Anne Bradstreet was a puritan poet in the 17th century. She experienced hardships throughout her life, but she did the best she could to live by God. She often expressed her
thoughts and emotions throughout her poetry. In terms of puritan ideals Bradstreet’s poetry closely reflected her personal faith in God and the kingdom.
Anne Bradstreet was born in Northampton, England in 1612. Her father, Thomas Dudley, was a puritan, but Bradstreet loved to read and seemed to be drawn to the “puritan world” herself. At the age of 16 she married Simon Bradstreet who was also a puritan. As a child she found much comfort in reading the scriptures. However, during her childhood Bradstreet experienced many moments of ill health. And as an adult, she gave birth to eight children, but only one survived. In spite of her hardships Bradstreet continued on her journey to authorship.
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Puritanism back then was considered to be a way of life. Its’ ideal may be best expressed as living in the world without actually being a part of it. A puritan remained strict with morals, and their religion. Puritans believed it was necessary to to live on the earth, and abide by the laws given, but kept in mind that eventually this world would pass. So, that meant the puritans tried to contain a balance between this world and the next. There was no way to safely turn their back on the world since God had created it, and found it to be good. But they could not rely on the security of an earthly world either. However, just as any imperfect human being would, Bradstreet struggled to maintain her faith at times by rebelling and submitting. But just because she may have had doubts did not make her any less of a puritan. She expressed these feelings in poetry as well discussing struggles between her love for this world, and reliance on the next. This was not an attempt for rebelliousness but her attempt of achieving the “puritan” way of life.
Bradstreet not only wrote about events that occurred in her life, but she wrote about the people in it. For example, the poems about her husband whom she loved very much. In “To My Dear and Loving Husband”, Bradstreet wrote about the love for her husband but created it to be in harmony with the love for God. Puritans were taught that if a husband and wife did not express love towards each other than they disobeyed God. In the last 2 lines “The heavens reward thee manifold I pray. Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere. That when we live no more, we may live ever” (105 Daly). In these lines she expresses her obedience to God, and how she looks to him. She is determined to maintain love in her marriage until the day they die no matter what they may face. Therefore, when they do pass, they will meet in heaven and be together forever.
In “A Letter to Her Husband, Absent Upon Public Employment” Bradstreet wrote about what her husband’s love meant to her. Not only does she use symbolism, but she uses a metaphysical approach. In this poem her husband is “absent”, and she misses him dearly. She goes on to describe how lonely she feels without him, and compares herself to being like the earth without a sun. For her, he is like the sun providing warmth, so without him she is cold and numb.
In “Upon the Burning of our House” Bradstreet shows a brief attachment to materialism, and realizes if it was meant to be then so be it. In this poem her house has burnt down, and she is feeling down. In the beginning she is observing everything that will no longer be used. But she does not lose faith, and keeps in mind that God has the power to give and take as he pleases. Therefore, she puts all her trust in God that he can and will provide for her. In “The Author to Her Book” Bradstreet wrote of her own faults. She is honest of pointing out her own flaws. I believe the poem is about her work being ready to be published, and seen by others, but she is not ready. She is supposed to have the pure image of a puritan, but she may have fallen short in some areas. Bradstreet feels like she is going to be judged by all, and it is not going to be positive feedback. The tone of the poem is frustration and worry. “I cast thee by as one unfit for light”â€¦Thy blemishes amend, if so I could: I washed thy face, but more defects I saw, and rubbing of a spot, still made a flaw. I stretched thy to joints to make thee even feet, yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet” (102 George Perkins).
However, in the “Prologue”, Bradstreet wrote about herself and her limitations as a woman. Bradstreet is proud of who she is, and what she has become. But she does not forget how women are viewed differently, and how men may judge her as a woman trying to be a poet. Other women in England seemed to have the same attitude and feelings of their sex. Why can’t they be looked upon as equals? Bradstreet just expressed herself more bluntly than most. A sense of pride and belief in herself was required if she wanted to become known as a poet in the 17th century. She expresses this in “Who says my hand a needle better fits, A poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong, For such despite they cast on female wits” (10 Watts).
In Bradstreet’s works she displays a sense of spirituality, but in others she seems to be her own judge. She realizes herself, her flaws and where she falls short. Over all, she kept her faith pretty well.
Bercovitch, Sacvan. The American Puritan Imagination. Cambridge University Press 1974. 107- 108.
Daly, Robert. God’s Altar: The World and the Flesh In Puritan Poetry. University of California Press 1978. 93, 100, 104, 106-107.
Perkins, George. The American Literature. 12th Ed. McGraw-Hill 2009. 92-92.
Watts Stripes Emily. Poetry of American Women from 1632 to 1945. University of Texas Press 1977. 10-12.
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