You are on page 1of 26

AMERCIAN

LITERATURE

Melinda-Alexandra Stanciu

Ist year

French-English
CONTENTS:
PURITANISM…………………………………………………………………………………….........................………....……3

ANNE BRADSTREET ……………………………………………………………………………………............................…4

THE AMERICAN DREAM…………………………………………………………………………………........................…7

MARY ROWLANDSON …………………………………………………………………………………...........................…8

SARAH KEMBLE KNIGHT……………………………………………………………………………….....................…..…10

SLAVERY……………………………………………………………......................................................................…12

PHILLIS WHEATLEY………………………………………………………………...........................................……..…14

TRANSCENDENTALISM…………………………………………………………………………....................…………...…16

RALPH WALDO EMERSON ………………………………………………………………………….......................…..…17

EDGAR ALLAN POE…………………………………………………………………………………….............................…18

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN ………………………………………………………………………....……………...…24

2
PURITANISM
Puritanism was a religious reform movement in the late 16th and 17th centuries that sought to
“purify” the Church of England of remnants of the Roman Catholic “popery” that the Puritans claimed
had been retained after the religious settlement reached early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Puritans
became noted in the 17th century for a spirit of moral and religious earnestness that informed their
whole way of life, and they sought through church reform to make their lifestyle the pattern for the
whole nation. Their efforts to transform the nation contributed both to civil war in England and to the
founding of colonies in America as working models of the Puritan way of life.

With the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, Puritanism went into eclipse in England, largely
because the movement was identified with the upheaval and radicalism of the Civil War and Cromwell’s
tyrannical government, a virtual military dictatorship.

But it persisted for much longer as a vital force in those parts of British North America colonized by
two groups of Puritans who gradually cut their ties to the Church of England and formed separate
denominations. One group, the Congregationalists, settled Plymouth in the 1620s and then
Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, and Rhode Island in the 1630s. Another group, the Presbyterians, who
quickly came to dominate the religious life of Scotland and later migrated in large numbers to northern
Ireland, also settled many communities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania during the late
seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century.

Puritanism may be defined primarily by the intensity of the religious experience that it fostered.
Puritans believed that it was necessary to be in a covenant relationship with God in order to redeem one
from one’s sinful condition, that God had chosen to reveal salvation through preaching, and that the
Holy Spirit was the energizing instrument of salvation. Calvinist theology and polity proved to be major
influences in the formation of Puritan teachings. This naturally led to the rejection of much that was
characteristic of Anglican ritual at the time, these being viewed as “popish idolatry.” In its place the
Puritans emphasized preaching that drew on images from scripture and from everyday experience. Still,
because of the importance of preaching, the Puritans placed a premium on a learned ministry. The
moral and religious earnestness that was characteristic of Puritans was combined with the doctrine of
predestination inherited from Calvinism to produce a “covenant theology,” a sense of themselves
aselect spirits chosen by God to live godly lives both as individuals and as a community.

Early literature written by Puritans in America often appeared as first person narratives in the form
of journals and diaries. Early American colonists wrote their accounts of immigration, settling in
America, and day-to-day life in journals to pass their stories down. Many Puritans also wrote letters to
send back to Europe to family and friends they left behind. Very little fiction appeared during this
period; Puritans valued realistic writing with an emphasis on religious themes. Three important Puritan
genres included: sermons, historical narratives, poetry.

Puritans held deep religious beliefs based on their own perspective of Christianity. The Bible played
an important role in the daily lives of the Puritans. Families attended church regularly and read the
Bible in their homes. Due to this influence, most Puritan writing is based on the styles of the Bible.
Puritans compared their own lives to biblical narratives and events and compared themselves to biblical
characters to illustrate points.

3
Puritans lived a simple life based on the concepts of humility and simplicity. This influence comes
from their religious beliefs and the Bible. Wearing elaborate clothing or having conceited thoughts
offended Puritans. Puritan writing mimics these cultural values in its plain writing style. Puritans wrote
directly to the point, and avoided much of the eleborate writing style that became popular in Europe.
Simple sentences with common language allowed Puritans to communicate information without feeling
like they were drawing attention to themselves.

Puritans wrote with specific purposes in mind. Even the letters they wrote to friends and family in
Europe performed more of a purpose than simply communicating about their lives and keeping in
touch. Puritans' religious beliefs affected their lives on all levels, and their writing illustrated their
religion's values, such as the importance of the church and the influence of God in their lives. Writing
often became instructive, teaching Christian values. The Puritans did not believe that literature was for
entertainment; therefore, they frowned upon "entertainment" genres such as drama (plays) and fiction
novels.

ANNE BRADSTREET
Over the past four centuries, Anne Bradstreet has received a number of accolades from literary
scholars and critics. She has been called one of the greatest Puritan/New World poets, the first female
poet in America, and some even consider her the best female poet of all time. Feminist literary critics,
American historians, and scholars of English literature regularly examine, anthologize, and discuss her
work. She is renowned for both her erudite public poems and her compellingly personal and honest
private poems. Her musings on religion, motherhood, marriage, and the vicissitudes of life are both
timeless and memorable.

Anne Dudley Bradstreet was born in 1612 in Northampton, England. Her father, Thomas Dudley,
home-schooled her. She was fortunate enough to be born into an Elizabethan society that valued female
literacy, even though Bradstreet herself did not receive a formal education. However, she had access to
her family’s library and she devoured books, favoring such luminaries as Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Pliny,
Homer, Spenser, and Milton, among others. In 1628, when Bradstreet was 16 years old, she married
Simon Bradstreet, a graduate of Cambridge University who helped Anne's father manage his estate at
Sempringham. The Bradstreets remained happily married until Anne’s death.

Anne Bradstreet wrote her first poem when she was sixteen, called “Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno.
1632.” However, she only published one collection of poetry during her lifetime. Bradstreet's brother-in-
law took several of her poems to England, purportedly without her knowledge, and published The Tenth
Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America. The volume made Anne Bradstreet the first female poet to be
published in England, and later, in America. She dedicated the compilation her father. The most famous
poems in The Tenth Muse are the quaternions, including “The Four Elements,” “The Four Humours,”
“The Four Seasons,” and “The Four Ages of Man.” Bradstreet kept her later work private, because the
content is much more personal. It deals with sickness, marriage, faith, and religious doubt. Anne
Bradstreet's most famous poem is “Contemplations.”

4
Anne Bradstreet died in 1672 at the age of 60. The Tenth Muse was published in America in 1678, six
years after her death. Critics tend to regard her later verses as more impressive than her early published
work, and her reputation is primarily based on those more personal poems. The site of Anne
Bradstreet's burial remains unknown, although many historians believe that she lies in the Old Burying
Ground at Academy Road and Osgood Street in North Andover, Massachusetts.

The role of women is a common subject found in Bradstreet's poems. Living in a Puritan society,
Bradstreet did not approve of the stereotypical idea that women were inferior to men during the 1600s.
Women were expected to spend all their time cooking, cleaning, taking care of their children, and
attending to their husband's every need. In her poem "In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess
Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory," Bradstreet questions this belief.

"Now say, have women worth? or have they none? Or had they some, but with our queen is't gone? Nay
Masculines, you have thus taxt us long, But she, though dead, will vindicate our wrong, Let such as say
our Sex is void of Reason, Know tis a Slander now, but once was Treason."

