An Experiment in point of view

The narrative point of view encompasses all forms of storytelling and dates back to the Ancients who employed it to communicate their perceptions of the divine Voice. Point of view in various guises reveals the narrators position in regards to the story unfolding; the author can also create a mosaic of multiple points of view.

Such has been my sampling of wayfarers past. I offer no conclusions. Fortune, I had not seen for myself, yet to me, she seemed a boon companion. I was a minor and a miner then. Fortune had favored every work of mine, and worldly riches lay at my command. I longed to see my fancies bright ideal – to tell her of my love, and let her weigh in the scales minute its strength and purity. I met her and at once the power that ruled my heart for months had flown. She was an uncouth, silly maid with freckled face and fiery hair; I threw a boot – at the jade and left the town in mad despair.  Mart Taylor

For now, con te partiro.

Mart Taylor's Carpetbag

Mart Taylor’s Carpetbag

An Experiment in point of view.

Our next wayfarer, Samuel Woodworth (1784-1842), was the father of Selim, who came to my rescue more than once while I was still a green “Jack Doe” in Frisco. Samuel was born in the county of Plymouth, Massachusetts. He was the youngest of four children born to a poor farmer (a veteran of the Revolutionary war) who tilled the barren soil on a small farm owned by his second wife. He was not able to get his sons a good education, for there was no school held in the village except during the winter months; and economy drove the selection of its teacher who was generally as ignorant as the school’s pupils. By the age of fourteen years, Samuel had a limited knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but a tangible gift for rhyme. Be not deceived, sadly, young Samuel knew that the occupation of poet that first finds a man poor, keeps him so.

How happy is the minstrel’s lot,

   Whose song each care beguiles

The frowns of Fortune fright him not,

   Nor does he court her smiles.

Contented with his tuneful lyre,

   His art can yield the rest;

He pours his soul along the wire,

   And rapture fires his breast.

Samuel’s father and his village teacher could see how bright the lad was – with characteristic quickness of apprehension and strength of memory – and they contrived to procure an education for him. A good preacher, Reverend Nehemiah Thomas (1766-1831) spent a winter teaching him English, Latin, and the classics. Samuel lamented that his education could only last but one short season:

And here the muse bewails her hapless bard,

   Whose cruel fate such golden prospects marr’d;

For hope once whisper’d to his ardent breast,

   “Thy dearest, fondest wish shall be possess’d;”

Unfolded to his view the classic page,

   And all its treasures promised ripening age;

Show’d Learning’s flowery path which led to Fame,

   Whose distant temple glitter’d with his name.

Illusive all! – the phantom all believe,

   Though still we know her promises deceive;

Chill penury convinced the wretch, too late,

   Her words were false, and his a hapless fate.

Young Samuel was compelled to choose a profession, and choose he did, that steadfast profession of Printer. Saying adieu to his dear family, he traveled to the metropolis of his native state, and bound himself as an apprentice to Benjamin Russell, Esq., the publisher and editor of the Columbian Centinel in the year 1806. Samuel, using the pseudonym “Selim,” began to get his poems published in various Boston publications; sadly, he did not retain any copies of these productions. Samuel began to dream of taking an extensive tour of the United States to broaden his understanding of the workings of the world; practicality compelled him to remain with this former master for another year. And alas, he was drawn into hazardous speculations that put him into debt.

Rather than get bound again he traveled destitute along the byways and highways to New York. Samuel hoped to procure employment in the different towns sufficient to continue his tour. His optimism was only dashed when after applying in every printer’s shop in every village, the response was the same: no work here. At length, he found himself in New Haven – a stranger with blistered feet and an empty purse. Not one to give up, Samuel wrote to a friend and asked for some money to carry him further on his quest, and the friend acquiesced. Having a genteel appearance and manners, along with a growing knowledge of human nature, Samuel procured decent lodgings despite poverty, and was treated with respect.

Finding himself comfortable, Samuel returned to his natural disposition that led to scribbling verses, falling in love, and forming transient amiable attachments. He worked for nine months, and decided to begin his own publication, purchased type and a press on credit and soon found himself received payment insufficient to cover costs. In short, he became the pail, dejected picture of despair. In 1810, Samuel formed an enduring amiable attachment with a young lady and the two married. Samuel was no longer a wayfarer.

