Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Narrative and Legendary Poems
The Pennsylvania Pilgrim
Introductory
 
          The beginning of German emigration to America may be traced to the personal influence of William Penn, who in 1677 visited the Continent, and made the acquaintance of an intelligent and highly cultivated circle of Pietists, or Mystics, who, reviving in the seventeenth century the spiritual faith and worship of Tauler and the “Friends of God” in the fourteenth, gathered about the pastor Spener, and the young and beautiful Eleonora Johanna Von Merlau. In this circle originated the Frankfort Land Company, which bought of William Penn, the Governor of Pennsylvania, a tract of land near the new city of Philadelphia.
  The company’s agent in the New World was a rising young lawyer, Francis Daniel Pastorius, son of Judge Pastorius, of Windsheim, who, at the age of seventeen, entered the University of Altorf. He studied law at Strasburg, Basle, and Jena, and at Ratisbon, the seat of the Imperial Government, obtained a practical knowledge of international polity. Successful in all his examinations and disputations, he received the degree of Doctor of Law at Nuremberg in 1676. In 1679 he was a law-lecturer at Frankfort, where he became deeply interested in the teachings of Dr. Spener. In 1680–81 he travelled in France, England, Ireland, and Italy with his friend Herr Von Rodeck. “I was,” he says, “glad to enjoy again the company of my Christian friends, rather than be with Von Rodeck feasting and dancing.” In 1683, in company with a small number of German Friends, he emigrated to America, settling upon the Frankfort Company’s tract between the Schuylkill and the Delaware rivers. The township was divided into four hamlets, namely, Germantown, Krisheim, Crefield, and Sommerhausen. Soon after his arrival he united himself with the Society of Friends, and became one of its most able and devoted members, as well as the recognized head and lawgiver of the settlement. He married, two years after his arrival, Anneke (Anna), daughter of Dr. Klosterman, of Muhlheim.
  In the year 1688 he drew up a memorial against slaveholding, which was adopted by the Germantown Friends and sent up to the Monthly Meeting, and thence to the Yearly Meeting at Philadelphia. It is noteworthy as the first protest made by a religious body against Negro Slavery. The original document was discovered in 1844 by the Philadelphia antiquarian, Nathan Kite, and published in The Friend (Vol. XVIII. No. 16). It is a bold and direct appeal to the best instincts of the heart. “Have not,” he asks, “these negroes as much right to fight for their freedom as you have to keep them slaves?”
  Under the wise direction of Pastorius, the Germantown settlement grew and prospered. The inhabitants planted orchards and vineyards, and surrounded themselves with souvenirs of their old home. A large number of them were linen-weavers, as well as small farmers. The Quakers were the principal sect, but men of all religions were tolerated, and lived together in harmony. In 1692 Richard Frame published, in what he called verse, a Description of Pennsylvania, in which he alludes to the settlement:—
        “The German town of which I spoke before,
Which is at least in length one mile or more,
Where lives High German people and Low Dutch,
Whose trade in weaving linen cloth is much,—
There grows the flax, as also you may know
That from the same they do divide the tow.
Their trade suits well their habitation,—
We find convenience for their occupation.”
  Pastorius seems to have been on intimate terms with William Penn, Thomas Lloyd, Chief Justice Logan, Thomas Story, and other leading men in the Province belonging to his own religious society, as also with Kelpius, the learned Mystic of the Wissahickon, with the pastor of the Swedes’ church, and the leaders of the Mennonites. He wrote a description of Pennsylvania, which was published at Frankfort and Leipsic in 1700 and 1701. His Lives of the Saints, etc., written in German and dedicated to Professor Schurmberg, his old teacher, was published in 1690. He left behind him many unpublished manuscripts covering a very wide range of subjects, most of which are now lost. One huge manuscript folio, entitled Hive Beestock, Melliotropheum Alucar, or Rusca Apium, still remains, containing one thousand pages with about one hundred lines to a page. It is a medley of knowledge and fancy, history, philosophy, and poetry, written in seven languages. A large portion of his poetry is devoted to the pleasures of gardening, the description of flowers, and the care of bees. The following specimen of his punning Latin is addressed to an orchard-pilferer:—
        “Quisquis in hæc furtim reptas viridaria nostra
Tangere fallaci poma caveto manu,
Si non obsequeris faxit Deus omne quod opto,
Cum malis nostris ut mala cuncta feras.”
  Professor Oswald Seidensticker, to whose papers in Der Deutsche Pioneer and that able periodical the Penn Monthly, of Philadelphia, I am indebted for many of the foregoing facts in regard to the German pilgrims of the New World, thus closes his notice of Pastorius:—
