Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan). Archives, Labels (tags), and other links appear at the bottom of the page.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Rude Copy of Verses on the History of Woburne Towne

Records for the Towne of Woburne
ffrom the year 1640 the 8 day of th 10 month

Paulisper Fui

In peniles age I woburne Towne began
Charls Towne first moved the Court my lins to span
To vewe my land place compild body Reare
Nowell Sims Sedgwick thes my paterons were
Sum fearing He grow great upon these grownds
Poor I wase putt to nurs among the Clownes
Who being taken with such mighty things
As had bin work of Noble Qeeins and Kings
Till Babe gan crye and great disturbance make
Nurses Repent they did har undertake
One leaves her quite an other hee doth hie
To foren lands free from the Babys Crye
To more of seaven seing nursing provd soe thwarte
Thought it more ease in following of the Carte.
A naighbour by hopeing the Babe wold bee
A pritty Girle to Rocking har went hee
Too nurses less undanted then the rest
ffirst howses ffinish thus the Girle gane drest
Its Rare to see how this poore Towne did rise
By weakest means two weake in great ons eys
And sure it is that mettells cleere exstraction
Had never share in this Poore Towns erextion
Without which metall and sum fresh suplys
Patrons conclud she never upp wold rise
If ever she mongst ladys have a station
Say twas ffrom Parentes not har education
And now conclud the lords owne hand it wase
That with weak means did bring this work to pass
Not only Towne but Sistor church to ade
Which out of dust and Ashes now is had
Then all Inhabit woburne Towne stay make
The lord not means of all you undertake
The verse above was handwritten into the first record book of Woburn not by the author, Captain Edward Johnson, but by his son, Major William Johnson. (Click on the image above to enlarge it.) It's about the difficulties encountered by Captain Johnson and his fellow Commissioners for the Settlement of Woburn. Major Johnson didn't waste any ink on punctuation--you probably noticed!--as if the spelling and syntax weren't going to be challenging enough for some of us who might be reading it four centuries later.

See what you can make of this punctuated version:
Paulisper Fui

In peniles age I woburne Towne began;
Charls Towne first moved the Court my lins to span.
To vewe my land place, compild body Reare,
Nowell, Sims, Sedgwick, thes my paterons were.
Sum fearing He grow great upon these grownds,
Poor I wase putt to nurs among the Clownes,
Who being taken with such mighty things
As had bin work of Noble Qeeins and Kings,
Till Babe gan crye and great disturbance make;
Nurses Repent they did har undertake.
One leaves her quite; an other hee doth hie
To foren lands, free from the Babys Crye;
To [two] more of seaven, seing nursing provd soe thwarte,
Thought it more ease in following of the Carte.
A naighbour by, hopeing the Babe wold bee
A pritty Girle, to Rocking har went hee.
Too [two] nurses less undanted [danted ?] then [than] the rest,
ffirst howses ffinish; thus the Girle gane drest.
Its Rare to see how this poore Towne did rise
By weakest means, two [too] weake in great ons [ones'] eys.
And sure it is that mettells cleere exstraction
Had never share in this Poore Towns erextion;
Without which metall and sum fresh suplys
Patrons conclud she never upp wold rise.
If ever she mongst ladys have a station,
Say twas ffrom Parentes, not har education,
And now conclud the lords owne hand it wase
That with weak means did bring this work to pass,
Not only Towne but Sistor church to ade
Which out of dust and Ashes now is had.
Then all Inhabit woburne Towne, stay make
The lord, not means, of all you undertake.
Call me a sissy if you will, but I think it's still pretty beastly. Fortunately, between 1640 and now, there've been others who foresaw the potential for "Huh?" and offered some explication and modernization. So, while the purist in me feels the need to honor the original, the sissy is pleased to have found the modernized version below:
Paulisper Fui

In penniless age, I, Woburn town, began;
Charlestown first moved the Court my lines to span.
To view my land place, compiled body rear,
Nowell, Symmes, Sedgwick, these my patrons were.
Some fearing I'll grow great upon these grounds,
Poor, I was put to nurse among the clowns,
Who being taken with such mighty things
As had been work of noble queens and kings--
Till babe 'gan cry and great disturbance make--
Nurses repent they did her undertake.
One leaves her quite; another he doth hie
To foreign lands, free from the baby's cry;
Two more of seven, seeing nursing proved so thwart,
Thought it more ease in following of the cart.
A neighbor by, hoping the babe would be
A pretty girl, to rocking her went he.
Two nurses less undaunted than the rest,
First houses finish; thus the girl 'gan dressed.
It's rare to see how this poor town did rise
By weakest means; --too weak in great ones' eyes.
And sure it is, that metal's clear extraction
Had never share in this poor town's erection;
Without which metal, and some fresh supplies
Patrons conclude she never up would rise.
If ever she 'mongst ladies have a station,
Say 'twas from parents, not her education.
And now conclude the Lord's own hand it was
That with weak means did bring this work to pass.
Not only town but sister church too add
Which out of dust and ashes now is had.
Then all inhabit Woburn town, stay, make
The Lord, not means, of all you undertake.
That's better, eh? But if you're anything like me, you're still mumbling something about not "getting it." As the saying goes, you had to have been there, and we weren't. In the interest of resolving some of the remaining befuddlement, I've annotated this one with whatever explanatory material I've found. See if this helps:

