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Best Famous Anne Bradstreet Poems

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Written by Anne Bradstreet |

The Prologue


To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings,
Of cities founded, commonwealths begun,
For my mean pen, are too superior things,
And how they all, or each, their dates have run
Let poets, and historians set these forth,
My obscure verse shall not so dim their worth.
2 But when my wond'ring eyes, and envious heart, Great Bartas' sugared lines do but read o'er, Fool, I do grudge the Muses did not part 'Twixt him and me that overfluent store; A Bartas can do what a Bartas will, But simple I, according to my skill.
3 From schoolboy's tongue, no rhetoric we expect, Nor yet a sweet consort, from broken strings, Nor perfect beauty, where's a main defect; My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings; And this to mend, alas, no art is able, 'Cause nature made it so irreparable.
4 Nor can I, like that fluent sweet-tongued Greek Who lisped at first, speak afterwards more plain.
By art, he gladly found what he did seek, A full requital of his striving pain: Art can do much, but this maxim's most sure.
A weak or wounded brain admits no cure.
5 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; For such despite they cast on female wits: If what I do prove well, it won't advance, They'll say it's stolen, or else it was by chance.
6 But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild, Else of our sex, why feigned they those nine, And poesy made Calliope's own child? So 'mongst the rest they placed the arts divine: But this weak knot they will full soon untie, The Greeks did nought, but play the fool and lie.
7 Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are, Men have precedency, and still excel; It is but vain, unjustly to wage war; Men can do best, and women know it well; Preeminence in each and all is yours, Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.
8 And oh, ye high flown quills that soar the skies, And ever with your prey, still catch your praise, If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes, Give wholesome parsley wreath, I ask no bays: This mean and unrefinèd stuff of mine, Will make your glistering gold but more to shine.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

The Author to Her Book

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small, My rambling brat (in print) should mother call, I cast thee by as one unfit for light, Thy visage was so irksome in my sight; Yet being mine own, at length affection would Thy blemishes amend, if so I could: I washed thy face, but more defects I saw, And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet, Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet; In better dress to trim thee was my mind, But nought save homespun cloth i' th' house I find.
In this array 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
In critic's hands beware thou dost not come, And take thy way where yet thou art not known; If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none; And for thy mother, she alas is poor, Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

A Letter to Her Husband

 Absent upon Public Employment 

My head, my heart, mine eyes, my life, nay more,
My joy, my magazine, of earthly store,
If two be one, as surely thou and I,
How stayest thou there, whilst I at Ipswich lie?
So many steps, head from the heart to sever,
If but a neck, soon should we be together.
I, like the Earth this season, mourn in black, My Sun is gone so far in's zodiac, Whom whilst I 'joyed, nor storms, nor frost I felt, His warmth such fridged colds did cause to melt.
My chilled limbs now numbed lie forlorn; Return; return, sweet Sol, from Capricorn; In this dead time, alas, what can I more Than view those fruits which through thy heart I bore? Which sweet contentment yield me for a space, True living pictures of their father's face.
O strange effect! now thou art southward gone, I weary grow the tedious day so long; But when thou northward to me shalt return, I wish my Sun may never set, but burn Within the Cancer of my glowing breast, The welcome house of him my dearest guest.
Where ever, ever stay, and go not thence, Till nature's sad decree shall call thee hence; Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone, I here, thou there, yet both but one.

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Written by Anne Bradstreet |

