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Our First American Woman Poet

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Her family’s good status helped her in having a good raising and education. In her growing up years, Anne was taught history, several languages, and literature. Anne had been well tutored in literature and history. She learned Greek, Latin, French, Hebrew, as well as English. She was married to Simon Bradstreet at the age of sixteen and had eight children.

Image result for governor bradstreet Simon Bradstreet

Though 17th century American poet Anne Bradstreet once called her poems “homespun,” her words sore above her dreary and dire life in early New England. Leaving England for the New World in 1630, with her husband and parents, she met a world an ocean away comprised of unknown fevers, malnutrition, poor food, and Indian attacks.

Image result for governor bradstreet

The voyage to America on the “Arbella” with John Winthrop took three months and was quite difficult, with several people dying from the experience. Life was rough and cold, quite a change from the beautiful estate with its well-stocked library where Anne spent many hours. As Anne tells her children in her memoirs, “I found a new world and new manners at which my heart rose [up in protest.].”

Image result for john winthrop John Winthrop

Her conflict with the Puritan faith and love for her husband inundated her verse. When I taught her poetry in American literature classes, students were astonished with the depth of her writing. She had no formal education, was home schooled by her literary father, and described her world with realism. She was the first American woman poet to be published.

Image result for governor bradstreet

 

More often, her poems and meditations consist of drawing moral lessons from her domestic activities–house cleaning, baking, preserving, caring for her children–or from her observations of nature. And she observed deeply those personal experiences, allowing them to speak to her.

Spring is my favorite season, and I welcomed it early this year. A variety of birds have found our bird feeder and have started their nest building under John’s workshop with their lattice protection. Even the days are finally longer.

“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing,” said Charles Dickens.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant,” wrote Anne Bradstreet. Whether it is the weather or our circumstances, we can count on this change of seasons.

“Contemplations” is considered by many as her best poem.

Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz’d

Whose beams was shaded by the leavie Tree,

The more I look’d, the more I grew amaz’d

And softly said, what glory’s like to thee?

Soul of this world, this Universes Eye,

No wonder, some made thee a Deity:

Had I not better known, (alas) the same had I

The wisest man to ever live, King Solomon affirmed this truth in Ecclesiastes 3:1. “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens….” I am so grateful for spring.

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