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Mayflower, Day by Day - Monday, 4 January [1620]/21

4 Jan 2021 3:34 AM | Soule (Administrator)

At anchor in Plymouth harbour

 “We went on shore, some to fell timber, some to saw, some to rive (i.e., to split wood or stone), and some to carry, so no man rested all that day. But towards night some, as they were at work, heard a noise of some Indians, which caused us all to go to our muskets, but we heard no further. …. That night we had a sore storm of wind and rain.”  They began to frame the first house about twenty feet square for their common use, to receive them and their goods: there was no foundation to it, since they had neither the manpower, the time, nor the equipment for that kind of construction.  All but twenty of the passengers came back aboard at night, leaving the rest to keep guard on shore. 

In the Julian calendar, today was 25 December [Christmas Day], but it was not observed by these colonists, being opposed to all saints’ days as a profanation of the pure Word of God; “we began to drink water aboard, but at night the master caused us to have some beer, and so on board we had divers times now and then some beer, but on shore none at all.”  Philbrick eloquently describes the setting (Mayflower, 81): “Ahead of them was an unknown wilderness that they could not help but inhabit with all their fears.  Behind them was the harbor and the distant Mayflower, lights beginning to twinkle through her cabin windows, a smudge of smoke rising from the galley stove in the forecastle.  What would have astounded a modern sensibility … was the absolute quiet of the scene.  Save for the gurgling of Town Brook, the lap of waves against the shore, and the wind in the bare winter branches, everything was silent as they listened and waited.”  Silent Night, indeed.

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