The Courtship of Miles Standish Summary by H.W. Longfellow

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, born in Portland Maine, in the year of 1807. An American poet, and educator; he was and still is considered as one of the most read poets of in the country.  He was the first writer to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy.  The Courtship of Miles Standish poem is a narrative poem written in the year 1858. Here is the Courtship of Miles Standish summary.  


The Courtship of Miles Standish Summary by H.W. Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this narrative poem in the year 1858, this poem is about the colonial settlement established in America in the early days of Playmouth Colony by the Mayflower Pilgrims. The poem is written in dactylic hexameter, in the poem Evangeline by Longfellow, he has used the same meter. In 1923 a film was made on “The Courtship of Miles Standish”.  The backdrop of the poem is set against a fierce Indian war and revolves around a love triangle (between Miles Standish, Priscilla Mullens, and John Alden; Mayflower Pilgrims). This Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem is based on a true story though the critics debate that this may or may not be true. The characters of the poem portray the real Mayflower Pilgrims. The notable aspect is that through Zilpah Wadsworth (his mother), John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins, Longfellow was a descendant of the pilgrims. So he believed it to be the history of his family orally passed on to the next generations. 

This is a historical narrative poem based on a love triangle. The poem begins with the physical description of Miles Standish telling the reader about his physical built and physical strength. Unlike the other character, John Alden who plays a major role in the poem is who is not described so, but the reader does get the hint that he is opposite of Miles in both the physical and mental attributes; he is no soldier but a scholar. All is going well until Miles proclaims to marry; the twist comes when he declares to marry Priscilla, who is the love interest of John.

Miles who is a man of few words and John a person with poetry flowing through him asks John to go profess his love for Priscilla. The first part of the poem describes the inner conflict of John Alden, whether he should listen to his heart or friendship, eventually, friendship wins over the heart. He sets on the journey to visit Priscilla confess the love of Mills in front of her. In the line, it is his path he takes and the thoughts that go through his mind on the way is described. He curses his fate and the Gods he prayed, he notices the Mayflowers and plucks them to give it to the beautiful Priscilla.

In the lines, that follow he portrays her beauty and becomes a little more sentimental. But believing it to be his fate to deliver the message he moves on. As he enters her house, suddenly the hum of the wheels and the singing stops, because Priscilla hears his footsteps and comes to welcome him inside. She tells him that she had been thinking of him and knew that he would make a visit to him; he is delighted to hear that she thought of him but unable to speak he gives her the flowers for an answer.

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This reminds him of the night of the great snow when instead of taking the main route he had chosen to come across this path where she lived and was eventually happy he did so when Priscilla met him. Breaking from his nostalgia they sit and talk about all the stuff of the world. She tells him what all she had been thinking about lately and how she wished she was back in England, all this made her feel lonely and wretched. This gives him an opportunity to put forward the message he had come to deliver. He says that he can understand what she felt and that this is the time when the woman needs a strong shoulder to relay on and he has come at the right time with the most appropriate marriage offer from a very good man who is in love with her.

He, therefore, delivers the message sent by Mills. It is interesting to note here though Alden was a poetic person he does take any strain to narrate the letter with a rhythm but does so in a very straightforward and flat tone just like would have been done by a schoolboy. Even the Captain would have read it better; she is stunned to hear this and that too from Alden. She says in amazement that if the captain really felt so he should have come on his own rather than sending Alden.

Trying to calm her down as he went he made the matters worse by saying that the Captain was busy and has no time for “such things”, this word felt like a blow to her. She responded angrily asking whether he would have time for “such things” after they wed. She then explains what is wrong with men, that they cannot understand women and take it for granted when they simply ask and feel like getting an answer in affirmative. She says no to the proposal. John Alden continues to pacify her and ignores whatever she says continuing with his offer from the Captain he goes on praising him. In all this, he almost forgets that he is actually praising his rival in love. The lady here supposedly knows about Alden’s feelings for her and feels the same for him because she laughs at all this and smilingly tells him “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”

The Courtship of Miles Standish poem can be compared with Longfellow’s earlier written poem Evangeline. That is a poem written on a woman’s tragic love, her lover during the deportation in the year 1755 of the Acadian people, disappears. So both these poems are about the situation of people and the emotional turmoil’s they went through during America’s colonial era. Though the poem previously was written, was on a steadier note than the plot of The Courtship of Miles Standish, which varies in the description of emotion where we witness a mix of drama and comedy with the love-obsessed (love triangle you remember?) Pilgrims, battling against disease and Indians.


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