Another recurring subject in Bradstreet's work is mortality. In many of her works, she writes about
her death and how it will affect her children and others in her life. The recurrence of this mortality
theme can be viewed as autobiographical. Because her work was not intended for the public, she was
referring to her own medical problems and her belief that she would die. In addition to her medical
history (smallpox and partial paralysis), Bradstreet and her family dealt with a major house fire that left
them homeless and devoid of all personal belongings. She hoped her children would think of her fondly
and honor her memory in her poem, "Before the Birth of One of Her Children." "If any worth or virtue
were in me, Let that live freshly in thy memory."

In "The Prologue," Bradstreet demonstrates how society trivialized the accomplishments of women.
The popular belief that women should be doing other things like sewing, rather than writing poetry. "I
am obnoxious to each carping tongue Who says my hand a needle better fits, A poet's pen all scorn I
should thus wrong. For such despite they cast on female wits: If what I do prove well, it won't advance,
They'll say it's stol'n, or else it was by chance."

Bradstreet challenged Puritan beliefs by announcing her complete infatuation with her husband,
Simon Bradstreet. In a Puritan society it was improper to glorify romantic love. In "To My Dear and
Loving Husband," Bradstreet confesses her undying love for Simon saying "Thy love is such I can no way
repay, The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray." Her deep passions can be found again in "A Letter to
Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment." Her overt affections for her husband help readers to
understand Bradstreet's temerity. Puritans believed that this kind of intense love would only stray
someone further from God.

Anne Bradstreet writes in a different format than other writes of her time. This mainly is due to the
fact that she wrote her feelings in a book not knowing someone would read them. This makes for more
real literature, and the total truth. In her poem "A letter to my Husband" she speaks about the loss of
her husband when he is gone. The pain she feels she write with vivid examples such as nature. She
doesn't hold anything back. "I like the earth this season morn in black, my sun is gone". Here Anne is
expressing her feelings of missing her husband when he is away. She compares the feeling to that of
mourning. A very serious tone for the poem.

5
"To my faults that well you know I have let be interred in my oblivious grave; if any worth of virtue were
in me, let that live freshly in they memory". Anne expresses the feeling she has of wanting her children
to remember her in a good light not in a bad light.

To My Dear and Loving Husband

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 persever,
That when we live no more we may live ever.

“To My Dear and Loving Husband” is a personal poem written in the name of the poetess’s
husband. It is also a typical puritan poem. The poem offers modern readers insights into puritan
attitudes toward love, marriage and God. In the poem, Bradstreet proclaims her great love for her
husband and his for her. She values their love more than any earthly riches and the hopes that their
physical union on earth signifies the continuation of their spiritual union in heaven. Bradstreet views
earthly love as a sign of spiritual union and salvation, rather than as something profane or lowly.

The poem presents a central question in puritan thought: how do one’s earthly and immortal lives
connect. The poem is two lines short of a sonnet. It is witty like the metaphysical poems, classical like
one of the Augustan era, and it is typically a puritan early American poem; but what is more original and
striking is Bradstreet’s original treatment of the relation of the love of this world and life with the other
beyond. She does not emphasize the eternal life at the cost of the real. Indeed, we find the two in a
dialectical conflict and tension in each of the Bradstreet poems.

The poem is written in the common iambic pentameter lines. A few variations prevent the meter
from sounding monotonous. In addition to regular rhythms, each pair of lines rhymes. These rhymed
pairs of iambic pentameter lines are called couplets. In this poem, the couplets reinforce the theme of
love between two people. Bradstreet speaks as herself in this poem. To emphasize the wife and
husband’s mutual love, the poet has used internal rhyme, or rhymes within the lines; parallelism, or
phrases with repeated syntax; and parallel rhyme, or rhymes with repeated syntax. The rhymed and
repeated phrases reinforce two ideas: one that each spouse’s love in heaven. Bradstreet tries to
persuade both the reader and her husband that their great love may signify salvation.

This personal poem illustrates that a Puritan’s physical passion could be asserted as the nearest
thing on earth to heaven. However, the speaker’s love for her husband almost seems to outweigh her
devotion to God. Dedicated puritans tried not to love any earthly thing more than God. The poet wishes
of the union to continue after death even though Christians then and now believe that earthly unions

6
dissolve at death. In this poem, this world and the next validate one another. The poet powerfully
dramatizes the tension between “the flesh and the spirit” in her struggle to interpret earthly signs of
God’s will. Every part of this twelve line poem is an expression of love.

Anne Bradstreet insists on the greatness of her love by saying how impossible it is to describe,
evaluate, and repay. Her refusal to elaborate or poeticize each statement dramatizes the main theme
that love is untranslatable. Words are merely another act of love- but they should not become
replacements. The note of immortality the poem ends on has the Puritan idea of election behind it. The
last two lines like the concluding couplet of a sonnet summarize, clarify and resolve the poem. The
poem ends with a biblical sort of paradox that speaks more powerfully than an ordinary sentence would:
if so, let us love each other so much that we may live ever when we no longer live (die). To die and live
ever is the Christian’s greatest hope.

THE AMERICAN DREAM


The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (Democracy, Rights,
Liberty, Opportunity, and Equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and
success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a
society with few barriers.

The beginnings of the idea of the American Dream can be traced to the Founding Fathers, who
declared their independence from England because of their belief in unalienable rights. Those men
believed people inherently possessed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They
created a country where people could break free from class restrictions and pursue the life they chose
despite the circumstances of their birth. In time, writers dubbed this idea the American Dream, but
people's definition of the American Dream has changed greatly over time.

The term American Dream is often traced back to James Truslow Adams, a historian and author. In
1931, as Americans suffered through the Great Depression, Adams wrote a book called The Epic of
America in which he spoke of "a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone,
with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement...regardless of fortuitous circumstances of
birth or position." In the beginning, the American Dream simply promised a country in which people had
the chance to work their way up through their own labor and ingenuity. Immigrants fled the entrenched
class restrictions of their homelands for the United States in the hope of obtaining land and gaining
religious and other freedoms.

Colonial America saw the dream realized in the interaction among classes. People of the time wrote
about the new experience of equality. Employees could speak openly to their employers and believed
that with dedication they could improve their status. During westward expansion, the American Dream
led many to race for land and live rugged lives on the frontier. By nature of their hard work, they could
set down roots on a piece of the expansive land open to homesteaders and pioneers. This idea of the
American Dream was rather competitive and individualistic—people fought others to own a piece of
land for themselves. In the early twentieth century Americans discovered a shared dream in which

7
citizens worked together to make life better for the American masses. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New
Deal programs promised safe, healthy futures for every American—a new understanding of the
American Dream.

After World War II the United States of America emerged as the strongest and wealthiest nation on
the planet. Heavy government military spending had revived the economy and while the other countries
involved in World War II had to rebuild their bombed and ruined cities the USA were spared from the
destruction at home. The wealthy American society and business had exceeded the other nations
prosperity by far, making the USA an example for success in general, that all the other societies can take
as a blueprint for their own development.

