"This is a fantastic compilation of some really important pieces of American Literature. If you are a college student or even a motivated high school student, you will definitely want this on your bookshelf. Most importantly though, if you are someone who just genuinely enjoys reading and would like to expand your repertoire to some of the best in American literature, this is the book for you!" — Old Musty Books
Ranging from colonial times to the mid-19th century, this compact and inexpensive anthology offers a fascinating overview of early American literature. The authoritative texts are supplemented with informative introductory notes and suggestions for further reading.
Starting with Cherokee creation myths and Powhatan's moving speech, "Why Should You Destroy Us, Who Have Provided You with Food," the 18th-century selections include the writings of poets Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley; preacher Jonathan Edwards; statesmen Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and others. From the early and mid-19th century come excerpts from the journals of Lewis and Clark; stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, and Louisa May Alcott; the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Walt Whitman; and essays, speeches, verse, and memoirs by other prominent Americans.
About the Author
An English professor at the City University of New York's Kingsborough College, Bob Blaisdell is the editor of numerous Dover Thrift Editions and many other books. He has published essays about his own experiences as a teacher and regularly reviews books for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Christian Science Monitor.
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The Dover Anthology of American Literature Volume I
From the Origins Through the Civil War
By Bob Blaisdell
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
CHEROKEE CREATION STORIES (JAMES MOONEY)
The Cherokee Nation spanned much of today's Southeast, from North Carolina to Georgia and into Tennessee, until the early nineteenth century, when a majority of the population was deprived of its land by the U. S. Government and forcibly relocated via "The Trail of Tears" to reservations in Oklahoma. The ethnographer James Mooney (1861–1921) collected the stories from 1887 to 1890 and published them in Myths of the Cherokee. "It is almost certain that most of the myths ... are but disjointed fragments of an original complete genesis and migration legend, which is now lost," writes Mooney. We have placed them first in this anthology on account of their original versions having existed previous to American English writings.
How the World Was Made (1897–1898)
The earth is a great island floating in a sea of water, and suspended at each of the four cardinal points by a cord hanging down from the sky vault, which is of solid rock. When the world grows old and worn out, the people will die and the cords will break and let the earth sink down into the ocean, and all will be water again. The Indians are afraid of this.
When all was water, the animals were above in Galûñ'lati, beyond the arch; but it was very much crowded, and they were wanting more room. They wondered what was below the water, and at last Dâyuni's, "Beaver's Grandchild," the little Water-beetle, offered to go and see if it could learn. It darted in every direction over the surface of the water, but could find no firm place to rest. Then it dived to the bottom and came up with some soft mud, which began to grow and spread on every side until it became the island which we call the earth. It was afterward fastened to the sky with four cords, but no one remembers who did this.
At first the earth was flat and very soft and wet. The animals were anxious to get down, and sent out different birds to see if it was yet dry, but they found no place to alight and came back again to Galûñ'lati. At last it seemed to be time, and they sent out the Buzzard and told him to go and make ready for them. This was the Great Buzzard, the father of all the buzzards we see now. He flew all over the earth, low down near the ground, and it was still soft. When he reached the Cherokee country, he was very tired, and his wings began to flap and strike the ground, and wherever they struck the earth there was a valley, and where they turned up again there was a mountain. When the animals above saw this, they were afraid that the whole world would be mountains, so they called him back, but the Cherokee country remains full of mountains to this day.
When the earth was dry and the animals came down, it was still dark, so they got the sun and set it in a track to go every day across the island from east to west, just overhead. It was too hot this way, and Tsiska'gili', the Red Crawfish, had his shell scorched a bright red, so that his meat was spoiled; and the Cherokee do not eat it. The conjurers put the sun another hand-breadth higher in the air, but it was still too hot. They raised it another time, and another, until it was seven hand-breadths high and just under the sky arch. Then it was right, and they left it so. This is why the conjurers call the highest place Gûlkwâ'gine Di'Galûñ'latiyûñ', "the seventh height," because it is seven handbreadths above the earth. Every day the sun goes along under this arch, and returns at night on the upper side to the starting place.
There is another world under this, and it is like ours in everything—animals, plants, and people—save that the seasons are different. The streams that come down from the mountains are the trails by which we reach this underworld, and the springs at their heads are the doorways by which we enter, it, but to do this one must fast and go to water and have one of the underground people for a guide. We know that the seasons in the underworld are different from ours, because the water in the springs is always warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the outer air.
