The wise creator of the universal globe has placed a golden mean between two extremes, between the cold and the hot. While Frigida Zona is good for nothing, and Torrida Zona may be good for grasshoppers, this golden mean, Zona Temperata, is good for the ant and the bee. Accordingly, New England is judged by all judicious men the principal part of America: For the sweetness of its air, the fertility of its soil, the variety of its beasts, birds and fish, and the small number of savages (which might seem a rub in the way of an effeminate mind), I call it Nature’s masterpiece.
The General Survey of the Country
New England is that part of America in the Ocean Sea opposite to Nova Albyon in the South Sea. New France is northward. Virginia, New Granada, New Spain, New Andalusia, and the West Indies are southward. The chief mountains are those of Pennobscot, the twinkling mountain of Aucocisco, the great mountain of Sasanou, and the high mountain of Massachusetts. The bay of Massachusetts, which is the middle part of New England, is both safe, spacious, and deep: A harbor where 1,000 ships may safely ride. Mariners may behold the two capes thrust themselves out into the sea in the form of a half-moon, embracing their welcome ships in their arms. There is an island called Deer Island because of the deer that often swim there from the main land when they are chased by wolves. Some have killed sixteen deer in a day upon this island. There is an island called Long Island, so called from its longitude. There are other islands: Round Island, Slate Island, Governor’s Garden, Glass Island, Bird Island, &c. There is a brook with a great store of smelts, and therefore it is called Smelt Brook. There is a river called Stony River. There is another river called Aquamenticus. There is a good harbor there, and there is good ground, much of which has already been cleared, as it had once been planted by the savages who are now all dead. There is good timber there.
A Perspective to View the Country by
In New England both men and women keep their natural complexion. If the sun tans them, winter’s cold restores them to their former complexion. Virginia, in contrast, having no winter to speak of but extremely hot summers, has dried up much English blood, and by pestiferous diseases swept away many lusty bodies, changing their complexion not to swarthiness, but into paleness, so that when they come for trading in our parts we know many of them by their faces. The common diseases of England are strangers to the English now in that strange land. Although I have traveled through heat and cold, wet and dry, by sea and land, in winter and summer, day by day, for four years, yet scarcely did I know what belonged to a day’s sickness. There are more double births than in England. And the woman usually have a more speedy recovery after their delivery than in England. It is also observed that every tenth year there is little or no winter. I never heard of any that utterly perished at land with cold: A certain man, being somewhat distracted, broke away from his keeper and ran into the wood in the middle of winter. After four days he returned, appearing as well in body as when he had left, and much better in mind.
Of the English Plantations
There is Wessaguscus, a small but pleasant village. Here the inhabitants have good store of fish and swine. There is also an alewife river. Roxberry is a fair and handsome country town, the inhabitants of which being all very rich. Dorchester is the greatest town in New England, It is well-wooded and well-watered, but there is no alewife river, which is a great inconvenience. Newtown is one of the neatest and best compacted towns in New England, having many fair structures and many handsome contrived streets. Most of the inhabitants are very rich. There is Watertown and there is Mistick, where the English catch many alewives, and there is Winnisimet. Five miles north-east of Winnisimet there is Saugus. Close to it there is a neck of land called Nahant. One Black William, an Indian duke, out of his generosity gave this place to the plantation of Saugus, so that no one else can claim it. Four miles north-east from Saugus lies Salem. Most of the houses stand on very bad and sandy ground. Yet for seven years it has brought forth exceedingly good corn, by being fertilized with fish but every third year. It has a south river on one side and a north river on the other side. They cross the rivers with small canoes made of whole pine trees, and go fowling. This town wants an alewife river, which is a great inconvenience. At Mount Wollaston there is very fertile soil, very convenient for farm houses. There is Marvel Head, a very convenient place for fishing. There is Merrimack, the best place of all. Two leagues east of Cape Elizabeth there is Quack, which I have named York.
Of Stones and Minerals
Of mines of gold and silver, copper, and alum, I could say much if relations were good assurances. But I am no alchemist, nor will I promise more than I know. There are diamonds, which are very brittle, and therefore of little worth. There are emeralds, and rubies, which are very watery. There is crystal, called by our west-countrymen, the kenning-stone. It is found in considerable quantity near Sebebug Pond. I have heard the story of an Indian who found a stone up in the country, near a great pond, as big as an egg, which in a dark night would give a light to read by. But I take it to be but a story. There is Muscovy glass, both white and purple. There is plenty of limestone, freestone, smoothstone, ironstone, whetstone, loadstone, brimstone, and marblestone. There is chalkstone near Squanto’s Chapel, shown to me by a savage. There is slate, lead, black lead, red lead, bole ammoniac, vermilion, tin, tin-glass. There is clay, sand, gravel, and as black earth as ever I saw in England. There is arsenic: A drummer’s wife, who lived with her husband in a town called Casco by the Indians, but Famouth by the English, was much afflicted with a wolf in her breast. She assuaged the pain of her sore by bathing it with strong malt-beer, which it would suck in greedily, as if it were some living creature. At last, to be rid of it altogether, she put a quantity of arsenic to the rum, and, bathing of it as formerly, she utterly destroyed it, and cured herself. But her kind husband, who sucked out the poison, lost all his teeth.
