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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Romance of Pocahontas

By Captain John Smith (1580–1631)

[Generall Historie of Virginia, etc. 1624.]

OPITCHAPAM the King’s brother invited him to his house, where, with as many platters of bread, foule, and wild beasts, as did inviron him, he bid him welcome; but not any of them would eate a bit with him, but put up all the remainder in Baskets. At his returne to Opechancanough’s all the King’s women, and their children, flocked about him for their parts, as a due by Custome, to be merry with such fragments.
  • But his waking mind in hydeous dreams did oft see wondrous shapes
  • Of bodies strange, and huge in growth, and of stupendious makes.
  • At last they brought him to Werowocomoco, where was Powhatan, their Emperor. Here more then two hundred of those grim Courtiers stood wondering at him, as he had beene a monster; till Powhatan and his train had put themselves in their greatest braveries. Before a fire upon a seat like a bedsted, he sat covered with a great robe, made of Raroweun skinnes, and all the tayles hanging by. On either hand did sit a young wench of 16 or 18 years, and along on each side the house, two rowes of men, and behind them as many women, with all their heads and shoulders painted red; many of their heads bedecked with the white downe of Birds; but every one with something: and a great chain of white beads about their necks. At his entrance before the King, all the people gave a great shout. The Queene of Appamatuck was appointed to bring him water to wash his hands, and another brought him a bunch of feathers, instead of a towel to dry them. Having feasted him after their best barbarous manner they could, a long consultation was held, but the conclusion was, two great stones were brought before Powhatan: then as many as could laid hands on him, dragged him to them, and thereon laid his head, and being ready with their clubs, to beate out his braines, Pocahontas the King’s dearest daughter, when no intreaty could prevaile, got his head in her armes, and laid her owne upon his to save him from death: whereat the Emperour was contented he should live to make him hatchets, and her bells, beads, and copper; for they thought him as well of all occupations as themselves. For the King himselfe will make his owne robes, shooes, bowes, arrowes, pots; plant, hunt, or doe any thing so well as the rest.

  • They say he bore a pleasant shew,
  • But sure his heart was sad.
  • For who can pleasant be, and rest,
  • That lives in feare and dread:
  • And having life suspected, doth
  • It still suspected lead.

  • *****

    To conclude our peace, thus it happened. Captaine Argall having entered into a great acquaintance with Japazaws, an old friend of Captaine Smith’s, and so to all our Nation, ever since hee discovered the Countrie: hard by him there was Pocahontas, whom Captaine Smith’s Relations intituleth the Numparell of Virginia, and though she had beene many times a preserver of him and the whole Colonie, yet till this accident shee was never seene at James towne since his departure, being at Patawomeke, as it seemes, thinking her selfe unknowne, was easily by her friend Japazaws perswaded to goe abroad with him and his wife to see the ship, for Captaine Argall had promised him a Copper Kettle to bring her but to him, promising no way to hurt her, but keepe her till they could conclude a peace with her father. The Salvage for this Copper Kettle would have done any thing, it seemed by the Relation; for though she had seene and beene in many ships, yet he caused his wife to faine how desirous she was to see one, and that he offered to beat her for her importunitie, till she wept. But at last he told her, if Pocahontas would goe with her, he was content: and thus they betrayed the poore innocent Pocahontas aboord, where they were all kindly feasted in the cabin. Japazaws treading oft on the Captaine’s foot, to remember he had done his part, the Captaine when he saw his time, perswaded Pocahontas to the gun-roome, faining to have some conference with Japazaws, which was only that she should not perceive he was any way guiltie of her captivitie: so sending for her againe, he told her before her friends, she must goe with him, and compound peace betwixt her Countrie and us, before she ever should see Powhatan, whereat the old Jew and his wife began to howle and crie as fast as Pocahontas, that upon the Captaine’s fair perswasions, by degrees pacifying her selfe, and Japazaws and his wife, with the Kettle and other toys, went merrily on shore, and she to James towne. A messenger forthwith was sent to her father, that his daughter Pocahontas he loved so dearly, he must ransome with our men, swords, pieces, tooles, &c., he trecherously had stolne.

    This unwelcome newes much troubled Powhatan, because hee loved both his daughter and our commodities well, yet it was three months after ere he returned us any answer: then by the perswasion of the Council, he returned seven of our men, with each of them an unserviceable musket, and sent us word, that when wee would deliver his daughter, hee would make us satisfaction for all injuries done us, and give us five hundred bushels of Corne, and for ever be friends with us. That he sent, we received in part of payment, and returned him this answer:—That his daughter should be well used, but we coulde not believe the reste of our armes were either lost or stolne from him, and therefore till hee sent them, we would keepe his daughter.

