Puritans sought reform from the Church of England, due to its likeness to the Roman Catholic Church. They wanted to separate the church to be autonomous. Therefore, to escape persecution from England, they escaped to the new land. Because they were some of the first authors in a newly founded America, they brought along their religious beliefs to the new world. They incorporate Puritan ideologies into their works. Puritans are a subsection of Christianity that had emphasis on moral and spiritual lifestyle for humanity. What the works chosen express, is all aspects of Puritan Ideology, but mostly the aspect of self and God.
Puritans, like any other religion, believe in ideologies that define what being a Puritan is. Human Depravity, all humans are evil, born evil. Because Adam and Eve betrayed God and committed original sin, all human beings are in sin. The second idea is Absolute Sovereignty, the idea of God being in control of everything all times. He is omnipresent and nothing gets past him, and therefore everything is in his control and power. The third concept is Predestination, you may be a follower of God, but that doesn’t guarantee you an ascension to heaven. God plans all choices and results because he deliberately planned it to achieve his purposes and goals. The fourth idea is Covenant Theology, which explains what Puritan life is supposed to be about: a relationship with God, social and civil relationships (with each other as humans), and church organization. They believe that the church can be self-governed, and that certain positions of the church is elected by elders. Fifth ideology, this idea focuses on the individual and reading the scriptures of the Bible. Puritans had a progressive stance on education, wanting both men and women to be able to read and write to understand to study and interpret the Bible in their own words. Puritans would also believe in individual reflections, which would lead to different writing scripts from possible authors. In reflecting on the bible, they interoperate what God has to say. Puritans believe everything that happens is because God willed it so, everyday events is because God manifests it so.
Edward Taylor was a minister and poet, who valued the principles of being a Puritan. He, like many other writers like Anne Bradstreet and John Winthrop, had a main focus of writing on religious topics. Taylor focused on the joys of God’s love and grace for one’s spirit. The works I am going to analyze is ‘Meditation 8’ (Taylor, pp. 304) and ‘Huswifery’ (Taylor, pp. 309). This poem explores an abstract look at God’s grace and heaven. Which could be under the aspect of Individual/ Reading. How ‘Huswifery’ ties into the Individual, probably ties into how Taylor was a minster. Minsters preach God’s words and his teachings in their own words. This poem talks about how the narrator wants to be more of an instrument for God. “Then clothe therewith mine Understanding, Will, Affections, Judgement, Conscience, Memory” (“Huswifery”, line 13-14). The narrator wants to be more useful to God, understand more with his teachings. Another concept that could be displayed in this poem, Covenant Theology. “This Bread of Life dropped in thy mouth, doth Cry:/ Eat, Eat me, Soul, and thou shalt never die” (“Meditiaion 8”, line 35-36). Taylor brings the poem to end with a hopeful look at his relationship with God. He ends it on a positive note to saying that God will give him the Bread of Life, and he is accepted into heaven. Lastly, the final concept is Human Depravity. Stanza two (“Meditation 8”, Line 7-8), “When that this Bird of Paradise put in/ This Wicker Cage (my Corpse) to tweedle praise”, assuming his “corpse” is Taylor’s body, is in a cage with the stanza continuing saying how he would deprive himself of God’s gifts. Along with the “Fruit forbade” being the apple from Adam and Eve, which would lead into how the Puritans believe that humans were evil from original sin.
Anne Bradstreet was a young woman when she was boarded the Arbella and was listening to John Winthrop’s sermons. She married young and received her education that only the most educated can wish for today. She did poetry, published in both the New World and Britain. Bradstreet had an amazing feat of motherhood, sickness and still doing poetry of the New World. The two works chosen are ‘The Flesh and the Spirit’ (Bradstreet, pp. 234) and ‘Contemplations’ (Bradstreet, pp. 227). An ideology explored in ‘The Flesh and the Spirit’ is Individual/ Reading. This poem is an allegory of choosing the holy life of the Bible or living with the material riches of man. The poem has arguing sisters, Flesh and Spirit, and they get into an argument of living with by the words of God and praying versus the Earth being filled with riches that can make anyone wealthy and happy. Flesh choosing to live the Earth’s riches and Spirit choosing prayers and meditation. “Thy sinful pleasures I do hate,/ Thy riches are to me no bait” (“The Flesh and the Spirit,” Line 57-58). This is Spirit’s response to say that she doesn’t need material things. Spirit’s lifestyle to kind of ties to Absolute Sovereignty, as to living the life of God’s word overall. What this poem also shows signs of Predestination, because Spirit is living the life of following God, she feels as though she received the riches of heaven. “My garments are not silk, nor gold,/ Nor such like trash which earth doth hold,/ But royal robes I shall have on,/ More glorious than the glist’ring sun” (“The Flesh and the Spirit,” line 79-82). She will have more stunning robes and riches than the materials of Earth that Flesh has to offer. Lastly, we are going to look at Human Depravity in ‘Contemplations’, (Bradstreet, pp. 227). In this poem, Bradstreet really emphasizes the glory of God and how majestic Heaven could be. “How excellent is He that dwells on high,/ Whose power and beauty by His works we know?/ Sure He is goodness, wisdom, glory, light” (“Contemplations”, lines 11-12). Bradstreet questions if that greatness of Heaven can be achieved on Earth. She wonders if because of original sin that she can ever reach that beautiful Heaven that is envisioned. As she contemplates through the human life, she ends on a morbid note of how we, as simple humans, will be forgotten and our riches will parish with us.
- Bradstreet, Anne. “Contemplations.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature edited by Robert S. Levine et al. W.W. Norton. 2017. Ninth Edition, Volume 1. pp. 227-233.
- Bradstreet, Anne. “The Flesh and the Spirit.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature edited by Robert S. Levine et al. W.W. Norton. 2017. Ninth Edition, Volume 1. pp. 234.
- Taylor, Edward. “Huswifery.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature edited by Robert S. Levine et al. W.W. Norton. 2017. Ninth Edition, Volume 1. pp. 309.
- Taylor, Edward. “Preparatory Meditations.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature edited by Robert S. Levine et al. W.W. Norton. 2017. Ninth Edition, Volume 1. pp. 304.