In time of oppression, exploitation and economic instability when the people imagined, demanded
and needed another form of social organisation they took the mentioned ideals and values to realize
their hopes and dreams of freedom and self-determination. In such a state of mind the people need an
imagination of better times in the past and more necessary in the future to strengthen their confidence
in gaining wealth again and to go beyond survival questions of life. Therefore the "American Dream"
helps the people remaining in hopeful expectation of better times instead of giving up on themselves
leading a life full of worries and desperation. With the concept of "The American Dream" that everyone
is responsible for his own "fate" people have an important psychological tool to carry on working on
improvements of their lives.

After the economic problems were managed and profits flourished again the political and social
struggle shifted from issues of survival to civil rights, equality and peace. In the civil rights movement
Martin Luther King Jr. became a popular adversary of inequality, segregation and racism. He was
respected for his non violent resistance (in allusion the Gandhi opposing British colonialism) and
capacity to agitate the masses because his message and methods were so powerful and effective. Then
in the 1960s many Americans participated in the peace movement to end American aggression in
Vietnam6. These examples show that American citizens and society in general very well know and live
"The American Dream" of a free country administered by a "government of the people, by the people
and for the people" that they can influence for the better.

MARY ROWLANDSON
Mary Rowlandson ,born in 1637,Somerset, England was British American colonial author who wrote
one of the first 17th-century captivity narratives, in which she told of her capture by Native Americans,
revealing both elements of Native American life and of Puritan-Indian conflicts in early New England.

Mary White was taken to America by her parents when she was a child. They lived in Salem in
the Massachusetts Bay Colony (in what is now the U.S. state of Massachusetts), until 1653, when they
moved to the new frontier village of Lancaster. In 1656 she married Joseph Rowlandson; he was
ordained a Puritan minister in 1660, and he became Lancaster’s first regular minister. Events of the next
20 years of her life are obscure.

8
While her husband was away in Boston trying to convince the Colonies leaders to provide military
protection for the town the Indians attacked on February 10, 1676. Mary was captured along with her
three children, one of whom (her six year old daughter Sarah) was mortally wounded during the
surrender. The captives were then taken west and north to what is now south western New Hampshire
and Vermont.

In May 1676 Rowlandson was at last ransomed back to her husband for £20. Her two surviving
children were returned sometime later. The Reverend Rowlandson died in November 1678, and about
that time Mary wrote an account of her captivity for her children. Her account was printed four times in
1682.

A second edition—“Carefully Corrected, and Purged from abundance of Errors which escaped in the
former Impression”—was published in Boston in 1720 with the title The Soveraignty and Goodness of
God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and
Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. The vividly written tale quickly became a classic example not
only of the captivity genre but of colonial literature generally. It ran through more than 30 editions over
the years, and selections from it have been included in countless anthologies of American literature.

THE SOVEREIGNTY AND GOODNESS OF GOD

Even though Rowlandson’s forced journey from civilization into the wilderness culminates in a
triumphant return to civilization, her once-clear conception of what is and is not “civilized” undergoes a
radical and permanent shift. Initially, Rowlandson views civilization as that which is not savage or not
wilderness, and at times she implies that the Indians’ savagery is actually connected to the natural world
around them. The Indians eat coarse food such as horse meat and bear, they live in wigwams, and they
spend their days traveling through forests and swamps. As a result, she speculates, they are violent
savages. Later, however, similarities between the Indians and the settlers become more apparent.
Wettimore is as vain as a rich white woman, “praying Indians” claim to have converted to Christianity,
and Indians sometimes wear the colonists’ clothing. Rowlandson also recognizes her own capacity for
uncivilized behavior. She finds herself eating and enjoying the Indians’ food, and at times she behaves
with a callousness comparable to that of her captors. No longer are civilization and savagery so distinct.
Rowlandson’s initial vision of the world as a place defined by opposites (good and evil, civilization and
savagery, Puritans and Indians) eventually gives way to a worldview that contains more ambiguity.

The attack on Lancaster and Rowlandson’s subsequent captivity teach Rowlandson that life is short
and nothing is certain. All of the seeming stability of life, including material possessions, can disappear
without warning, even during a single day. Rowlandson’s descriptions of her time with the Indians
reinforce this lesson: nothing, during her captivity, is consistent. One day, her captors treat her well,
while the next day they give her no food or reprimand her without reason. One day, they tell her she’ll
soon be sold to her husband; the next day, she is forced to travel farther into the wilderness. In her
captive state, Rowlandson can take nothing for granted. She does not even know for sure if she’ll survive
the experience.

Throughout the whole experience, Rowlandson keeps her faith and returns everything that happens into
a blessing or a doing of God. "Yet the Lord still showed mercy to me; and as He wounded me with one
hand, so he healed me with the other". Much of this thought was common Puritan belief. Puritans
believed that God arranges everything with a purpose. Rowlandson thinks humans have no choice but to
accept the will of God and attempt to make sense of it. She often compares Bible verses with situations

9
in her own life. She even believes the British troops did not defeat the Indians sooner because she and
the Puritans have not yet learned their lesson, and therefore do not deserve victory.

SARAH KEMBLE KNIGHT


Sarah Kemble Knight, born April 19, 1666, Boston, Massachusetts, was an American colonial teacher
and businesswoman whose vivid and often humorous travel diary is considered one of the most
authentic chronicles of 18th-century colonial life in America.

Sarah Kemble was the daughter of a merchant. Sometime before 1689 she married Richard Knight, of
whom little is known. She is said to have taken over the family business after her father’s death in 1689,
and it may have been in that connection that she set out on an unchaperoned journey on horseback in
October 1704. Her successful completion of the trip from Boston to New York speaks volumes for
Knight’s energy, self-reliance, and courage. She returned to Boston in March, having kept along the way
a detailed journal account of her travels and adventures, her food and lodgings, and the speech and
customs of people she met throughout the journey.

Knight remained active in business as well as legal affairs, and she also conducted a school. She is
said to have had young Benjamin Franklin for a pupil, though there is no factual basis for this claim.
About 1714 she followed her married daughter to New London, Connecticut. She prospered over the
next several years as a shopkeeper and accumulated property in Norwich and New London. At her death
in 1727, Knight left a sizable estate. Her diary passed into private hands and lay unknown until 1825,
when it was published as The Journal of Mme Knight by Theodore Dwight, Jr. The graphic and often
amusing account of her journey proved to be of enduring interest, and the Journal was frequently
reprinted thereafter. It has remained a valuable historical source and a unique literary work.

Historians have learned quite a bit about the colonial period from records kept by explorers, settlers,
and travelers. European explorers recorded their impressions of the New World (a European term for
North America and South America) in reports they sent back to their home countries to encourage
future exploration or colonization. Founders of colonies tried to attract new settlers with books and
pamphlets that promoted the benefits of living in America . Frequently Europeans went to America on
business and later published their impressions of the colonies .

Private journals and diaries also offer glimpses of how people lived—and how they managed to
travel long distances—in various parts of America. One of the most popular works of travel literature
from the colonial period is The Journal of Madame Knight by Sarah Kemble Knight . Published in 1825,
nearly a century after Knight's death, it is an account of her journey through New England in 1704. This
remarkable diary provides a detailed portrait of the landscape and culture of early colonial
Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. It also reveals Knight's strong personality, which enabled
her to overcome the limitations placed on women. At that time many women could not read or write,
let alone take on a difficult journey through the wilderness. In addition to writing the journal, Knight was
a successful businesswoman and legal advisor.