    This answer, it seemed, much displeased him, for we heard no more from him a long time after, when with Captaine Argall’s ship, and some other vessels belonging to the Colonie, Sir Thomas Dale, with a hundred and fiftie men well appointed, went up into his owne River, to his chiefe habitation, with his daughter. With many scornful bravado’s they affronted us, proudly demanding why wee came thither; our reply was, wee had brought his daughter, and to receive the ransome for her that was promised, or to have it perforce. They nothing dismayed thereat, told us, We were welcome if wee came to fight, for they were provided for us, but advised us, if wee loved our lives to retire; else they would use us as they had done Captaine Ratclitfe. We told them, wee would presently have a better answer; but we were no sooner within shot of the shore than they let flie their Arrowes among us in the ship.

    Being thus justly provoked, wee presently manned our Boats, went on shore, burned all their houses, and spoiled all they had we could finde; and so the next day proceeded higher up the River, where they demanded why wee burnt their houses, and wee, why they shot at us: They replyed it was some stragling Salvage, with many other excuses; they intended no hurt, but were our friends. We told them, wee came not to hurt them, but visit them as friends also. Upon this we concluded a peace, and forthwith they dispatched messengers to Powhatan, whose answer, they told us, wee must expect foure and twentie houres ere the messengers could returne:…. Two of the Powhatan’s sons came unto us to see their sister, at whose sight, seeing her well, though they heard to the contrarie, they much rejoiced, promising they would perswade her father to redeeme her, and for ever be friends with us. And upon this the two brethren went aboord with us, and we sent Master John Rolfe and Master Sparkes to Powhatan, to acquainte him with the businesse; kindly they were entertained, but not admitted the presence of Powhatan, but they spoke with Opechancanough, his brother and successor; hee promised to doe the best he could to Powhatan, all might be well. So it being Aprill and time to prepare our ground and set our corne, we returned to James towne, promising the forbearance of their performing their promise, till the next harvest.

    Long before this, Master John Rolfe, an honest Gentleman, and of good behaviour, had beene in love with Pocahontas, and she with him, which thing at that instant I made knowne to Sir Thomas Dale by a letter from him, wherein hee intreated his advice, and she acquainted her brother with it, which resolution Sir Thomas Dale well approved. The bruit of this mariage came soone to the knowledge of Powhatan, a thing acceptable to him, as appeared by his sudden consent, for within ten days he sent Opachisco, an old Uncle of hers, and two of his sons, to see the manner of the mariage, and to doe in that behalfe what they requested, for the confirmation thereof, as his deputie; which was accordingly done about the first of Aprill. And ever since we have had friendly trade and commerce, as well with Powhatan himself, as all his subjects….

    The Lady Rebecca, alias Pocahontas, daughter to Powhatan, by the diligent care of Master John Rolfe her husband and his friends, as taught to speake such Englishe as might well bee understood, well instructed in Christianitie, and was become very formal and civil after our English manner; she had also by him a childe which she loved most dearely and the Treasurer and Company tooke order both for the maintenance of her and it, besides there were divers persons of great ranke and qualitie had beene very kinde to her; and before she arrived at London, Captaine Smith to deserve her former courtesies, made her qualities knowne to the Queene’s most excellent Majestic and her Court, and writ a little booke to this effect to the Queene: An abstract whereof followeth.

    To the most high and vertuous Princesse Queene Anne of Great Brittanie.
    The love I beare my God, my King and Countrie hath so oft emboldened mee in the worst of extreme dangers, that now honestie doth constraine mee presume thus far beyond my selfe, to present your Majestie this short discourse: If ingratitude be a deadly poyson to all honest vertues, I must bee guiltie of that crime if I should omit any meanes to bee thankful. So it is, that some ten yeers agoe being in Virginia, and taken prisoner by the power of Powhatan their chiefe King, I received from this great Salvage exceeding great courtesie, especially from his son Nantaquaus, the most manliest, comeliest, boldest spirit, I ever saw in a Salvage, and his sister Pocahontas, the King’s most deare and well-beloved daughter, being but a childe of twelve or thirteene yeers of age, whose compassionate pitiful heart, of desperate estate, gave me much cause to respect her: I being the first Christian this proud King and his grim attendants ever saw: and thus inthralled in their barbarous power, I cannot say I felt the least occasion of want that was in the power of those my mortal foes to prevent, notwithstanding all their threats. After some six weeks fatting among those Salvage Courtiers, at the minute of my execution, she hazarded the beating out of her owne braines to save mine, and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to James towne, where I found about eight and thirtie miserable poore and sicke creatures, to keepe possession of all those large territories of Virginia. Such was the weaknesse of this poore Commonwealth, as had the Salvages not fed us, we directly had starved.

    And this reliefe, most gracious Queene, was commonly brought us by this Lady Pocahontas, notwithstanding all these passages when inconstant Fortune turned our peace to war, this tender Virgin would still not spare to dare to visit us, and by her our jars have beene oft appeased, and our wants still supplyed; were it the policie of her father thus to imploy her, or the ordinance of God thus to make her his instrument, or her extraordinarie affection to our Nation, I know not: but of this I am sure:—when her father with the utmost of his policie and power, sought to surprize mee, having but eighteene with mee, the darke night could not affright her from comming through the irkesome woods, and with watered eyes gave me intelligence, with her best advice to escape his furie; which had hee knowne, hee had surely slaine her. James towne with her wild traine she as freely frequented, as her father’s habitation; and during the time of two or three yeeres, she next under God, was still the instrument to preserve this Colonie from death, famine and utter confusion, which if in those times had once beene dissolved, Virginia might have line as it was at our first arrival to this day. Since then, this businesse having beene turned and varied by many accidents from that I left it at: it is most certaine, after a long and troublesome war after my departure, betwixt her father and our Colonie, all which time shee was not heard of, about two yeeres after she her selfe was taken prisoner, being so detained neere two yeeres longer, the Colonie by that meanes was relieved, peace concluded, and at last rejecting her barbarous condition, was maried to an English Gentleman, with whom at this present she is in England; the first Christian ever of that Nation, the first Virginian ever spake English, or had a childe in mariage by an Englishman, a matter surely, if my meaning bee truly considered and well understood, worthy a Prince’s understanding.

    Thus, most gracious Lady, I have related to your Majestie, what at your best leasure our approved histories will account you at large, and done in the time of your Majestie’s life, and however this might bee presented you from a more worthy pen, it cannot from a more honest heart. As yet I never begged anything of the State, or any, and it is my want of abilitie and her exceeding desert, your birth, meanes, and authoritie, her birth, vertue, want and simplicitie, doth make mee thus bold, humbly to beseech your Majestie to take this knowledge of her, though it be from one so unworthy to be the reporter, as myselfe, her husband’s estate not being able to make her fit to attend your Majestie. The most and least I can doe, is to tell you this, because none so oft hath tried it as myselfe; and the rather being of so great a spirit, however her stature: if she should not be well received, seeing this Kingdome may rightly have a Kingdome by her meanes; her present love to us and Christianitie, might turne to such scorne and furie, as to divert all this good to the worst of evil, where finding so great a Queene should doe her some honour more than she can imagine, for being so kinde to your servants and subjects, would so ravish her with content, as endeare her dearest bloud to effect that, your Majestie and all the King’s honest subjects most earnestly desire. And so I humbly kisse your gracious hands.

    Being about this time preparing to set saile for New-England, I could not stay to doe her that service I desired, and shee well deserved; but hearing shee was at Branford with divers of my friends, I went to see her: After a modest salutation, without any word, she turned about, obscured her face, as not seeming well contented; and in that humour her husband, with divers others, we all left her two or three houres, repenting myself to have writ shee could speake English. But not long after, she began to talke, and remembered mee well what courtesies shee had done: saying, “You did promise Powhatan what was yours should bee his, and he the like to you; you called him father being in his land a stranger, and by the same reason so must I doe you;”—which though I would have excused, I durst not allow of that title, because she was a Kings daughter. With a well set countenance she said: “Were you not afraid to come into my father’s Countrie, and caused feare in him and all his people (but mee) and feare you here I should call you father; I tell you then I will, and you shall calle mee childe, and so I will bee for ever and ever your Countrieman. They did tell us alwaies you were dead, and I knew no other till I came to Plymouth; yet Powhatan did command Uttamatomakkin to seeke you, and know the truth, because your Countriemen will lie much.”

    This Salvage, one of Powhatan’s Council, being amongst them held an understanding fellow, the King purposely sent him, as they say, to number the people here, and informe him well what wee were and our state. Arriving at Plymouth, according to his directions, he got a long sticke, whereon by notches hee did thinke to have kept the number of all the men hee could see, but he was quickly wearie of that taske. Coming to London, where by chance I met him, having renewed our acquaintance, where many were desirous to heare and see his behaviour, hee told me Powhatan did bid him to finde me out, to shew him our God, the King, Queene, and Prince, I so much had told them of. Concerning God, I told him the best I could; the King, I heard, he had seene, and the reste hee should see when he would. He denied ever to have seene the King, till by circumstances he was satisfied he had. Then he replyed very sadly: “You gave Powhatan a white Dog, which Powhatan fed as himselfe, but your King gave me nothing, and I am better than your white Dog.”

    The small time I staid in London, divers Courtiers and others, my acquaintances, hath gone with mee to see her, that generally concluded, they did thinke God had a great hand in her conversion, and they have seene many English Ladies worse favoured, proportioned and behavioured, and as since I have heard, it pleased both the King and Queene’s Majestie honourably to esteeme her, accompanied with that honourable Lady the Lady De la Warre, and that honourable Lord her husband, and divers other persons of good qualities, both publikely at the maskes and otherwise, to her great satisfaction and content, which doubtlesse she would have deserved had she lived to arrive in Virginia.