15 Anne Bradstreet

Introduction

Anne Bradstreet (March 20, 1612 – September 16, 1672), née Dudley, was the most prominent of early English poets of North America and first writer in England’s North American colonies to be published. She is the first Puritan figure in American Literature and notable for her large corpus of poetry, as well as personal writings published posthumously.

Born to a wealthy Puritan family in Northampton, England, Bradstreet was a well-read scholar especially affected by the works of Du Bartas. Married at 16, her parents and young family migrated at the time of the founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. A mother of eight children and the wife and daughter of a public officials in New England, Bradstreet wrote poetry in addition to her other duties. Her early works read in the style of Du Bartas, but her later writings develop into her unique style of poetry which centers on her role as a mother, her struggles with the sufferings of life, and her Puritan faith. Her first collection, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, was widely read in America and England.

Life

Anne was born in Northampton, England, 1612, the daughter of Thomas Dudley, a steward of the Earl of Lincoln, and Dorothy Yorke. Due to her family’s position, she grew up in cultured circumstances and was a well-educated woman for her time, being tutored in history, several languages, and literature. At the age of sixteen she married Simon Bradstreet. Both Anne’s father and husband were later to serve as governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Anne and Simon, along with Anne’s parents, emigrated to America aboard the Arbella as part of the Winthrop Fleet of Puritan emigrants in 1630. She first felt American soil on June 14, 1630 at what is now Pioneer Village (Salem, Massachusetts) with Simon, her parents, and other voyagers as part of the Puritan migration to New England (1620–1640). Due to the illness and starvation of Gov. John Endecott and other residents of the village, their stay was very brief. Most moved immediately south along the coast to Charlestown, Massachusetts for another short stay before moving south along the Charles River to found “the City on the Hill,” Boston, Massachusetts.

The Bradstreet family soon moved again, this time to what is now Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1632, Anne had her first child, Samuel, in Newe Towne, as it was then called. Despite poor health, she had eight children and achieved a comfortable social standing. Having previously been afflicted with smallpox as a teenager in England, Anne would once again fall prey to illness as paralysis overtook her joints in later years. In the early 1640s, Simon once again pressed his wife, pregnant with her sixth child, to move for the sixth time, from Ipswich, Massachusetts to Andover Parish. North Andover is that original town founded in 1646 by the Stevens, Osgood, Johnson, Farnum, Barker, and Bradstreet families among others. Anne and her family resided in the Old Center of North Andover, Massachusetts. They never lived in what is now known as “Andover” to the south.

Both Anne’s father and her husband were instrumental in the founding of Harvard in 1636. Two of her sons were graduates, Samuel (Class of 1653) and Simon (Class of 1660). In October 1997, the Harvard community dedicated a gate in memory of her as America’s first published poet (see last paragraph below). The Bradstreet Gate is located next to Canaday Hall, the newest dormitory in Harvard Yard.

Writing

Anne Bradstreet’s education gave her advantages that allowed her to write with authority about politics, history, medicine, and theology. Her personal library of books was said to have numbered over 9000, although many were destroyed when her home burned down. This event itself inspired a poem titled “Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666”. At first, she rejects the anger and grief that this worldly tragedy has caused her;she looks toward God and the assurance of heaven as consolation, saying:

And when I could no longer look,
I blest His grace that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ’twas just.
It was his own; it was not mine.
Far be it that I should repine.

However, in opposition to her Puritan ways, she also shows her human side, expressing the pain this event had caused her, that is, until the poem comes to its end:

Farewell my pelf; farewell my store.
The world no longer let me love
My hope, and treasure lies above.

Title page, second (posthumous) edition of Bradstreet’s poems, 1678

As a younger poet, Bradstreet wrote five quaternions, epic poems of four parts each (see works below) that explore the diverse yet complementary natures of their subject. Much of Bradstreet’s poetry is based on observation of the world around her, focusing heavily on domestic and religious themes, and was considered by Cotton Mather a monument to her memory beyond the stateliest marble. Long considered primarily of historical interest, she won critical acceptance in the 20th century as a writer of enduring verse, particularly for her sequence of religious poems and “Contemplations”. Bradstreet’s work was deeply influenced by the poet Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, who was favored by 17th-century readers.

Nearly a century later, Martha Wadsworth Brewster, a notable 18th-century American poet and writer, in her principal work, Poems on Diverse Subjects, was influenced and pays homage to Bradstreet’s verse.

Despite the traditional attitude toward women of the time, she clearly valued knowledge and intellect; she was a free thinker and some consider her an early feminist; unlike the more radical Anne Hutchinson, however, Bradstreet’s feminism does not reflect heterodox, antinomian views. Based on her poems, Bradstreet could also be considered to be a complementarian. An example of this is in her poem “In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory”, in which she praises Queen Elizabeth as proof that the common perceptions men held about women were wrong. She tends to focus on Elizabeth’s ability to excel in more masculine areas, such as war, as we see in the lines below.

