Anne Bradstreet (March 20, 1612 – September 16, 1672), née Dudley, was the most prominent of early English poets of North America and first writer in England’s North American colonies to be published. She is the first Puritan figure in American Literature and notable for her large corpus of poetry, as well as personal writings published posthumously.
Born to a wealthy Puritan family in Northampton, England, Bradstreet was a well-read scholar especially affected by the works of Du Bartas. Married at 16, her parents and young family migrated at the time of the founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. A mother of eight children and the wife and daughter of a public officials in New England, Bradstreet wrote poetry in addition to her other duties. Her early works read in the style of Du Bartas, but her later writings develop into her unique style of poetry which centers on her role as a mother, her struggles with the sufferings of life, and her Puritan faith. Her first collection, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, was widely read in America and England.
The following is great works of Ann Bradstreet:
When Phoebus wanted but one hour to bed,
The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,
Were gilded o’er by his rich golden head.
Their leaves and fruits seem’d painted, but was true
Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hue,
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 underworld so richly dight:
More Heaven than Earth was here, no winter and 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 breakest thy shell of horn?
If so, all these as naught Eternity doth scorn.
Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz’d,
Whose beams was shaded by the leafy 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 Universe’s 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, joys to run a race;
The morn doth usher thee, with smiles and blushes,
The Earth reflects her glances in thy face.
Birds, insects, animals with vegetive,
Thy heart from death and dulness doth revive:
And in the darksome womb of fruitful nature dive.
Thy swift annual, and diurnal course,
Thy daily straight, 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 and 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 mould?
How full of glory then must thy Creator be,
Who gave this bright light lustre unto thee!
Admir’d, ador’d forever, be that Majesty….
I heard the merry grasshopper then sing,
The black-clad cricket bear a second part,
They kept one tune, and played on the same string,
Seeming to glory in their little art.
Shall creatures abject thus their voices raise?
And in their kind resound their Maker’s praise:
Whilst I, as mute, can warble forth no higher lays….
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 greenness 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 than 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….
O Time, the fatal wrack of mortal things,
That draws oblivion’s 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 time’s rust;
But he whose name is grav’d in the white stone
Shall last and shine when all of these are gone.
OF THE FOUR AGES OF MAN
Childhood and Youth, the Many and Old age:
The first son unto phlegm, grandchild to water,
Unstable, supple, cold and moist’s his nature
The second, frolic, claims his pedigree
From blood and air, for hot and moist is he.
The third of fire and choler is compos’d,
Vindicative and quarrelsome dispos’d.
The last of earth and heavy melancholy,
Solid, hating all lightness and all folly.
Childhood was cloth’d in white and green to show
His spring was intermixed with some snow:
Upon his head nature a garland set
Of Primrose, Daisy and the Violet.
Such cold mean flowers the spring puts forth betime,
Before the sun hath thoroughly heat the clime.
His hobby striding did not ride but run,
And in his hand an hour-glass new begun,
In danger every moment of a fall,
And when ‘t is broke then ends his life and all:
But if he hold till it have run its last,
Then may he live out threescore years or past.
Next Youth came up in gorgeous attire
(As that fond age doth most of all desire),
His suit of crimson and his scarf of green,
His pride in’s countenance was quickly seen;
Garland of roses, pinks and gillyflowers
Seemed on’s head to grow bedew’d with showers.
His face as fresh as is Aurora fair,
When blushing she first ‘gins to light the air.
No wooden horse, but one of mettle tried,
He seems to fly or swim, and not to ride.
Then prancing on the stage, about he wheels,
But as he went death waited at his heels,
The next came up in a much graver sort,
As one that cared for a good report,
His sword by’s side, and choler in his eyes,
But neither us’d as yet, for he was wise;
Of Autumn’s fruits a basket on his arm,
His golden god in’s purse, which was his charm.
And last of all to act upon this stage
Leaning upon his staff came up Old Age,
Under his arm a sheaf of wheat he bore,
An harvest of the best, what needs he more?
In’s other hand a glass ev’n almost run,
Thus writ about: “This out, then am I done.”
A LOVE LETTER TO HER HUSBAND
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 do n’t drown’d
The woful accents of my doleful sound),
If in thy swift career thou canst make stay,
I crave this boon, this errand by the way:
Commend me to the man more lov’d than life,
Show him the sorrows of his widow’d wife,
My dumpish thoughts, my groans, my brackish tears,
My sobs, my longing hopes, my doubting fears,
And, if he love, how can he there abide?
My interest’s more than all the world beside.
He that can tell the stars 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 cornfield number every grain,
Or every mote that in the sunshine hops,
May court my sighs and number all my drops.
Tell him, the countless steps that thou dost trace,
That once a day thy spouse thou mayst embrace;
And when thou canst not treat by loving mouth,
Thy rays afar, salute her from the south.
But for one month I see no day (poor soul)
Like those far situate under the pole,
Which day by day long wait for thy arise,
O how they joy when thou dost light the skies.
O Phoebus, hadst thou but thus long from thine
Restrain’d the beams of thy beloved shine,
At thy return, if so thou couldst or durst,
Behold a Chaos blacker than the first.
Tell him here’s worse than a confused matter,
His little world’s a fathom under water,
Naught but the fervor of his ardent beams
Hath power to dry the torrent of these streams.
Tell him I would say more, but cannot well,
Opressed minds abrupted tales do tell.
Now post with double speed, mark what I say,
By all our loves conjure him not to stay.
MEDITATIONS DIVINE AND MORAL
overset; and that man, whose head hath great abilities, and his
heart little or no grace, is in danger of foundering.
The finest bread has the least bran; the purest honey, the
least wax; and the sincerest Christian, the least self-love.
Sweet words are like honey; a little may refresh, but too much
gluts the stomach.
Divers children have their different natures: some are like
flesh which nothing but salt will keep from putrefaction; some
again like tender fruits that are best preserved with sugar. Those
parents are wise that can fit their nurture according to their
Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge,
fitter to bruise than polish.
The reason why Christians are so loath to exchange this world
for a better, is because they have more sense than faith: they see
what they enjoy, they do but hope for that which is to come.
Dim eyes are the concomitants of old age; and short-
sightedness, in those that are the eyes of a Republic, foretells a
Wickedness comes to its height by degrees. He that dares say
of a less sin, Is it not a little one? will erelong say of a
greater, Tush, God regards it not.
Fire hath its force abated by water, not by wind; and anger
must be allayed by cold words and not by blustering threats.
The gifts that God bestows on the sons of men, are not only
abused, but most commonly employed for a clean contrary end than
that which they were given for; as health, wealth, and honor, which
might be so many steps to draw men to God in consideration of his
bounty towards them, but have driven them the further from him,
that they are ready to say, We are lords, we will come no more at
thee. If outward blessings be not as wings to help us mount
upwards, they will certainly prove clogs and weights that will pull
us lower downward.
TO MY DEAR AND LOVING HUSBAND
If ever man were loved 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 than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor aught but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live in love let’s so persevere
That when we live no move we may live ever.