Monday, July 31, 2023

Anne Bradstreet*

Anne Bradstreet (1612—1672) is the first writer in England's North American colonies to have had a book published, and the most prominent poet in that early period. Her book, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America was published in London in 1650. It was a delicate balance for a woman, and a Puritan at that, to put herself forward as a poet. It was necessary that her husband, her father, and her brother-in-law (who carried her manuscript to England to have it published) were seen as the instigators of the project.

Born in England, and raised on an estate filled with comfort and a great library, Anne Bradstreet at eighteen emigrated, with her husband and parents, to avoid the persecution Puritans faced from the Church of England.

She was notably well-read, and influenced by the most influential writers of her time and of antiquity. The first edition of The Tenth Muse ... contains an elegy to Sir Philip Sidney and a poem honouring the French poet Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas. Her 232-line poem “Contemplations” is considered by many to be her finest work. Through its 33 stanzas she reflects on the beauty of our world and contemplates heaven:
-----If so much excellence abide below,
-----How excellent is he that dwells on high?
Her poem’s lines are composed with Christ’s instructions from Matthew 6 in mind: to “Behold the fowls of the air…And…Consider the lilies of the field…” The following are the final two stanzas of the poem.

from Contemplations

So he that faileth in this world of pleasure,
Feeding on sweets that never bit of th' sour,
That's full of friends, of honour, and of treasure,
Fond fool, he takes this earth ev'n for heav'ns bower,
But sad affliction comes and makes him see
Here's neither honour, wealth, or safety.
Only above is found all with security.

O Time the fatal wrack of mortal things
That draws oblivion's curtains over kings,
Their sumptuous monuments, men know them not;
Their names with 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.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Anne Bradstreet: first post.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.