Her Victories in foreign Coasts resound?
Ships more invincible than Spain’s, her foe
She rack’t, she sack’d, she sunk his Armadoe.
Her stately Troops advanc’d to Lisbon’s wall,
Don Anthony in’s right for to install.
She frankly help’d Franks’ (brave) distressed King,
The States united now her fame do sing.

In 1647 Bradstreet’s brother-in-law, Rev. John Woodbridge, sailed to England, carrying her manuscript of poetry. Although Anne later said that she did not know Woodbridge was going to publish her manuscript, in her self-deprecatory poem, “”The Author to Her Book””, she wrote Woodbridge a letter while he was in London, indicating her knowledge of the publication plan. Anne had little choice, however— as a woman poet, it was important for her to downplay her ambitions as an author. Otherwise, she would have faced criticism for being “unwomanly.” Anne’s first work was published in London as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America “by a Gentlewoman of those Parts”.

Title page, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, printed at London, 1650

The purpose of the publication appears to have been an attempt by devout Puritan men (i.e. Thomas Dudley, Simon Bradstreet, John Woodbridge) to show that a godly and educated woman could elevate her position as a wife and mother, without necessarily placing her in competition with men. Very few men of that time agreed with that belief. Mistress Bradstreet endured and ignored much gender bias during her life in the New World.

In 1678 her self-revised Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning was posthumously published in America, and included one of her most famous poems, “To My Dear and Loving Husband”.

This volume is owned by the Stevens Memorial Library of North Andover and resides in the Houghton Library vault at Harvard.

A quotation from Bradstreet can be found on a plaque at the Bradstreet Gate in Harvard Yard: “I came into this Country, where I found a new World and new manners at which my heart rose.” Unfortunately the plaque seems to be based on a misinterpretation; the following sentence is “But after I was convinced it was the way of God, I submitted to it and joined to the church at Boston.” This suggests her heart rose up in protest rather than in joy.

References

“Anne Bradstreet.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Bradstreet.

Poems from The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America 

The Prologue

To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings, 
Of cities founded, commonwealths begun, 
For my mean pen are too superior things: 
Or how they all, or each, their dates have run; 
Let poets and historians set these forth, 
My obscure lines shall not so dim their work. 

But when my wondering eyes and envious heart 
Great Bartas'[1] sugared lines do but read o'er, 
Fool I do grudge the Muses did not part 
'Twixt him and me that overfluent store;-- 
A Bartas can do what a Bartas will, 
But simple I according to my skill. 

From school-boys tongues no rhetoric we expect, 
Nor yet a sweet consort from broken strings, 
Nor perfect beauty where's a main defect: 
My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings; 
And this to mend, alas, no art is able, 
'Cause nature made is so, irreparable. 

Nor can I, like that fluent, sweet-tongued Greek 
Who lisped at first, in future times speak plain; 
By art he gladly found what he did seek-- 
A full requitl of his striving pain. 
Art can do much, but this maxim's most sure: 
A weak or wounded brain admits no cure. 

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue 
Who says my hand a needle better fits. 
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong; 
For such despite they cast on female wits, 
If what I do prove well, it won't advance-- 
They'll say it was stolen, or else it was by chance. 

But shure the ancient Greeks were far more mild, 
Else of our sex why feignéd they those Nine, 
And Posey made Calliope's own child? 
So 'mongst the rest they placed the Arts Divine. 
But this weak knot they will full soon untie-- 
The Greeks did naught but play the fools and lie. 

Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are. 
Men have precenency, and still excell. 
It is but vain unjustly to wage war, 
Men can do best, and women know it well. 
Preëminence in all and each is yours-- 
Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours. 

And oh, ye high flownquills that soar the skies, 
And ever with your prey still catch your praise, 
If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes, 
Give thyme or parsley wreath; I ask no bays. 
This mean and unrefinéd ore of mine 
Will make your glistening gold but more to shine.

In Honour of the High and Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth

Proem. 

Although great Queen, thou now in silence lie, 
Yet thy loud Herald Fame, doth to the sky 
Thy wondrous worth proclaim, in every clime, 
And so has vow'd, whilst there is world or time. 
So great's thy glory, and thine excellence, 
The sound thereof raps every human sense 
That men account it no impiety 
To say thou wert a fleshly Deity. 
Thousands bring off'rings (though out of date) 
Thy world of honours to accumulate. 
'Mongst hundred Hecatombs of roaring Verse, 
'Mine bleating stands before thy royal Hearse. 
Thou never didst, nor canst thou now disdain, 
T' accept the tribute of a loyal Brain. 
Thy clemency did yerst esteem as much 
The acclamations of the poor, as rich, 
Which makes me deem, my rudeness is no wrong, 
Though I resound thy greatness 'mongst the throng. 