The Vanity of All Worldly Things

 As he said vanity, so vain say I,
Oh! Vanity, O vain all under sky;
Where is the man can say, "Lo, I have found
On brittle earth a consolation sound"?
What isn't in honor to be set on high?
No, they like beasts and sons of men shall die,
And whilst they live, how oft doth turn their fate;
He's now a captive that was king of late.
What isn't in wealth great treasures to obtain? No, that's but labor, anxious care, and pain.
He heaps up riches, and he heaps up sorrow, It's his today, but who's his heir tomorrow? What then? Content in pleasures canst thou find? More vain than all, that's but to grasp the wind.
The sensual senses for a time they pleasure, Meanwhile the conscience rage, who shall appease? What isn't in beauty? No that's but a snare, They're foul enough today, that once were fair.
What is't in flow'ring youth, or manly age? The first is prone to vice, the last to rage.
Where is it then, in wisdom, learning, arts? Sure if on earth, it must be in those parts; Yet these the wisest man of men did find But vanity, vexation of the mind.
And he that know the most doth still bemoan He knows not all that here is to be known.
What is it then? To do as stoics tell, Nor laugh, nor weep, let things go ill or well? Such stoics are but stocks, such teaching vain, While man is man, he shall have ease or pain.
If not in honor, beauty, age, nor treasure, Nor yet in learning, wisdom, youth, nor pleasure, Where shall I climb, sound, seek, search, or find That summum bonum which may stay my mind? There is a path no vulture's eye hath seen, Where lion fierce, nor lion's whelps have been, Which leads unto that living crystal fount, Who drinks thereof, the world doth naught account.
The depth and sea have said " 'tis not in me," With pearl and gold it shall not valued be.
For sapphire, onyx, topaz who would change; It's hid from eyes of men, they count it strange.
Death and destruction the fame hath heard, But where and what it is, from heaven's declared; It brings to honor which shall ne'er decay, It stores with wealth which time can't wear away.
It yieldeth pleasures far beyond conceit, And truly beautifies without deceit.
Nor strength, nor wisdom, nor fresh youth shall fade, Nor death shall see, but are immortal made.
This pearl of price, this tree of life, this spring, Who is possessed of shall reign a king.
Nor change of state nor cares shall ever see, But wear his crown unto eternity.
This satiates the soul, this stays the mind, And all the rest, but vanity we find.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |


 Be still, thou unregenerate part, 
Disturb no more my settled heart, 
For I have vow'd (and so will do) 
Thee as a foe still to pursue, 
And combat with thee will and must 
Until I see thee laid in th' dust.
Sister we are, yea twins we be, Yet deadly feud 'twixt thee and me, For from one father are we not.
Thou by old Adam wast begot, But my arise is from above, Whence my dear father I do love.
Thou speak'st me fair but hat'st me sore.
Thy flatt'ring shews I'll trust no more.
How oft thy slave hast thou me made When I believ'd what thou hast said And never had more cause of woe Than when I did what thou bad'st do.
I'll stop mine ears at these thy charms And count them for my deadly harms.
Thy sinful pleasures I do hate, Thy riches are to me no bait.
Thine honours do, nor will I love, For my ambition lies above.
My greatest honour it shall be When I am victor over thee, And Triumph shall, with laurel head, When thou my Captive shalt be led.
How I do live, thou need'st not scoff, For I have meat thou know'st not of.
The hidden Manna I do eat; The word of life, it is my meat.
My thoughts do yield me more content Than can thy hours in pleasure spent.
Nor are they shadows which I catch, Nor fancies vain at which I snatch But reach at things that are so high, Beyond thy dull Capacity.
Eternal substance I do see With which inriched I would be.
Mine eye doth pierce the heav'ns and see What is Invisible to thee.
My garments are not silk nor gold, Nor such like trash which Earth doth hold, But Royal Robes I shall have on, More glorious than the glist'ring Sun.
My Crown not Diamonds, Pearls, and gold, But such as Angels' heads infold.
The City where I hope to dwell, There's none on Earth can parallel.
The stately Walls both high and trong Are made of precious Jasper stone, The Gates of Pearl, both rich and clear, And Angels are for Porters there.
The Streets thereof transparent gold Such as no Eye did e're behold.
A Crystal River there doth run Which doth proceed from the Lamb's Throne.
Of Life, there are the waters sure Which shall remain forever pure.
Nor Sun nor Moon they have no need For glory doth from God proceed.
No Candle there, nor yet Torch light, For there shall be no darksome night.
From sickness and infirmity Forevermore they shall be free.
Nor withering age shall e're come there, But beauty shall be bright and clear.
This City pure is not for thee, For things unclean there shall not be.
If I of Heav'n may have my fill, Take thou the world, and all that will.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

We May Live Together

 If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man, Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench, Nor ought but love from thee give recompetence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay.
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persever That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

