American history and poetry

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I am an advocate of reading. I believe it is never too late to give yourself what you were denied, by your hand or someone else’s, while you were growing up. I have been puttering away reading the great American classics. This endeavor was interrupted by a couple of art classes I took in the late summer/early fall.

I am back at it now. I decided to visit the website of, Harvard University to see what’s going on in their free, online studies. I found a not free online study of American poetry that is also linked to programs being broadcast on public television. Links provided at the end of the post.

I grew up learning that America was founded by Christians and Catholics. There are some who wish to re-write American history and say that we did not start out as a Christian nation. to them I wish to show this nugget of truth that upholds the belief that we are a nation founded on the blood, sweat and tears of Christian pilgrims, colonists, and missionaries.

Here is an excerpt from the journal of a man who was aboard the Mayflower. Clearly coming to America and establishing it as a Christian nation was part of the agenda of King James.

In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign lord King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant, and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names; Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord King James, of England, France and Ireland eighteenth and of Scotland fifty-fourth, Anno Domini 1620.

I thought it would be a good idea to share this since we are gearing up to soon celebrate, Thanksgiving. To read more of the journal click this LINK.

Should you also wish to read more, here are some links to what is being read at, Harvard University.

Here are a few suggestions to make what you read more meaningful.  Look up any word or phrase that you do not understand. Reading is not just about reading what is there before you on the page. Reading is exploring with your mind. Do not give up. We used to be an agrarian society (we grew and raised our own food) of explorers and hunters. Do not judge the past by modern ideals and values. We do not have all the answers and neither did they. They were doing the best they could with what they had, and what they knew. Put away your prejudices and judgements. These people are long dead but they live on in what they wrote. Be respectful even if you disagree with what they wrote or how they lived their lives.

I never wanted to read about Gandhi because he was a racist, and a pedophile. A younger and wiser person suggested that I do anyway so that I may intelligently contribute to conversations about the man and what he did. His biography is now on my, ‘To Read’ list.

You may not believe in God, or you may be of a different religion than of those who originally settled America. The bible used to be required reading (perhaps it still is) as part of a classical education. This was done to help students understand the point of view of the people about whom they were reading. Many people during the settlement of America could not read and heard scripture through church services. Those who could read usually read the King James version of the bible. My suggestion to you should you wish to read the bible as a study aid or to understand original Christianity would be to purchase a copy of the Orthodox Christian Study Bible. This translation is more accurate than the King James bible and it contains books of the bible omitted in the King James version. You could do a side by side comparison of the two books if you want to see the differences.

Back to the original point of this post. America has its own rich, literary history. Reading poetry, the classics, biographies, etc. is not a waste of time. It takes time, yes but what else are you going to do? Binge-watch fifteen seasons of a t.v. show based loosely on the themes of classic literature or read the originals and form your own opinions?

Here are the promised Harvard links so that you may embark on your own reading voyage.

Free programs from Harvard

The syllabus from the not-free poetry class. This link contains the list of poems you will need to look up. It does not provide the pdf’s.

This link takes you to the shows connected to the Poetry in America class offered by Harvard.

This is a link to one of the poems by Anne Bradstreet titled, Contemplations.

Happy reading.