Harvard’s Bradstreet Gate was dedicated in 1997 to commemorate 25 years of women living in Harvard Yard dormitories. The Bradstreet Gate itself, which includes the plaque above, is an homage to Anne Bradstreet, the first published American poet. Bradstreet was a reluctant traveler to the New World. She and her husband, both Puritans, sailed on the Arbella with John Winthrop; they would have heard his sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” before the ship landed in Massachusetts in 1630. She led a comfortable life in England, and this journey into the unknown meant starting from scratch. While we might initially think of the Puritans as strict & stodgy, Bradstreet’s poetry serves as a reminder to us that we might be stereotyping some Puritans too quickly. Her poetry reflects many of the challenges she faced, but this isn’t her only focus. She also offers meditations on the natural world, expresses her love for her family, and muses on what it means to be a woman writer.
NPR’s interview with Charlotte Gordon, as well as a brief excerpt from Gordon’s book Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America’s First Poet, provide more details on what life was like for Bradstreet. Bradstreet was expected to behave in ways appropriate to her position as a mother, wife, and Puritan woman. She was expected to fulfill these roles above all else. She was not expected to be a prolific writer, since writing could be a dangerous and unseemly thing for a woman to do at that time.
Bradstreet’s poetry was published during her lifetime, largely due to the efforts of her brother-in-law John Woodbridge. Woodbridge vouched for Bradstreet by emphasizing that her writing did not interfere with her attention to her family or religious obligations. Although this might seem ridiculous to us today, it meant a great deal to Bradstreet’s audience and her community.
As you read through her work, consider how Bradstreet adds another dimension to early American literature. Consider, for example, the wide range of subjects she treats, how she demonstrates her education and knowledge of literary conventions, how she presents various facets of her identity, or how she works through the challenges of life in a new environment.
- What does Bradstreet’s work teach us about life in the “New World”?
- Bradstreet speaks from several different perspectives, or roles, in her poetry. What do these varied positions tell us about the roles of women at that time, and in that place?
- Several of Bradstreet’s poems are about writing or the writing process. What does Bradstreet seem to be saying about writing or the roles of writers?
- How does Bradstreet treat religion or spirituality in her poetry? How do these depictions compare to what we find from other Puritan writers like John Winthrop, William Bradford, or Mary Rowlandson? In what ways does her poetry perpetuate or challenge our understanding of what counts as a “good” Puritan?
TO sing of Wars, of Captains, and of Kings,
Of Cities founded, Common-wealths begun,
For my mean pen are too superiour 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 worth.
But when my wondring eyes and envious heart
Great Bartas sugar’d lines, do but read o’re
Fool I do grudg 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 tongue no rhet’rick we expect
Nor yet a sweet Consort from broken strings,
Nor perfect beauty, where’s a main defect:
My foolish, broken blemish’d Muse so sings
And this to mend, alas, no Art is able,
‘Cause nature, made it so irreparable.
Nor can I, like that fluent sweet tongu’d Greek,
Who lisp’d at first, in future times speak plain
By Art he gladly found what he did seek
A full requital 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 Poets 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’s stoln, or else it was by chance.
But sure the Antique Greeks were far more mild
Else of our Sex, why feigned they those Nine
And poesy 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 nought, but play the fools & lye.
Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are
Men have precedency and still excel,
It is but vain unjustly to wage war;
Men can do best, and women know it well
Pre-eminence in all and each is yours;
Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.
And oh ye high flown quills that soar the Skies,
And ever with your prey still catch your praise,
If e’re you daigne these lowly lines your eyes
Give Thyme or Parsley wreath I ask no bays,
This mean and unrefined ore of mine
Will make you glistring gold, but more to shine:
In Honour of that High and Mighty
Princess Queen Elizabeth OF HAPPY MEMORY.
Although great Queen thou now in silence lye
Yet thy loud Herald Fame doth to the sky
Thy wondrous worth proclaim in every Clime,
And so hath vow’d while there is world or time.
So great’s thy glory and thine excellence,
The sound thereof rapts every humane sense,
That men account it no impiety,
To say thou wert a fleshly Diety:
Thousands bring offerings (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 praises ‘mongst the throng.