10
Her journal remains noteworthy both for its larger-than-life central character (Knight) and its telling
of a trying journey not normally undertaken by a woman. The discomforts of primitive traveling are
described with much sprightliness and not a little humor, including poems of gratitude and relief about
finding moonlight, and poems of frustration about the loud sounds of drunken-men late at night. The
journal is valuable as a history of the manners and customs of the time, and is full of graphic
descriptions of the early settlements in New England and New York. At the same time, it is interesting
for its original orthography and interspersed rhymes.

Knight's journey was a difficult one, and both the dangers and her courage and determination
throughout the journey are illustrated in multiple moments throughout her journal. Knight’s shrewd
business savvy and determination is apparent early in her account of her journey when she writes about
an exchange concerning payment for an escort. She tells the woman attempting to get more money
from her simply that she “would not be accessary to such extortion.” In the end, Knight stands her
ground and is able to bypass the negotiator, deal directly with the would-be escort, and arrange a price
she feels is fair. Aside from having to negotiate her interactions with other people, Knight must traverse
some rather dangerous landscapes unfamiliar to her. Along the way, Knight may seem to feel fear or
apprehension, but she urges herself on, conquering her fears as she crosses rivers, swamps, and woods,
in canoe, on horseback and by foot. “I now ralyed all the Courage I Was mistriss of, Knowing that I must
either Venture my fate of drowning, or be left like ye Children in the wood.” Knight is not exceptional in
that she does not feel fear throughout her journey, but that she appears to be strong enough to know
what must be done and overcome that fear. Within the journal, Knight shows both determination and
courage as she undertakes a difficult and unusual journey for a woman in early America.

Exerpt

MONDAY, OCTB'R THE SECOND, 1704

About three o'clock afternoon, I begun my Journey from Boston to New-Haven; being about two Hundred
Mile. My Kinsman, Capt. Robert Luist, waited on me as farr as Dedham [Massachusetts], where I was to
meet the Western post.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4TH.

About four in the morning, we set out for Kingston (for so was the Town called) with a french Docter in
our company. Hee and the Post put on [rode their horses] very furiously, so that I could not keep up with
them, only as now and then they'd stop till they see mee. This Rode was poorly furnished with
accommodations for Travellers, so that we were forced to ride 22 miles by the post's account, but neerer
thirty by mine, before wee could bait so much as our Horses, which I exceedingly complained of. But the
post encourag'd mee, by saying wee should be well accommodated anon at mr. Devills, a few miles
further. But I questioned whether we ought to go to the Devil [Knight was associating the man's name
with Satan, or the Devil] to be helpt out of affliction. However, like the rest of Deluded souls that post to
the Infernal denn [go to the Devil's den, or hell], Wee made all possiblespeed to this Devil's Habitation;
where alliting in full assurance of good accommodation, wee were going in. But meeting his two
daughters, as I suposed twins, they so neerly resembled each other, both in features and habit, and look't
as old as the Divel himselfe, and quite as Ugly, We desired entertainm't, but could hardly get a word out
of 'um, till with our Importunity, telling them our necesity, &c. [etc.] they call'd the oldSophister, who
was as sparing of his words as his daughters had bin,and no, or none, was the reply's hee made us to our
demands. Hee differed only in this from the old fellow in to'ther [the other] Country: hee let us depart. . .

11
. . . . This little Hutt was one of the wretchedest I ever saw a habitation for human creatures. It was
suported with shores enclosed withClapbords, laid on Lengthways, and so much asunder, that the Light
come throu' every where; the doore tyed on with a cord in the place of hinges; The floor the bear earth;
no windows but such as the thin covering afforded, nor any furniture but a Bedd with a glass Bottle
hanging at the head on't [on it]; an earthen cupp, a small pewter Bason,A Bord with sticks to stand on,
instead of a table, and a block or two in the corner instead of chairs. The family were the old man, his
wife and two Children; all and every part being the picture of poverty. Notwithstanding both the Hutt
and its Inhabitance were very clean, and tydee. . . .

I had scarce done thinking, when an Indian-like Animal come to the door, on a creature very much like
himselfe, in mien and feature, as well as Ragged cloathing; and having 'litt, makes an Awkerd Scratch
with his Indian shoo, and a Nodd, sitts on the block, fumbles out his black Junk, dipps it in the Ashes, and
presents it piping hott to his muscheeto's, [mustache] and fell to sucking like a calf, without speaking, for
near a quarter of an hower. At length the old man said how do's Sarah do? who I understood was the
wretches wife, and Daughter to the old man: he Replyed—as well as can be expected, &c [etc.] . . . as
ugly as hee was, I was glad to ask him to show me the way to Saxtons, at Stoningtown; which he
promising, I ventur'd over with the old mans assistance . . . I Ridd on very slowly thro' Stoningtown,
where the Rode was very Stony and uneven. I asked the fellow, as we went, divers questions of the place
and way, &c. I being arrived at my country Saxtons, at Stoningtown, was very well accommodated both
as to victuals and Lodging, the only Good of both [the best so far] I had found since my setting out. Here I
heard there was an old man and his Daughter to come that way, bound to N. London; and being
nowdestitute a Guide, gladly waited for them, being in so good a harbour. . . .

SLAVERY
In the early 17th century, European settlers in North America turned to African slaves as a cheaper,
more plentiful labor source than indentured servants (who were mostly poorer Europeans). After 1619,
when a Dutch ship brought 20 Africans ashore at the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, slavery
spread throughout the American colonies. Some historians have estimated that 6 to 7 million slaves
were imported to the New World during the 18th century alone, depriving the African continent of
some of its healthiest and ablest men and women.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, black slaves worked mainly on the tobacco, rice and indigo
plantations of the southern coast. After the American Revolution(1775-83), many colonists (particularly
in the North, where slavery was relatively unimportant to the economy) began to link the oppression of
black slaves to their own oppression by the British, and to call for slavery’s abolition. After the war’s
end, however, the new U.S. Constitution tacitly acknowledged the institution, counting each slave as
three-fifths of a person for the purposes of taxation and representation in Congress and guaranteeing
the right to repossess any “person held to service or labor” (an obvious euphemism for slavery).

In the late 18th century, with the land used to grow tobacco nearly exhausted, the South faced an
economic crisis, and the continued growth of slavery in America seemed in doubt. Around the same
time, the mechanization of the textile industry in England led to a huge demand for American cotton, a

12
southern crop whose production was unfortunately limited by the difficulty of removing the seeds from
raw cotton fibers by hand. In 1793, a young Yankee schoolteacher named Eli Whitney invented the
cotton gin, a simple mechanized device that efficiently removed the seeds. His device was widely
copied, and within a few years the South would transition from the large-scale production of tobacco to
that of cotton, a switch that reinforced the region’s dependence on slave labor.