Love Hitch

An experiment in point of view.

On the other hand, some evangelists were simply opportunists. After the American Revolution came and went, a brash, itinerate parson named Mason Locke Weems (1759-1825) stalked Washington to be his patron. I say this as the true culture entrepreneur and new-fangled spinner of yarns, Weems was also a cultural entrepreneur and new-fangled spinner of yarns. Fortuna is a humbug creature… she can be blue eyes and smiles and all billet deaux… so wags my rhyme: I caught my muse tonight beneath the sheets with another.

Weems knew that Fortuna could give way beneath her own weight. Amidst a land of plenty, many Americans surrendered to their inclination towards gluttony and bawdy entertainments. Weems lamented that America remained a land shrouded in a strange kind of ignorant darkness. In the rural areas of the frontier, people struggled with what their new freedoms actually meant. Their manners, according to Weems, were savage, their thoughts were uninformed, and their minds bitter. Weems recognized the need for the epic stories of homegrown heroes.

Chapbooks became his medium for sharing sermons and invented “frontier” tales. As a chapman, Weems charmed the common folk with his fiddle playing, soapbox, and plethora of little books on religion and right living. Weems was a humbug zealot who could not get his own parish, but he scraped enough together to continue writing and selling books preaching on proper diet, the hedonistic effects of adultery, drunkenness, and gambling that toiling miners could relate to. Weems produced short biographies of the first great Americans, including George Washington, Francis Marion, and Benjamin Franklin interwoven and embellished with stories from newspapers and personal anecdotes from Masonic brothers. He was, I believe, the first American folklorist.

Weems often left his wife and family for long periods to wander the dusty back roads to outposts, farms, and plantations down the Atlantic coast to the Southern States and into the interior frontier lands where few other chapmen tarried. Oh, the things he must have seen without a gun! The following verse was a typical conclusion to his sermons culled from The Bachelor’s Almanac (1799):

I am married and happy. With wonder hear this,

   Ye rovers and rakes of the age,

Who laugh at the mention of conjugal bliss,

   And who only loose passions engage.


You may laugh, but believe me you’re in the wrong,

   When you merrily marriage deride

For to marriage the permanent pleasures belong,

And in them we can only confide.


If you ask me, from whence my felicity flowers?

   My answer is sure, from a wife;

Whom for cheerfulness, sense and good nature I chose,

   Which are beauties that charm us for life.


To make home the seat of perpetual delight,

   Ev’ry hour each studies to sieze,

And we find ourselves happy from morning to night,

   By – our mutual endeavours to please!

Fortuna embraces a man’s worst fears, leading him into the path most feared; her tidings are short-lived, to build upon them is to build golden sand castles upon a beach to be torn asunder with the in-coming tides. (As A weapon, a woman’s tongue is worse than any other.) Weems saw industry, exemplified by hard work, steadiness, and diligence, as the strengths of an enduring nation. In Masonic language reminiscent to a description one of Moraley’s timepieces, Weems clarified, “Love the brotherhood. Let us remember that we are all the same materials wrought by the great Architect… that we are the same flesh and blood wonderfully multiplied into millions of brothers, and wisely gifted with different talents and a passion for society, to make up one great political body…”

An Experiment in point of view.

Thomas Paine (1737-1804) arrived in America from England in 1774. He was a radical pamphleteer who furiously attacked Christianity. Paine, a great man and friend of wayfarers, asserted in his famous pamphlet Common Sense (1776) that “Oppression is often the consequence, but seldom or never the means of riches; and though avarice will preserve a man from being necessitous poor, it generally makes him too timorous to become wealthy.” Sometimes I hum the tune to Paine’s “The Liberty Tree” (1775) when the Spirit moves me:

In a chariot of light from the regions of day,

   The Goddess of Liberty came;

Ten thousand celestials directed the way

   And hither conducted the dame.


A fair budding branch from the gardens above,

   Where millions with millions agree,

She brought in her hand as a pledge of her love,

   And the plant she named Liberty Tree.


The celestial exotic struck deep in the ground,

   Like a native it flourished and bore;

The fame of its fruit drew nations around,

   To seek out this peaceable shore.