No Phoenix pen, nor Spencer’s poetry,
No Speeds nor Cambden’s learned History,
Elizah’s works, war’s praise, can e’re compact,
The World’s the Theatre where she did act.
No memories nor volumes can contain
The ‘leven Olympiads 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 then duly 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, Monarch says not so, nor yet his host:
She taught them better manners, to their cost.
The Salique law, in force now had not been,
If France had ever hop’d for such a Queen.
But can you Doctors now this point dispute,
She’s Argument enough to make you mute.
Since first the sun did run his ne’er run race,
And earth had once 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 then hers?
Was ever land more happy freed from stirrs?
Did ever wealth in England more abound?
Her victories in foreign Coasts resound,
Ships more invincible then Spain‘s her foe
She wrackt, she sackt, she sunk his Armado:
Her stately troops advanc’d to Lisbon’s wall
Don Anthony in’s right there to install.
She frankly helpt, Franks brave distressed King,
The States united now her same 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 Coyn she spar’d to do them good.
The rude untamed Irish, she did quell.
Before her picture the proud Tyrone fell.
Had ever prince such Counsellours as she?
Her self Minerva caus’d them so to be.
Such Captains and such soldiers never seen,
As were the Subjects of our Pallas Queen.
Her Sea-men through all straights the world did round;
Terra incognita might know the sound.
Her Drake came laden home with Spanish gold:
Her Essex took Cades, their Herculean Hold:
But time would fail me, so my tongue would to,
To tell of half she did or she could do.
Semiramis to her, is but obscure,
More infamy then fame, she did procure.
She built her glory but on Babels walls,
Worlds wonder for a while, but yet it falls.
Fierce Tomris (Cyrus heads-man) Scythians queen,
Had put her harness off, had shee but seen
Our Amazon in th’ Camp of 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
Profuse proud Cleopatra, whose wrong name,
Instead of glory, prov’d her Country’s shame:
Of her what worth in Stories to be seen,
But that she was a rich Egyptian Queen.
Zenobya 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 Phoenix Queen, so shall she be,
Her ashes not reviv’d, more Phoenix she,
Her personal perfections, who would tell,
Must dip his pen in th’ Heleconian Well,
Which I may not, my pride doth but aspire
To read what others write, and so 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’t 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;
Yea 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 day
She set, she set, like Titan in his rays.
No more shall rise or set so glorious sun
Until the heavens great revolution,
If then new things their old forms shall retain,
Eliza shall rule Albion once again.
Here sleeps THE Queen, this is the Royal Bed,
Of th’ Damask Rose, sprung from the white and red,
Whose sweet perfume fills the all-filling Air:
This Rose is wither’d, once so lovely fair.
On neither tree did grow such Rose before,
The greater was our gain, our loss the more.
Here lies the pride of Queens, Pattern of Kings,
So blaze it Fame, here’s feathers for thy wings.
Here lyes the envi’d, yet unparalled Prince,
Whose living virtues speak, (though dead long since)
If many worlds, as that Fantastick fram’d,
In every one be her great glory fam’d
To the Memory of my dear and ever honoured
Father Thomas Dudley Esq Who deceased, July 31. 1653.
and of his Age, 77.
BY duty bound, and not by custom
To celebrate the praises of the dead,
My mournful mind, sore prest, in trembling verse
Presents my Lamentations at his Hearse,
Who was my Father, Guide, Instructor too,
To whom I ought whatever I could doe:
Nor is’t Relation near my hand shall tie;
For who more cause to boast his worth than I?
Who heard or saw observ’d or knew him better?
Or who alive then I, a greater debtor?
Let malice bite, and envy gnaw its fill.
He was my Father, and I’ll praise him still.
Nor was his name, or life lead so obscure
That pity might some Trumpeters procure.
Who after death might make him falsely seem
Such as in life, no man could justly deem.
Well known and lov’d, where ere he liv’d by most
Both in his native, and in foreign coast,
These to the world his merits could make known,
So needs no Testimonial from his own;
But now or never I must pay my Sum;
While others tell his worth, I’ll not be dumb:
One of thy Founders, him New-England know,
Who staid thy feeble sides when thou wast low
Who spent his state, his strength, & years with care
That After-comers in them might have share.
