Courtship of Miles Standish

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Narrative poem in unrhymed English hexameters by Longfellow, published in 1858. The central theme is apocryphal, although material is drawn from early New England histories and tradition.

Miles Standish, captain of the Plymouth Colony, calls upon his better-educated friend John Alden to woo the maid Priscilla for him. Alden, also in love with the girl, yields to the duty of friendship and blurts out Standish's message, at which Priscilla makes her famous arch inquiry, “Why don't you speak for yourself, John?” Infuriated by Alden's failure, which he attributes to a betrayal of trust, Standish leaves on an Indian campaign without bidding farewell to his friend. During his absence, Alden and Priscilla are constantly together, and, receiving news of his death, plan to marry. The news proves to be false, Standish returns to attend the wedding and beg forgiveness for his anger, and the three are reunited as friends.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807—1882) American poet