When the animals and plants were first made—we do not know by whom—they were told to watch and keep awake for seven nights, just as young men now fast and keep awake when they pray to their medicine. They tried to do this, and nearly all were awake through the first night, but the next night several dropped off to sleep, and the third night others were asleep, and then others, until, on the seventh night, of all the animals only the owl, the panther, and one or two more were still awake. To these were given the power to see and to go about in the dark, and to make prey of the birds and animals which must sleep at night. Of the trees only the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the holly, and the laurel were awake to the end, and to them it was given to be always green and to be greatest for medicine, but to the others it was said: "Because you have not endured to the end you shall lose your hair every winter."
Men came after the animals and plants. At first there were only a brother and sister until he struck her with a fish and told her to multiply, and so it was. In seven days a child was born to her, and thereafter every seven days another, and they increased very fast until there was danger that the world could not keep them. Then it was made that a woman should have only one child in a year, and it has been so ever since.
The First Fire (1897–1898)
In the beginning there was no fire, and the world was cold, until the Thunders (Ani'-Hyûñ'tikwalâ'ski), who lived up in Galûñ'lati, sent their lightning and put fire into the bottom of a hollow sycamore tree which grew on an island. The animals knew it was there, because they could see the smoke coming out at the top, but they could not get to it on account of the water, so they held a council to decide what to do. This was a long time ago.
Every animal that could fly or swim was anxious to go after the fire. The Raven offered, and because he was so large and strong they thought he could surely do the work, so he was sent first. He flew high and far across the water and alighted on the sycamore tree, but while he was wondering what to do next, the heat had scorched all his feathers black, and he was frightened and came back without the fire. The little Screech-owl (Wa'huhu') volunteered to go, and reached the place safely, but while he was looking down into the hollow tree a blast of hot air came up and nearly burned out his eves. He managed to fly home as best he could, but it was a long time before he could see well, and his eyes are red to this day. Then the Hooting Owl (U'guku') and the Horned Owl (Tskili') went, but by the time they got to the hollow tree the fire was burning so fiercely that the smoke nearly blinded them, and the ashes carried up by the wind made white rings about their eyes. They had to come home again without the fire, but with all their rubbing they were never able to get rid of the white rings.
Now no more of the birds would venture, and so the little Uksu'h snake, the black racer, said he would go through the water and bring back some fire. He swam across to the island and crawled through the grass to the tree, and went in by a small hole at the bottom. The heat and smoke were too much for him, too, and after dodging about blindly over the hot ashes until he was almost on fire himself he managed by good luck to get out again at the same hole, but his body had been scorched black, and he has ever since had the habit of darting and doubling on his track as if trying to escape from close quarters. He came back, and the great blacksnake, Gûle'g, "The Climber," offered to go for fire. He swam over to the island and climbed up the tree on the outside, as the blacksnake always does, but when he put his head down into the hole the smoke choked him so that he fell into the burning stump, and before he could climb out again he was as black as the Uksu'h.
Now they held another council, for still there was no fire, and the world was cold, but birds, snakes, and four-footed animals, all had some excuse for not going, because they were all afraid to venture near the burning sycamore, until at last Kanane'ski Amai'yehi (the Water Spider) said she would go. This is not the water spider that looks like a mosquito, but the other one, with black downy hair and red stripes on her body. She can run on top of the water or dive to the bottom, so there would be no trouble to get over to the island, but the question was, How could she bring back the fire? "I'll manage that," said the Water Spider; so she spun a thread from her body and wove it into a tusti bowl, which she fastened on her back. Then she crossed over to the island and through the grass to where the fire was still burning. She put one little coal of fire into her bowl, and came back with it, and ever since we have had fire, and the Water Spider still keeps her tusti bowl.
Source: James Mooney. Myths of the Cherokee. Extract from the Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1897–98, Part I. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1900.CHAPTER 2
Before the arrival of Europeans, the Native peoples of North America did not write; instead, they preserved their various histories and cultures through oral traditions. Their cultures were more diverse than those of the Europeans who began settling here in colonies in the beginning of the seventeenth century, and the immigrants became impressed by the rhetorical sophistication and beauty of Native spokesmen (there are few instances before the twentieth century of Native women making speeches).
Powhatan (c. 1547–1618), also known as Wahunsonacock, was the head of an Algonquian confederacy that spanned hundreds of miles and thirty-two tribes. (He is well-known today because of his favorite daughter, Pocahontas, who rescued the English captain John Smith from execution in 1608.) In 1607 Powhatan's confederacy allowed the English to establish their first colony at Jamestown, Virginia. In 1609, when the same Captain Smith, dissatisfied with trade negotiations, resorted to bluster and threats, Powhatan made the following reply.