The Poem. 

No Phoenix Pen, nor Spenser's Poetry, 
No Speed's, nor Camden's learned History; 
Eliza's works, wars, praise, can e're compact, 
The World's the Theater where she did act. 
No memories, nor volumes can contain, 
The nine Olymp'ades of her happy reign, 
Who was so good, so just, so learn'd, so wise, 
From all the Kings on earth she won the prize. 
Nor say I more than truly is her due. 
Millions will testify that this is true. 
She hath wip'd off th' aspersion of her Sex, 
That women wisdom lack to play the Rex. 
Spain's Monarch sa's not so, not yet his Host: 
She taught them better manners to their cost. 
The Salic Law had not in force now been, 
If France had ever hop'd for such a Queen. 
But can you Doctors now this point dispute, 
Since first the Sun did run, his ne'er runn'd race, 
And earth had twice a year, a new old face; 
Since time was time, and man unmanly man, 
Come shew me such a Phoenix if you can. 
Was ever people better rul'd than hers? 
Was ever Land more happy, freed from stirs? 
Did ever wealth in England so abound? 
Her Victories in foreign Coasts resound? 
Ships more invincible than Spain's, her foe 
She rack't, she sack'd, she sunk his Armadoe. 
Her stately Troops advanc'd to Lisbon's wall, 
Don Anthony in's right for to install. 
She frankly help'd Franks' (brave) distressed King, 
The States united now her fame do sing. 
She their Protectrix was, they well do know, 
Unto our dread Virago, what they owe. 
Her Nobles sacrific'd their noble blood, 
Nor men, nor coin she shap'd, to do them good. 
The rude untamed Irish she did quell, 
And Tiron bound, before her picture fell. 
Had ever Prince such Counsellors as she? 
Her self Minerva caus'd them so to be. 
Such Soldiers, and such Captains never seen, 
As were the subjects of our (Pallas) Queen: 
Her Sea-men through all straits the world did round, 
Terra incognitæ might know her sound. 
Her Drake came laded home with Spanish gold, 
Her Essex took Cadiz, their Herculean hold. 
But time would fail me, so my wit would too, 
To tell of half she did, or she could do. 
Semiramis to her is but obscure; 
More infamy than fame she did procure. 
She plac'd her glory but on Babel's walls, 
World's wonder for a time, but yet it falls. 
Fierce Tomris (Cirus' Heads-man, Sythians' Queen) 
Had put her Harness off, had she but seen 
Our Amazon i' th' Camp at Tilbury, 
(Judging all valour, and all Majesty) 
Within that Princess to have residence, 
And prostrate yielded to her Excellence. 
Dido first Foundress of proud Carthage walls 
(Who living consummates her Funerals), 
A great Eliza, but compar'd with ours, 
How vanisheth her glory, wealth, and powers. 
Proud profuse Cleopatra, whose wrong name, 
Instead of glory, prov'd her Country's shame: 
Of her what worth in Story's to be seen, 
But that she was a rich Ægyptian Queen. 
Zenobia, potent Empress of the East, 
And of all these without compare the best 
(Whom none but great Aurelius could quell) 
Yet for our Queen is no fit parallel: 
She was a Ph{oe}nix Queen, so shall she be, 
Her ashes not reviv'd more Ph{oe}nix she. 
Her personal perfections, who would tell, 
Must dip his Pen i' th' Heliconian Well, 
Which I may not, my pride doth but aspire 
To read what others write and then admire. 
Now say, have women worth, or have they none? 
Or had they some, but with our Queen is't gone? 
Nay Masculines, you have thus tax'd us long, 
But she, though dead, will vindicate our wrong. 
Let such as say our sex is void of reason 
Know 'tis a slander now, but once was treason. 
But happy England, which had such a Queen, 
O happy, happy, had those days still been, 
But happiness lies in a higher sphere. 
Then wonder not, Eliza moves not here. 
Full fraught with honour, riches, and with days, 
She set, she set, like Titan in his rays. 
No more shall rise or set such glorious Sun, 
Until the heaven's great revolution: 
If then new things, their old form must retain, 
Eliza shall rule Albian once again. 

Her Epitaph. 

Here sleeps T H E Queen, this is the royal bed 
O' th' Damask Rose, sprung from the white and red, 
Whose sweet perfume fills the all-filling air, 
This Rose is withered, once so lovely fair: 
On neither tree did grow such Rose before, 
The greater was our gain, our loss the more. 

Another. 

