Saturday, April 6, 2013
Yesterday, April 4, was the anniversary of the marriage of Powhatan native Pocahontas and Englishman John Rolfe in 1614. Reflect for a moment on the times. Rolfe was a gentleman, raised in Elizabethan England at a time of cultural explosion. The printing revolution had brought literature to the homes of the aristocracy and gentry. By mid century almost 100% could read. Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spenser, Bacon and Donne wrote for this new audience. Merchants thrived. Schools were built. Enrollment at Oxford doubled in the first quarter of the century. Four million people lived in England and Wales. The Virginia Company of London sought to prosper from a new colony that was thought to be on the way to a northwest passage to the Orient. The colony's needs were poorly understood. The first settlers included far too few laborers and skilled farmers. Many starved in the first winter. The relationship between these men (women arrived several years later) and the 14,000 Algonquin speaking Indians was complex. It included compassion and help from the Indians along with fear and hostilities over the use of their land. The English knew nothing of the Indian culture. The Indians had prospered for centuries. Out of this unlikely mix came a love affair between the young Pocahontas and the widowed tobacco farmer, Rolfe. They had a son. They travelled to England where Pocahontas was presented to the Queen. Imagine her world view. Imagine the gulf she crossed. She died in England before she could return to Virginia. Imagine the grief of her soul.