True Patriot of this little Commonweal,
Who is’t can tax thee ought, but for thy zeal?
Truths friend thou wert, to errors still a foe,
Which caus’d Apostates to malign so.
Thy love to true Religion e’re shall shine,
My Fathers God, be God of me and mine.
Upon the earth he did not build his nest,
But as a Pilgrim what he had, possest.
High thoughts he gave no harbour in his heart,
Nor honours pufft him up, when he had part:
Those titles loath’d, which some too much do love
For truly his ambition lay above.
His humble mind so lov’d humility,
He left it to his race for Legacy:
And oft and oft, with speeches mild and wise,
Gave his in charge, that Jewel rich to prize.
No ostentation seen in all his ways,
As in the mean ones, of our foolish days,
Which all they have, and more still set to view,
Their greatness may be judg’d by what they shew.
His thoughts were more sublime, his actions wise,
Such vanities he justly did despise.
Nor wonder ’twas, low things ne’r much did move
For he a Mansion had, prepar’d above.
For which he sigh’d and pray’d & long’d full sore
He might be cloath’d upon, for evermore.
Oft spake of death, and with a smiling cheer,
He did exult his end was drawing near,
Now fully ripe, as shock of wheat that’s grown,
Death as a Sickle hath him timely mown,
And in celestial Barn hath hous’d him high,
Where storms, nor showers, nor ought can damnify.
His Generation serv’d his labours cease;
And to his Fathers gathered is in peace.
Ah happy Soul, ‘mongst Saints and Angels blest,
Who after all his toil, is now at rest:
His hoary head in righteousness was found:
As joy in heaven on earth let praise resound.
Forgotten never be his memory,
His blessing rest on his posterity:
His pious Footsteps followed by his race,
At last will bring us to that happy place
Where we with joy each others face shall see,
And parted more by death shall never be.
Within this Tomb a Patriot lies
That was both pious, just and wise,
To Truth a shield, to right a Wall,
To Sectaries a whip and Maul,
A Magazine of History,
A Prizer of good Company
In manners pleasant and severe
The Good him lov’d, the bad did fear,
And when his time with years was spent
If some rejoyc’d, more did lament.
An EPITAPH On my dear and ever honoured Mother
Mrs. Dorothy Dudley, Who deceased Decemb. 27. 1643.
and of her age, 61:
A Worthy Matron of unspotted life,
A loving Mother and obedient wife,
A friendly Neighbor, pitiful to poor,
Whom oft she fed, and clothed with her store;
To Servants wisely aweful, but yet kind,
And as they did, so they reward did find:
A true Instructor of her Family,
The which she ordered with dexterity.
The public meetings ever did frequent,
And in her Closet constant hours she spent;
Religious in all her words and ways,
Preparing still for death, till end of days:
Of all her Children, Children, liv’d to see,
Then dying, left a blessed memory.
Some time now past in the Autumnal Tide,
When Phoebus wanted but one hour to bed,
The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,
Where gilded o’re by his rich golden head.
Their leaves & fruits seem’d painted, but was true
Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hew,
Rapt were my senses at this delectable view.
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 then Earth was here no winter & no night.
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.
Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz’d,
Whose beams was shaded by the leavie 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 Universes Eye,
No wonder, some made thee a Deity:
Had I not better known, (alas) the same had I.
Thou as a Bridegroom from thy Chamber rushes,
And as a strong man, joyes to run a race,
The morn doth usher thee, with smiles & blushes,
The Earth reflects her glances in thy face.
Birds insects, Animals with Vegative,
Thy heart from death and dullness doth revive:
And in the darksome womb of fruitful nature dive.
Thy swift Annual, and diurnal Course,
Thy daily streight, and yearly oblique path,
Thy pleasing fervor, 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 & delight.
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 mold.
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.
Silent alone, where none or saw, or heard,
In pathless paths I lead my wandring feet,
My humble Eyes to lofty Skies I rear’d
To sing some Song, my mazed Muse thought meet.
