New-England or A Briefe Enarration of the Ayre, Earth, Water, Fish and Fowles of That Country. With a Description of the Natures, Orders, Habits, and Religion of the Natives; in Latine and English Verse
Date of this Version
LONDON, Imprinted by I. D. [John Dawson], 1625.
This text, a Latin poem in dactylic hexameter with an accompanying English translation in heroic verse stands as the earliest surviving work of poetry about New England and the second oldest poem whose origins can be traced directly to the British American colonies. Only two copies of the original 1625 edition are known to survive; one is held at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and the other is housed at the British Museum. The Latin portion comprises 309 lines and praises the geographic features, flora and fauna of New England, and spends a majority of its verses describing the Native Americans with awe and curiosity. The English version contains 366 lines, frequently uses obscure terminology, and departs too drastically from the original to be of any assistance for discerning the Latin.
The author is William Morrell, (ca. 1590-after 1626) who received his Bachelors of Arts from Magdalene College, Cambridge in 1615. On May 23 and 24, 1619 Morrell was ordained as a deacon and priest respectively at Peterborough. Several years later in 1623, after receiving a commission by the ecclesiastical court to oversee and administer any churches which were already or might be instituted in the new colonies, Morrell accompanied English navy Captain Robert Gorges to New England, who was tasked with assisting the establishment of the short-lived Wessagusset Colony in present-day Weymouth. The colony was abandoned in the spring of 1624 due to financial difficulties and tensions with the Natives. Robert Gorges served as Governor-General of New England between 1623 and 1624. Gorges returned to England in 1624, but Morrell remained behind in Plymouth for one year to learn more about New England. These two poems are the fruits of his observations. They were published in 1625 in London by John Dawson. These writings make it clear that Morrell was an able classical scholar. He frequently peppers his English with Latin maxims reminiscent of Virgil and Apuleius and he employs numerous references to classical mythological figures and events.
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