VOYAGE OF THE MAYFLOWER

THE Pilgrims were seed of Tudor England's lusty blossoming. The flamboyant force of that zenith, spent, became in them hard and little. Among such as they its precarious wealth of petals sank safely within bounds to lie dreaming or floating off while the Restoration throve, a swel.tering seclusion of the hothouse, surrounded by winter's cold.

In those little pips a nadir, sure as the sun, was reached, in which lay the character of beginnings in North America. As particles stripped of wealth, mortifying as they were mor.tified, "predicateurs," greatly suffering, greatly prepared to suffer, they were the perfect sprout for the savage continent God had driven them to. But Puritans, as they were called, if they were pure it was more since they had nothing in them of fulfillment than because of positive virtues.

By their very emptiness they were the fiercest element in the battle to establish a European life on the New World. The first to come as a group, of a desire sprung within themselves, they were the first American democracy and it was they, in the end, who would succeed in making everything like themselves. No man led them; there was none. The leaders had failed long since for them at home‹if there ever had been any and those still at home were still more removed from them than ever. Stripped and little they came resting on no authority but the secret warmth of their tight locked hearts. But, unhappily, never had they themselves nor has any one pene.trated there to see what was contained. The emptiness about them was sufficient terror for them not to look further. The jargon of God, which they used, was their dialect by which they kept themselves surrounded as with a palisade. They pleaded weakness, they called continually for help (while working shrewdly with their own hands all the while), they asked protection but the real help had been to make them small, small and several, several and each as a shell for his own "soul." And the soul? a memory (or a promise), a flower sheared away to nothing.

Theirs is the secret of fairy tales, the descent of the "soul" into picturesque smallness: children, dwarfs, elves; the diminu.tive desires of the lowly for they scarcely know what. The "God" of the Pilgrims is redolent of these mysteries. All their fears, their helplessness, the uncertainty of their force have the quality of such lore. The pathetic detail of the rough sailor who cursed the poor people and what happened to him is strongly in this mood. It shows also the collective sense of the destiny common to lowly people.

From the outset they had had trouble, then the account goes on.‹"These troubles being blowne over, and now all being compacte together in one shipe, they put to sea again with a prosperous wince, which continued diverce days together, which was some incouragement unto them; yet according to ye usuall maner many were afflicted with sea sickness. And I may not omit here a spetial worke of God's providence. Ther was a proud and very profane younge man, one of ye seamen, of a lustie body, which made him the more hauty; he would allway be contemning ye poore people in their sickness, and cursing them dayly with grecous execrations, and did not let to tell them, that he hoped to cast halfe of them over board before they came to their journey's end, and to make merry with what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved he would curse and swear most bitterly. But it pleased God be.fore they came halfe seas over, to smite this yong man with a greeveous disease, of which he dyed in a desperate maner, and so was himself ye first yt was throwne overboard. Thus his curses light on his owne head; and it was an astonishment to all his fellows for they noted it to be ye just hand of God upon him."

The dreadful and curious thing is that men, despoiled and having nothing, must long most for that which they have no and so, out of the intensity of their emptiness imagining they are full, deceive themselves and all the despoiled of the world into their sorry beliefs. It is the spirit that existing nowhere in them is forced into their dreams. The Pilgrims, they, the seed, instead of growing, looked black at the world and damning its perfections praised a zero in themselves. The inversion of a Gothic Calvin.

For the Puritans there had been a decline of which it was their miserable fate never to know, while they raised their holy incantations. These are not the great flower of the spirit. Purged by hard experience (worn bodies from which a white dove springs), they are not all soul as they and we have imagined. Bodily suffering was more an alleviation than otherwise, a distraction that kept them mercifully blinded. They were condemned to be without flower, to sow themselves basely that after them others might know the end. Each shrank from an imagination that would sever him from the rest.

And so they stressed the "spirit" for what else could they do? And this spirit is an earthly pride which they, pride.less, referred to heaven and the next world. And for this we praise them, instead of for the one thing in them that was valuable: their tough littleness and weight of many to carry through the cold; not their brokenness but their projection of the great flower of which they were the seed.

The Pilgrims were mistaken not in what they did, because they went hard to work with their hands and heads, but in what they imagined for their warmth. It could not have been otherwise. But it is sordid that a rich world should follow apathetically after. Their misfortune has become a mal.feasant ghost that dominates us all. It is they who must have invented the "soul," but the perversion is for this emptiness, this dream, this pale negative to usurp the place of that which really they were destined to continue.