Here lies the pride of Queens, pattern of Kings: 
So blaze it fame, here's feathers for thy wings. 
Here lies the envy'd, yet unparallel'd Prince, 
Whose living virtues speak (though dead long since). 
If many worlds, as that fantastic framed, 
In every one, be her great glory famed.

From Several poems compiled with great variety of wit and learning, full of delight… 

1678, published ten years after Bradstreet’s death

The Author To Her Book[2]

Thou ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain, 
Who after birth did'st by my side remain, 
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true, 
Who thee abroad expos'd to public view, 
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge, 
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge). 
At thy return my blushing was not small, 
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call. 
I cast thee by as one unfit for light, 
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight, 
Yet being mine own, at length affection would 
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could. 
I wash'd thy face, but more defects I saw, 
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw. 
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet, 
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet. 
In better dress to trim thee was my mind, 
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i' th' house I find. 
In this array, 'mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam. 
In Critics' hands, beware thou dost not come, 
And take thy way where yet thou art not known. 
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none; 
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor, 
Which caus'd her thus to send thee out of door.

The Flesh and the Spirit

In secret place where once I stood 
Close by the Banks of Lacrim flood, 
I heard two sisters reason on 
Things that are past and things to come. 
One Flesh was call'd, who had her eye 
On worldly wealth and vanity; 
The other Spirit, who did rear 
Her thoughts unto a higher sphere. 
"Sister," quoth Flesh, "what liv'st thou on 
Nothing but Meditation? 
Doth Contemplation feed thee so 
Regardlessly to let earth go? 
Can Speculation satisfy 
Notion without Reality? 
Dost dream of things beyond the Moon 
And dost thou hope to dwell there soon? 
Hast treasures there laid up in store 
That all in th' world thou count'st but poor? 
Art fancy-sick or turn'd a Sot 
To catch at shadows which are not? 
Come, come. I'll show unto thy sense, 
Industry hath its recompence. 
What canst desire, but thou maist see 
True substance in variety? 
Dost honour like? Acquire the same, 
As some to their immortal fame; 
And trophies to thy name erect 
Which wearing time shall ne'er deject. 
For riches dost thou long full sore? 
Behold enough of precious store. 
Earth hath more silver, pearls, and gold 
Than eyes can see or hands can hold. 
Affects thou pleasure? Take thy fill. 
Earth hath enough of what you will. 
Then let not go what thou maist find 
For things unknown only in mind."
Spirit."Be still, thou unregenerate part,
Disturb no more my settled heart,
For I have vow'd (and so will do)
Thee as a foe still to pursue,
And combat with thee will and must
Until I see thee laid in th' dust.
Sister we are, yea twins we be,
Yet deadly feud 'twixt thee and me,
For from one father are we not.
Thou by old Adam wast begot,
But my arise is from above,
Whence my dear father I do love.
Thou speak'st me fair but hat'st me sore.
Thy flatt'ring shews I'll trust no more.
How oft thy slave hast thou me made
When I believ'd what thou hast said
And never had more cause of woe
Than when I did what thou bad'st do.
I'll stop mine ears at these thy charms
And count them for my deadly harms.
Thy sinful pleasures I do hate,
Thy riches are to me no bait.
Thine honours do, nor will I love,
For my ambition lies above.
My greatest honour it shall be
When I am victor over thee,
And Triumph shall, with laurel head,
When thou my Captive shalt be led.
How I do live, thou need'st not scoff,
For I have meat thou know'st not of.
The hidden Manna I do eat;
The word of life, it is my meat.
My thoughts do yield me more content
Than can thy hours in pleasure spent.
Nor are they shadows which I catch,
Nor fancies vain at which I snatch
But reach at things that are so high,
Beyond thy dull Capacity.
Eternal substance I do see
With which inriched I would be.
Mine eye doth pierce the heav'ns and see
What is Invisible to thee.
My garments are not silk nor gold,
Nor such like trash which Earth doth hold,
But Royal Robes I shall have on,
More glorious than the glist'ring Sun.
My Crown not Diamonds, Pearls, and gold,
But such as Angels' heads infold.
The City where I hope to dwell,
There's none on Earth can parallel.
The stately Walls both high and trong
Are made of precious Jasper stone,
The Gates of Pearl, both rich and clear,
And Angels are for Porters there.
The Streets thereof transparent gold
Such as no Eye did e're behold.
A Crystal River there doth run
Which doth proceed from the Lamb's Throne.
Of Life, there are the waters sure
Which shall remain forever pure.
Nor Sun nor Moon they have no need
For glory doth from God proceed.
No Candle there, nor yet Torch light,
For there shall be no darksome night.
From sickness and infirmity
Forevermore they shall be free.
Nor withering age shall e're come there,
But beauty shall be bright and clear.
This City pure is not for thee,
For things unclean there shall not be.
If I of Heav'n may have my fill,
Take thou the world, and all that will."