Slavery itself was never widespread in the North, though many of the region’s businessmen grew rich
on the slave trade and investments in southern plantations. Between 1774 and 1804, all of the northern
states abolished slavery, but the so-called “peculiar institution” remained absolutely vital to the South.
Though the U.S. Congress outlawed the African slave trade in 1808, the domestic trade flourished, and
the slave population in the U.S. nearly tripled over the next 50 years. By 1860 it had reached nearly 4
million, with more than half living in the cotton-producing states of the South.

Slaves in the antebellum South constituted about one-third of the southern population. Most slaves
lived on large farms or small plantations; many masters owned less than 50 slaves. Slave owners sought
to make their slaves completely dependent on them, and a system of restrictive codes governed life
among slaves. They were prohibited from learning to read and write, and their behavior and movement
was restricted. Many masters took sexual liberties with slave women, and rewarded obedient slave
behavior with favors, while rebellious slaves were brutally punished. A strict hierarchy among slaves
(from privileged house slaves and skilled artisans down to lowly field hands) helped keep them divided
and less likely to organize against their masters. Slave marriages had no legal basis, but slaves did marry
and raise large families; most slave owners encouraged this practice, but nonetheless did not hesitate to
divide slave families by sale or removal.

Slave revolts did occur within the system (notably ones led by Gabriel Prosser in Richmond in 1800
and by Denmark Vesey in Charleston in 1822), but few were successful. The slave revolt that most
terrified white slaveholders was that led by Nat Turner in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831.
Turner’s group, which eventually numbered around 75 blacks, murdered some 60 whites in two days
before armed resistance from local whites and the arrival of state militia forces overwhelmed them.
Supporters of slavery pointed to Turner’s rebellion as evidence that blacks were inherently inferior
barbarians requiring an institution such as slavery to discipline them, and fears of similar insurrections
led many southern states to further strengthen their slave codes in order to limit the education,
movement and assembly of slaves. In the North, the increased repression of southern blacks would only
fan the flames of the growing abolition movement.

Free blacks and other antislavery northerners had begun helping fugitive slaves escape from
southern plantations to the North via a loose network of safe houses as early as the 1780s. This practice,
known as the Underground Railroad, gained real momentum in the 1830s and although estimates vary
widely, it may have helped anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 slaves reach freedom. The success of the
Underground Railroad helped spread abolitionist feelings in the North; it also undoubtedly increased
sectional tensions, convincing pro-slavery southerners of their northern countrymen’s determination to
defeat the institution that sustained them.

By freeing some 3 million black slaves in the rebel states, the Emancipation Proclamation deprived
the Confederacy of the bulk of its labor forces and put international public opinion strongly on the Union
side. Some 186,000 black soldiers would join the Union Army by the time the war ended in 1865, and
38,000 lost their lives. The total number of dead at war’s end was 620,000 (out of a population of some
35 million), making it the costliest conflict in American history.

13
The 13th Amendment, adopted late in 1865, officially abolished slavery, but freed blacks’ status in
the post-war South remained precarious, and significant challenges awaited during
the Reconstruction period (1865-77). Former slaves received the rights of citizenship and the “equal
protection” of the Constitution in the 14th Amendment (1868) and the right to vote in the 15th (1870),
but the provisions of Constitution were often ignored or violated, and it was difficult for former slaves to
gain a foothold in the post-war economy thanks to restrictive black codes and regressive contractual
arrangements such as sharecropping.

Almost a century later, resistance to the lingering racism and discrimination in America that began
during the slavery era would lead to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which would achieve the
greatest political and social gains for blacks since Reconstruction.

PHILLIS WHEATLEY
Phillis Wheatley was the first black poet in America to publish a book. She was born in 1753, in West
Africa and brought to New England in 1761, where John Wheatley of Boston purchased her as a gift for
his wife. Although they brought her into the household as a slave, the Wheatleys took a great interest in
Phillis’s education. Many biographers have pointed to her precocity; Wheatley learned to read and write
English by the age of nine, and she became familiar with Latin, Greek, the Bible, and selected classics at
an early age. She began writing poetry at thirteen, modeling her work on the English poets of the time,
particularly John Milton, Thomas Gray, and Alexander Pope. Her poem “On the Death of the Rev. Mr.
George Whitefield” was published as a broadside in cities such as Boston, New York, and Philadelphia
and garnered Wheatley national acclaim. This poem was also printed in London. Over the next few
years, she would print a number of broadsides elegizing prominent English and colonial leaders.

Wheatley’s doctor suggested that a sea voyage might improve her delicate health, so in 1771 she
accompanied Nathaniel Wheatley on a trip to London. She was well received in London and wrote to a
friend of the “unexpected and unmerited civility and complaisance with which I was treated by all.” In
1773, thirty-nine of her poems were published in London as Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and
Moral. The book includes many elegies as well as poems on Christian themes; it also includes poems
dealing with race, such as the often-anthologized “On Being Brought from Africa to America.” She
returned to America in 1773.

After Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley died, Phillis was left to support herself as a seamstress and poet. It is
unclear precisely when Wheatley was freed from slavery, although scholars suggest it occurred between
1774 and 1778. In 1776, Wheatley wrote a letter and poem in support of George Washington; he replied
with an invitation to visit him in Cambridge, stating that he would be “happy to see a person so favored
by the muses.” In 1778, she married John Peters, who kept a grocery store. They had three children
together, all of whom died young. Because of the war and the poor economy, Wheatley experienced
difficulty publishing her poems. She solicited subscribers for a new volume that would include thirty-
three new poems and thirteen letters, but was unable to raise the funds. Phillis Wheatley, who had once
been internationally celebrated, died alone in a boarding house on December 5, 1784. She was thirty-

14
one years old. Many of the poems for her proposed second volume disappeared and have never been
recovered.

Wheatley believed that the power of poetry is immeasurable. John C. Shields notes that her poetry
did not simply reflect novels which she read but was based on her personal ideas and beliefs. Shields
writes, "Wheatley had more in mind than simple conformity. It will be shown later that her allusions to
the sun god and to the goddess of the morn, always appearing as they do here in close association with
her quest for poetic inspiration, are of central importance to her."

She used three primary elements: Christianity, classicism, and hierophantic solar worship.The
hierophantic solar worship is what she brought with her from Africa; the worship of sun gods is
expressed as part of her African culture. As her parents were sun worshipers, it may be why she used so
many different words for the sun. For instance, she uses Aurora eight times, "Apollo seven, Phoebus
twelve, and Sol twice."Shields believes that the word "light" is significant to her as it marks her African
history, a past that she has left physically behind.

He notes that Sun is a homonym for Son, and that Wheatley intended a double reference to
Christ.Wheatley also refers to "heav'nly muse" in two of her poems: "To a Clergy Man on the Death of
his Lady" and "Isaiah LXIII," signifying her idea of the Christian deity. Shields believes that her use of
classicism set her work apart from that of her contemporaries. He writes, "Wheatley’s use of classicism
distinguishes her work as original and unique and deserves extended treatment." Shields sums up
Wheatley’s writing by characterizing it as "contemplative and reflective rather than brilliant and
shimmering.

