outpourings of the mind and heart of their spiritual leaders were the very stuff of human passion in its intensest forms.
churchgoers, passing hours upon hours every week in rapt absorption with the noblest of all poetry and prose in the pages of their chief book, the Bible
, were at least as sensitive to the beauty of words and the sweep of emotions as our contemporaries upon whose book-shelves Spenser
It is only by entering into the psychology of the period that we can estimate its attitude towards the poetry written by the pioneers themselves.
The Bay Psalm book
(1640), the first book printed in the colonies, is a wretched doggerel arrangement of the magnificent King James Version
of the Psalms, designed to be sung in churches.
Few of the New England
churches could sing more than half-a-dozen tunes, and a pitch-pipe was for a long time the only musical instrument allowed.
Judged as hymnology or poetry, the Bay Psalm book
provokes a smile.
Bilt the men and women who used it as a handbook of devotion sang it with their hearts aflame.
In judging such a popular seventeenth-century poem as Wigglesworth
's Day of doom
one must strip oneself quite free from the twentieth century, and pretend to be sitting in the