Contemplations

1
Sometime now past in the Autumnal Tide,
When Phoebus wanted but one hour to bed,
The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,
Were gilded o’re by his rich golden head.
Their leaves and fruits seem’d painted but was true
Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hew,
Rapt were my senses at this delectable view.
2
I wist not what to wish, yet sure thought I,
If so much excellence abide below,
How excellent is he that dwells on high?
Whose power and beauty by his works we know.
Sure he is goodness, wisdom, glory, light,
That hath this under world so richly dight.
More Heaven than Earth was here, no winter and no night.
3
Then on a stately Oak I cast mine Eye,
Whose ruffling top the Clouds seem’d to aspire;
How long since thou wast in thine Infancy?
Thy strength and stature, more thy years admire,
Hath hundred winters past since thou wast born?
Or thousand since thou brakest thy shell of horn,
If so, all these as nought, Eternity doth scorn.
4
Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz’d,
Whose beams was shaded by the leafy Tree.
The more I look’d, the more I grew amaz’d
And softly said, what glory’s like to thee?
Soul of this world, this Universe’s Eye,
No wonder some made thee a Deity:
Had I not better known (alas) the same had I.
5
Thou as a Bridegroom from thy Chamber rushes
And as a strong man joys to run a race.
The morn doth usher thee with smiles and blushes.
The Earth reflects her glances in thy face.
Birds, insects, Animals with Vegative,
Thy heat from death and dullness doth revive:
And in the darksome womb of fruitful nature dive.
6
Thy swift Annual and diurnal Course,
Thy daily straight and yearly oblique path,
Thy pleasing fervour, and thy scorching force,
All mortals here the feeling knowledge hath.
Thy presence makes it day, thy absence night,
Quaternal seasons caused by thy might:
Hail Creature, full of sweetness, beauty, and delight.
7
Art thou so full of glory that no Eye
Hath strength thy shining Rays once to behold?
And is thy splendid Throne erect so high?
As, to approach it, can no earthly mould.
How full of glory then must thy Creator be?
Who gave this bright light luster unto thee:
Admir’d, ador’d for ever be that Majesty.
8
Silent alone where none or saw, or heard,
In pathless paths I lead my wand’ring feet.
My humble Eyes to lofty Skies I rear’d
To sing some Song my mazed Muse thought meet.
My great Creator I would magnifie,
That nature had thus decked liberally:
But Ah and Ah again, my imbecility!
9
I heard the merry grasshopper then sing,
The black clad Cricket bear a second part.
They kept one tune and played on the same string,
Seeming to glory in their little Art.
Shall creatures abject thus their voices raise?
And in their kind resound their maker’s praise:
Whilst I, as mute, can warble forth no higher layes.
10
When present times look back to Ages past
And men in being fancy those are dead,
It makes things gone perpetually to last
And calls back months and years that long since fled
It makes a man more aged in conceit,
Than was Methuselah or’s grand-sire great:
While of their persons and their acts his mind doth treat.
11
Sometimes in Eden fair he seems to be,
See glorious Adam there made Lord of all,
Fancies the Apple, dangle on the Tree,
That turn’d his Sovereign to a naked thrall,
Who like a miscreant’s driven from that place
To get his bread with pain and sweat of face:
A penalty impos’d on his backsliding Race.
12
Here sits our Grandame in retired place,
And in her lap her bloody Cain new born,
The weeping Imp oft looks her in the face,
Bewails his unknown hap and fate forlorn;
His Mother sighs to think of Paradise,
And how she lost her bliss, to be more wise,
Believing him that was, and is, Father of lyes.
13
Here Cain and Abel come to sacrifice,
Fruits of the Earth and Fatlings each do bring,
On Abels gift the fire descends from Skies,
But no such sign on false Cain’s offering;
With sullen hateful looks he goes his wayes.
Hath thousand thoughts to end his brothers dayes,
Upon whose blood his future good he hopes to raise.
14
There Abel keeps his sheep, no ill he thinks,
His brother comes, then acts his fratricide.
The Virgin Earth of blood her first draught drinks,
But since that time she often hath been cloy’d;
The wretch with ghastly face and dreadful mind,
Thinks each he sees will serve him in his kind,
Though none on Earth but kindred near then could he find.
15
Who fancies not his looks now at the Barr,
His face like death, his heart with horror fraught,
Nor Male-factor ever felt like warr,
When deep despair with wish of life hath fought,
Branded with guilt, and crusht with treble woes,
A Vagabond to Land of Nod he goes.
A City builds, that wals might him secure from foes.
16
Who thinks not oft upon the Fathers ages.
Their long descent, how nephews sons they saw,
The starry observations of those Sages,
And how their precepts to their sons were law,
How Adam sigh’d to see his Progeny,
Cloath’d all in his black, sinful Livery,
Who neither guilt not yet the punishment could fly.
17
Our Life compare we with their length of dayes
Who to the tenth of theirs doth now arrive?
And though thus short, we shorten many wayes,
Living so little while we are alive;
In eating, drinking, sleeping, vain delight
So unawares comes on perpetual night,
And puts all pleasures vain unto eternal flight.
18
