American puritan elegy by Jeffrey A. Hammond

By Jeffrey A. Hammond

Jeffrey Hammond's learn of the funeral elegies of early New England reassesses a physique of poems whose significance of their personal time has been obscured via virtually overall forget in ours. Hammond reconstructs the old, theological and cultural contexts of those poems to illustrate how they answered to Puritan perspectives on a particular technique of mourning. The elegies emerge, he argues, as performative scripts that consoled readers via shaping their event. They shed new gentle at the emotional size of Puritanism and the $64000 function of formality in Puritan tradition.

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In these first looks backward, developing notions of artistic value were reinforced by literary patriotism and a consequent historiography based on the search  The American Puritan elegy for national origins. Within this agenda, crude strengths found in the early poems were cast as premonitions of American vigor, while artistic weaknesses underscored how far the new nation had come. Because Puritan verse accorded well with this construction of nationalism, early historians of American literature approached the poetry with an oddly patronizing filiopiety.

When we say that Taylor had the skill to make the Dewey elegy significantly different from the hundreds of other elegies that New Englanders had been penning for nearly a century, what we are really saying is that he could have written a poem of greater interest to modern readers. Such a poem might have told us more about Dewey the individual and less about Dewey the generic believer, whose carnal element would be raised “at the Resurrection of the Just” to rejoin the soul to sing “with Saints and Angels” in the celestial choir.

Believing that the artistically successful elegist managed to break free from such devices, Tyler praised John Norton the younger’s poem on Anne Bradstreet because it seemed atypical, even though Norton “once or twice slipped into grotesqueness of conceit, and funereal frivolity” (–). Urian Oakes’s famous elegy on Thomas Shepard II, which Tyler judged an even better poem, revealed a “true imaginative vision” that was nonetheless “blurred” by “patches of the prevailing theological jargon” ().

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