This week we read Anne Bradstreet's elegy for her grandchild Elizabeth and draw out the multiple voices (both faith and doubt, both grief and consolation) and the tensions and deep emotions in the work of this talented Puritan poet--the first woman from British North America to publish a book of poems.
"In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet, Who Deceased August, 1665 Being a Year and a Half Old"
Farewell dear babe, my heart's too much content,
Farewell sweet babe, the pleasure of mine eye,
Farewell fair flower that for a space was lent,
Then ta'en away unto eternity.
Blest babe why should I once bewail thy fate,
Or sigh the days so soon were terminate;
Sith thou art settled in an everlasting state.
By nature trees do rot when they are grown.
And plums and apples thoroughly ripe do fall,
And corn and grass are in their season mown,
And time brings down what is both strong and tall.
But plants new set to be eradicate,
And buds new blown, to have so short a date,
Is by His hand alone that guides nature and fate.
For more on Anne Bradstreet, please see the Poetry Foundation.
For an essay on Anne Bradstreet's art, please see this short piece by Kevin Prufer.
For an essay on Anne Bradstreet's publication of The Tenth Muse (the first published book by a woman from British North America) and her ambitions as a poet, see this piece by Charlotte Gordon.
For an understanding of Puritan spirituality, please see this short review essay by Abram Van Engen.