Anne Bradstreet: Poems

Anne Bradstreet: Poems Summary

In “Letter to her Husband, absent upon Publick employment,” the poet mourns the absence of her husband, who is away on business. She thinks about how the Sun travels along the Zodiacal chart and then comes back to her. She refers to herself as “Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone.”

In “Contemplations,” the poet wanders around in the fields and by the river, thinking about God’s glory. If nature is so lovely, then God must be even more so. She contemplates Adam and Eve’s Fall, Cain and Abel, and the ease of birds and fishes. Men are frail and sinful, and they must rely on their Father for eternal salvation.

In “Before the Birth of One of Her Children,” the poet reflects on death because she is about to give birth. Death comes quickly to everyone and all lives must end. She hopes her husband will care for her children and remember her if she does not make it through childbirth.

In “Dialogue between Old England and New,” the poet sets up a conversation between the Old World and her colonies. The Old World complains about wasting sickness and social difficulties, including the dangers of Roman Catholicism. New England promises to help her mother and cleanse the Old World of the evil Papists; Old England is still glorious and worthy of salvation.

In “Another,” the poet again expresses her despair during her husband’s absence. She asks Phoebus for her husband's return, for only he can dry her tears. Phoebus must hurry, she warns, or upon his return, he will find “Chaos blacker than the first.”

In “Another (II),” Bradstreet's misery lingers, as her husband is away again. Without him, her life is joyless and bleak.

In “The Author to Her Book,” Bradstreet likens her volume to her offspring. At first, she calls it ill-formed, commenting that it is dressed in rags and unfit for public exposure. She does not have a choice, though, because it has already been published. She can only focus on the book's flaws and blemishes. It is swathed in “home-spun Cloth.” The book has no Father, she claims, and its Mother is “poor.” She cannot help but feel affection for it, though, because it is her work.

In “For Deliverance from a Feaver,” the poet describes her illness. She feels trapped in her burning, sweating body. She knows that God can see her heart and she hopes for her Soul to be healed in case it is her time to depart Earth. Once she recovers, though, she thanks God for sparing her frail body and offers him praises.

In “The Flesh and the Spirit,” the poet personifies Flesh and Spirit as two sisters arguing. Flesh asks her sister why she spends so much time meditating and dreaming of things beyond the Moon. Flesh says Earth has enough to satisfy her. Spirit replies tartly that her sister is a foe and they proceed to have an irreconcilable feud. Spirit hates the sinful pleasures that Flesh indulges in, and says that her ambition lies above. All precious stones and royal robes are even more glorious in Heaven. There is no sickness and no darkness.

In “In Reference to Her Children,” the poet compares her eight children to chicks in the roost. The eldest ones have taken flight and formed their own lives, while the younger ones still dwell with their mother until they are old enough to depart as well. She hopes that when she dies, her children will still think of her and remember how much she loved and cared for them.

“In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth,” the poet honors the late Queen. She extols the monarch's virtues and compares her to other famous female rulers, whom she finds to be wanting. She asks men how they can claim that women have no worth in light of Elizabeth’s accomplishments.

In “Verses Upon the Burning of our House,” the poet recounts her sorrow at the burning of her house and loss of her worldly possessions. She tries to look to God during this trying time, knowing that it is His will for His children to abjure the things of this world.

In “To my Dear and Loving Husband,” the poet writes about her great love for her husband and her belief that they are one.

In “The Prologue,” which precedes the Quaternions, the poet claims that her pen is too lowly to address the topics that other poets and historians write about – kings, cities, and wars. She does, however, scorn those who say her hand is not suited for a poet’s pen and should hold a needle instead. She believes that these men will claim she stole her work or happened upon it by chance. The Greeks, though, were much friendlier to a woman’s skill. Bradstreet argues that men and women should not wage war against one another, for women know that men have “precenency.” However, women still have some recognizable skills that are also worthy of praise.

In “Upon a fit of Sickness, Anno. 1632,” the poet is so sick that she believes she is dying. Life is short and full of strife, she writes. She accepts that her life ultimately belongs to God.

In “On my dear Grand-child Simon Bradstreet,” Bradstreet writes sadly about the untimely death of her grandson just after his birth. In addition, his two older sisters also died in early childhood. She tries to find solace in the fact that one day, they will all meet again in Heaven.

In “The Four Humours,” the poet writes about the dispute between Choler, Blood, Melancholy, and Flegme (Phlegm) about which of them is the noblest and the best. Each humour accounts for her greatest accomplishments, and how she helps the body to function. Choler is critical of her sisters. Flegme tries to reconcile with them and exhort them to remember that they all work together.

In “The Four Ages of Man,” the poet imagines a conversation between Childhood, Youth, Middle Age, and Old Age. Each presents a monologue detailing the characteristics of the era, the benefits, the drawbacks, and the associated bodily afflictions.

In “The Four Seasons,” the poet writes about a conversation between Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. They speak of the conditions and positive and negative aspects of each season. They also relate themselves to the different ages of man – Spring/Youth, Summer/Middle Age, Autumn/Old Age, and Winter/Childhood.

In “The Four Elements,” the poet details a dispute between Fire, Earth, Water, and Air about which of them is the best element. Each speaks about his individual importance and power for destruction. Each claims to be the most desirable and valuable element.