This stress of the spirit against the flesh has produced a race incapable of flower. Upon that part of the earth they occupied true spirit dies because of the Puritans, except through vigorous revolt. They are the bane, not the staff. Their religious zeal, mistaken for a thrust up toward the sun, was a stroke in, in, not toward germination but the confinements of a tomb.

Everything attests their despoiled copdition: the pitiful care for each one, the talk of the common wealth (common to all alike, so never the proud possession of any one) and the church‹that secret inversion of loveliness; their lost position, itself, in the new land, the cold, disease, starvation inexplicable, unavoided troubles; their committing themselves not to any plan but floating on the ocean as a seed to God‹ to the sea and the winds‹trustful, in a leaky boat. It is the weakling in us all that finds this beautiful. So with the low condition of their words themselves, the bad spelling of their journal; treated with contempt by the least of those they had to do with, so contemned that no one would lend them money "so they were forst to selle of some provisions to stop this gape"; their continually expressed love of each other, "Be.loved friends, very we are that there should be occasion of writing at all unto you," etc.

"So they comited them selves to ye will of God and re.solved to proceed. In sundrie of these storms the winds were so feirce and ye seas so high, as they could not beare a knote of saile, but were forced to hull, for diverce days together. And in one of them, as they thus lay at hull in a mighty storm, a lustie young man (called John Howland) coming upon some occasion above ye gratings, was, with a seel of ye stripe thrown into ye sea: but it pleased God yt he caught hold of ye tope saile halliards, which hung over board, and ran out at great length: yet he held his hould (though he was sundrie fadomes under water) till he was hold up by ye same rope to ye brim of ye water, and then with a boat hooke and other means got into ye stripe again, and his life saved; and though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after, and became a profitable member both in church and comone wealth."

This passage is perfect: the one man of it, at sea, in the merciful guardianship of God, (washed away, howbeit), rely.ing on his own hands and feet saves himself by force of him.self, is hauled back by others like himself; the minute care for detail, the note of his subsequent illness, and yet, the moral at the end.

And this moral? As with the deformed Æsop, morals are the memory of success that no longer succeeds.

But the enjoyment of the lust, the hidden flower, they martyrized as the spirit or the soul, has curious turns. Pri.marily despoiled by providence; clinging with the doggedness of a northern race, cold, close and slow to that; they become unfit, except where there exists the same sort of stress which brought them into being; the hard, repressive pioneer soil of the mind. They must have relied on vigorous hypocrisy to save them‹which they did. But this they could not revere.

If the "puritan" in them could have ended with their entry into the New World and the subtle changes of growth at once have started, (See Cotton Mather's "Wonders of the Invisible World," the prefatory remarks) everything would have been different, but the character of the land was not favorable. They did try to land further south.

In fear and without guidance, really lost in the world, it is they alone who would later, at Salem, have strayed so far‹ morbidly seeking the flame,‹that terrifying unknown image to which, like savages, they too offered sacrifices of human flesh. It is just such emptiness, revulsion, terror in all ages, which in fire (a projection still of the truth) finds that which lost and desperate men have worshiped. And it is still today the Puritan who keeps his frightened grip upon the throat of the world lest it should prove him‹empty.

Such would the New World become. Their strength made it, but why, why the perpetual error of remaining at that low point? It is that at which the soul, dying in them, not liberated by death, but death is sad.

The result of that brave setting out of the Pilgrims has been an atavism that thwarts and destroys. The agonized spirit, that has followed like an idiot with undeveloped brain, governs with its great muscles, babbling in a test of the dead years. Here souls perish miserably, or, escaping, are bent into grotesque designs of violence and despair. It is an added strength thrown to a continent already too powerful for men. One had not expected that this seed of Eneland would come to impersonate, and to marry the very primitive itself; to creep into the very intestines of the settlers and turn them against themselves, to befoul the New World.

It has become "the most lawless country in the civilized world," a panorama of murders, perversions, a terrific un.governed strength, excusable only because of the horrid beauty of its great machines. To.day it is a generation of gross knownothingism, of blackened churches where hymns groan like charts from stupefied jungles, a generation universally eager to barter permanent values (the hope of an aristocracy) in return for opportunist material advantages, a generation hat.ing those whom it obeys.

What prevented the normal growth? Was it England, the northern strain, the soil they landed on? It was, of course, the whole weight of the wild continent that made their condition of mind advantageous, forcing it to reproduce its own likeness, and no more.