"Why Don't You Speak For Yourself, John?"

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Last Updated on July 20, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 160

Context: Longfellow writes of his Pilgrim ancestors, John and Priscilla Alden. Miles Standish, "a blunt old Captain," asks young John Alden to propose to Priscilla for him. Standish is a lonely widower, and he is afraid to propose to her himself. Alden hesitates, for he is also in love with Priscilla. But he finally consents to carry out "the lover's errand." Alden praises Standish in such a clumsy manner that Priscilla turns against the Captain. Standish loses the maiden because he has not followed his own advice: ". . . if you wish a thing to be well done,/ You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others!" John has been praising Standish passionately:

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But as he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent language,
Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes overrunning with laughter,
Said, in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"

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