A Song about Colonial Times
also chayer, chaier, chaire, cheere, cheyre.
Not that the wealth of variant spellings
meant that their dwellings
were rich in these: most were spare-
ly furnished, "men and women
using stools or a bench ordinarily";
in the days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony,
after all, "chairs were not common
even in England." They look so serious
and practical, symbols of pi-
ety made of sturdy wainscot oak. To the eye
of the twenty-first century, even the most "luxurious"
have the hard lines of severe and
puritanical philosophy. And a large
percent of chairs for which we recognize the orig-
inal owners were used by the officially reverend:
Roger Williams, who, in a letter a
congregate wrote, was called "a godly minister"; Ezekiel
Rogers, reverend and owner of "ten chares"; Will-
iam Penn, our seminal Quaker; etc.
It's easy to imagine them sitting in wonder
and religious zeal so long, so lost, in such a hu-
man/furnishing symbiosis, that when they do
at last stand up, it might seem, in the chair's under-
standing, to be a kind of astral projection:
its sentience floating away. And speak-
ing of the Revenrend Ezek-
iel Rogers . . . we must add that his selection
of "chares" was accompanied by "quishings" (that
is, cushions); in upholstery, there were velvet, satin,
plush, silk, serge, "and even sealskin"
chairs, all idea of comfort not
being completely disregarded as the century went
onward. Still, their sense of lush decor
was never that of the Roman emperor
Elagabalus, who, "deposited his excrement
in pots of gold." No, not this breed; they
sat on wood the way they walked among the woods
of their new home, bonding with its amplitudes
and promise through the most everyday
of their objects: "And betimes I am aware
how the Eternal and the hosts of Heavn
do Speake or flowr or rattel me even
throgh a milking stoole, or my plain cheayr."
from A Continuum
Albert Goldbarth, The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems 1972-2007,
Graywolf Press, 2007.