ODE TO NEPTUNE

I.
WHILE raging tempests shake the shore,
While AElus’ thunders round us roar,
And sweep impetuous o’er the plain
Be still, O tyrant of the main;
Nor let thy brow contracted frowns betray,
While my Susanna skims the wat’ry way.
II.
The Pow’r propitious hears the lay,
The blue-ey’d daughters of the sea
With sweeter cadence glide along,
And Thames responsive joins the song.
Pleas’d with their notes Sol sheds benign his ray,
And double radiance decks the face of day.
III.
To court thee to Britannia’s arms
Serene the climes and mild the sky,
Her region boasts unnumber’d charms,
Thy welcome smiles in ev’ry eye.
Thy promise, Neptune keep, record my pray’r,
Not give my wishes to the empty air.

15
Analysis

Throughout this poem, Wheatley uses the passage of a ship through a storm at sea to embody her
life. On the surface, it is a poem about her mistress Susanna voyaging to Britain to recover her health,
but on a deeper level, the poem is about Wheatley’s own experiences. The poem begins with powerful
words describing nature’s wrath, personifying the storm through the mythological Aeolus, Greek king of
the winds. Nature is impulsive, “impetuous” as it strikes into life. The poem’s speaker demands Aeolus
to “be still,” referring to him as a “tyrant,” as he has enslaved the winds, much like Anglo-Saxons
enslaved Wheatley. Aeolus’ control is unnatural, just as white’s mastery over blacks is not a thing of
God. Wheatley’s mistress, Susanna, crosses the sea as slaver’s ships do. Personifications of the ocean-
“blue ey’d daughters of the sea”- accompany Susanna on her voyage, and the sea calms, heeding the
“lay” of the speaker. Nature is not something meant to be tamed in this poem, just as slavery is not
meant to occur naturally, and the winds, now free of Aeolus, are kinder. Elements are in harmony as
the Thames responds to “the song.”
Sol, personification of the sun and perhaps reminiscent of Wheatley’s sun-worshipping pagan
parents, is “pleas’d with their notes” and so shines forth. The storm clears, signifying that Wheatley’s
harrowing passage on a slave ship is over and that her comfortable life with kind masters has begun.
After education, “Britannia” is her ideal place, with its intellectual merits and comforts of “serene”
climes and “mild” skies- a far cry from the turbulence of the slave trade. Wheatley lionized the likes of
Alexander Pope and Milton, whom she studied extensively, and they number among the “unnumber’d
charms” Brittania “boasts.” In the last lines, she implores Neptune, who the poem is dedicated to, to
grant her safe passage in life. The overall mood of the poem is adventurous yet scary, reflecting
Wheatley’s life’s journey.

TRANSCENDENTALISM
Transcendentalism was a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in
the eastern region of the United States. The adherents to Transcendentalism believed that knowledge
could be arrived at not just through the senses, but through intuition and contemplation of the internal
spirit. As such, they professed skepticism of all established religions, believing that Divinity resided in the
individual, and the mediation of a church was cumbersome to achieving enlightenment. The genesis of
the movement can be accurately traced to 1836 and the first gathering of the Transcendental Club in
Cambridge, Massachusetts. The father of the movement, an appellation he probably did not relish, was
Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other prominent contributors included Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller,
William Henry Channing, and George Ripley.

In the grand scheme, the Transcendentalist’s moment on the literary stage was decidedly brief. With
Fuller’s death in 1850, one of the movement’s great advocates was silenced. Emerson lacked the vitality
and desire to follow in her path. Though their hold on the public imagination was short-lived, the long-
lasting influence that the Transcendentalists had on American literature cannot be denied. Even the
philosophy’s critics were forced to acknowledge the effects that the Transcendental Movement had on
the world, particularly the American experience of the world. For Transcendentalism was a distinctly
American expression, with concerns and ideals that perhaps did not fully translate in England or
Continental Europe. The philosophy was inexorably bound together with American’s expansionist

16
impulse, as well as the troubling question of slavery and women’s place in society. A philosophical-
literary movement cannot solve such problems, but it can provide the vocabulary to discuss them
reasonably.

On the most basic level, Transcendentalism represented a new way of understanding truth and
knowledge. The roots of the philosophy go back to Germany, specifically the writings and theories of
Immanuel Kant. In contrast to the scientific revolutions which were daily adding to the store of facts,
Kant concerned himself with the abstractions of existence – those things which cannot be known for
sure. He argued that individuals have it in their power to reason for themselves whether a thing be true
or not, and how to fit their reasoning into an overall view of the world. Kant set himself apart from those
who believed the senses to be perfect measures of reality. He encouraged a healthy level of doubt and
skepticism, but not to the point of nihilistic despair. Kant asserted that humans must embrace the fact
that some things cannot be known with certainty, no matter how advanced science and technology
become. Together with the spiritualism of Emanuel Swedenborg, a religious mystic gathering a large
following in Western Europe, American intellectuals had the ingredients for a philosophical mélange
that blended a powerful idealism with Puritanical humility and work ethic.

In addition to their heady philosophical forebears, the Transcendentalists owed a great debt to the
English Romantics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Many distinctly Romantic
tropes echo through the pages of Transcendental literature. Obviously, the predilection to turn to the
natural world for intimations of truth was a recurrent theme for the Romantics. In Transcendental
philosophy, the grind of ordinary life and society are seen as barriers between the self and the spirit.
Thus, Nature presents a way to free the mind of its typical distractions. The very word “transcend”
connotes moving beyond some stultifying condition of mind or body.

Another strongly Romantic concept that the Transcendentalists embraced was the renewed potency
and potentiality of the individual. Specifically, the imagination was glorified as one of the defining,
almost divine characteristics of consciousness. Through imagination, the human mind could extend itself
in ways that had never been considered. Transcendentalists differed somewhat from the Romantics in
that they ultimately wanted to effect change, both personally and globally. Romanticism, generally
speaking, was too much preoccupied with the ego and aesthetics to work for change in the real world.
This newly enlightened, transcendent individual could go into the world and work to make it a better
place. The Transcendental Movement was nothing if not idealist.

RALPH WLADO EMERSON

American poet, essayist, and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803, in
Boston, Massachusetts. After studying at Harvard and teaching for a brief time, Emerson entered the
ministry. He was appointed to the Old Second Church in his native city, but soon became an unwilling
preacher. Unable in conscience to administer the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper after the death of his
nineteen-year-old wife of tuberculosis, Emerson resigned his pastorate in 1831.

In 1832 Emerson traveled to Europe, where he met with literary figures Thomas Carlyle, the
Scottish-born English writer, famous for his explosive attacks on hypocrisy and materialism, his distrust

17
of democracy, and his highly romantic belief in the power of the individual, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and
William Wordsworth.

On his return to New England, Emerson became known for challenging traditional thought. In 1835,
he married his second wife, Lydia Jackson, and settled in Concord, Massachusetts. Known in the local
literary circle as “The Sage of Concord," Emerson became the chief spokesman for Transcendentalism,
the American philosophic and literary movement. Centered in New England during the 19th century,
Transcendentalism was a reaction against scientific rationalism.

In the 1830s Emerson gave lectures that he afterward published in essay form. These essays,
particularly “Nature” (1836), embodied his newly developed philosophy. “The American Scholar,” based
on a lecture that he gave in 1837, encouraged American authors to find their own style instead of
imitating their foreign predecessors. Emerson became known as the central figure of his literary and
philosophical group, now known as the American Transcendentalists. These writers shared a key belief
that each individual could transcend, or move beyond, the physical world of the senses into deeper
spiritual experience through free will and intuition. In this school of thought, God was not remote and
unknowable; believers understood God and themselves by looking into their own souls and by feeling
their own connection to nature.

