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.

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.

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.