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Donna M. Campbell Bradstreet, Anne

Anne Bradstreet: Class Notes

Brief Notes on Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612-1672)

Anne Bradstreet

1. Background

  • Bradstreet sailed with her husband on the Arbella; she would have heard Winthrop’s sermon “A Model of Christian Charity.”
  • Husband a diplomat, often absent.
  • Moved from Ipswich to the comparative isolation of Andover, Mass: it was in this comparative isolation that she wrote most of her private poetry, the poetry which reflected her own inner feelings and her relationship to her family.
  • Anne’s sister, Sarah Cain, was rejected by her husband and finally excommunicated for prophecying and for “gross immorality” Good source:  Ann Stanford, Anne Bradstreet: The Worldly Puritan (1975)

2. Poetry

  • The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung up in America (1650).  Ms. had been taken to London by her brother-in-law in 1647 and published there; first published volume of poems written by a resident in the New World.
  • It was warmly received in London but contained none of the poems on which Bradstreet’s current reputation depends.
    • The quaternions: four long poems that demonstrate a range of historical and philosophical discourses.
    • “The Four Elements”
    • “The Four Humors of Man”
    • “The Four Seasons”
    • The Four Ages of Man
  • Her more complex poetry, composed over the next two decades, was collected six years after her death in a volume entitled Several Poems
  • Scheick: AB’s later verse moved toward greater sincerity and independence of expression.
  • Ann Stanford: None of the elegies expresses her best work (p. 36) but they do show a remarkable lack of emphasis or any Christian dogma.
  • Three elegies: Sir Philip Sidney (1638); Du Bartas (1641); Queen Elizabeth (1643), all of whom she admired. In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess, Queen ELIZABETH
  • Edward Taylor had a copy of the second edition (1678) in his library.

3. Sources and Influences 

  •  Influenced by Ramean philosophy.  Pierre de la Ramée, a Protestant killed in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, favored liberation, sincerity, and clarity.  His philosophy was a revolt against empty scholasticism; he debased the Aristotelian syllogism and elevated the doctrine of contraries.  Ideas could be immediately distinguished by setting them against their opposites.
  •  Thus also the Puritans often established their points through disjunctions.
  •  Also, great writers who spoke of their inward being were speaking from nature herself, and through them, nature reveals itself.
  • Implications:  trusting the inner light, natural reason became important, although Anne Hutchinson let it go too far for the Puritans.

2. Meditation Tradition

  1.  Imagine scene or see subject
  2.  Draw arguments regarding eternal truths or relation to God from the subject
  3.  Colloquy with God involving the will, in which the meditator
    •   determines to have more faith
    •     to cease from sin
    •     to abide by God’s laws
    •     to come to moral discernment

3. Emblem tradition: emblem books.  Pictures accompanied by a text, usually in verse.  The text explained the symbols or characters involved in the picture and drew a moral from them.4. Spenser.  See “Goe little booke” from the Shepheardes Calender
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send the out of door.

5. Metaphysical Poets:

  •  Secular poetry Cleveland, Marvell, Cowley
  •  Religious: Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw
  • Poems opposed to rich mellifluousness and idealized view of human nature and sexual love in Elizabethan poetry.
  • Donne: rough give-and-take of actual speech
  •  poems in the form of arguments
  •  paradox, pun, startling parallels in simile and metaphor (metaphysical conceit)
  •  Conceit: figure of speech that establishes a striking/elaborate parallel between two very dissimilar things or situations.
  •  discordia concors: combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike–yoked by violence together.

4.  Common features also found in later poets (from Alicia Ostriker)

1. Self-effacing “apology” (art claiming artlessness) gradually becomes more authoritative poetic persona (bold assertion followed by retraction)

2. Pride in ability to instruct and experience life
3. Distaste for dualism and hierarchy; preference for balance
4. Attachment to nature and the body (even questioning God)
5. Humor and irony which allow her to say the unsayable
6. Self-exploration through historic and mythic heroines
7. Dwelling on the domestic as authoritative
8. Language and imagery often direct, relatively simple