The 1840s were productive years for Emerson. He founded and co-edited the literary magazine The
Dial, and he published two volumes of essays in 1841 and 1844. Some of the essays, including “Self-
Reliance,” “Friendship” and “Experience,” number among his best-known works. His four children, two
sons and two daughters, were born in the 1840s.

Emerson wrote a poetic prose, ordering his essays by recurring themes and images. His poetry, on
the other hand, is often called harsh and didactic. Among Emerson’s most well known works are Essays,
First and Second Series (1841, 1844). The First Series includes Emerson’s famous essay, “Self-Reliance,"
in which the writer instructs his listener to examine his relationship with Nature and God, and to trust
his own judgment above all others. Emerson’s other volumes include Poems (1847),Representative
Men (1850), The Conduct of Life (1860), and English Traits (1865). His best-known addresses are The
American Scholar (1837) and The Divinity School Address, which he delivered before the graduates of
the Harvard Divinity School, shocking Boston’s conservative clergymen with his descriptions of the
divinity of man and the humanity of Jesus.

Emerson’s philosophy is characterized by its reliance on intuition as the only way to comprehend reality,
and his concepts owe much to the works of Plotinus, Swedenborg, and Böhme. A believer in the “divine
sufficiency of the individual," Emerson was a steady optimist. His refusal to grant the existence of evil
caused Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James, Sr., among others, to doubt his
judgment. In spite of their skepticism, Emerson’s beliefs are of central importance in the history of
American culture.

EDGAR ALLAN POE


Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry
and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central

18
figure of Romanticism in the United States and American literature as a whole, and he was one of the
country's earliest practitioners of the short story. Poe is generally considered the inventor of
the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science
fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone,
resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

On January 19, 1809, Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe’s father and mother,
both professional actors, died before the poet was three years old, and John and Frances Allan raised
him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia. John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the
best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where Poe excelled academically. After less
than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the university when Allan refused to pay Poe’s
gambling debts.

Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated. In 1827, he moved to
Boston and enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other
Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf,
Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following
his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to
leave for lack of financial support.

After leaving the academy, Poe focused his writing full time. He moved around in search of
opportunity, living in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Richmond. From 1831 to 1835, he
stayed in Baltimore with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia. His young cousin, Virginia,
became a literary inspiration to Poe as well as his love interest. The couple married in 1836 when she
was only 13 (or 14 as some sources say) years old.

Returning to Richmond in 1835, Poe went to work for a magazine called The Southern Literary
Messenger. There he developed a reputation as a cut-throat critic, writing vicious reviews of his
contemporaries. Poe also published some of his own works in the magazine, including two parts of his
only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym. Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of
literary journals including the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia
and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a
poet, a short story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems,
including “The Fall of the House of Usher," “The Tell-Tale Heart," “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,"
and “The Raven.” After Virginia’s death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe’s lifelong struggle with
depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an
editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was
found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of “acute congestion of the brain.”
Evidence by medical practitioners who reopened the case has shown that Poe may have been suffering
from rabies.

Poe's best known fiction works are Gothic, a genre that he followed to appease the public taste. His
most recurring themes deal with questions of death, including its physical signs, the effects of
decomposition, concerns of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning. Many of his
works are generally considered part of the dark romanticism genre, a literary reaction to
transcendentalism which Poe strongly disliked. Beyond horror, Poe also wrote satires, humor tales,
and hoaxes. For comic effect, he used irony and ludicrous extravagance, often in an attempt to liberate
the reader from cultural conformity.

19
During his lifetime, Poe was mostly recognized as a literary critic. Fellow critic James Russell
Lowell called him "the most discriminating, philosophical, and fearless critic upon imaginative works who
has written in America". Poe was also known as a writer of fiction and became one of the first American
authors of the 19th century to become more popular in Europe than in the United States.

Poe's early detective fiction tales featuring C. Auguste Dupin laid the groundwork for future
detectives in literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, "Each [of Poe's detective stories] is a root from
which a whole literature has developed.... Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath
of life into it?”

THE RAVEN

ONCE upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,


Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
5
"'T is some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December


And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
10
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore,
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore:
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain


Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
15
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'T is some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door,
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door:
This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,


20
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"—here I opened wide the door:—
Darkness there and nothing more.
25
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore:"
30
Merely this and nothing more.

20
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore;
35
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore:
'T is the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
40
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door,
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door:
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling


By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,—
45
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore:
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,


50
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door,
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."
55
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered, not a feather then he fluttered,
Till I scarcely more than muttered,—"Other friends have flown before;
On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before."
60
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,


"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore:
65
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never—nevermore.'

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,


Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
70
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore,

21
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing


To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
75
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
80
Swung by seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!"
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
85
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! prophet still, if bird or devil!
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore:
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!"
90
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!


By that Heaven that bends above us, by that God we both adore,
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore:
95
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting:
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
100
Leave my loneliness unbroken! quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting


On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
105
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor:
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

22
Analysis

"The Raven" is the most famous of Poe's poems, notable for its melodic and dramatic qualities. The
meter of the poem is mostly trochaic octameter, with eight stressed-unstressed two-syllable feet per
lines. Combined with the predominating ABCBBB end rhyme scheme and the frequent use of internal
rhyme, the trochaic octameter and the refrain of "nothing more" and "nevermore" give the poem a
musical lilt when read aloud. Poe also emphasizes the "O" sound in words such as "Lenore" and
"nevermore" in order to underline the melancholy and lonely sound of the poem and to establish the
overall atmosphere. Finally, the repetition of "nevermore" gives a circular sense to the poem and
contributes to what Poe termed the unity of effect, where each word and line adds to the larger
meaning of the poem.

The ballad is a nightmarish narrative of a young man who, bereaved by the death of the woman he
loved, compulsively constructs a self-destructive meaning around a raven’s repetition of the word
“Nevermore,” until he finally despairs of being reunited with his beloved Lenore in another world.

The first seven stanzas establish the setting and the narrator’s melancholic, impressionable state of
mind. Weak and worn out with grief, the speaker had sought distraction from his sorrow by reading
curiously esoteric books. Awakened at midnight by a sound outside his chamber, he opens the door,
expecting a visitor; he finds only darkness. Apprehensive, he whispers the name Lenore and closes the
door. When the tapping persists, he opens a window, admitting a raven that perches upon a bust of
Pallas (Athena).

In stanzas 8 to 11, the narrator, beguiled by the ludicrous image of the black bird in his room,
playfully asks the raven its name, as if to reassure himself that it portends nothing ominous. He is
startled, however, to hear the raven respond, saying, “Nevermore.” Although the word apparently has
little relevance to any discoverable meaning, the narrator is sobered by the bird’s forlorn utterance. He
assumes that the raven’s owner, having suffered unendurable disasters, taught the bird to imitate
human speech in order to utter the one word most expressive of the owner’s sense of hopelessness.