My great Creator I would magnify,
That nature had, thus decked liberally:
But Ah, and Ah, again, my imbecility!
I heard the merry grashopper then sing,
The black clad Cricket, bear a second part,
They kept one tune, and plaid on the same string,
Seeming to glory in their little Art.
Shall Creatures abject, thus their voices raise?
And in their kind resound their makers praise:
Whilst I as mute, can warble forth no higher layes.
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,
Then was Methusilah, or’s grand-sire great:
While of their persons & their acts his mind doth treat.
Sometimes in Eden fair, he seems to be,
Sees 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.
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 lies.
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 ways.
Hath thousand thoughts to end his brothers days,
Upon whose blood his future good he hopes to raise
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.
Who fancies not his looks now at the Barr,
His face like death, his heart with horror fraught,
Nor Male-factor ever felt like war,
When deep despair, with wish of life hath sought,
Branded with guilt and crusht with treble woes,
A Vagabond to Land of Nod he goes
A City builds, that walls might him secure from foes.
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 sign’d to see his Progeny,
Cloath’d all in his black sinful Livery,
Who neither guilt, nor yet the punishment could fly.
Our Life compare we with their length of days
Who to the tenth of theirs doth now arrive?
And though thus short, we shorten many ways,
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 light:
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 greeness then do fade,
A Spring returns, and they more youthful made
But Man grows old, lies down, remains where once he’s laid.
By birth more noble then 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.
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, & their bodies stronger?
Nay, they shall darken, perish, fade and dye,
And when unmade, so ever shall they lye,
But man was made for endless immortality.
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
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
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.
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.
Look how the wantons frisk to taste the air,
Then to the colder bottom straight they dive,
Eftsoon to Neptune‘s glassy Hall repair
To see what trade they great ones there do drive,
Who forage o’re the spacious sea-green field,
And take the trembling prey before it yield,
Whose armour is their s•ales, their spreading sins their shield.
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 then my sight,
And wisht me wings with her a while to take my flight.
O merry Bird (said I) that fears no snares,
That neither toils nor hoards up in thy barn,
Feels no sad thoughts, nor cruciating cures
To gain more good, or shun what might thee harm
Thy cloths ne’re wear, thy meat is every where.
Thy bed a bough, thy drink the water clear,
Reminds not what is past, nor whats to come dost fear
The dawning morn with songs thou dost prevent,
Sets hundred notes unto the feathered crew,
So each one tunes his pretty instrument,
And warbling out the old begun,
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
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
And yet this sinful 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
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 become great Master of the seas;
But suddenly a storm spoiles all the sport.
And makes him long for a more quiet port.
Which’ gainst all adverse winds may serve for •ort.
So he that saileth in this world of pleasure,
Feeding on sweets, that never bit of th’ sower,
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 & makes him see
Here’s neither honour, wealth, nor safety;
Only above is found all with security.
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 Author to her Book
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 then true
Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick 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 then 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 Critic’s 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.
Several other Poems made by the Author
upon Diverse Occasions, were found among
her Papers after her Death, which she never
•ednt should come to publick view, amongst
which, these following (at the desire of some
friends that knew her well) are inserted
Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno. 1632. Atats suae, 10.
Twice ten years old, not sully told
Since nature gave me breath,
My race is run, my thread is spun,
lo here is fatal Death.
All men must die, and so must I
this cannot be revok’d
For Adam’s sake, this word God spake
when he so high provok’d.
Yet live I shall, this life’s but small,
in place of highest bliss,
Where I shall have all I can crave,
no life is like to this.
For what’s this life, but care and strife?
since first we came from womb,
Our strength doth waste, our time doth hast,
and then we go to th’ Tomb.
O Bubble blast, how long can’st last?
that alwayes art a breaking,
No sooner blown, but dead and gone,
ev’n as a word that’s speaking.
O whil’st I live this grace me give,
I doing good may be.
Then deaths arrest I shall count best,
because it’s thy decree;
Bestow much cost there’s nothing lost,
to make Salvation sure,
O great’s the gain, though got with pain
comes by profession pure.
The race is ran, the field is won,
the victory’s mine I see,
For ever know, thou envious foe,
the soile belongs to thee.
