Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.
Vol. I. The Transplanting of Culture: 16071650
ANNE BRADSTREET, the chief poetess of Colonial America, was probably born at Northampton, about 1612, and died in Boston, September 16, 1672. She was a daughter of Governor Thomas Dudley, and married the future Governor Bradstreet in 1628. With him she went to New England (1630), and in the intervals of household duties involved in the rearing of eight children, became a devoted author, who won for herself from her compatriots the admiring designation, The Tenth Muse. Her poems were published under a title which gives a tabular view of their contents, to wit: The Tenth Muse, lately Sprung up in America, or Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight, Wherein especially is Contained a Complete Discourse and Description of the Four Elements, Constitutions, Ages of Man, Seasons of the Year, together with an exact Epitome of the Four Monarchies, viz., The Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, Roman. Also a Dialogue between Old England and New, concerning the late troubles. With divers other pleasant and serious Poems, By a Gentlewoman in those parts (London, 1650). A second, this time American, edition appeared at Boston six years after her death, with additions, among which is Contemplations, her best poem. Her complete works were edited by J. H. Ellis (1867), and for the Society of the Duodecimos, 1897, with an introduction by Professor Charles Eliot Norton, one of Mrs. Bradstreets descendants.
Mrs. Bradstreets verses are in the main a storehouse of curious information, the most curious thing about them being the admiration they excited. Cotton Mather said they would outlast the stateliest marble. Other contemporaries weltered in delight or were sunk in a sea of bliss at their perusal. They were at least the best of her land and generation. They show an indomitable assertion of a womans right to thought and learning. The Four Monarchies is based on Sir Walter Raleighs History of the World, but she drew her chief poetic inspiration from Sylvesters translation of the French epic of Creation by Du Bartas. As one of the first American writers to devote herself to literature for its own sake, she deserves an honored place in the history of New England culture. Nor is it certain that her genuine talents have received just recognition from posterity. She is not a Tenth Muse or a Sappho, but her works are no more disappointing than those of belauded contemporary British poetesses like the Matchless Orinda (Mrs. Katharine Phillips). It is quite true that much of her poetry is hopelessly ponderous and dull, in the style of her favorite English master, Joshua Sylvester. It is true also that at first she seems to have no eye for the beauties of nature, and that she gives us no entertaining realistic pictures of primitive New England life. But it is equally true that her work shows improvement, that in all probability Spenser became her master instead of Sylvester, and that in the stanzas entitled, Contemplations she showed a feeling both for nature and for style. Her verses to her husband and her children are heartfelt and simple, and her prose Observations show her to have been possessed of a mind not lacking in clearness and depth. She tells us plainly that she found the ways of the New World trying to a woman of gentle rearing, and she shows, perhaps unconsciously, that she could not bring herself to contemplate God entirely on his sterner side. In fine, her writings show her to have been a gifted woman, in whom it is quite possible for latter-day readers to take a respectful interest.
About sixteen the Lord laid his hand sore upon me and smote me with the small-pox. When I was in my affliction, I besought the Lord, and confessed my pride and vanity, and he was entreated of me and again restored me. But I rendered not to him according to the benefit received.
After a short time I changed my condition and was married, and came into this country, where I found a new world and new manners, at which my heart rose. But after I was convinced it was the way of God, I submitted to it and was joined to the church at Boston.
X. Diverse children have their different natures: some are like flesh which nothing but salt will keep from putrefaction; some again like tender fruits that are best preserved with sugar. Those parents are wise that can fit their nurture according to their nature .
LXVIII. The gifts that God bestows on the sons of men, are not only abused, but most commonly employed for a clean contrary end than that which they were given for; as health, wealth, and honor, which might be so many steps to draw men to God in consideration of his bounty towards them, but have driven them the further from him, that they are ready to say, We are lords, we will come no more at thee. If outward blessings be not as wings to help us mount upwards, they will certainly prove clogs and weights that will pull us lower downward.