Home  »  Colonial Prose and Poetry  »  Peter Folger

Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.

Vol. II. The Beginnings of Americanism: 1650–1710

Peter Folger

PETER FOLGER, whose name as a New England poet is embalmed in Franklin’s Autobiography, was born in England, 1617, and died at Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1690. He emigrated to New England in 1635, and settled first in Watertown, then in Martha’s Vineyard, as teacher, surveyor, and assistant to the Indian missionary, Thomas Mayhew. He afterward became a Baptist, and moved in 1663 to Nantucket, where he served as surveyor and interpreter, and for a time, as clerk of the courts. Cotton Mather says that he was pious and learned. His chief poem, A Looking Glass for the Times, or the Former Spirit of New England Revived in this Generation (1675), is described by Franklin as having been “written with manly freedom and a pleasing simplicity agreeably to the taste of the times and the country.” The author addresses himself to the Governors of the Colonies, speaks for liberty of conscience, and in favor of the toleration of sects, among them the Quakers and Anabaptists, who had suffered persecution. Folger was far from being a poet, but he was a man of sound sense, and some of the stanzas which we reproduce have not lost their point or their application to-day.

  • A Denunciation of War.
  • IF that the peace of God did rule,
  • with power in our heart,
  • Then outward war would flee away,
  • and rest would be our part.
  • If we do love our brethren,
  • and do to them, I say,
  • As we would they should do to us,
  • we should be quiet straightway.
  • But if that we a smiting go,
  • of fellow-servants so,
  • No marvel if our wars increase
  • and things so heavy go.
  • ’Tis like that some may think and say
  • our war would not remain,
  • If so be that a thousand more
  • of natives were but slain.
  • Alas! these are but foolish thoughts,
  • God can make more arise,
  • And if that there were none at all,
  • he can make war with flies.
  • It is the presence of the Lord,
  • must make our foes to shake,
  • Or else it’s like he will ere long
  • know how to make us quake.
  • Let us lie low before the Lord,
  • in all humility,
  • And then we shall with Asa see
  • our enemies to fly.
  • But if that we do leave the Lord,
  • and trust in fleshly arm,
  • Then ’tis no wonder if that we
  • do hear more news of harm.
  • Let’s have our faith and hope in God,
  • and trust in him alone,
  • And then no doubt this storm of war
  • it quickly will be gone.
  • Thus, reader, I, in love to all,
  • leave these few lines with thee,
  • Hoping that in the substance we
  • shall very well agree.
  • If that you do mistake the verse
  • for its uncomely dress,
  • I tell thee true, I never thought
  • that it would pass the press.
  • If any at the matter kick,
  • it’s like he’s galled at heart,
  • And that’s the reason why he kicks,
  • because he finds it smart.
  • I am for peace, and not for war,
  • and that’s the reason why
  • I write more plain than some men do,
  • that use to daub and lie.
  • But I shall cease and set my name
  • to what I here insert,
  • Because to be a libeller,
  • I hate it with my heart.
  • From Sherbon town, where now I dwell,
  • my name I do put here,
  • Without offence your real friend,
  • it is PETER FOLGER.