America Learns to Play: A History of Popular Recreation, 1607-1940

By Foster Rhea Dulles | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER I
"IN DETESTATION OF IDLENESS"

THE SETTLERS WHO PLANTED THE FIRST ENGLISH COLONIES IN America had the same instinctive drive for play that is the common heritage of all mankind. It suffered no sea change in the long and stormy crossing of the Atlantic. Landing at Jamestown, Sir Thomas Dale found the almost starving colonists playing happily at bowls in 1611.1 The first Thanksgiving at Plymouth was something more than an occasion for prayer. Edward Winslow wrote that among other recreations the Pilgrims exercised their arms and for three days entertained and feasted the Indians.2

Against the generally somber picture of early New England life may also be set the lively account of those gay and wanton festivities at Merry Mount. To the consternation of "the precise separatists, that lived at new Plymouth," the scapegrace followers of Thomas Morton set up a May-pole, brought out wine and strong waters, and invited the Indians to join them:

Drinke and be merry, merry, merry boyes,
Let all your delight be in the Hymens joyes,
Joy to Hymen now the day is come,
About the merry Maypole take a Roome.
Make greene garlons, bring bottles out
And fill sweet Nectar freely about.
Uncover thy head and fear no harme,
For hers good liquor to keepe it warme.3

____________________
All numerical symbols throughout the text refer to source references to be found in the notes at the end of the book. They may be ignored by the reader not interested in such material.

-3-

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America Learns to Play: A History of Popular Recreation, 1607-1940
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