Anne Bradstreet: The Puritan Poet
Anne Bradstreet: The Puritan Poet
Anne Bradstreet was a woman that came to the New World in search for something better. As a Puritan woman she was not allowed to seek knowledge and express herself however she wanted. She married at the age of 16 and had eight children even though she was weak from many illnesses. Against all odds Anne became one of the first American poets and she wrote poetry that described the love she had for her family and her religious beliefs. Anne lived in a harsh religious world that always looked down on women who wanted to be independent and smart. Anne was an interesting poet because she poured her heart out when she wrote poetry by writing about the love of her life, her family and her beliefs.
“Of ever two were one, then surely we” (108). A piece of her poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” is something that without having to read the rest of the poem tells the reader that Anne was a loving wife and her husband was part of her. This poem is important because it portrays the loving wife that Anne is. She is devoted to her husband and even though she spends a lot of time without him the love she has for him is defined and endless. As a Puritan woman Anne is not supposed to express her feelings towards her husband but she her works go against Puritan beliefs. In Puritan religion, the love between husband and wife is supposed to be repressed so as not to distract one from devotion to God, but Anne doesn’t care about this idea. She has to struggle between her beliefs and the love for her husband. I think out of all of her works that are dedicated to her beloved husband this is the one that portrays her love for him. The poem is clear and to the point about her feelings. There is no doubt that Anne wants everyone to know that her husband Simon is her soul mate and the one that completes her. This is the poem that most likely broke the ideas that were made about women not expressing themselves the way that Anne did. I loved the poem because it so little words she poured out her love for her husband and let it be known that without him she is not whole and together they will eternally be.
A poem written in a moment of doubt, of not being confident that her writings would be accepted and that she was not being the best writer she could be is read in the “Author To Her Book.” This is another poem that made me go back and read it again. At first I really did think she was referring to one of her children because of the metaphor, but reading it again with more attention made me see what she was referring to. This book portrays her virtues and shortfalls of her abilities and the book she produced. This poem describes how she felt when her most intimate thoughts were made public after her brother in law took the book back to New England to get it published. To Anne all of her feelings were known to the world because she had expressed her feelings and thoughts on all of the pages of her book and she did not know whether to be happy or not. She uses the metaphor that her book is like her child because she created it. That she did not intend for her poems to be published, but in a moment of poverty she decided to let them go to see what would be of them. Anne knew she would face rejection because in the harsh times she lived in people frowned upon women who pursued intellectual enlightenment and let alone created and aired their views and opinions. But, this was not the only poem that expressed how Anne felt about the suppression of women and their intelligence.
Two other poems that caught my attention were “The Prologue” and the “Contemplation.” I like the poem “The Prologue” because she wanted to prove that she was a good poet even though she was a woman. She writes “I am obnoxious to each carping tongue who says my hand a needle better fits…a poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong” (98). I felt so stricken by this because she is writing to them in return to their criticisms; to their claims that she stole her ideas for her poems from men and that she was not the one writing them. She is a strong woman for standing up to the man that tried to stand in her way. In her poem “Contemplation” I am also stricken by the way she writes about the way God and to what seems to me to be the creation of our world as we have read in the Bible. I have never read about Cain and Abel in such a nice, short way that Anne wrote in this poem, “Here Cain and Abel come to sacrifice…with sullen hateful looks he goes his ways, Hath thousand thoughts to end his brother’s days,” (102). She writes about the creation in such a manner that one can understand that her beliefs are also important to her. Anne’s beliefs and love make the perfect poems full of emotion and expression that it is easy to understand and relate to them.
Anne’s poetry is very easy to understand and her poems about love and marriage bring out a passion that even though she wrote it many years ago can somewhat be felt today. It is easy to relate to her writings, as if I was the one who wrote it. It is amazing that someone like Anne Bradstreet with all the obstacles that she had to face because of her religious beliefs could write such beautiful things. In all of her poems Anne writes about the love for her children, the love for her husband, and her devotion as a mother and wife. I think that writing about love and marriage is a difficult thing because it requires the writer to be at a personal level, to pour out their personal feelings in order to make the poem real and understandable. I think that maybe only people that share those feelings are able to understand the poems that Anne has written about love and marriage.
Anne’s poems are definitely affected by her beliefs and the times she lived in. She is believed to be one of the early feminists because of the poems she wrote being from the 17th century and a puritan. She wrote ideas that were against the ideas of her religion and the time she lived in. Women were not allowed to express themselves the way that Anne did. She overcame all of those obstacles and decided to put herself out there. Even though her brother in law was the one that published her poems without her permission, Anne took the criticism as it came and made herself a better poet. Anne faced all her obstacles and wrote from her heart and didn’t let sexism and prejudice stop her from writing her heart out.
Anne fought herself because she believed one thing but wanted to do the opposite. Anne knew that writing poetry and expressing herself about the love for her husband and children went against what was supposed to do as a Puritan woman. I can identify myself with Anne’s emotions and situations because there has been times when as a person I want to do something that I really love but I know that it is something I just cannot do because it goes against what my family believes and what they expect of me. This is very difficult because in the end one should be able to do what we want to feel good about ourselves but this means going against people, beliefs, and many more things. When Anne wrote her poetry she must have felt freed of all the prosecution that came from being a 17th century Puritan woman, she must have felt good about being able to express herself. Anne went through many things in order to write her poetry.
In conclusion, the struggles that Anne Bradstreet had to go through for her poetry were all worth it in the end. Anne followed what she believed in and didn’t let religion affect what she really wanted to know. She is one of the First American Female Poets because she was strong and overcame many obstacles. As a female Puritan poet Anne showed everyone that doing what one loves doesn’t and shouldn’t interfere with what one believes in. To this day, Anne Bradstreet is still remembered and we have the opportunity to read her works. Anne set the tone for future generations that have risen as poets. She fought for what she believed was right and therefore becoming a part of our American History. She was a great poet because she poured her heart out by writing about the love of her life, her family and her beliefs.
Baym, Nina, General Editor. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York, NY. Norton & Company. 2008. Pages 97-117.