When I behold the heavens as in their prime,
And then the earth (though old) still clad in green,
The stones and trees, insensible of time,
Nor age nor wrinkle on their front are seen;
If winter come, and greenness then do fade,
A Spring returns, and they more youthfull made;
But Man grows old, lies down, remains where once he’s laid.
19
By birth more noble than those creatures all,
Yet seems by nature and by custom curs’d,
No sooner born, but grief and care makes fall
That state obliterate he had at first:
Nor youth, nor strength, nor wisdom spring again
Nor habitations long their names retain,
But in oblivion to the final day remain.
20
Shall I then praise the heavens, the trees, the earth
Because their beauty and their strength last longer
Shall I wish there, or never to had birth,
Because they’re bigger and their bodyes stronger?
Nay, they shall darken, perish, fade and dye,
And when unmade, so ever shall they lye,
But man was made for endless immortality.
21
Under the cooling shadow of a stately Elm
Close sate I by a goodly Rivers side,
Where gliding streams the Rocks did overwhelm;
A lonely place, with pleasures dignifi’d.
I once that lov’d the shady woods so well,
Now thought the rivers did the trees excel,
And if the sun would ever shine, there would I dwell.
22
While on the stealing stream I fixt mine eye,
Which to the long’d-for Ocean held its course,
I markt, nor crooks, nor rubs that there did lye
Could hinder ought but still augment its force:
O happy Flood, quoth I, that holds thy race
Till thou arrive at thy beloved place,
Nor is it rocks or shoals that can obstruct thy pace.
23
Nor is’t enough that thou alone may’st slide,
But hundred brooks in thy cleer waves do meet,
So hand in hand along with thee they glide
To Thetis house, where all imbrace and greet:
Thou Emblem true of what I count the best,
O could I lead my Rivolets to rest,
So may we press to that vast mansion, ever blest.
24
Ye Fish which in this liquid Region ’bide
That for each season have your habitation,
Now salt, now fresh where you think best to glide
To unknown coasts to give a visitation,
In Lakes and ponds, you leave your numerous fry,
So Nature taught, and yet you know not why,
You watry folk that know not your felicity.
25
Look how the wantons frisk to tast the air,
Then to the colder bottome streight they dive,
Eftsoon to Neptun’s glassy Hall repair
To see what trade they, great ones, there do drive,
Who forrage o’re the spacious sea-green field,
And take the trembling prey before it yield,
Whose armour is their scales, their spreading fins their shield.
26
While musing thus with contemplation fed,
And thousand fancies buzzing in my brain,
The sweet-tongu’d Philomel percht ore my head,
And chanted forth a most melodious strain
Which rapt me so with wonder and delight,
I judg’d my hearing better than my sight,
And wisht me wings with her a while to take my flight.
27
O merry Bird (said I) that fears no snares,
That neither toyles nor hoards up in thy barn,
Feels no sad thoughts, nor cruciating cares
To gain more good, or shun what might thee harm
Thy clothes ne’re wear, thy meat is every where,
Thy bed a bough, thy drink the water cleer,
Reminds not what is past, nor whats to come dost fear.
28
The dawning morn with songs thou dost prevent,
Sets hundred notes unto thy feathered crew,
So each one tunes his pretty instrument,
And warbling out the old, begin anew,
And thus they pass their youth in summer season,
Then follow thee into a better Region,
Where winter’s never felt by that sweet airy legion.
29
Man at the best a creature frail and vain,
In knowledge ignorant, in strength but weak,
Subject to sorrows, losses, sickness, pain,
Each storm his state, his mind, his body break,
From some of these he never finds cessation,
But day or night, within, without, vexation,
Troubles from foes, from friends, from dearest, near’st Relation.
30
And yet this sinfull creature, frail and vain,
This lump of wretchedness, of sin and sorrow,
This weather-beaten vessel wrackt with pain,
Joys not in hope of an eternal morrow;
Nor all his losses, crosses and vexation,
In weight, in frequency and long duration
Can make him deeply groan for that divine Translation.
31
The Mariner that on smooth waves doth glide,
Sings merrily and steers his Barque with ease,
As if he had command of wind and tide,
And now becomes great Master of the seas;
But suddenly a storm spoils all the sport,
And makes him long for a more quiet port,
Which ’gainst all adverse winds may serve for fort.
32
So he that faileth in this world of pleasure,
Feeding on sweets, that never bit of th’ sowre,
That’s full of friends, of honour and of treasure,
Fond fool, he takes this earth ev’n for heav’ns bower,
But sad affliction comes and makes him see
Here’s neither honour, wealth, nor safety;
Only above is found all with security.
33
O Time the fatal wrack of mortal things,
That draws oblivions curtains over kings,
Their sumptuous monuments, men know them not,
Their names without a Record are forgot,
Their parts, their ports, their pomp’s all laid in th’ dust.
Nor wit, nor gold, nor buildings scape times rust;
But he whose name is grav’d in the white stone
Shall last and shine when all of these are gone.
The poems above are from The Poems of Anne Bradstreet, Duodecimon’s Press, 1891. pp. 249-256. Archive, https://archive.org/stream/cu31924020766345/cu31924020766345_djvu.txt.

