are for to succeed,
To this fair precedent give you good heed.
And know that, being warned, if you do not,
But fall away, God's wrath 'gainst you'll be hot;
For if he spared not those, that sinned of old,
But into the hands of spoilers them sold,
How can you think, that you should then escape,
That do like them, and will no warning take.
Oh my friends and children, whom I love,
To cleave to God, let these few lines you move.
So I have done, and now will say no more;
But remember, God punished these sore.

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William Bradford