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But some of the Dutch having notice of their intentions, and having thoughts about the same time of erecting a plantation there likewise, they fraudulently hired the said Jones, by delays while they were in England, and now under pretence of the danger of the shoals, &c., to disappoint them of their going thither. But God outshoots Satan oftentimes in his own bow."*
Be this as it may, they were in anxious haste for settlement, and came near settling on the Cape itself.
“ The master of the ship,” says Mr. Morton, “and his company, pressed them with speed to look out a place for their settlement, at some near distance ; for the season was such that he would not stir from thence, till a safe harbor was discovered by them with the boat. Yea, it was sometimes threatened that if they did not get a place in time, they and their goods should be turned on shore, and the ship should leave them. The master also expressed himself that provisions were spending apace, and that he would keep sufficient for himself and company for their return (to England).”
By the 10th of December, they had come in their explorings as far as Clark's Island, in Plymouth harbor; so called, because Thomas Clark, the mate of the May Flower, first set foot upon it. They described this harbor as “a bay greater than Cape Cod, compassed with a goodly land, and in the bay two fine Islands uninhabited, wherein are nothing but woods, oaks, pines, walnuts, beech, sassafras, vines, and other trees which we know not. This bay is a most hopeful place; innumerable store of fowl, and excellent food, and cannot but be of fish in their seasons. Such was Plymouth then, to their view very hopeful, and there they determined to settle, and there landed on the Rock. In the
space of two hundred years, the localities have so far changed, at least in the mantle thrown over them by time and cultivation, that if the Pilgrims could rise from their
* Morton, New England's Memorial.
graves at this day, they would hardly know the place of their pilgrimage, especially if they should see sailless ships rushing into the harbor against both wind and tide, and a long train of cars thundering into the town upon the railroad. Doubtless they have seen all this progress from the
. world of spirits, and are now beholding the future results of it far more clearly, and from a higher post of observation than we.
And the Rock-Plymouth Rock-would they know the place where they landed? Under present circumstances, one might make the circuit of the whole water-side of the village, and scarce find granite data for even a guess as to the spot so sacred now in the annals of New England. When the shallop from the May Flower first touched that spot it was an imperfect rocky ledge, partly covered with the sea at high tide, but now almost entirely hidden by the earth of the street, and at some little distance from the margin of the water. This sacred spot is in the gangway to a wharf, between two store-houses for grain. Yet one can see, on consideration, that if the buildings, with their foundations, and the accumulated soil around them, were taken away, together with the wharves that stretch out beyond them, so that nature could be restored to the rude simplicity and savageness of 1620, an admirable picture might be drawn, not from imagination, but reality, of the Pilgrims stepping from their shallop on the wave-worn rock.
Nevertheless, the disappointment in the minds of most persons, on visiting the spot as it now appears to the eye, is very great. “What! This the Pilgrim Rock !” they exclaim, “this dusty lane and wharf-way between these old store-houses! Why, this is no rock at all.” And indeed, several tons of the Rock having been removed, and the rest being nearly hidden with earth, there seems to be nothing left. The huge fragment taken awayis now deposited in front of Pilgrim Hall, and is there surrounded
by an iron railing, with the names of the Pilgrimis inscribed in ovals at the top. Perhaps it would be in better taste to carry the fragment back to its native original position, and there encircle it with whatever defences may be requisite for its protection. There should be a park there, down to the water's edge ; for where in the world out of Judea or Egypt, is there a more sacred bit of soil, be it rock or rich mould, than that which the feet of those men first pressed, as the chosen spot where the home should be of the free to worship God? It is a solemn place; the incongruities of the artificial scenery around it are of no avail to diminish the impression, when the great reality presses on the mind. It is felt to be a solemn spot, when, on Forefathers' Day, the procession of men bare-headed passes over it ; each man silently, reverently, as he approaches it, uncovering his head ; it is a time, place, and scene, for thoughts much more easily imagined than described.