Ʋpon some distemper of body
In anguish of my heart repleat with woes,
And wasting pains, which best my body knows
In tossing slumbers on my wakeful bed,
Bedrencht with tears that slow’d from mournful head
Till nature had exhausted all her store,
Then eyes lay dry, disabled to weep more;
And looking up unto his Throne on high,
Who sendeth help to those in misery,
He chac’d away those clouds, and let me see
My Anchor cast i’th’ vale with safety.
He eas’d my Soul of woe, my flesh of pain,
And brought me to the shore from troubled Main;
All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joyes a••end;
No ties so strong no friends so dear and sweet,
But with deaths parting blow is sure to meet.
The sentence past is most irrevocable,
A common thing, yet oh inevitable,
How soon, my Dear death may my steps attend.
How soon’t may be thy Lot to lose thy friend,
We both are ignorant, yet love bi•s me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when that knot •s unty•e that made us one,
I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
And ill see not half my day that’s due,
What ••ture would, God grant to yours and you:
The many faults that well you know I have,
Let be in•err’d in my oblivions grave,
Many worth or virtue were in me,
Let that live freshly in thy memory
And when thou feel’st no grief, as I no harms,
Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms:
And when thy loss shall be repaid with ga•ns
Look to my little babes my dear remains
And if thou love thy self, or lovedst me
These O protect from step Dames injury.
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
With some sad sighs honour my absent Herse;
And kiss this paper for thy loves dear sake,
Who with salt tears this last Farewell did take
To my Dear and loving Husband
IF ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee,
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more then whole Mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence,
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.
Then while we live, in love lets so persevere,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
A Letter to her Husband, absent upon Publick employment
My head, my heart, mine Eyes, my life, nay more,
My joy, my Magazine of earthly store,
If two be one, as surely thou and I,
How stayest thou there, whilst I at Ipswich lye?
So many steps, head from the heart to sever
If but a neck, soon should we be together:
I like the earth this season, mourn in black,
My Sun is gone so far in’s Zodiac,
Whom whilst I’ joy’d, nor storms, nor frosts I felt,
His warmth such frigid colds did cause to melt.
My chilled limbs now numbed lie forlorn;
Return, return sweet Sol from Capricorn,
In this dead time, alas, what can I more
Then view those fruits which through thy heat I bore?
Which sweet contentment yield me for a space,
True living Pictures of their Fathers face.
O strange effect now thou art Southward gone,
I weary grow, the tedious day so long;
But when thou Northward to me shalt return,
I wish my Sun may never set, but burn
Within the Cancer of my glowing breast,
The welcome house of him my dearest guest.
Where ever, ever stay, and go not thence,
Till natures sad decree shall call thee hence;
Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone,
I here, thou there, yet both but one.
Phoebus make haste, the day’s too long be gone,
The silent night’s the fittest time for moan;
But stay this once, unto my suit give ear,
And tell my griefs in either Hemisphere:
(And if the whirling of thy wheels don’t drown’d)
The woful accents of my doleful sound,
If in thy swift Carrier thou canst make stay,
I crave this boon, this Errand by the way.
Commend me to the man more lov’d then life,
Shew him the sorrows of his widdowed wife;
My dumpish thoughts, my groans, my branish tears
My sobs, my longing hopes, my doubting fears,
And if he love, how can he there abide?
My Interest’s more then all the world beside.
He that can tell the starrs or Ocean sand,
Or all the grass that in the Meads do stand,
The leaves in th’ woods, the hail or drops of rain,
Or in a corn-field number every grain.
Or every mote that in the sun-shine hops,
May count my sighs, and number all my drops:
Tell him, the countless steps that thou dost trace,
That once a day, thy Spouse thou mayst imbrace;
And when thou canst not treat by loving mouth,
Thy rayes afar, salute her from the south.
But for one moneth I see no day (poor soul)
Like those far scituate under the pole,
Which day by day long wait for thy arise,
O how they joy when thou dost light the skyes.
O Phoebus, hadst thou but thus long from thine
Restrain’d the beams of thy beloved shine,
At thy return, if so thou could’st or durst
Behold a Chaos blacker then the first.
