The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry

The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry

The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry

The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry

Excerpt

Puritanism may be described empirically as that point of view, that code of values, carried to New England by the first settlers. These were English Protestants, and in their fundamental convictions were at one with the Protestants, or at least with the Calvinistic Protestants, of all Europe. But the peculiar isolation of the New England colonies--the homogeneous people, the sparse soil the climate, the economic struggle--quickly made these Protestants a peculiar people. Because their societies were tightly organized, and above all because they were a highly articulate people, the New Englanders established Puritanism --for better or worse--as one of the continuous factors in American life and thought. It has played so dominant a Rôle because descendants of the Puritans have carried traits of the Puritan mind into a variety of pursuits and all the way across the continent. Many of these qualities have persisted even though the original creed is lost. Without some understanding of Puritanism, and that at its source, there is no understanding of America.

As a help toward such understanding I have brought together these selections from the writings of American Puritans, meaning by them the settlers of New England in roughly the first century of colonial life. After that, modifications imposed by history proceeded at such a pace we can hardly say the creed and mentality survived in the pristine form. Because space is limited, the pieces are carefully chosen, only essential portions reprinted, and the com-

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