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Anne Bradstreet was an English Puritan poet born in
the North America. She was the first writer who got published and the first
Puritan figure in American literature (Anne Bradstreet, Encyclopedia.com) While
reading Anne Bradstreet’s poetry, I noticed many autobiographical elements in
it. In this essay, I am going to analyze some of her poems and point out the
main idea of each poem. Also, I am going to focus on her criticism of her own
poetry which she expressed through some of the poems. My goal in this paper is
to get a conclusion about Bradstreet’s most common literary themes and motifs
and how they were linked to her personal life.

To achieve this goal, I have chosen seven of her poems
which I analyze in this paper. Therefore, I have organized my paper into seven
sections, one of each for every poem. The poems I have analyzed are the
following: The Author to Her Book,
Prologue, To Her Father with Some Verses, To My Dear and Loving Husband, Flesh
and The Spirit, Before the Birth of One of Her Children and By Night when Others Soundly Slept. I
put an emphasis on the autobiographical elements in each of the poems,
especially on those which refer to her own writing or even criticize it.

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The theme of The
Author to Her Book is Bradstreet’s criticism of her poetry. She refers to
her work as the “ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain” which means she is
very critical about it and isn’t truly satisfied with the product of her
imagination. She is angry that her work was “snatched from thence by friends”
and “exposed to public view” which could refer to her brother-in-law who took
her poetry without her knowledge and published it in England (Anne Bradstreet,
Encyclopaedia Britannica). Bradstreet says that her poetry was taken away from
her “after birth” which means she considers it to be her child. Those who made
it public have taken what means the most to her and revealed it to the world.
It left her feeling naked and exposed with everyone free to judge her. Her
errors were open to the public eye and she couldn’t hide them anymore. In the
last three lines she states that her poetry has no father but only a mother
which is poor because she had to “send her child out the door”. These lines
express Bradstreet’s discontent to make her work public and exposed. She feels
that she lost a part of herself like a mother does when she loses her child. The
poem might be the best example of her criticism upon her work and her life
choices. She doesn’t think her poetry is worthy enough to be published because
it is still not perfect.

In the first stanza of Prologue, Bradstreet lists glorious things which she is not worthy
to write about. She describes her work as “obscure lines” which could lessen
their worth. In the second stanza she mentions Bartas who was a famous poet who
wrote a poem about the creation of the world (Guillaume de Salluste, seigneur
du Bartas, Encyclopaedia Britannica). She envies him because of his greatness
and considers herself to be nowhere near such talent. The lack of her talent
she blames on the Muses which didn’t help her. Bradstreet is humble and doesn’t
classify her poetry as something great or important, but rather something
simple and average. In the third stanza she reconciles with the reality and
doesn’t feel surprised that she isn’t a better writer. Her Muses have failed
her but she isn’t angry because of it, she accepts the situation as it is. We
can see that from the entire third stanza because it is written that we cannot
expect broken things to work perfectly, nor can we expect something to be
perfect when it has flaws. Bradstreet’s poetry is also like that, not perfect
because it has its flaws and defects, but that is normal. The adjectives such
as obscure, weak, wounded, foolish and broken reveal her opinion about the
poetry she writes. However, the fifth stanza carries a different message. We
can see her passion when it comes to writing, her defiance towards everybody
who would forbid her to write and to be a poet. The injustice towards women was
strong in the past and she wants to point it out. If her work was a success,
they would accuse her of stealing it or even accidentally doing it. This shows
the problems and prejudices she had to fight against in her time. She asks for
justice and that women get what they deserve.

The title of the poem To Her Father with Some Verses tells us the poem is autobiographical.
The respect she has for her father is expressed in this poem. We see that she
feels indebted and wants to pay her debt starting with this poem which she
refers to as a “mite”. She will continue paying the dept to her father to whom
she owes everything, until she is alive. However, in the conclusion she states
that she will only repay it when she dies because that is when it will worth
the most. Her poems will be known and they will gain value which could honour
her father the way he deserves it. This poem is an expression of her greatest
respect and love towards her father.

Bradstreet wrote To
My Dear and Loving Husband to her husband, she wants to express the love
she feels for him. Their love for each other is immense and he makes her feel
so happy and fulfilled that she invites other women to compare with her. Their
love makes her feel superior and elevated. We find out that he means a lot to
her and she feels she cannot repay him for everything he offered. She is truly
loved and wishes that they continue to madly love each other so it remains
forever written in her poetry.

The poem Flesh and The Spirit is
about two sisters which are very different, one is the representative of the
material earthly world and the other is a representative of the spiritual.
Bradstreet expresses Puritan elements through the conversation between the
sisters. It is best seen in the Spirit’s perseverance to glorify all things
spiritual. These are the values all Puritans should possess. Their faith should
always be present and they mustn’t fall under the influence of those whose values
are corrupted.

In Before the
Birth of One of Her Children Bradstreet expresses her awareness that death
is near and could come get her. Once again can see the love that she has for
her husband from the lines she wrote. The reason why she wrote this poem is
that her husband can have closure if death comes for her. This poem is very
personal and portrays the author’s relation with him, also it reveals her fears
and wishes. She wants him to be happy even if she leaves this world and he
stays alone. By saying “And kiss this paper for thy loves dear sake” Bradstreet
tells her husband to honour her by reading this poem which she wrote “…with
salt tears…”.

In By Night when
Others Soundly Slept is a poem through which the author expresses the
thoughts she has when the night falls and everybody is asleep. She is thankful
to God for making her as she is. She loves him and knows how much he has done
for her. What makes her unable to fall asleep is the thinking about how she
should express her gratitude to him. Finally, she declares she will be his
servant as long as she lives. This poem portrays how Puritans should feel and
behave. Bradstreet proves she is a true believer and a humble person.

CONCLUSION

The seven poems I have analysed proved my premise right. Bradstreet writes
about herself and the aspects of her life. She includes her loved ones and the feelings
she has for them in her poetry. Also, the important part is that she writes about
her poetry and isn’t afraid to criticize it. We find a lot about her life, her literary
role models and the problems she has to face with. From these seven poems we found
out she is a true believer and a Puritan who follows that way of life in faith.
She is humble and grateful to everybody who helped her become what she is. We can
conclude that the love she has for her husband is immense and she that he left a
strong impact in her poetry. 

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