He had just arrived but now he is gone; their acquaintance was short. Their parting caused the poet to weep. She lost two grandchildren prior to Simon, which the poet compares to flowers. They died when they were not yet "blown," and then the third was still "i'th' bud," when he was taken by the Almighty. However, the poet assures her readers that He is still good and they should not avoid being mute with awe at Him. This is His will and we should not dispute it; He is merciful and just. He will return and "make up all our losses," and we will get to smile again after bearing our "bitter crosses." The poet tells the baby to go rest with his sisters in Heaven, where joy is endless.
Anne Bradstreet wrote this short, sad poem to mark the death of her grandson, Simon. It was published posthumously in 1678. As is common with Bradstreet's poems, this poem was based upon a true event; Simon died after only 32 days of life. Two of his sisters preceded him, but they were a bit older. Infant mortality rates were high in colonial New England, with 10% to 30% of all children dying before completing their first year and less than 2/3 of children surviving to age 10.
For example, Samuel Sewell, whose diary is a valuable resource about life during this era, writes that 7 out of his 14 children died before reaching the age of 2, and only 3 of them managed to outlive their father. Cotton Mather, the famous Puritan preacher, lost 8 of his 15 children before they reached the age of 2. It is no wonder that Bradstreet chose to write about such a common experience in colonial New England, especially because it touched her personally. Similarly, in the Childhood section of "The Four Ages of Man," Bradstreet describes the many afflictions that young children faced during her time.
Bradstreet starts "Simon Bradstreet" by writing that Simon had barely come before he was gone. Even though he was on Earth for such a short time, his grandmother is still grieving for him. She personifies God as a gardener, who crops Simon and his two sisters while they are still "i'th' bud." Rather than become angry at God, though, as Bradstreet does in some of her poems, she finds a way to understand the situation and remain true to her faith.
Bradstreet writes that God is still good and that humans, even after losing something they love, should remain mute with awe before Him. Human beings do not know His plans and therefore, should humbly submit to His will. The family should lay Simon to rest and never forget God's mercy and justness. Simon will eventually return to them after the Day of Judgment and at that time, he will "smile, and make up all our losses." The idea that the living will be reunited with the dead one day is an important tenet of Christianity, and it must have been overwhelmingly comforting for colonists like Anne Bradstreet who experienced so much loss in their lives.
"Simon Bradstreet" is one of Anne Bradstreet's later poems, and scholars have frequently singled it out for praise. It is deeply personal and moving, and demonstrates Bradstreet's profound Puritan faith in addition to her deep attachment to the people in her life. Bradstreet's poems, particularly those which she addresses to her husband, reveal the fullness of her familial relationships. Just because she was a devout Christian did not preclude her from grieving after losing someone important (see "Letter...absent upon Publick Employment," "Another," and "In Reference to Her Children"). Anne Bradstreet is an extremely human example of Puritanism, a religion that often garnered public criticism for its putative coldness, sternness, and self-abnegation.