In stanzas 12 and 13, the narrator settles himself on a velvet cushion in front of the bird and ponders
what the raven meant by repeating a word he inevitably associated with thoughts of the departed
Lenore. At this point, the grieving lover, in anticipation of the raven’s maddening repetition of
“Nevermore,” begins masochistically to frame increasingly painful questions.

Imagining a perfumed presence in the room, the narrator, in a state of growing agitation, asks the
raven whether God had mercifully sent him to induce in the poet forgetfulness of the lost Lenore; the
inevitable response causes the narrator to plead with the raven—now addressed as a prophet of evil
sent by the “Temptor”—to tell him whether there is any healing in heaven for his grief. The raven’s
predictable answer provokes the grieving lover, now almost in a state of maddened frenzy, to ask
bluntly whether his soul would ever be reunited with Lenore in heaven. Receiving the horrific
“Nevermore” in reply to his ultimate question, the distraught narrator demands that the raven, whether
actual bird or fiend, leave his chambers and quit torturing his heart; the raven’s unendurable answer
drives the bereaved lover into a state of maddened despair. The raven becomes a permanent fixture in
the room, a symbolic presence presiding over the narrator’s self-inflicted mental and spiritual collapse.

23
Poe wrote “The Philosophy of Composition,” an essay reconstructing the step-by-step process of
how he composed the poem as if it were a precise mathematical problem. Discounting the role of
serendipity, romantic inspiration, or intuition, Poe accounted for every detail as the result of calculated
effect.

His essay sheds light on three important aspects implicit in the poem’s form: its conception as a
theatrical performance; the narrator’s anguished involvement in making meaning by obsessively asking
increasingly self-lacerating questions; and the function of the maddening, incantatory rhythm and
rhymes that help cast a mind-paralyzing spell over both the declaiming narrator and the reader.

The persona narrates the poem as a kind of dramatic monologue, carefully arranging the scene of
his chamber and the stage properties for maximum theatrical effect: the play of light and shadow from
the hearth, the esoteric volumes, the silken, purple curtains, the door and window opening onto a
tempestuous night offstage. There is also the dramatic juxtaposition of the black talking bird perched on
the white bust of Pallas over the chamber door, the velvet cushion on which the narrator sits facing the
raven, and the lamplight throwing shadows over the narrator’s soul “floating on the floor,” at the
frenzied climax of the poem. Even the pivotal refrain that keynotes the poem’s structure contributes to
the artistic effect “in the theatrical sense.”

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
One of the leading figures of early American history, Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) was a statesman,
author, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat. Born into a Boston family of modest means, Franklin
had little formal education. He went on to start a successful printing business in Philadelphia and grew
wealthy. Franklin was deeply active in public affairs in his adopted city, where he helped launch a
lending library, hospital and college, and garnered acclaim for his experiments with electricity, among
other projects. During the American Revolution, he served in the Second Continental Congress and
helped draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He also negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris that
ended the Revolutionary War (1775-83). In 1787, in his final significant act of public service, he was a
delegate to the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution.

Benjamin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 17, 1706. His father was a candle maker.
He stopped going to school when he was 10 and starting working as an apprentice for his brother as
printer when he was 12. He gained most of this education by reading a lot of books.

Aged 17, Benjamin Franklin left for Philadelphia, escaping from his apprenticeship, which was against
the law. He was, however, free. After a few months in Philadelphia he left for London, England, where
he learned more about printing, before returning to Philadelphia at the age of 20 to continue his career
in printing.

By the age of just 23, Franklin had become the publisher of the Philadelphia Gazette, which proved
popular–and to which he contributed much of the content, often using pseudonyms. Franklin achieved
fame and further financial success with “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” which he published every year from
1733 to 1758. The almanac became known for its witty sayings, which often had to do with the

24
importance of diligence and frugality, such as “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy,
wealthy and wise.”

As Franklin’s printing business prospered, he became increasingly involved in civic affairs. Starting in
the 1730s, he helped establish a number of community organizations in Philadelphia, including a lending
library (it was founded in 1731, a time when books weren’t widely available in the colonies, and
remained the largest U.S. public library until the 1850s), the city’s first fire company, a police patrol and
the American Philosophical Society, a group devoted to the sciences and other scholarly pursuits.
Franklin also organized the Pennsylvania militia, raised funds to build a city hospital and spearheaded a
program to pave and light city streets. Additionally, Franklin was helped in the creation of the Academy
of Philadelphia, a college which opened in 1751 and became known as the University of Pennsylvania in
1791.

Ben Franklin was a prominent inventor and scientist. He is most famous for his experiments with
electricity. He did many experiments to prove that lightning is in fact electricity. This led to his invention
of the lighting rod, which helps to keep buildings safe from lighting. Other inventions by Ben Franklin
include bifocals (a type of glasses), the Franklin stove, an odometer for a carriage, and the glass
harmonica.In science he studied and made discoveries in the area of electricity, cooling, meteorology,
printing, and the wave theory of light.

In 1754, at a meeting of colonial representatives in Albany, New York, Franklin proposed a plan for
uniting the colonies under a national congress. Although his Albany Plan was rejected, it helped lay the
groundwork for the Articles of Confederation, which became the first constitution of the United States
when ratified in 1781.

In 1757, Franklin traveled to London as a representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, to which he was
elected in 1751. Franklin returned to Philadelphia in May 1775, shortly after the Revolutionary War
(1775-83) had begun, and was selected to serve as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress,
America’s governing body at the time. In 1776, he was part of the five-member committee that helped
draft the Declaration of Independence, in which the 13 American colonies declared their freedom from
British rule. That same year, Congress sent Franklin to France to enlist that nation’s help with the
Revolutionary War. In February 1778, the French signed a military alliance with America and went on to
provide soldiers, supplies and money that proved critical to America’s victory in the war. As minister to
France starting in 1778, Franklin helped negotiate and draft the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the
Revolutionary War.

Poor Richard's Almanack (sometimes Almanac) was a yearly almanac published by Benjamin Franklin,
who adopted the pseudonym of "Poor Richard" or "Richard Saunders" for this purpose. The publication
appeared continually from 1732 to 1758. It sold exceptionally well for a pamphlet published in the
American colonies. Almanacs were very popular books in colonial America, offering a mixture of
seasonal weather forecasts, practical household hints, puzzles, and other amusements. Poor Richard's
Almanack was also popular for its extensive use of wordplay, and some of the witty phrases coined in
the work survive in the contemporary American vernacular.

25
Bibliography:

http://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/benjamin-franklin

http://www.shmoop.com/new-england-puritans-pilgrims/

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/phillis-wheatley

https://wheatleyphillis.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/ode-to-neptune/

http://www.bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/to-my-dear-
and-loving-husband.html#.V2bfa9KLTct

http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/slavery

http://www.ushistory.org/us/26f.asp

http://www.online-literature.com/periods/transcendentalism.php

http://www.history.com/topics/puritanism

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/edgar-allan-poe

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Mary-Rowlandson

http://www4.ncsu.edu/~wdlloyd/rowlandsonnotes.htm

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Sarah-Kemble-Knight

http://connecticuthistory.org/sarah-kemble-knights-journey-through-colonial-
connecticut/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Waldo_Emerson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Kemble_Knight

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Rowlandson

26