Meditations Divine and Moral

 A ship that bears much sail, and little ballast, is easily 
overset; and that man, whose head hath great abilities, and his 
heart little or no grace, is in danger of foundering.
The finest bread has the least bran; the purest honey, the least wax; and the sincerest Christian, the least self-love.
Sweet words are like honey; a little may refresh, but too much gluts the stomach.
Divers children have their different natures: some are like flesh which nothing but salt will keep from putrefaction; some again like tender fruits that are best preserved with sugar.
Those parents are wise that can fit their nurture according to their nature.
Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.
The reason why Christians are so loath to exchange this world for a better, is because they have more sense than faith: they see what they enjoy, they do but hope for that which is to come.
Dim eyes are the concomitants of old age; and short- sightedness, in those that are the eyes of a Republic, foretells a declining State.
Wickedness comes to its height by degrees.
He that dares say of a less sin, Is it not a little one? will erelong say of a greater, Tush, God regards it not.
Fire hath its force abated by water, not by wind; and anger must be allayed by cold words and not by blustering threats.
The gifts that God bestows on the sons of men, are not only abused, but most commonly employed for a clean contrary end than that which they were given for; as health, wealth, and honor, which might be so many steps to draw men to God in consideration of his bounty towards them, but have driven them the further from him, that they are ready to say, We are lords, we will come no more at thee.
If outward blessings be not as wings to help us mount upwards, they will certainly prove clogs and weights that will pull us lower downward.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

Before the Birth of One of Her Children

 All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joys attend;
No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
But with death's parting blow are sure to meet.
The sentence past is most irrevocable, A common thing, yet oh, inevitable.
How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend, How soon't may be thy lot to lose thy friend, We both are ignorant, yet love bids me These farewell lines to recommend to thee, That when the knot's untied that made us one, I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
And if I see not half my days that's due, What nature would, God grant to yours and you; The many faults that well you know I have Let be interred in my oblivious grave; If any worth or virtue were in me, Let that live freshly in thy memory And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harmes, Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms, And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains Look to my little babes, my dear remains.
And if thou love thyself, or loved'st me, These O protect from stepdame's injury.
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse, With some sad sighs honor my absent hearse; And kiss this paper for thy dear love's sake, Who with salt tears this last farewell did take.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

Upon a Fit of Sickness

 Twice ten years old not fully told
since nature gave me breath,
My race is run, my thread spun,
lo, here is fatal death.
All men must die, and so must I; this cannot be revoked.
For Adam's sake this word God spake when he so high provoked.
Yet live I shall, this life's but small, in place of highest bliss, Where I shall have all I can crave, no life is like to this.
For what's this but care and strife since first we came from womb? Our strength doth waste, our time doth haste, and then we go to th' tomb.
O bubble blast, how long can'st last? that always art a breaking, No sooner blown, but dead and gone, ev'n as a word that's speaking.
O whilst I live this grace me give, I doing good may be, Then death's arrest I shall count best, because it's Thy decree; Bestow much cost there's nothing lost, to make salvation sure, O great's the gain, though got with pain, comes by profession pure.
The race is run, the field is won, the victory's mine I see; Forever known, thou envious foe, the foil belongs to thee.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |


 Her Mother's Epitaph

Here lies
A worthy matron of unspotted life,
A loving mother and obedient wife,
A friendly neighbor, pitiful to poor,
Whom oft she fed, and clothed with her store;
To servants wisely aweful, but yet kind,
And as they did, so they reward did find:
A true instructor of her family,
The which she ordered with dexterity,
The public meetings ever did frequent,
And in her closest constant hours she spent;
Religious in all her words and ways,
Preparing still for death, till end of days:
Of all her children, children lived to see,
Then dying, left a blessed memory.
Her Father's Epitaph Within this tomb a patriot lies That was both pious, just and wise, To truth a shield, to right a wall, To sectaries a whip and maul, A magazine of history, A prizer of good company In manners pleasant and severe The good him loved, the bad did fear, And when his time with years was spent In some rejoiced, more did lament.
1653, age 77

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

To Her Father with Some Verses

 Most truly honoured, and as truly dear, 
If worth in me or ought I do appear, 
Who can of right better demand the same 
Than may your worthy self from whom it came? 
The principal might yield a greater sum, 
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb; 
My stock's so small I know not how to pay, 
My bond remains in force unto this day; 
Yet for part payment take this simple mite, 
Where nothing's to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive, But as I can, I'll pay it while I live; Such is my bond, none can discharge but I, Yet paying is not paid until I die.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