To gain a satisfactory impression of the localities of Plymouth Harbor, we must ascend the Burial Hill, which rises, covered with its forest of grave stones, directly above the terrace, where the Pilgrims laid out the first rude street of their settlement. It is a very sacred spot in their history, and the view from it is incomparably fine. The town lies below you, around the bosom of the hill. A few majestic elms and lindens rise in beautiful masses of foliage among the buildings on the water side, but in general there are few trees, until the eye passes into that noble ridge of pine forest on the southeast, running out into the sea ; a hill-range of the primeval wilderness, as deeply foliaged as the Green Mountains, or the Jura range in Switzerland. The wide harbor is before you, with a bar or spit of land straight stretching across the centre of it, and dividing the inner flats from the deep blue water beyond. I say the wide harbor. And now it depends very much upon the time of tide when you first enter the town, whether
you are greatly disappointed or pleased in the first impression. Plymouth harbor is one of those vast inlets so frequent along our coast, where, at high tide, you see a magnificent bay studded with islands, and opening proudly into the open ocean ; but at low tide an immense extent of muddy, salt-grassed, and sea-weeded shallows, with a narrow stream winding its way among them to find the
Here and there lies stranded the bark of a fisherman, or a lumber schooner amidst the flats, left at low tide, not high and dry, but half sunk in the mud; and the wharves are dripping with rotting seaweed, and the shores look decaying and deserted; not pebbly or sandy like a beach, but swampy with eel grass, and strewn here and there with the skeletons of old horse-fishes, crabs, muscles, &c., among the withered layers of dry kelp. Now and then, also, the red huts and fish-flakes of the fishermen vary the scene upon the shore, or a small vessel, about as large as the May Flower, slowly though with all sail set, follows the course of the stream winding among the shallows, the only channel at low tide, by which there is any approach from the outer open bay, towards the quay or business landing-place of the village. The extent of these flats and shallows at Cape Cod and Plymouth, was the cause of great evil and hardship at first; for, speaking of Cape Cod Bay, where the Pilgrims first came to anchor, they say: “ We could not come near the shore by three-quarters of an English mile, because of shallow water, which was a great prejudice to us, for our people, going on shore, were forced to wade a bow-shoot or two in going a-land, which caused many to get colds and coughs, for it was by times freezing cold weather.” In these colds and coughs were the seed, to some of a speedy, to others a lingering, New England consumption, which soon sowed the harbor side with
graves, almost as many as the names of the living. Now this whole range of low tide scenery, to one who is truly fond of the sea and the shore, in all their freaks, inlets,
varieties, and grand and homely moods, is not without its beauty. The poet Crabbe, or the Puritan poet, R. H. Dana, would describe it in such interesting colors that it would wear a most romantic charm; the stranded boats, and the mud flats, and the rotting sea weed, would have a strange imaginative life put into them. Nevertheless, if these are the first images of the landing of the Pilgrims presented to you, you will experience, probably, a great disappointment.
But now if you behold this same sweep of sea scenery at high tide, beneath a clear sky, a bright sun, in the coloring of morn or evening, or in the solemn stillness of an autumn noon, what an amazing change! It is no longer the same region. You would think it one of the finest harbors in the world. You would think it was the preference and selection of the human will, after long searching, that brought the Pilgrims hither, and not merely the hand and compulsion of an overruling Providence. You would think how easy and how natural for them to find their way just to this landing-place; and how beautiful and admirable the region, for the thrift of a colony, both in commercial and in country life. How differently God sees from man ! He seems to have shut up the Pilgrims in this inlet, difficult of access from the sea, and barren in the country, to set their growth, firm and steadfast, amidst much tribulation, in dependence neither on the riches of the land, nor the sea, nor the attractions of commercial intercourse, but upon himself alone. He hid them as in a tabernacle from the strife of tongues, and let them grow, unperverted by the admiring notice, and unassaulted by the temptations of a wicked world. It was a costly growih, but glorious.
It must have been at high tide that the Pilgrims found their way into this harbor. A sweet fresh stream, setting into it from the land, was to them a great attraction, as well as the abundance of fresh fountains. Had they been able to survey the coast as far as Boston, before making