Unmindful of names or distinctions they came,

   For freemen like brothers agree;

With one spirit endued, they one friendship pursued,

   And their temple was Liberty Tree.


Beneath this fair tree, like the patriarchs of old,

   Their bread in contentment they ate

Unvexed with the troubles of silver and gold,

   The cares of the grand and the great.


With timber and tar they Old England supplied,

   And supported her power on the sea;

Her battles they fought, with getting a groat,

   For the honor of Liberty Tree.


But hear, O ye swains, ‘tis a tale most profane,

   How all the tyrannical powers,

Kings, Commons and Lords, are uniting amain,

    To cut down this guardian of ours;


From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms,

   Though the land let the sound of it flee,

Let the far and the near, all unite with a cheer,

   In defense of our Liberty Tree.

Likewise, his The Rights of Man is sung to a traditional melody. I’ve played it on the fiddle for little Lotta to dance to; the Irish in the camps hear it and stamp their feet in solidarity. For those who march for peace, The Rights of Consciousness goes great with a fife tune – though it is mighty pretty heard on a dulcimer play by a lady in hoops. Now Issachar Bates (1758-1837) was a conundrum. A patriot, he became a pacifist; a father of nine children, he embraced celibacy. Brother Issacher was an arresting pacifist – he had misgivings about serving in any war; music became his ticket to a broader world. I learned a lot from his legend. Bates witnessed a sign of wonder in skies above New England in 1769 before the Revolution. It was like the day when God made the sun stand still in the midst of heaven for Joshua. A sign of God’s protection in an imminent battle, a peculiar dark cloud gathered and remained motionless and suspended in the skies over Massachusetts for a day before moving over a town where it swelled, looking black and fierce. The cloud began to roar and bellow, blow and thunder, vomiting smoke and fire and raging like Aetna in a thousand flames in a day that was like no other for New Englanders before it or after it. When he became a Shaker, Brother Issacher shook off soldiers’ pensions offered, and never fought in any other war.

Time is like a bubble floating on the main;

   Puff’d with joy or trouble, bursts and forms again,

On high waves a fleeting, takes its windy race;

   Down ‘tis next retreating takes the lowest place.

So in all my notions tossing up and down,

   Puff’d with various notions, how I’ll win the crown.

Time will still be fleeting, rifles all my plans;

   I am sick of fleeting, let my days be few,

I’ll in my last retreating, bid old time adieu.

Source: Carol Medicott. Issacher Bates: A Shaker’s Journey. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 2013.

An Experiment in point of view.

The evangelists of olden times wandered about, doing righteous toil. Preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1753) left us with fire and brimstone sermons about man’s dependence upon God. The great preacher culled a line from Deuteronomy to open “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (1741) stating: “…their foot shall slide in due time (32:35).” Fortuna enters a man’s life in chance events subsequent to demonstrations of strength, or conversely, weakness in character. Few men see Fortuna as a servant of God: she swings like a pendulum between providence and ruin. To those who see God as the Great Tuner of universal harmony, Fortuna’s acts are part of a divine plan that cannot be resisted or circumvented. Edwards insisted that when – not if – but when a man’s foot shall slide, “Then shall they left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight.” Edwards could see that the foolish children of men delude themselves in their own schemes, and confident in their own strength and wisdom, they “trust to nothing but shadow.” Be not deceived, my friends, to those who radically preach the Gospel, Fortuna is useless to men. There is no point in placing trust in her (as with Spirit), for she cannot discern between those who are good and those who are not. It is like leaving your mother’s deathbed to return to a siren who leads you to go hungry in a distant land.

Helmsmans Rudder

An Experiment in point of view.

Change changing is education is forever changing change… For to marry here some pretty miss, and take her from her mother, and – presto change – through the love of change, she runs off with another.

Moraley pen[ned] the embellishments to a poem by George Webb that appeared in an almanac for 1730 praising William “Pen” Penn (1644-1718) who was proprietor of the multicultural Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where the secret fraternal order of the Free and Accepted Masons established their first North American lodge in 1730 promoting an egalitarian sensibility of liberalism. To enlightened music in this new order, Fortuna and Lady Liberty became almost interchangeable, to not love her would surely be sinning; and God could be seen tuning the cosmic bass strings to ensure harmony worldwide. Already the colonies fields clad with the verdure of green were a cynosure in the world for upward social mobility if one could produce la bagatelle.