Letter: To My Dear Children (1656)

To my Dear Children:

This Book by Any yet unread,
I leave for you when I am dead,
That, being gone, here you may find
What was your living mother’s mind.
Make use of what I leave in Love
And God shall blesse you from above.

A. B.

My Dear Children:

Knowing by experience that the exhortations of parents take most effect when the speakers leave to speak, and those especially sink deepest which are spoke latest — and being ignorant whether on my death-bed I shall have opportunity to speak to any of you, much lesse to All — thought it the best, whilst I was able to compose some short matters, (for what else to call them I know not) and bequeath to you, that when I am no more with you, yet I may bee dayly in your remembrance, (Although that is the least in my aim in what I now doe) but that you may gain some spiritual Advantage by my experience. I have not studied in this you read to show my skill, but to declare the Truth — not to sett forth myself, but the Glory of God. If I had minded the former, it had been perhaps better pleasing to you, — but seing the last is the best, let it bee best pleasing to you. The method I will observe shall bee this — I will begin with God’s dealing with me from my childhood to this Day. In my young years, about 6 or 7 as I take it, I began to make conscience of my wayes, and what I knew was sinful, as lying, disobedience to Parents, &c., I avoided it. If at any time I was overtaken with the like evills, it was a great Trouble. I could not be at rest till by prayer I had confest it unto God. I was also troubled at the neglect of Private Dutyes, tho: too often tardy that way. I also found much comfort in reading the Scriptures, especially those places I thought most concerned my Condition, and as I grew to have more understanding, so the more solace I took in them.

In a long fitt of sicknes which I had on my bed I often communed with my heart, and made my supplication to the most High who sett me free from that affliction.

But as I grew up to bee about 14 or 15 I found my heart more carnall, and sitting loose from God, vanity and the follyes of youth take hold of me. About 16, the Lord layed his hand sore upon me and Smott mee with the small pox. When I was in my affliction, I besought the Lord, and confessed my Pride and Vanity and he was entreated of me, and again restored me. But I rendered not to him according to the benefitt received.

After a short time I changed my condition and was marryed, and came into this Contry, where I fond a new world and new manners, at which my heart rose. But after I was convinced it was the way of God, I submitted to it and joined to the church at Boston.

After some time I fell into a lingering sicknes like a consumption, together with a lamenesse, which correction I saw the Lord sent to humble and try me and doe mee Good: and it was not altogether ineffectual.

It pleased God to keep me a long time without a child, which was a great grief to me, and cost mee many prayers and tears before I obtained one, and after him gave mee many more, of whom I now take the care, that as I have broght you into the world, and with great paines, weaknes, cares, and feares, brought you to this, I now travail in birth again of you till Christ bee formed in you.

Among all my experiences of God’s gratious Dealings with me I have constantly observed this, that he hath never suffered me long to sitt loose from him, but by one affliction or other hath made me look home, and search what was amisse so usually thos it hath been with me that I have no sooner felt my heart out of order, but I have expected correction for it, which most commonly hath been upon my own person, in sicknesse, weaknes, paines, sometimes on my soul, in Doubts and feares of God s displeasure, and my sincerity towards him, sometimes he hath smott a child with sicknes, sometimes chastened by losses in estate, — and these Times (thro: his great mercy) have been the times of my greatest Getting and Advantage, yea I have found them the Times when the Lord hath manifested the most love to me. Then have I gone to searching, and have said with David, Lord search me and try me, see what wayes of wickednes are in me, and lead me in the way everlasting; and seldom or never, but I have found either some sin I lay under which God would have reformed, or some duty neglected which he would have performed. And by his help I have layed Vowes and Bonds upon my Soul to perform his righteous commands.