Tell him here’s worse then a confused matter,
His little world’s a fathom under water,
Nought but the servor of his ardent beams
Hath power to dry the torrent of these streams.
Tell him I would say more, but cannot well,
Oppressed minds, abruptest tales do tell.
Now post with double speed, mark what I say,
By all our loves conjure him not to stay.
A•••ving Hind that (Hartless) warts her Deer,
S•uds through the woods and Fern with harkning ear,
Perplext, in every bu•h & •ook doth pry,
Her dearest Deer might answer ear or eye;
So doth my anxious foul, which now doth miss,
A dearer Dear (far dearer Heart) then this.
Still wait with doubts, & hopes, and failing eye,
His voice to hear, or person to discry.
Or as the pensive Dove doth all alone
(On withered bough) most uncouthly bemoan
The absence of her Love, and loving Mate,
Whose loss hath made her so unfortunate:
Ev’n thus doe I, with many a deep sad groan
Bewail my turtle true, who now is gone,
His presence and his safe return, still wooes,
With thousand dolefull sighs & mournfull Cooes.
Or as the loving Mullet, that true Fish,
Her fellow lost, nor joy nor life do wish,
But lanches on that shore, there for to dye,
Where she her captive husband doth espy.
Mine being gone, Head a joyless life,
I have a loving ph•re, yet seem no wife:
But worst of all, to him can’t steer my course
I here, he there, alas, both kept by force:
Return my Dear my joy, my only Love,
Unto thy Hinde, thy Mullet and thy Dove,
Who neither joyes in pasture, house nor streams,
The substance gone, O me, these are but dreams.
Together at one Tree, oh let us bronze,
And like two Turtles roost within one house,
And like the Mullets in one River glide,
Let’s still remain but one, till death divide.
Thy loving Love and Dearest Dear,
At home, abroad, and every where.
To her Father with some verses.
Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me, or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same?
Then may your worthy self from whom it came.
The principle might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small, I know not how to pay,
My Bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite.
Where nothing’s to be had Kings loose their right
Such is my debt, I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not payd until I dye.
In reference to her Children, 23. June, 166.
I Had eight birds hatcht in one nest,
Four Cocks there were, and Hens the rest,
I nurst them up with pain and care,
Nor cost, nor labour did I spare,
Till at the last they felt their wing
Mounted the Trees, and learn’d to sing;
Chief of the Brood then took his flight,
To Regions far and left me quite:
My mournful chirps I after send,
Till he return, or I do end,
Leave not thy nest, thy Dam and Sire,
Fly back and sing amidst this Quire.
My second bird did take her flight,
And with her mate flew out of sight;
Southward they both their course did bend,
And Seasons twain they there did spend:
Till after blown by Southern gales,
They Norward steerd with filled sails.
A prettier bird was no where seen,
Along the Beach among the treen.
I have a third of colour white,
On whom I plac’d no small delight;
Coupled with mate loving and true,
Hath also bid her Dam adieu:
And where Aurora first appears,
She now hath percht, to spend her years;
One to the Academy flew
To chat among that learned crew.
Ambition moves still in his breast
That he might chant above the rest,
Striving for more then to do well,
That nightingales he might excell.
My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone
Is ‘mongst the shrubs and bushes flown,
And as his wings increase in strength
On higher boughs he’l perch at length
My other three, still with me nest,
Until they’re grown, then as the rest,
Or here or there, they’ll take their flight,
As is ordain’d, so shall they light.
If birds could weep, then would my tears
Let others know what are my fears
Lest this my brood some harm should catch,
And be surpriz’d for want of watch,
Whilst pecking corn, and void of care
They fall un’wares in Fowler’s snare:
Or whilst on trees they sit and sing,
Some untoward boy at them do fling:
Or whilst allur’d with bell and glass,
The net be spread, and caught, alas.
Or least by Lime twigs they be foyl’d,
Or by some greedy hawks be spoyl’d.