Why Should You Destroy Us, Who Have Provided You with Food? (c. 1609)
I AM NOW grown old, and must soon die; and the succession must descend, in order, to my brothers, Opitchapan, Opekankanough, and Catataugh, and then to my two sisters, and their two daughters. I wish their experience was equal to mine; and that your love to us might not be less than ours to you. Why should you take by force that from us which you can have by love? Why should you destroy us, who have provided you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions, and fly into the woods; and then you must consequently famish by wronging your friends. What is the cause of your jealousy? You see us unarmed, and willing to supply your wants, if you will come in a friendly manner, and not with swords and guns, as to invade an enemy. I am not so simple, as not to know it is better to eat good meat, lie well, and sleep quietly with my women and children; to laugh and be merry with the English; and, being their friend, to have copper, hatchets, and whatever else I want, than to fly from all, to lie cold in the woods, feed upon acorns, roots, and such trash, and to be so hunted, that I cannot rest, eat, or sleep. In such circumstances, my men must watch, and if a twig should but break, all would cry out, "Here comes Captain Smith"; and so, in this miserable manner, to end my miserable life; and, Captain Smith, this might be soon your fate too, through your rashness and unadvisedness. I, therefore, exhort you to peaceable councils; and, above all, I insist that the guns and swords, the cause of all our jealousy and uneasiness, be removed and sent away.
Source: Samuel G. Drake. Biography and History of the Indians of North America, from Its First Discovery. 11th edition. Boston: Benjamin B. Mussey and Company, 1851.CHAPTER 3
Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672) composed the first published book of verse written in America, The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America (1650). Born in England, educated by tutors, she married and moved with her husband and parents to the New World. Her father became the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony as, later, so did her husband. She addresses her book in the introductory poem as if it were one of her several children "snatcht" from her and "expos'd to public view." The plain-spokenness of her love for her family and husband diminishes her temporal distance from us, and her poems of mourning are as wise as the ages. We have maintained the fitful capitalization and punctuation as rendered in Robert Hutchinson's excellent edition of Bradstreet's work.
The Author to her Book (1650)
Thou ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad expos'd to publick view;
Made thee in raggs, halting to th' press to trudg,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judg).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
I wash'd thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joynts to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i'th' house I find.
In this array, 'mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam.
In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus'd her thus to send thee out of door.
To my Dear and loving Husband (1650)
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.
Then while we live, in love lets so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
Before the Birth of one of her Children (1650)
All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joyes attend;
No tyes so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
But with deaths parting blow is sure to meet.
The sentence past is most irrevocable,
A common thing, yet oh inevitable;
How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend,
How soon't may be thy Lot to lose thy friend,
We both are ignorant, yet love bids me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when that knot's unty'd that made us one,
I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
And if I see not half my dayes that's due,
What nature would, God grant to yours and you;
The many faults that well you know I have,
Let be interr'd in my oblivious grave;
If any worth or virtue were in me,
Let that live freshly in thy memory
And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harms,
Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms:
And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains
Look to my little babes my dear remains.
And if thou love thy self, or loved'st me
These O protect from step Dames injury.
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
With some sad sighs honour my absent Herse;
And kiss this paper for thy loves dear sake,
Who with salt tears this last Farewel did take.
Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno. 1632. Aetatis suae, 19 (1650)
Twice ten years old, not fully told
Since nature gave me breath,
My race is run, my thread is spun,
lo here is fatal Death.
All men must dye, and so must I
this cannot be revok'd
For Adams sake, this word God spake
when he so high provok'd.
Yet live I shall, this life's but small,
in place of highest bliss,
Where I shall have all I can crave,
no life is like to this.
For what's this life, but care and strife?
since first we came from womb,
Our strength doth waste, our time doth hast,
and then we go to th' Tomb.
O Bubble blast, how long can'st last?
that alwayes art a breaking,
No sooner blown, but dead and gone,
ev'n as a word that's speaking.
O whil'st I live, this grace me give,
I doing good may be,
Then deaths arrest I shall count best,
because it's thy decree;
Bestow much cost there's nothing lost,
to make Salvation sure,
O great's the gain, though got with pain,
comes by profession pure.
The race is run, the field is won,
the victory's mine I see,
For ever known, thou envious foe,
the foyle belongs to thee.
Excerpted from The Dover Anthology of American Literature Volume I by Bob Blaisdell. Copyright © 2014 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Cherokee Creation Stories (James Mooney),
J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur,
Sarah Wentworth Morton,
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark,
Red Jacket, Sagoyewatha,
James Fenimore Cooper,
Catharine Maria Sedgwick,
William Lloyd Garrison,
Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,
Edgar Allan Poe,
Henry David Thoreau,
Harriet Beecher Stowe,
P. T. Barnum,
John Greenleaf Whittier,
Harriet A. Jacobs,
Julia Ward Howe,
Louisa May Alcott,
Index of Authors,