Of the Goodness of the Country and the Fountains
There are so many aromatic herbs and plants that the air is perfumed with their sweet fragrance. It has been observed that ships have come from Virginia with scarcely five men able to hale a rope, but as soon as they came within 40 degrees of latitude and smelled the sweet air of the shore they suddenly recovered. At some places the ground is so rank that the first year it must be sown with Indian corn (which is a soaking grain) before it will be fit to receive English seed. The water is far different from the waters of England, being not so sharp, but of a fatter substance, and of a more jetty color. It is thought there can be no better water in the world, and though I do not prefer it to good beer, as some have done, any man will prefer it to bad beer, whey, or buttermilk. Near Squanto’s Chapel there is a fountain that causes a deathlike sleep for 48 hours to those that drink 24 ounces at a draught. The Powahs use it at certain times to reveal strange things to the vulgar people.
What Trees are there and how Commodious
Now because it may be necessary for mechanical artificers to know what timber is in the country, I will recite the most useful: The brittle ash, the long-lived oak, the sky-towering pine, the mournful cypress tree, the rough-coated chestnut, the lasting cedar, which Solomon used for the building of that glorious temple at Jerusalem, the rosin-dropping fir, the tough walnut, the neat-grown spruce, the ever-trembling asp, the hornbeam tree that to be cloven scorns, the broad-spread elm, the spongy alder, the knotty maple, the pallid birch, the jetty plum, the sweet sassafras, the snake-murdering hazel.
Of Pot-Herbs and Plants
Saxifarilla. Bayberry. Brook-lime. Fuss-balls, very large. One-berry, or herb true-love. Honeysuckles. Tobacco. French mallows. Tree-primrose, taken by the ignorant for scabious. A plant like knaves’ mustard, called New England mustard. Winter savory. Summer savory. Yellow-bastard daffodil. Live-for-ever, a kind of cud-weed. Blue Flower-de-luce, excellent to provoke vomiting. Solomon’s seal. Herb Robert. Cinque-foil. Tormentile. Speedwell chick-weed. Upright pennyroyal. Squonterquashes. Avens, with the leaf of mountain-avens, but the flower and root of English avens. White hellebore (The powder of the root, put into a hollow tooth, is good for the toothache). Maiden-hair. Autumn bell-flower. Ground-ivy or ale-hoof. Arsmart, both kinds. White satin grows pretty well. So does lavender-cotton. But lavender is not for the climate. Coriander and dill and anis thrive exceedingly. Clary never lasts but one summer. Asparagus thrives exceedingly. So do garden-sorrel and sweet brier, or eglantine. Celandine grows but slowly. Muscat grows as well as in England. Dittander, or pepper-wort, flourishes notably, and so does tansy. Spurge thyme, very like to rupter-wort, and full of milk. Rupter-wort, with the white flower. Blood-wort. Jagged rose-penny-wort. Stich-wort, commonly taken here, by ignorant people, for eye-bright. Glass-wort, here called berrelia, growing abundantly in salt marshes. St. John’s wort. St. Peter’s wort. Cat’s tail. Featherfew. Dog-stone, a kind of satyrion, growing in salt marshes (I once took notice of a wanton woman compounding the solid roots of this plant with wine to make an amorous cup, which wrought the desired effect). Water-plantain, here called water-suck leaves. Sea-plantain, three kinds. Small-water archer. Goose-grass. Mouse-ear minor. Adder’s tongue. Water-cress. Sea-tears. Water-lily, with yellow flowers (The Indians eat the roots, which taste like the liver of a sheep). Dove’s-foot. Raven’s claw. Knobby crane’s bill. Parsnips, of a prodigious size. Pease of all sorts, and the best in the world. Indian beans, falsely called French beans. Wheat. Rye. Barley, which commonly degenerates into oats. Oats.
Of the Beasts of the Forest
It will not be amiss to inform you of the irrational creatures that are bred and nourished in New England.
There are red, gray, and black foxes. They do not stink as the foxes in England. Their fur is of much esteem.
