Tuesday, April 30, 2013

1628: Revels in New Canaan [EDITED]

“The Inhabitants of Pasonagessit (having translated the name of their habitation from that ancient Salvage name to Ma-reMount [MerryMount]; and being resolved to have the new name confirmed for a memorial to after ages) did devise amongst themselves to have it performed in a solemne manner with Revels, & merriment after the old English custorne: prepared to sett up a Maypole upon the festivall day of Philip and Jacob ; & therefore brewed a barrell of excellent beer, & provided a case of bottles to be spent, with other good cheer, for all comers of that day. And because they would have it in a complete forme, they had prepared a song fitting to the time and present occasion. And upon Mayday they brought the Maypole to the place appointed, with drums, guns, pistols, and other fitting instruments, for that purpose ; and there erected it with the help of Salvages, that came thether of purpose to see the manner of our Revels. A goodly pine tree of 80 foot long, was reared up, with a pair of buckshorns nailed one, somewhat neare unto the top of it : where it stood as a faire sea marke for directions; how to finde out the way to mine Hoste of Ma-reMount.

And because it should more fully appeare to what end it was placed there, they had a poem in readiness made, which was fixed to the Maypole, to shew the new name confirmed upon that plantation; which although it were made according to the occurrents of the time, it being Enigmatically composed) puzzled the Seperatists most pitifully to expound it. . .

The setting up of this Maypole was a lamentable spectacle to the precise seperatists : that lived at new Plymouth. They termed it an Idoll; yea they called it the Calf of Horeb: and stood at defiance with the place, naming it Mount Dagon; threatening to make it a woefull mount and not a merry mount. . . .
There was likewise a merry song made, which (to make their Revells more fashionable) was sung with a chorus, every man bearing his part; which they performed in a dance, hand in hand about the Maypole, whiles one of the Company sung, and filled out the good liquor like gammedes and Jupiter.

The Songe:
Drinke and be merry, merry, merry boyes,
Let all your delight be in Hymens joyes,
Iô to Hymen now the day is come,
About the merry Maypole take a Roome.
Make greene garlands, bring bottles out;
And fill sweet Nectar, freely about,
Uncover thy head, and feare no harm,
For hers good liquor to keepe it warme.
Then drinke and be merry, &c.
Iô to Hymen, &c.
Nectar is a thing assign'd,
By the Deities owne minde,
To cure the hart opprest with grief,
And of good liquors is the chief,
Then drinke, &c.
Iô to Hymen, &c.
Give to the Mellancolly man,
A cup or two of't now and than;
This physick' will soone revive his bloud,
And make him be of a merrier mood.
Then drinke, &c.
Iô to Hymen, &c.
Give to the Nymphe thats free from scorne,
No Irish; stuff nor Scotch over worn,
Lasses in beaver coats come away,
Ye shall be welcome to us night and day.
Then drinke, &c.
Iô to Hymen, &c.

This harmless mirth made by young men (that lived in hope to have wives brought over to them, that would save them a labour to make a voyage to fetch any over) was much distasted, of the precise Seperatists: that keep much ado, about the tithe of Muit [mint] and Cunmin ; troubling their braines more then reason would require about things that are indifferent: and from that time sought occasion against my honest Host of Ma-reMount to overthrow his undertakings, and to destroy his plantation quite and cleane . . .”
- Thomas Morton

[EDIT]: The link above has a few details about Morton's life, but a few things stand out. Morton discovered, following his trip to America with Wollaston, that Wollaston had been selling indentured servants into slavery on Virginia tobacco plantations. In 1626 CE, Morton aided the remaining servants in the community with arms (pistols and guns), and they drove out Wollaston. They then renamed the settlement to Ma-remount (Merrymount), and began a thriving trade business with the local native Americans... Who they also appear to have helped procure arms. The incident at Mayday was the climax of Morton's antics, and when he encouraged the unmarried men in the settlement to consider marrying Native Americans, the surrounding colonies armed themselves (particularly Plymouth) and decided to get rid of Morton and his settlement of “all the scum of the country”. Morton was imprisoned Isles of Shoals, where he would have starved had the Native Americans - amused by his antics - not fed him until a ship arrived to return him to England, and briefly, the Essex jail.

He returned twice thereafter, and was arrested twice more. Today we would probably regard Morton's goals as 'Christo-Pagan' - as he seemed to have desired to see a community in which 'thinly disguised heathenry,' trade/commerce with the local Native Americans, and an entirely new form of culture to have emerged from the newly landed Americans. Unfortunately, his antics as a 'Irresponsible White Man' made this largely impossible. Still, of all the early American settlers - Morton is my favorite.

Tonight I shall sing his song to Hymen joyously! While, of course, drinking and giving the good stuff to the spirits that are whispering to the windy Sacramento parks already!
“They ... set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting the Indian women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together (like so many fairies, or furies rather) and worse practices. As if they had anew revived & celebrated the feasts of ye Roman Goddess Flora, or ye beastly practices of ye mad Bacchanalians.”
- William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation.
Thomas Morton's page on wikipedia.


Brother Christopher said...

OMGs, I love him.

and then this very amusing quote from Wikipedia, of the way one Puritan describe Ma-remount "‘a Comus-crew of disaffected fur traders, antinomians, loose women, Indians and bon-vivants’." Anybody who can get that kind of denunciation gets a thumbs up from me.

Jack Faust said...

@Bro. Chris: Yeah, the guy was fantastic. It's really hard not to be partial to him if you have the right sort've bias! I need to get the book that the quote you have comes from by Peter Lamborn Wilson at some point... I have most of his other books, already.

Actually, I need more material on the early American antinomians and anarchists in general...