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Book Chapter

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The Oxford Handbook of Early American Literature


American verse, Colonial poetry, Transcendent values, Contractarian logic


Augustan American verse is the essence of this article. The poetry composed by the colonial poets from New England are discussed in this article. Colonial poets often said they were imitating Alexander Pope, Virgil, and Horace. Joseph Addison, John Dryden, and John Milton were also frequently mentioned. A reader acquainted with James Thomson, Abraham Cowley, Samuel Butler, and John Pomfret's “The Choice” will find much familiar in colonial poetry—so much so that later critics have often complained that colonial verse is derivative. Like their European contemporaries, Augustan poets in the colonies believed the “polish'd Arts” could help control “wild Passions” and “humanize the Soul.” This article also traces the transcendent values and contractarian logic which constitutes the Augustan Age. Detailed analysis of the works of writers such as Henry Brookes The New Metamorphoses and works of Ebenezer Cook forms the concluding part of the article.




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