Anne Bradstreet: Poems


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 800, 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". She rejects the anger and grief that this worldly tragedy has caused her and instead 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."

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.[8] 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.[9] 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 "Contemplations", which was written for her family and not published until the mid-19th century.[10] 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.[11] Based on her poems, Bradstreet could also be considered to be a complementarian.

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."[12] Anne's first work was published in London as "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, by a Gentlewoman of those Parts"

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".[13]

This volume is owned by the Stevens Memorial Library [3] of North Andover and resides in the Houghton Library [4] 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."[14] 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[15] rather than in joy.

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