O would my young, ye saw my breast,
And knew what thoughts there sadly rest,
Great was my pain when I you bred,
Great was my care, when I you fed,
Long did I keep you soft and warm,
An warm wings kept off all harm,
My cares are more, and fears then ever,
My throbs such now, as ‘fore were never:
Alas my birds, you wisdom want,
Of perils you are ignorant,
Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight,
Sore accidents on you may light.
O to your safety have an eye,
So happy may you live and die:
Mean while my days in times I’ll spend,
Till my weak layes with me shall end.
In shady woods I’ll sit and sing,
And things that past, to mind I’ll bring.
Once young and pleasant, as are you,
But former toys (no joys) adieu.
My age I will not once lament,
But sing, my time so near is spent.
And from the top bough take my flight,
Into a country beyond sight,
Where old ones, instantly grow young,
And there with Seraphims set song:
No seasons cold, nor storms they see;
But spring lasts to eternity,
When each of you shall in your nest
Among your young ones take your rest,
In chirping language, oft them tell,
You had a Dam that lov’d you well,
That did what could be done for young,
And nurst you up till you were strong,
And ‘fore she once would let you fly,
She shew’d you joy and misery;
Taught what was good, and what was ill,
What would save life, and what would kill?
Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
And dead, yet speak, and counsel give:
Farewel my birds, farewel adieu,
I happy am, if well with you.
In memory of my dear grand-child
Elizabeth Bradstreet,who deceased
August, 1605. being a year and half old.
Farewell dear babe, my hearts too much content,
Farewell sweet babe, the pleasure of mine eye,
Farewell fair flower that for a space was lent,
Then ta’en away unto Eternity.
Blest babe why should I once bewail thy fate,
Or sigh the days so soon were terminate;
Sith thou art settled in an Everlasting state.
By nature Trees do rot when they are grown.
And Plumbs and Apples throughly ripe do fall,
And Corn and grass are in their season mown,
And time brings down what is both strong and tall.
But plants new set to be eradicate.
And buds new blown, to have so short a date,
Is by his hand alone that guides nature and fate.
In memory of my dear grand child
Anne Bradstreet. Who deceased June 20. 1669.
being three years and seven Months old.
With troubled heart & trembling hand I write,
The Heavens have chang’d to sorrow my de∣light.
How oft with disappointment have I met,
When I on fading things my hopes have set?
Experience might ‘fore this have made me wise,
To value things according to their price:
Was ever stable joy yet found below?
Or perfect bliss without mixture of woe.
I knew she was but as a withering flour,
That’s here to day perhaps gone in an hour;
Like as a bubble, or the brittle glass,
Or like a shadow turning as it was.
More fool then I to look on that was lent,
As if mine own, when thus impermanent.
Farewell dear child, thou ne’re shall come to me,
But yet a while, and I shall go to thee,
Mean time my throbbing heart’s cheer’d up with this
Thou with thy Savior art in endless bliss.
On my dear Grand-child Simon Bradstreet,
Who died on 16. Novemb. 1669. being but a month,
and one day old.
No sooner come, but gone, and fal’n asleep,
Acquaintance short, yet parting caus’d us weep,
Three flowers, two scarcely blown, the last i’th’ bud,
Cropt by th’ Almighty’s hand; yet is he good,
With dreadful awe before him let’s be mute,
Such was his will, but why, let’s not dispute,
With humble hearts and mouths put in the dust,
Let’s say he’s merciful as well as just.
He will return, and make up all our losses,
And smile again, after our bitter crosses.
Go pretty babe go rest with Sisters twain
Among the blest in endless joyes remain.
To the memory of my dear Daughter in Law,
Mrs. Mercy Bradstreet, who deceased Sept. 6. 1669.
in the 28. year of her Age.
And live I still to see Relations gone,
And yet survive to sound this wailing tone
Ah, woe is me, to write thy Funeral Song,
Who might in reason yet have lived long,
I saw the branches lopt the Tree now fall,
I stood so nigh, it crusht me down withal;
My bruised heart lies sobbing at the Root,
That thou dear Son hath lost both Tree and fruit:
Thou then on Seas failing to foreign Coast;
Was ignorant what riches thou hadst lost.
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) by Text Creation Partnership at the University of Michigan is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain License.