Goddess of Numbers, who art wont to rove

   O’er the gay Landskip, and the smiling grove:

Assist the soaring Muse, with Judgment to repeat.

   The various Beauties of Thy Fav’rite Seat;

Thy Streets and Lanes, how regular and fair,

   With thee no earthly City may compare.

While Europe groans, distress’d by hostile War,

   No fears disturb the industrious Planters Care:

No unjust Sentence we have cause to fear;

   No arbitrary Monarch rules us here.

Our Laws, our Liberties, and all are ours,

   Our happy Constitution here secures,

The Seers, how cautious! And how gravely wise!

   The hopeful Youth in Emulation rise;

Who, if the aspiring Muse does rightly sing,

   Shall liberal Arts to such Perfection bring,

That Europe shall mourn, her ancient Fame declin’d,

   And Philadelphia shall be the Athens of Mankind.

What Praise, O Pen! what Thanks are due to thee!

   For this first perfect Scheme of Liberty!

What Praise! What Thanks! to thee, O Pen! are given,

   Beloved of Men! and Candidate for Heaven.

Writing songs is tough, nobody knows his neighbor, requires to have them understood, a vast amount of labor. Once in the colonies, Moraley was bound to a master clockmaker who also worked as a silversmith, goldsmith, button-maker, and blacksmith. Amazed by the natural bounty naturally found in his new home, he tramped through the countryside to drum up business for his tyrannical master. The economic reality was that even established colonists had no means to build continuous wealth – they were just starting to build networks to distribute manufactured goods to gain a small sense of autonomy. As a journeyman after service, Moraley could only earn about a third of what another journeyman with comparable experience could make in London. (‘Tis hard to keep afloat, and so I hope that all of you will freely, take a note.) Unable to become independent in the contemporary sense of the word, Moraley lived a single life in a male-dominated world. Once-indentured servants scratched hard to own property, garner a patron to establish credit, and hunt for a wife in a region were men vastly outnumbered hoopsters. Moraley had no voice in the world around him – democracy as we understand it today did not exist; free men owning no property were obliged to work, drink, and live in the company of men. Moraley was a small-minded man, he did not marry, and upon returning to England, sued his mother for her ignorance of money matters and perceived injustices towards him.

[Source: William Moraley. The Infortunate: The Voyage and Adventures of William Moraley, and Indentured Servant. University Park, PA.: Pennsylvania State Press, 1992. ]



An Experiment in point of view.

This, I believe is still true, be not deceived. There are humbugs here of every profession, the creed of mankind go on in dealing with one another, if that half the world was made well to swindle the other. Like a babe, the wayfarer must be a likable sort of humbug to survive: there is no titbit at Fortuna’s teat for an infantile curmudgeon. Unmanly modern Adams like to attribute their own personal downfalls along with those of their children to weakness in their wives or mothers.

William Moraley (1699-1762) lived as at a time of ambivalent populist religious conversations; he was a man who felt cruelly scratched by Fortuna. Moraley traveled to the North American colonies as an indentured servant to be purchased in the Mid-Atlantic region during the 1720s. Poor Moraley tried his hand at verse without much success (his meter is not much worse than mine). Throughout his life, Dame Fortune appeared to oppress. A financial failure in his homeland, he was mired in poverty. Despite attaining an education in the law, Latin, history, theology, math, and science, he could not find employment as a watchmaker – at least in a pinch I can cobble my own boots. Sadly, mass production transformed skilled industries making many artisans redundant to machinery. Moraley was imprisoned for debts and thrown into a metaphorical pit, signing a contract of indenture to gain passage to colonial North America became his means to climb up out of the pit.

An Experiment in point of view.

The wayfarer learns that any man can withstand adversity, but character is only truly tested with a taste of power. Thought by some to be the fickle daughter of Jupiter, Fortune might bring good luck or bad. Those men feeling the affects of bad luck accuse her of being capricious as a butterfly. Those who do not trust in God summon Fortuna. If she does not come through as we hope, they called her “two-faced.” I would never court a Belle with such a cutting tongue. Fortuna is an enchanting queen with full dominion and a flouncing hoop skirt; the more hoops the women buy, the sooner men are busted.