If at any time you are chastened of God, take it as thankfully and Joyfully as in greatest mercyes, for if yee bee his yee shall reap the greatest benefit by it. It hath been no small support to me in times of Darkness when the Almighty hath hid his face from me, that yet I have had abundance of sweetness and refreshment after affliction, and more circumspection in my walking after I have been afflicted. I have been with God like an untoward child, that no longer than the rod has been on my back (or at least in sight) but I have been apt to forgett him and myself too. Before I was afflicted I .went astray, but now I keep thy statutes.

I have had great experience of God s hearing my Prayers, and returning comfortable Answers to me, either in granting the thing I prayed for, or else in satisfying my mind without it; and I have been confident it hath been from him, because I have found my heart through his goodnes enlarged in thankfullnes to him.

I have often been perplexed that I have not found that constant Joy in my Pilgrim age and refreshing which I supposed most of the servants of God have; although he hath not left me altogether without the wittnes of his holy spirit, who hath oft given mee his word and sett to his Seal that it shall bee well with me. I have sometimes tasted of that hidden manna that the world knowes not, and have sett up my Ebenezer, and have resolved with myself that against such a promise such taste of sweetnes, the Gates of Hell shall never prevail. Yet have I many times sinkings and droopings, and not enjoyed that felicity that sometimes I have done. But when I have been in darknes and seen no light, yet have I desired to stay myself upon the Lord. And, when I have been in sicknes and pain, I have thought if the Lord would but lift up the light of his Countenance upon me, altho: he ground me to powder, it would bee but light to me; yea, oft have I thought were if hell itself, and could there find the Love of God toward me, it would bee a Heaven. And, could I have been in Heaven without the Love of God it would have been a Hell to me; for in Truth, it is the absence and presence of God that makes Heaven or Hell.

Many times hath Satan troubled me concerning the verity of the Scriptures, many times by Atheisme how could I know whether there was a God; I never saw any miracles to confirm me, and those which I read of how did I know but they were feigned. That there is a God my Reason would soon tell me by the wondrous workes that I see, the vast frame of the Heaven and the Earth, the order of all things, night and day, Summer and Winter, Spring and Autumne, the dayly providing for this great houshold upon the Earth, the preserving and directing of All to its proper end. The consideration of these things would with amazement certainly resolve me that there is an Eternall Being.

But how should I know he is such a God as I worship in Trinity, and such a Savior as I rely upon? tho: this hath thousands of times been suggested to mee, yet God hath helped me ever. I have argued this with myself. That there is a God I see. If ever this God hath revealed himself, it must bee in his word, and this must be it or none. Have I not found that operation by it that no humane Invention can work upon the Soul? Hath not Judgments befallen Diverse who have scorned and contemd it? Hath it not been preserved thro: all Ages mangre all the heathen Tyrants and all of the enemies who have opposed it? Is there any story but that which shows the beginnings of Times, and how the world came to bee as wee see? Doe wee not know the prophecyes in it fullfilled which could not have been so long foretold by any but God himself? When I have gott over this Block, then have I another pott in my way, That admitt this bee the true God whom we worship, and that be his word, yet why may not the Popish Religion bee the right? They have the same God, the same Christ, the same word; they only interprett it one way, wee another. This hath sometimes stuck with me, and more it would, but the vain fooleries that are in their Religion, together with their lying miracles and cruell persecutions of the Saints, which admitt were they as they terme them, yet not so to be dealt with all. The consideration of these things and many the like would soon turn me to my own Religion again. But some new Troubles I have had since the world has been filled with Blasphemy, and Sectaries, and some who have been accounted sincere Christians have been carryed away with them, that sometimes I have said, Is there ffaith upon the earth? and I have not known what to think. But then I have remembered the words of Christ that so it must bee, and that, if it were possible, the very elect should bee deceived. Behold, faith our Savior, I have told you before. That hath stayed my heart, and I can now say, Return, O my Soul, to thy Rest, upon this Rock christ Jesus will I build my faith; and if I perish, I perish. But I know all the Powers of Hell shall never prevail against it. I know whom I have trusted, and whom I have believed, and that he is able to keep that I have committed to his charge. Now to the King, Immortall, Eternall, and invisible, the only wise God, bee Honor and Glory forever and ever! Amen.

This was written in much sicknesse and weakness, and is very weakly and imperfectly done; but, if you can pick any Benefitt out of it, it is the marke which I aimed at.


 


  1. Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas was a French Huguenot poet whom Bradstreet admired greatly. Some of her poetry is directly inspired by his. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillaume_de_Salluste_Du_Bartas
  2. Editor's note: This poem is usually read as a response to the fact that The Tenth Muse was originally published without her knowledge.

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Anne Bradstreet by Joel Gladd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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