Walden’s Fished Out Perch

King Phillip’s War

The English have contributed much to their own misfortunes, for they first taught the Indians the use of arms. The government of the Massachusetts … upon design to monopolize the whole Indian trade … [gave] liberty … to sell, unto any Indian, guns, swords, powder, and shot. By which means the Indians have been abundantly furnished with great store of arms and ammunition.

Randolph, Report on King Phillip’s War in New England.

 

Concord

by Robert Lowell

Ten thousand Fords are idle here in search
Of a tradition. Over these dry sticks—
The Minute Man, the Irish Catholics,
The ruined bridge and Walden’s fished out perch—
The belfry of the Unitarian Church
Rings out the hanging Jesus. Crucifix,
How can your whited spindling arms transfix
Mammon’s unbridled industry, the lurch
For forms to harness Heraclitus stream!
This Church is Concord—Concord where Thoreau
Named all the birds without a gun to probe
Through darkness to the painted man and bow:
The death-dance of King Philip and his scream
Whose echo girdled this imperfect globe.


Lowell enjoys weaving history into his poetry.   I think he felt it elevated it to a higher standard of literature.  The war of 1676 is not on the minds of American’s these days, but it is an earlier version of the kind of tyranny and proxy wars that plague the world today.  Considered one of the bloodiest and costliest wars per capita ever fought on what would become American soil, it was fought primarily between first nations, with English militias and colonists using it to its advantage to weaken both sides permanently.

King Phillip, also known as Chief Metacom,  was a member of the Wampanoag tribe native to what would become New England. It was a 14 month war that escalated because of the involvement and incursions of colonists that took advantage of the situation.

In the spring of 1676 King Phillip’s alliances had the upper hand and captured Chief Canochet.  He was handed over to the Mohegans who promptly shot, beheaded and quartered him, leaving the Narragnsett without a leader.  But as often happens in war, the tide turned, largely because of the backing of English militias. On August 20, 1676, an English-Indian soldier named John Alderman, shot and killed King Philip at Mount Hope.  King Philip was treated the same as he had treated his enemy.  King Philip’s head was placed on a spike and displayed at Plymouth colony for the next two decades as a warning to those that would resist England’s expansionism.

King Philip’s war resulted in thousands of native American’s death’s, ten’s of thousands wounded or captured and sold into slavery. The war decimated the Narragansett, Wampanoag and many other smaller tribes and for all practical purposes ended resistance in New England, paving the way for colonial expansionism.


A Fish Poem

by Leigh Hunt

Amazing monster! that, for aught I know,
With the first sight of thee didst make our race
For ever stare! O flat and shocking face,
Grimly divided from the breast below!
Thou that on dry land horribly dost go
With a split body and most ridiculous pace,
Prong after prong, disgracer of all grace,
Long-useless-finned, haired, upright, unwet, slow!

O breather of unbreathable, sword-sharp air,
How canst exist? How bear thyself, thou dry
And dreary sloth? WHat particle canst share
Of the only blessed life, the watery?
I sometimes see of ye an actual pair
Go by! linked fin by fin! most odiously.