The raccoon is a beast as big as a fox. His forefeet are like the feet of an ape, and by its print in the snow he is followed to his hole, where he is smoked out and caught. He is similar to a badger, having a tail like a fox and being as good meat as a lamb. There is one of them in the tower.
The ounce or wild cat is a beast like a cat, but as big as a great hound. He will place himself close by the water, holding up his bob tail, which looks like a goose neck. The geese, seeing this counterfeit goose, approach to visit him, and with a sudden jerk he seizes his careless prey. I once found six whole ducks in the belly of an ounce I killed.
There are sandy-colored, grizzled, and black wolves. Once a fair greyhound hearing them howl ran out to chide them and was torn into pieces before he could be rescued. To destroy them, bind four mackerel hooks into a cross with a brown thread, then wrap around some wool. Dip the bundle in melted tallow till it is as round and as big as an egg. When you encounter wolves feeding on a beast they have killed, chase them away. Put some of the bundles into the carcass. About midnight the wolves will return, and the first thing they venture upon will be these balls of fat.
The bear will run away from a man as fast as a little dog. If a couple of savages espy him at his banquet, they will chase him to their houses, where they kill him, thus saving the labor of carrying him home dead.
The rattle-snake’s neck seems to be no thicker than a man’s thumb, yet she can swallow a squirrel, having a great wide mouth with teeth as sharp as needles. It is reported that if someone survives her bite, the snake will die. The Indians will take them up with their bare hands and tear off the skin with their teeth and eat them alive, which, they say, refreshes them.
I will not say that I ever saw a lion myself. But the Virginians saw an old lion in their plantation. He had lost his jackal, which was wont to hunt his prey for him, so that he could go no further and died.
Beavers stay with their families as long as they are able. It is commonly said that if a beaver accidentally lights into a strange place, he is made a drudge there, and must carry the heaviest loads as long as he lives, unless he can creep away by stealth.
Musquashes are similar to beavers but not as big. The male has two stones which smell as sweet as musk, and never lose their sweet smell, if he is killed in winter. The skin will perfume a whole house-full of clothes.
The hares are milk-white in winter and become gray again in spring.
There is a flying squirrel, which is not very big, and slender of body, with a great deal of loose skin which she spreads when she jumps from tree to tree. She is a creature more for sight and wonderment than pleasure or profit.
In dark summer nights, the flying glowworms fly in great numbers, like sparks of fire. They are also common in Palestine.
There are frogs that in spring chirp and whistle like birds, and at the end of summer croak like our English frogs. The Indians will tell you that up in the country there are frogs as big as a young child.
Of the Birds of the Air and Feathered Fowls
There is a kind of fowl commonly called pheasant, but whether they are pheasants or not I will not take upon me to determine. We seldom bestow a shot at them.
Partridges do not bear the sign of the horseshoe on the breast as the partridges of England. They sit on the trees, and I have seen 40 in one tree at a time. At night they fall to the ground and sit there until morning. He that is a husbandman and stirs betimes may kill half a dozen in a morning.
Cormorants are very heavy and very drowsy. At night the Indians will silently approach in their canoes and take them from the rocks as easily as women take a hen from a roost.
There are great gray goose with a black neck and a black and white head. Some are very fat, and in spring they are so full of feathers that a shot can scarcely pierce them. I once found in a white goose three hearts.
The loon is an ill-shaped thing like a cormorant, but he can neither walk nor fly. He makes a noise sometimes like a sow-gelder’s horn.
The hummingbird is one of the wonders of the country, being no bigger than a hornet, yet having all the dimensions of a bird, as bill and wings. It is out of question that she lives upon the bee, which she catches among the flowers. As she flies, she makes a little humming noise like a humble-bee, which is why she is called hummingbird.
Sanderlings are dainty birds, more full-bodied than snipes, and easy to come by. I have killed between four and five dozen at a shot.
There are many cranes, and they always come on St. David’s Day. That day they would never miss.
Turkeys are easily killed because if one is killed, the other will sit still nevertheless, and this is no bad commodity. I had a savage who had taken out his boy one morning. They brought home their loads about noon. I asked them how many turkeys they found in the woods. They answered: necut metawna, which is a thousand.
The larks are like our larks in England, except that they do not sing at all.
There are owls of diverse kinds, such as the great gray owl, the little gray owl, and the white owl, which is no bigger than a thrush. But I have never heard any of them whoop as ours do.
The crows both smell and taste of musk in summer, but not in winter.
There are no nightingales, larks, bullfinches, blackbirds, popinjays, rooks, woodcocks, quails, robins, magpies, jackdaws, cuckoos, jays, sparrows, &c.