As wayfarers of various ranks grapple with contemporary semantics of dependence and independence, we wander clueless as to the true nature of Fortuna’s intent. We seek her material assets and not her inner being as a reflection of Spirit. But, I believe, life’s pathway is fraught with pleasures. To help my rhymes go by, what little things I see myself, I mention in my songs.

In the physical world, conflicting masculine forces struggle to influence power and distributions of wealth as nations firmly seize mechanisms to build continuous wealth. The only viable means for an ordinary man to leverage power is through education; the fortune hunter seeks wealth and comfort through advantageous marriage. Sadly, for many good men there is too little to leverage; we are compelled to leave loved-ones and to place our futures at the mercy of a mistress who will not commit to our well-being.

I have often pulled out my fiddle to play this old tune, but cannot improve on the original phraseology, and would not try. A solitary moment in a winter wood accompanied only by the winds conversing with tree voices, so this song lingers in the soul:

Fortune, my foe, why dost thou frown on me?

   And will they favors never lighter be?

Wilt Thou, I say, forever breed my pain?

   And wilt thou not restore my joys again?


In vain I sigh, in vain I wail and weep,

   In vain my eyes refrain from quiet sleep;

In vain I she’d my tears both night and day,

    In vain my love my sorrows do bewray.


Then will I leave in Fortune’s hands,

   My dearest love, in most inconstant hand,

And only serve the sorrows due to me:

   Sorrow, hereafter, thou shalt my Mistress be.


Ah silly Soul art thou so afraid?

   Mourn not, my dear, nor be so dismayed.

Fortune cannot with all her power and skill,

   Enforce my heart to think thee any ill.


Live thou in bliss, and banish death to Hell;  

   All careful thought see thou from thee expel;

As thou dost wish, thy love agrees to be,

   For proof thereof, will behold, I come to thee.


Die not in fear, live not in discontent

   Be thou not slain where blood was never meant,

Revive again, to faint thou has no need.

   The less afraid, the better thou shalt speed.

An Experiment in point of view.

I believe, ballads ought only be sung by old spinsters by the fire:

Old maids and futzy batchelor with wonton widows too,

   When you intend to marry, know what you must go through,

But rather than lead apes into hell, along with us do go…

   No horned brother dare makes game, they are cuckolds all-a-row.

Ballads tell stories while folksongs consist of floating verses. Ballads convey epic themes both human and supernatural with plots containing adventure, comic, love, and tragedy told in verse. Ballads are literature of the people. The narratives in ballads generally develop by means of dialogue. Now our American ballads chronicle adventures, scandals and tragedies that were similar in scope to subjects found in chapbooks. The early ballad singers of course performed without instrumentation. They might chronicle a specific incident, but they often get adapted with hearsay and rumor over time, creating and reinforcing legends. Ballads are true indicators of the values of the society and times in which they were written and performed. Conversely, broadside ballads are songs published on single sheets of paper. They are sentimental, declamatory, or scandalous in content and sold on the streets in large urban areas with other broadsides, almanacs, chapbooks, and satirical prints. The ballad known as “James Bird” tells the story of Marine soldier James Bird who demonstrated great bravery during the Battle for Lake Erie in 1813, only to be convicted and executed for desertion when he took off to see his beloved for a long weekend.

An Experiment in point of view

Wayfarers’ songs are work songs, sea shanties, street cries, military cadence and jody calls, and protest songs. Songs for miners, lumberjacks, cowboys and factory workers get sung in rhythmic a cappella that synchronize group action and relieve the loneliness; they are boasts sung during off- hours in social settings. To while away sleepless hours, pitching voices high or low through the intricacies of song, the watchman over time learns to keep in tune. As for me, there has always been a woman to let me be her tom.

Little Tomcat

The wayfarer’s song is seminal to historic memory: the means for groups to remember and perpetuate shared values, experiences, and knowledge. For us to remember, they must have four features: they must be repeated over time and through multiple currents; they must be conspicuousness in intensity to remain in the consciousness; they must be recognizable and standard, and embellish-able; and they must be bold and compelling enough to announce that more complex signal will follow.