Anne Bradstreet (1612—1672) was a Puritan who emigrated to America in 1630, along with her parents and her husband — whom she had married when she was just sixteen. She was the first American woman to have a book published, and is considered by many to be America's first poet. Woman were not allowed to speak their minds in the colony; however it was Anne’s brother-in-law who took her poems to be published in England as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America in 1650. It is her later poems, however, that caught the attention of admirers in the twentieth century.
Both her father and her husband served as governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and were instrumental in the founding of Harvard University. Anne enjoyed a happy marriage, and became the mother of eight children. She wrote many of her poems while her husband was away dealing with the business of the colony — sometimes even as far away as England. Her poetry expresses both her love for her husband, and her deep faith in God.
In 1956 John Berryman paid tribute to her in his long poem Homage to Mistress Bradstreet. In 1997 a gate was dedicated to her memory at Harvard University.
By Night when Others Soundly Slept
By night when others soundly slept
And hath at once both ease and Rest,
My waking eyes were open kept
And so to lie I found it best.
I sought him whom my Soul did Love,
With tears I sought him earnestly.
He bowed his ear down from Above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.
My hungry Soul he filled with Good;
He in his Bottle put my tears,
My smarting wounds washed in his blood,
And banished thence my Doubts and fears.
What to my Saviour shall I give
Who freely hath done this for me?
I’ll serve him here whilst I shall live
And Love him to Eternity.
Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca