1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Thomas Makin’s most notable trait is that he stands as one of the oldest known settlers in Pennsylvania. Records show him serving as an usher in the Friend’s public grammar school in 1689, not long after which he rises to the post of headmaster. He stayed on at the school for some years teaching Latin but eventually began to move around and eventually was forced to give up teaching all together. The end result of this was that Makin ended up destitute and often living on the kindness of friends and family.
2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Two major explanations exist for why Makin wrote the poems he did and why he wrote them in Latin. First and foremost, it has been claimed that he wrote them simply for entertainment, an understandable assumption given that he had, at one point, taught Latin. The other claim is that he did so in the hopes of amassing some small gifts from his “patrons”, to whom he sent the works. Namely we see Makin’s two major works, Encomium Pennslyvaniae and In laudes Pennslyvaniae poema seu descriptio Pennsylvaniae, dedicated to an acquaintance of Makin’s named James Logan. This argument is born up by the fact that, in his own letter to Makin, Logan comments that the servants of the Muses are often afflicted with want and that it is not surprising that Makin has been so as well. In another letter Makin comments that Logan has in his possession a poem meant to teach his son about the geography and nature of Pennsylvania, likely referring to one of the two afore mentioned poems (likely the descriptio).
3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 In form, the poem is written in elegiac couplets and takes a strongly didactic tone regarding its subject matter. It begins with a description of the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, dead only a couple years at the point of the poem’s writing, before moving into a description of the colony as a whole. The verses have been described as crude and at points it is clear that they were not written by a Roman, as strange grammatical constructions abound and words seem in odd places. Nevertheless the work shows a strong adherence to its metrical form and even those critics who fault its’ verses refinements admit that it should be respected on that front at least.
4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The poem provides a useful glimpse into the place Latin held in America at this point. It was a subject still taught in schools, with enough people devoted to it that Makin felt confident his poem would be able to be read, and may have thought he could make money for writing it. The art form itself, however, may have become more about structure and less about flair, losing some of its artistic soul as authors strove to hold to the ancient meters and rhythms which would have come so much more easily to the likes of Horace and Ovid.