Sampling the Poems of America’s First Female Poet
Anne Bradstreet is considered to be America’s First Female Poet and among the first American Poets of record. Her works were largely kept hidden, given the nature of Puritan life at that time (See TFP website article, The Tenth Muse, by Jonathan Henderson.) and were initially panned by critics, who did not understand the Puritan ways or her style.
Her brother-in-law took her earlier writings to England for publication as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, perhaps unknown to her, where they were published in 1650 and met with much approval. In 1658, her book was listed in the list of Most Vendible Books in England.
In 1678, The Tenth Muse was published again in Boston, as a second edition titled, Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning. It contains Bradstreet’s corrections plus previously unpublished poems, which were considered far superior to her earlier work.
Bradstreet’s acclaim was not fully heralded in America until the 1950’s. Her largest work, Contemplations, were never published and her most unique work is said to be the poetry she wrote for herself, her family and her friends. To this day, she is considered one of the most important early American poets.
Below, is a sampling of her more intimate work of which is highly regarded, especially in its representation of the era and Puritan lifestyle.
A complete registry of all of Anne Bradstreet’s poems can be found by following the first link listed in the citations.
- – TFP Administrative Staff Writer
Written for her husband…
TO MY DEAR AND LOVING HUSBAND
(Written between 1641 and 1643)
On the passing of the harsh New England winters…
AS SPRING THE WINTER DOTH SUCCEED (May 13, 1657)
As spring the winter doth succeed,
And leaues the naked Trees doe dresse,
The earth all black is cloth’d in green;
At svn-shine each their joy expresse.
My Svns returned with healing wings.
My Soul and Body doth rejoice;
My heart exvlts, and praises sings
To him that heard my wailing Voice.
My winters past, my stormes are gone,
And former clowdes seem now all fled;
But, if they mvst eclipse again,
I’le rvn where I was succoured.
I haue a shelter from the storm,
A shadow from the fainting heat;
I haue accesse vnto his Throne,
Who is a God so wondrous great.
O hast thou made my Pilgrimage
Thvs pleasant, fair, and good;
Bless’d me in Youth and elder Age,
My Baca made a springing flood?
I studiovs am what I shall doe,
To show my Duty with delight;
All I can giue is but thine own,
And at the most a simple mite.
Written for her eight children…
IN REFERENCE TO HER CHILDREN (June 23, 1659)
I had eight birds hatched in one nest,
Four cocks there were, and hens the rest.
I nursed them up with pain and care,
Nor cost, nor labour did I spare,
Till at the last they felt their wing,
Mounted the trees, and learned to sing;
Chief of the brood then took his flight
To regions far and left me quite.
My mournful chirps I after send,
Till he return, or I do end:
Leave not thy nest, thy dam and sire,
Fly back and sing amidst this choir.
My second bird did take her flight,
And with her mate flew out of sight;
Southward they both their course did bend,
And seasons twain they there did spend,
Till after blown by southern gales,
They norward steered with filled sails.
A prettier bird was no where seen,
Along the beach among the treen.
I have a third of colour white,
On whom I placed no small delight;
Coupled with mate loving and true,
Hath also bid her dam adieu;
And where Aurora first appears,
She now hath perched to spend her years.
One to the academy flew
To chat among that learned crew;
Ambition moves still in his breast
That he might chant above the rest
Striving for more than to do well,
That nightingales he might excel.
My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone,
Is ‘mongst the shrubs and bushes flown,
And as his wings increase in strength,
On higher boughs he’ll perch at length.
My other three still with me nest,
Until they’re grown, then as the rest,
Or here or there they’ll take their flight,
As is ordained, so shall they light.
If birds could weep, then would my tears
Let others know what are my fears
Lest this my brood some harm should catch,
And be surprised for want of watch,
Whilst pecking corn and void of care,
They fall un’wares in fowler’s snare,
Or whilst on trees they sit and sing,
Some untoward boy at them do fling,
Or whilst allured with bell and glass,
The net be spread, and caught, alas.
Or lest by lime-twigs they be foiled,
Or by some greedy hawks be spoiled.
O would my young, ye saw my breast,
And knew what thoughts there sadly rest,
Great was my pain when I you fed,
Long did I keep you soft and warm,
And with my wings kept off all harm,
My cares are more and fears than ever,
My throbs such now as ‘fore were never.
Alas, my birds, you wisdom want,
Of perils you are ignorant;
Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight,
Sore accidents on you may light.
O to your safety have an eye,
So happy may you live and die.
Meanwhile my days in tunes I’ll spend,
Till my weak lays with me shall end.
In shady woods I’ll sit and sing,
And things that past to mind I’ll bring.
Once young and pleasant, as are you,
But former toys (no joys) adieu.
My age I will not once lament,
But sing, my time so near is spent.
And from the top bough take my flight
Into a country beyond sight,
Where old ones instantly grow young,
And there with seraphims set song;
No seasons cold, nor storms they see;
But spring lasts to eternity.
When each of you shall in your nest
Among your young ones take your rest,
In chirping language, oft them tell,
You had a dam that loved you well,
That did what could be done for young,
And nursed you up till you were strong,
And ‘fore she once would let you fly,
She showed you joy and misery;
Taught what was good, and what was ill,
What would save life, and what would kill.
Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
And dead, yet speak, and counsel give:
Farewell, my birds, farewell adieu,
I happy am, if well with you.
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/bradstreet/bradstreet.html https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/anne-bradstreet http://www.gradesaver.com/author/anne-bradstreet