  “No tombstone, not even a record of burial, indicates where his remains have found their last resting-place, and the pardonable desire to associate the homage due to this distinguished man with some visible memento cannot be gratified. There is no reason to suppose that he was interred in any other place than the Friends’ old burying-ground in Germantown, though the fact is not attested by any definite source of information. After all, this obliteration of the last trace of his earthly existence is but typical of what has overtaken the times which he represents; that Germantown which he founded, which saw him live and move, is at present but a quaint idyl of the past, almost a myth, barely remembered and little cared for by the keener race that has succeeded.”
  The Pilgrims of Plymouth have not lacked historian and poet. Justice has been done to their faith, courage, and self-sacrifice, and to the mighty influence of their endeavors to establish righteousness on the earth. The Quaker pilgrims of Pennsylvania, seeking the same object by different means, have not been equally fortunate. The power of their testimony for truth and holiness, peace and freedom, enforced only by what Milton calls “the unresistible might of meekness,” has been felt through two centuries in the amelioration of penal severities, the abolition of slavery, the reform of the erring, the relief of the poor and suffering,—felt, in brief, in every step of human progress. But of the men themselves, with the single exception of William Penn, scarcely anything is known. Contrasted, from the outset, with the stern, aggressive Puritans of New England, they have come to be regarded as “a feeble folk,” with a personality as doubtful as their unrecorded graves. They were not soldiers, like Miles Standish; they had no figure so picturesque as Vane, no leader so rashly brave and haughty as Endicott. No Cotton Mather wrote their Magnalia; they had no awful drama of supernaturalism in which Satan and his angels were actors; and the only witch mentioned in their simple annals was a poor old Swedish woman, who, on complaint of her countrywomen, was tried and acquitted of everything but imbecility and folly. Nothing but commonplace offices of civility came to pass between them and the Indians; indeed, their enemies taunted them with the fact that the savages did not regard them as Christians, but just such men as themselves. Yet it must be apparent to every careful observer of the progress of American civilization that its two principal currents had their sources in the entirely opposite directions of the Puritan and Quaker colonies. To use the words of a late writer [Mulford’s Nation, pp. 267, 268.]: “The historical forces, with which no others may be compared in their influence on the people, have been those of the Puritan and the Quaker. The strength of the one was in the confession of an invisible Presence, a righteous, eternal Will, which would establish righteousness on earth; and thence arose the conviction of a direct personal responsibility, which could be tempted by no external splendor and could be shaken by no internal agitation, and could not not evaded or transferred. The strength of the other was the witness in the human spirit to an eternal Word, an Inner Voice which spoke to each alone, while yet it spoke to every man; a Light which each was to follow, and which yet was the light of the world; and all other voices were silent before this, and the solitary path whither it led was more sacred than the worn ways of cathedral-aisles.”
  It will be sufficiently apparent to the reader that, in the poem which follows, I have attempted nothing beyond a study of the life and times of the Pennsylvania colonist,—a simple picture of a noteworthy man and his locality. The colors of my sketch are all very sober, toned down to the quiet and dreamy atmosphere through which its subject is visible. Whether, in the glare and tumult of the present time, such a picture will find favor may well be questioned. I only know that it has beguiled for me some hours of weariness, and that, whatever may be its measure of public appreciation, it has been to me its own reward.
J. G. W.    
  AMESBURY, 5th mo., 1872.

    HAIL to posterity!
Hail, future men of Germanopolis!
    Let the young generations yet to be
    Look kindly upon this.
Think how your fathers left their native land,—        5
    Dear German-land! O sacred hearths and homes!—
  And, where the wild beast roams,
          In patience planned
New forest-homes beyond the mighty sea,
    There undisturbed and free        10
To live as brothers of one family.
    What pains and cares befell,
      What trials and what fears,
Remember, and wherein we have done well
  Follow our footsteps, men of coming years!        15
    Where we have failed to do
          Aright, or wisely live,
Be warned by us, the better way pursue,
And, knowing we were human, even as you,
          Pity us and forgive!        20
    Farewell, Posterity!
  Farewell, dear Germany!
    Forevermore farewell!

  From the Latin of FRANCIS DANIEL PASTORIUS in the Germantown Records. 1688.
 
 
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