Soon after the deaths of William Robinson and Marmaduke Stephenson, Samuel Cheever published in Cambridge, Massachusetts, his almanac for New England. In addition to weather forecasts and other information useful to farmers and local citizens, Cheever created a puzzle poem for each month. Samuel was only twenty-one years old when he created his first almanac. He went on to become the minister at Marblehead in 1668.

Samuel Cheever’s word puzzle poems or enigmas, one for each month, describe the season of that month. Mars, the Roman god of war, lent his name to March. These puzzles made use of metaphor, appeared in New England as early as Samuel Danforth’s An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord 1647 (Cambridge, 1646), and were sufficiently popular to appear in several later almanacs.

It is possible to see the conflict between the orthodox puritans and the Quakers in Cheever’s poem (“Harmless looked imps, who lately banished were …”) or to read more into this than its author intended. Moreover, I confess I don’t fully understand all the imagery and metaphors.  If you have insight, please let me know and I’ll share it here.

The following poem for May.

Brave-minded Mars with this sad sight enraged,
Her quarrel to revenge shall be engaged.
Heavens glorious Lampe thrice ten degree, shall bee
Turned back, from Twins to Taurus shall he flee.
Harmless looked imps, who lately banished were
By restless spirits moved, past care and fear
Now to avenge their foul supposed wrong,
Gathering their troops in armies great shall throng.

Cheever, Samuel. An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord 1660. Cambridge, 1660.

Mars = god of war, strength
Heaven’s glorious lamp = the sun
Thrice ten degrees = 30 degrees, one of twelve signs/houses of the zodiac
Twins = Gemini, third sign in the zodiac, May 21-June 21, 60-90 degrees
Taurus = second sign in the zodiac, April 21-May 21, 30-60 degrees