Anne Bradstreet was an English Puritan poet born in Northampton.She was the first writer who got published and the first Puritan figure inAmerican literature (Anne Bradstreet, Encyclopedia.com) While reading AnneBradstreet’s poetry, I noticed many autobiographical elements in it.
In thisessay, I am going to analyze some of her poems and point out the main idea ofeach poem. Also, I am going to focus on her criticism of her own poetry whichshe expressed through some of the poems. My goal in this paper is to get aconclusion about Bradstreet’s most common literary themes and motifs and howthey were linked to her personal life.To achieve this goal, I have chosen seven of her poemswhich I analyze in this paper. Therefore, I have organized my paper into sevensections, one of each for every poem. The poems I have analyzed are thefollowing: The Author to Her Book,Prologue, To Her Father with Some Verses, To My Dear and Loving Husband, Fleshand The Spirit, Before the Birth of One of Her Children and By Night when Others Soundly Slept. Iput an emphasis on the autobiographical elements in each of the poems,especially on those which refer to her own writing or even criticize it. The theme of TheAuthor to Her Book is Bradstreet’s criticism of her poetry.
She refers toher work as the “ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain” which means she isvery critical about it and isn’t truly satisfied with the product of herimagination. She is angry that her work was “snatched from thence by friends”and “exposed to public view” which could refer to her brother-in-law who tookher poetry without her knowledge and published it in England (Anne Bradstreet,Encyclopaedia Britannica). Bradstreet says that her poetry was taken away fromher “after birth” which means she considers it to be her child. Those who madeit “exposed to public view” have taken what means the most to her and revealedit to the world. It left her feeling naked and exposed with everyone free tojudge her. Her errors were open to the public eye and she couldn’t hide themanymore. In the last three lines she states that her poetry has no father butonly a mother which is poor because she had to “send her child out the door”.These lines express Bradstreet’s discontent to make her work public andexposed.
She feels that she lost a part of herself like a mother does when sheloses her child. The poem might be the best example of her criticism upon herwork and her life choices. She doesn’t think her poetry is worthy enough to bepublished because it is still not perfect.In the first stanza of Prologue, Bradstreet lists glorious things which she is not worthyto write about. She describes her work as “obscure lines” which could lessentheir worth. In the second stanza she mentions Bartas who was a famous poet whowrote a poem about the creation of the world (Guillaume de Salluste, seigneurdu Bartas, Encyclopaedia Britannica). She envies him because of his greatnessand considers herself to be nowhere near such talent.
The lack of her talentshe blames on the Muses which didn’t help her. Bradstreet is humble and doesn’tclassify her poetry as something great or important, but rather somethingsimple and average. In the third stanza she reconciles with the reality anddoesn’t feel surprised that she isn’t a better writer. Her Muses have failedher but she isn’t angry because of it, she accepts the situation as it is. Wecan see that from the entire third stanza because it is written that we cannotexpect broken things to work perfectly, nor can we expect something to beperfect when it has flaws.
Bradstreet’s poetry is also like that, not perfectbecause it has its flaws and defects, but that is normal. The adjectives suchas obscure, weak, wounded, foolish and broken reveal her opinion about thepoetry she writes. However, the fifth stanza carries a different message. Wecan see her passion when it comes to writing, her defiance towards everybodywho would forbid her to write and to be a poet. The injustice towards women wasstrong in the past and she wants to point it out. If her work was a success,they would accuse her of stealing it or even accidentally doing it.
This showsthe problems and prejudices she had to fight against in her time. She asks forjustice and that women get what they deserve.The title of the poem To Her Father with Some Verses tells us the poem is autobiographical.The respect she has for her father is expressed in this poem. We see that shefeels indebted and wants to pay her debt starting with this poem which sherefers to as a “mite”. She will continue paying the dept to her father to whomshe owes everything, until she is alive.
However, in the conclusion she statesthat she will only repay it when she dies because that is when it will worththe most. Her poems will be known and they will gain value which could honourher father the way he deserves it. This poem is an expression of her greatestrespect and love towards her father.Bradstreet wrote ToMy Dear and Loving Husband to her husband, she wants to express the loveshe feels for him. Their love for each other is immense and he makes her feelso happy and fulfilled that she invites other women to compare with her. Theirlove makes her feel superior and elevated.
We find out that he means a lot toher and she feels she cannot repay him for everything he offered. She is trulyloved and wishes that they continue to madly love each other so it remainsforever written in her poetry. The poem Flesh and The Spirit isabout two sisters which are very different, one is the representative of thematerial earthly world and the other is a representative of the spiritual.Bradstreet expresses Puritan elements through the conversation between thesisters. It is best seen in the Spirit’s perseverance to glorify all thingsspiritual. These are the values all Puritans should possess.
Their faith shouldalways be present and they mustn’t fall under the influence of those whose valuesare corrupted.In Before theBirth of One of Her Children Bradstreet expresses her awareness that deathis near and could come get her. Once again can see the love that she has forher husband from the lines she wrote. The reason why she wrote this poem isthat her husband can have closure if death comes for her.
This poem is verypersonal and portrays the author’s relation with him, also it reveals her fearsand wishes. She wants him to be happy even if she leaves this world and hestays alone. By saying “And kiss this paper for thy loves dear sake” Bradstreettells her husband to honour her by reading this poem which she wrote “..
In By Night whenOthers Soundly Slept is a poem through which the author expresses thethoughts she has when the night falls and everybody is asleep. She is thankfulto God for making her as she is. She loves him and knows how much he has donefor her. What makes her unable to fall asleep is the thinking about how sheshould express her gratitude to him.
Finally, she declares she will be hisservant as long as she lives. This poem portrays how Puritans should feel andbehave. Bradstreet proves she is a true believer and a humble person. g=EN-GB style=’font-size:12.0pt;line-height:200%;font-family:”Times New Roman”,”serif”;mso-ansi-language:EN-GB’>In By Night whenOthers Soundly Slept is a poem through which the author expresses thethoughts she has in the middle of the night when others are asleep. She is gratefulto God for making her as she is. She is aware what he has done for her and loveshim immensely.
What makes her unable to fall asleep is the thinking about howshe should express her gratitude to him. Finally, she declares she will be hisservant as long as she lives. This poem portrays how Puritans should feel andbehave. Bradstreet proves she is a true believer and a humble person.