There are ospreys, which in this country are white-mailed. Their beak is excellent against toothache: Pick your gums with it till they bleed.
The trochilus is a small bird, black and white, no bigger than a swallow. They build their nests in chimneys. When they leave the house, they throw down one of their young birds into the room by way of gratitude.
The simps are like our simps in all respect. I have shot at them only to see what difference I could find between them and those of my native country, and did not regard them further.
Of Fish and What Commodity They Prove
There is no country known that yields a larger variety of fish in winter and summer. I myself have seen such multitudes pass out of a pond that it seemed to me that one might go over their backs dry-shod:
Alewife (a kind of fish much like a herring, which in the latter end of April come up to the fresh rivers to spawn, in such multitudes as is almost incredible), aleport, albacore, bass (one of the best fish in the country; a delicate, fine, fat, fast fish, having a bone in his head which contains a saucerful of marrow sweet and good, which is pleasant to the palate and wholesome to the stomach), blue-fish or hound-fish, of which two kinds, as speckled hound-fish and blue hound-fish or horse-fish, bonito or dozada or Spanish dolphin, sea-bream, bullhead or Indian mussel, bur-fish, catfish, clam (the savages cannot get enough of this fish, despite the plenty; for our swine we find it a good commodity, for being once used to the places where clams abound they will repair there every ebb, as if they were driven to them by keepers), coal-fish, cod (there is a stone found in their bellies, which, being pulverized and drunk in white-wine posset or ale, is a remedy for the stone), rock-cod, sea-cod or sea-whiting, cony-fish, sea-cucumber, cunner or blue perch or sea-roach, crab, cusk, sea-dart or javelin, dog-fish (their skins are good to cover boxes and instrument-cases), dolphin, sea-emperor or sword-fish, eel, of which divers kinds, flail-fish, flounder, sea-flea, freel, grampus, greedygut, haddock, hake, horse-foot, herring, halibut or sea-pheasant, sea-hare, hen-fish, herring (very similar to those caught on the English coasts), hog or flying fish, lampreys, limpin, sea-liver, lobster, lump, mackerel (richly clad with rainbow colors), maid, monk-fish, morse, mullet, mussel (some very fat and full of sea pearls, but inedible, for they made everyone sick who tried them), nun-fish, oyster (some so big that they must be divided before you can get them well into your mouth), perch, pollack, periwig or sea-snail or whelk (a kind of fish that lies in the ooze like a head of hair, which being touched conveys itself leaving nothing to be seen but a small round hole), pike or fresh-water wolf or river-wolf, which is in fact an overgrown pike, pilchard, pilot-fish, pinnacks, plaice or sea-sparrow, porpoise, prawn or crangone, purple-fish, porgee, remora or suck-stone or stop-ship, sea-raven, razor-fish, salmon, sail-fish, scallop or Venus-cockle, skate or ray or gristle-fish, of which divers kinds, as sharp-snouted ray, rock-ray &c., shad (bigger than the English shads, and fatter), spurling, sculpin, seal or soil or zeal (their skins, with the hair on, are good to make gloves for the winter), shark or bunch, of which several kinds (some as big as a horse; they have three rows of teeth in his mouth; they leap at a man’s hand if it is over board, and snap off a swimming man’s leg; they are good as fertilizer), sheath-fish, sturgeon, smelt, shrimp, sprat, squid, star-fish, sting-ray (their skin is good to cover boxes, and hafts of knives and rapier-sticks), sword-fish, thornback or Neptune’s beard (given to the dogs, being not counted worth the dressing in many places), turtle (much sought for by the Indian squaw), of which three kinds, as land-turtle, river-turtle, and lake-turtle (called a terrapin in Virginia), trout, turbot, ulatife or saw-fish, sea-urchin, sea-unicorn or sea-monoceros, and whale, of which many kinds.
We saw strange fish at sea, some with wings flying above the water, others with manes, ears and heads, and chasing one another with open mouths like stone horses in a park.
These things I offer to your consideration (courteous reader) and require you to show me the like in any part of the known world, if you can. I have been careful to report nothing of New England but what I have either seen myself or heard from the mouths of very honest and religious persons, who by living in the country a good space of time have had experience and knowledge of its state. The more I looked, the more I liked it. If I had the means to transport a colony, I would rather live in New England than anywhere. If this land is not rich, then the whole world is poor.
John Smith, A Description of New England (1616), Francis Higginson, New–Englands Plantation (1630), William Wood, New Englands Prospect (1634), Thomas Morton, New English Canaan (1637), and John Josselyn, New-Englands Rarities Discovered (1672) provided most of the raw material for this essay.
Zuerst veröffentlicht / First published in Seneca Review #38.