In penniless age, I, Woburn town, began;
Dear reader, it is the town of Woburn, Massachusetts, that speaks to us from the dais of this verse.
Charlestown first moved the Court my lines to span.
The General Court, May 13, 1640, on the petition of Charlestown, made a grant of two square miles of land on Charlestown's head line for a new town, later enlarging the tract to four miles square. Prior to its incorporation, it was called Charlestown Village.
To view my land place, compiled body rear,
Frothingham interprets the phrase "compild body reare" as meaning "my compact body to rear." To me, that doesn't make a lot of sense. In fact, I'm not even sure the added punctuation is right. Could place be a verb? What about compild? My dictionary offers 1) gathered together, or 2) put together out of existing material, either of which makes more sense to me than compact. I'm no scholar, but consider this possibility:
To view my land, a gathered group of settlers followed
Nowell, Symmes, Sedgwick. These my patrons were.
Nowell, Symmes, Sedgwick, these my patrons were.
Within a few days after the court granted the land, "Mr. Increase Nowell [magistrate], Mr. Zachariah Sims [minister], Edward Johnson, Edward Conuars, Ezekill Richison, Samuwel Richison, and Robert Halle, together with Mr. Hubard, artist, searched the land lying within the two miles square." Captain Robert Sedgwick was a friend and neighbor of Captain Johnson, a member of Charlestown's committee for the survey and, like Nowell and Symmes, had invested in the creation of the new town. It was named Woburn in compliment to him, as he'd been born in Woburn, Bedfordshire, England. (Later, Sedgwick would rise in rank, eventually to that of major-general under Cromwell. And much, much later, he would become my ninth great-grandfather, which is why we are here today beating this verse to a pulp.)
Some fearing I'll grow great upon these grounds,
Actually, it seems quite a few were worried about the growth of Woburn. First there was the issue of the boundary between Woburn and Linne Village. This interesting story was noted by Johnson: "Noble Captain Sedgwicke, Ensigne Palmer, Thomas Lins, Edward Johnson, Edward Conuars, John Mousall, and others, went to view the bounds between Linne Village and this town, like Jacobites, laying them down to rest when night drew on, now preserved by the good hand of God with cheerful spirits, though the heavens poured down rain all night incessantly. One remarkable Providence, never to be forgotten. Some of the company lay under the body of a great tree, it lying some distance from the earth. When the daylight appeared, no sooner was the last man come from under it, but it fell down to their amazement, [they] being forced to dig out their food that was caught under it, it being so ponderous that all the strength they had could not remove it." A few weeks later, "the parties aforesaid met at Linne, and lay there all night. Next day, drew Linne men to the confines of their bounds, endeavoring to point the divisional line between their new town and this." Later, the Church of Charlestown met "to consider of those that should go up to this town [Woburn]; and, seeing many appear, fearing the depopulation of Charlestown, from that day forward had a suspicious eye over them."
Poor, I was put to nurse among the clowns,
"Clowns" refers to the ordinary people who actually settled the town, as opposed to the investors ("patrons").
Who being taken with such mighty things
As had been work of noble queens and kings--
Till babe 'gan cry and great disturbance make--
Woburn herself is the "babe." All that crying and disturbance refers to the many problems that were encountered in trying to raise her.
Nurses repent they did her undertake.
Jameson suggests that the designation of "nurses" is an allusion to the seven members of the managing committee: Edward Convers, Edward Johnson, Ezekiel Richardson, John Mousall, Thomas Graves, Samuel Richardson, and Thomas Richardson. Because Robert Sedgwick is not among that particular seven, Jameson's suggestion doesn't quite jibe with Poole's explanation of the following two lines.
One leaves her quite; another he doth hie
To foreign lands, free from the baby's cry;
Poole says, "It is a noticeable coincidence that the two most eminent and active associates of Captain Johnson in the early proceedings for the settlement of the Town of Woburn — General Sedgwick and Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves — left the enterprise before its consummation; and, returning to England, were appointed to high military and naval positions in the forces of Cromwell. Perhaps Captain Johnson alludes to them" in these lines.
Two more of seven, seeing nursing proved so thwart,
Thought it more ease in following of the cart.
Hurd suggests these two were the brothers Samuel and Thomas Richardson. He also suggests the one who "left her quite" in the previous couplet was a reference to Ezekiel Richardson, rather than Sedgwick.
A neighbor by, hoping the babe would be
A pretty girl, to rocking her went he.
The neighbor, says Hurd, was Edward Johnson himself.
Two nurses less undaunted than the rest,
Johnson clearly meant "daunted" here, not "undaunted."
First houses finish; thus the girl 'gan dressed.
The first house finished was that of Edward Convers, the next that of John Mousall.
It's rare to see how this poor town did rise
By weakest means; --too weak in great ones' eyes.
From the humblest circumstances imaginable.
And sure it is, that metal's clear extraction
Hurd says that metal refers to gold or silver money. Robert Sedgwick, however, was one of the proprietors of Lynn Iron Works. His financial backing for the founding of Woburn might well have come from that enterprise. See Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, p. 160+, for more about Sedgwick. Also see Comments below.
Had never share in this poor town's erection;
Without which metal, and some fresh supplies
Patrons conclude she never up would rise.
Some of the source materials listed below have the chronology of events in the formation of Woburn. It's interesting to read about the many problems that arose. For awhile there, it didn't look too promising.
If ever she 'mongst ladies have a station,
Say 'twas from parents, not her education.
Round explains that Johnson wants to emphasize the work of Woburn's inhabitants (her parents) rather than the money and fresh supplies of patronage (her education).
And now conclude the Lord's own hand it was
That with weak means did bring this work to pass.
Not only town but sister church too add
Which out of dust and ashes now is had.
Then all inhabit Woburn town, stay, make
The Lord, not means, of all you undertake.
The meaning is, "Then all who inhabit Woburn town, make the Lord, not the mere means or instrumentalities, the chief stay of all that you undertake."
As for the title, the literal translation of the Latin phrase paulisper fui is "for a little while I have existed." Google it and you will quickly find these lines from Pseudolus, a comedy by the Roman playwright Plautus (ca. 254BC-184BC):
Quasi solstitialis herba paulisper fui:
Repente exortus sum, repentino occidi.

