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Anne Bradstreet

1612–1672

Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley in 1612 in Northamptonshire, England. She married Simon Bradstreet, a graduate of Cambridge University, at the age of 16. Two years later, Bradstreet, along with her husband and parents, immigrated to America with the Winthrop Puritan group, and the family settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts. There Bradstreet and her husband raised eight children, and she became one of the first poets to write English verse in the American colonies. It was during this time that Bradstreet penned many of the poems that would be taken to England by her brother-in-law, purportedly without her knowledge, and published in 1650 under the title The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America.

Tenth Muse was the only collection of Bradstreet's poetry to appear during her lifetime. In 1644, the family moved to Andover, Massachusetts, where Bradstreet lived until her death in 1672. In 1678, the first American edition of Tenth Muse was published posthumously and expanded as Several Poems Compiled with Great Wit and Learning. Bradstreet's most highly regarded work, a sequence of religious poems entitled Contemplations, was not published until the middle of the nineteenth century.

Bradstreet's poetics belong to the Elizabethan literary tradition that includes Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sidney; she was also strongly influenced by the sixteenth century French poet Guillaume du Bartas. Her early work, which is imitative and conventional in both form and content, is largely unremarkable, and her work was long considered primarily of historical interest. She has, however, won critical acceptance in the twentieth century for her later poetry, which is less derivative and often deeply personal. In 1956 the poet John Berryman paid tribute to her in Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, a long poem that incorporates many phrases from her writings.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Several Poems Compiled with Great Wit and Learning (1678)
The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America (1650)

By This Poet

5

Verses upon the Burning of our House

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I waken'd was with thund'ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of "fire" and "fire,"
Let no man know is my Desire.
I starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
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,
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best,
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under the roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall 'ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle 'ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lie.
Adieu, Adieu, All's Vanity.
Then straight I 'gin my heart to chide:
And did thy wealth on earth abide,
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Fram'd by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished
Stands permanent, though this be fled.
It's purchased and paid for too
By him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by his gift is made thine own.
There's wealth enough; I need no more.
Farewell, my pelf; farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love;
My hope and Treasure lies above.

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 
Than may your worthy self from whom it came? 
The principal 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 paid until I die. 

Before the Birth of One of Her Children


All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joys attend;
No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
But with death's parting blow are 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 bids me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when the knot's untied that made us one,
I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
And if I see not half my days that's due,
What nature would, God grant to yours and you;
The many faults that well you know I have
Let be interred in my oblivious grave;
If any worth or virtue were in me,
Let that live freshly in thy memory
And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harmes,
Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms,
And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains
Look to my little babes, my dear remains.
And if thou love thyself, or loved'st me,
These O protect from stepdame's injury.
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
With some sad sighs honor my absent hearse;
And kiss this paper for thy dear love's sake, 
Who with salt tears this last farewell did take.