Many people have noticed similarities between seventeenth-century Puritans and twenty-first-century Progressives. The two sects share a similar sense of spiritual election, a similar conviction that they were put on earth to enlighten the nations, and a similar inability to leave decent folk alone. Both sects attract freaks, hysterics and sadists, along with many persons of high (although narrow) intelligence. Both antagonize their neighbors with grating sermons, unwelcome meddling, and obnoxious legislation.
One difference between Puritans and Progressives is that the Puritans failed to take control of the British state, whereas Progressives have very largely succeeded in usurping the power of the American empire. Another difference is that seventeenth-century England could expel the Puritan pestilence to the rocky shore of New England, where they could pester the Wampanoags and Narragansetts, whereas twenty-first-century America appears to be stuck with its bothersome blighters.
Might not our pests be likewise somewhere sent!
Here are the lyrics to an old English ballad that attempts to lure the pestilential Puritans away from England, and to New England, by extolling the material and spiritual attractions of that faraway land. The Summons to New England was first published around 1634 and was meant to be sung to the tune a forgotten song called The Townsman’s Cap. The final stanza of the ballad reveals that the real blessing of the great Puritan migration of the 1630s and 1640s was to purify England, and the English Church, by ridding it of bothersome blighters. I have modernized the spelling and added some explanatory footnotes.
Let all that putrifidean sect,
I mean the counterfeit Elect:
All zealous bankrupts, puncks devout,
Preachers suspended, rabble rout,
Let them sell all, and out of hand
Prepare to go for New England,
To build new Babel strong and sure,
Now call’d a Church unspotted pure.
There milk from springs, like rivers, flows,
And honey upon hawthorn grows;
Hemp, wool, and flax, there grows on trees,
The mold is fat, and cuts like cheese;
All fruits and herbs grows in the fields,
Tobacco it good plenty yields;
And there shall be a Church most pure,
Where you may find salvation sure.
There’s venison of all sorts great store,
Both stag, and buck, wild goat, and boar,
And all so tame, that you with ease
May eat your fill, take what you please;
There’s beavers plenty, yea, so many,
That you may buy two skins a penny,
Above all this a Church most pure,
That to be saved you may be sure.
There flights of Fowl do cloud the light,
Great turkeys of sixty pound in weight,
As big as ostriches; there geese,
Are sold with thanks for pence apiece;
Of duck and mallard, widgeon, teale,
Twenty for two-pence make a meal;
Yea, and a Church unspotted pure,
Within whose bosom all are sure.
Lo, there in shoals all sorts of fish,
Of the salt sea, and waters fresh:
Ling, cod, poor-john and haberdine
Are taken with the hooks and line;
A painful fisher on the shore
May take of each twenty an hour;
But above all a Church most pure,
Where you may live and die secure.
There twice a year all sorts of grain
Doth down from heaven like hailstones rain;
You never need to sow nor plough,
There’s plenty of all things enough:
Wine sweet and wholesom drops from trees,
As clear as crystal, without lees;
Yea, and a Church unspotted, pure,
From dregs of Papistry secure.
No feasts nor festival set days
Are here observed; the Lord we praise,
Though not in churches rich and strong,
Yet where no mass was ever sung,
The Bulls of Bashan roar not here
Surplice and cope durst not appear;
Old orders all they will abjure,
This Church hath all things new and pure.
No discipline shall there be used,
The law of nature they have choosed;
All that the spirit seems to move
Each man may take and so approve,
There’s government without command,
There’s unity without a band;
A synagogue unspotted pure,
Where lusts and pleasures dwell secure.
Lo in this Church all shall be free
To enjoy their Christian liberty;
All things made common, t’avoid strife,
Each man may take another’s wife,
And keep a handmaid too, if need,
To multiply, increase, and breed.
Then is not this foundation sure,
To build a Church unspotted, pure?
The native people, though yet wild,
Are altogether kind and mild,
And apt already, by report,
To live in this religious sort;
Soon to conversion they’ll be brought
When Warcham’s miracles are wrought,
Who being sanctified and pure,
May by the Spirit them alure.
Let Amsterdam send forth her brats,
Her fugitives and runnagates:
Let Bedlam, Newgate, and the Clink
Disgorge themselves unto this sink;
Let Bridewell and the stews be swept,
And all sent hither to be kept;
So may our Church be cleans’d and pure.
Keep both itself and state secure.
) A simple inversion of purification formed from the word putrefaction.
) A punck (or punk) was a wanton woman, common whore, or slut.
) A rout is a disorderly mob that resembles an army that has lost discipline.
) Game generally.
) Salted cod.
) Diligent or painstaking.
) “Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round” (Psalms 22:12). The bulls of Bashan serve the Psalmist as a metaphor for troubles, difficulties and dangers. Bashan was a plateau east of the Jordan, at the foot of Mount Hebron, and famed for its cattle.
) An obscure allusion, perhaps connected with the reverends Maverick and Warcham who founded the church society at Dorchester, now part of Boston, in 1631.
) An lenvoy (or envoi) is a short stanza that terminates a ballad.
) The name runagate is derived from the word renegade and strictly means a deserter or runaway servant. It commonly denoted a vagabond on the assumption that every vagabond had run away from his master, wife, or family. Runagate was also used to denote a man who had abandoned all moral principles and was, therefore, a renegade from society.
) The insane asylum of London. The name Bedlam is a corruption of Bethlehem.
) A London prison of the King.
) A London prison that the Church of England used to incarcerate recusants and heretics in the sixteenth century.
) A London prison and reformatory for disorderly orphans and poor people.