Like a summer plant, I lived a short time:
I sprang up suddenly, and suddenly fell.
This same thought can be found in the Bible--see Psalms 90:5-6, Psalms 103:15-16, Job 14:2--and other literature as well.

Interestingly, Paulisper Fui is included in the 584-page An Anthology of American Humor by Brom Weber (New York: Crowell, 1962), and I had to be bopped on the head with that bit of info before I realized that Johnson probably had a merry old time writing it. So next time you read it, remember to have a lot more fun!

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Source materials are listed below. I've collected them in a post entitled Paulisper Fui at my companion blog, My Ancestors in Books.

Johnson, Edward, and William Frederick Poole. Wonder-Working Providence of Sions Saviour in New England. Andover [Mass.]: W.F. Draper, 1867.

Hurd, D. Hamilton. History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1890.

Johnson, Edward; J. Franklin Jameson, ed. Johnson's Wonder-Working Providence, 1628-1651. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910.

Sewall, Samuel, Charles Chauncy Sewall, and Samuel Thompson. The History of Woburn, Middlesex County, Mass. from the Grant of Its Territory to Charlestown, in 1640, to the Year 1860. Boston: Wiggin and Lunt, 1868.

Colonial Society of Massachusetts. Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. Boston: The Society, 1895.

Converse, Charles Allen. Some of the Ancestors and Descendants of Samuel Converse, Jr., Of Thompson Parish, Killingly, Conn.; Major James Convers, of Woburn, Mass.; Hon. Heman Allen, M. C., of Milton and Burlington, Vermont; Captain Jonathan Bixby, Sr. of Killingly, Conn. Boston, Mass: E. Putnam, 1905.

Newhall, Charles Lyman. The Record of My Ancestry. Southbridge: Herald power print, 1899.

Round, Phillip H. By Nature and by Custom Cursed: Transatlantic Civil Discourse and New England Cultural Production, 1620-1660. Civil society (Hanover, N.H.). Hanover, N.H.: Tufts University published by University Press of New England, 1999.

Lewis, Charlton Thomas. A Latin Dictionary for Schools. New York: American Book Company, 1916.

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Bill West, of West in New England, has posted Waxing Poetic About Genealogy: The Great American Local Poem Genealogy Challenge, a blog carnival which has resulted in an anthology of poetry of special interest to geneabloggers. I've read several of the entries already, and am really enjoying the amazing variety of poems that were chosen. Don't miss it!

2 comments:

Bill West said...

TK
Thanks dor this post. The poem is fascinating to read. I'm wondering if that "metal extraction" might
also refer to mining. There was the Saugus Iron Works around the
same period.

Thanks for taking part in the challenge!

Bill

T.K. said...

I'm glad you brought up the question about mining, Bill, because I had at some point read that one of Robert Sedgwick's enterprises was mining, but when I looked for that detail again while working on this post, I couldn't find it. Your comment inspired me to search again and I did find it this time. When I studied the poem, I thought "metal extraction" might be a reference to the source of Sedgwick's financial investment in the building of Woburn. Here is the detail I was looking for:

"The Iron Works of Lynn, started in the infancy of the Massachusetts colony, was a very important branch of industry, and seems to have been regarded as a patriotic and public-spirited enterprise, which might or might not be found immediately profitable. Men outside of Lynn bore a part in the development of this industry. Gen. Robert Sedgwick, of Charlestown, who afterwards went back to England to help Cromwell in his war against the king, was one of the proprietors in these Iron Works."

[New England Historic Genealogical Society. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston: New-England Historic Genealogical Society, 1888. Vol. 42, p. 28.]

Having reread this detail, and with your interpretation of "metal extraction" being the same as mine, I think I will add this to my article. The gold and silver interpretation never did sit well with me!

Thanks for your very useful comment, Bill.

Labels

Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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