Verses upon the Burning of our House July 18th

 In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I waken'd was with thund'ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of 'fire' and 'fire,' Let no man know is my Desire.
I starting up, the light did spy, And to my God my heart did cry To straighten me in my Distress And not to leave me succourless.
Then coming out, behold a space The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look, I blest his grace that gave and took, That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own; it was not mine.
Far be it that I should repine, He might of all justly bereft But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruins oft I past My sorrowing eyes aside did cast And here and there the places spy Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest, There lay that store I counted best, My pleasant things in ashes lie And them behold no more shall I.
Under the roof no guest shall sit, Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall 'ere be told Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle 'ere shall shine in Thee, Nor bridegroom's voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lie.
Adieu, Adieu, All's Vanity.
Then straight I 'gin my heart to chide: And did thy wealth on earth abide, Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust, The arm of flesh didst make thy trust? Raise up thy thoughts above the sky That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect Fram'd by that mighty Architect, With glory richly furnished Stands permanent, though this be fled.
It's purchased and paid for too By him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown, Yet by his gift is made thine own.
There's wealth enough; I need no more.
Farewell, my pelf; farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love; My hope and Treasure lies above.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

Of the Four Ages of Man

 Lo, now four other act upon the stage,
Childhood and Youth, the Many and Old age:
The first son unto phlegm, grandchild to water,
Unstable, supple, cold and moist's his nature
The second, frolic, claims his pedigree
From blood and air, for hot and moist is he.
The third of fire and choler is compos'd, Vindicative and quarrelsome dispos'd.
The last of earth and heavy melancholy, Solid, hating all lightness and all folly.
Childhood was cloth'd in white and green to show His spring was intermixed with some snow: Upon his head nature a garland set Of Primrose, Daisy and the Violet.
Such cold mean flowers the spring puts forth betime, Before the sun hath thoroughly heat the clime.
His hobby striding did not ride but run, And in his hand an hour-glass new begun, In danger every moment of a fall, And when 't is broke then ends his life and all: But if he hold till it have run its last, Then may he live out threescore years or past.
Next Youth came up in gorgeous attire (As that fond age doth most of all desire), His suit of crimson and his scarf of green, His pride in's countenance was quickly seen; Garland of roses, pinks and gillyflowers Seemed on's head to grow bedew'd with showers.
His face as fresh as is Aurora fair, When blushing she first 'gins to light the air.
No wooden horse, but one of mettle tried, He seems to fly or swim, and not to ride.
Then prancing on the stage, about he wheels, But as he went death waited at his heels, The next came up in a much graver sort, As one that cared for a good report, His sword by's side, and choler in his eyes, But neither us'd as yet, for he was wise; Of Autumn's fruits a basket on his arm, His golden god in's purse, which was his charm.
And last of all to act upon this stage Leaning upon his staff came up Old Age, Under his arm a sheaf of wheat he bore, An harvest of the best, what needs he more? In's other hand a glass ev'n almost run, Thus writ about: "This out, then am I done.

Written by Anne Bradstreet |


 1 To sing of Wars, of Captains, and of Kings,
2 Of Cities founded, Common-wealths begun,
3 For my mean Pen are too superior things;
4 Or how they all, or each their dates have run,
5 Let Poets and Historians set these forth.
6 My obscure lines shall not so dim their worth.
7 But when my wond'ring eyes and envious heart 8 Great Bartas' sugar'd lines do but read o'er, 9 Fool, I do grudge the Muses did not part 10 'Twixt him and me that over-fluent store.
11 A Bartas can do what a Bartas will 12 But simple I according to my skill.
13 From School-boy's tongue no Rhet'ric we expect, 14 Nor yet a sweet Consort from broken strings, 15 Nor perfect beauty where's a main defect.
16 My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings, 17 And this to mend, alas, no Art is able, 18 'Cause Nature made it so irreparable.
19 Nor can I, like that fluent sweet-tongued Greek 20 Who lisp'd at first, in future times speak plain.
21 By Art he gladly found what he did seek, 22 A full requital of his striving pain.
23 Art can do much, but this maxim's most sure: 24 A weak or wounded brain admits no cure.
25 I am obnoxious to each carping tongue 26 Who says my hand a needle better fits.
27 A Poet's Pen all scorn I should thus wrong, 28 For such despite they cast on female wits.
29 If what I do prove well, it won't advance, 30 They'll say it's stol'n, or else it was by chance.
31 But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild, 32 Else of our Sex, why feigned they those nine 33 And poesy made Calliope's own child? 34 So 'mongst the rest they placed the Arts divine, 35 But this weak knot they will full soon untie.
36 The Greeks did nought but play the fools and lie.
37 Let Greeks be Greeks, and Women what they are.
38 Men have precedency and still excel; 39 It is but vain unjustly to wage war.
40 Men can do best, and Women know it well.
41 Preeminence in all and each is yours; 42 Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.
43 And oh ye high flown quills that soar the skies, 44 And ever with your prey still catch your praise, 45 If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes, 46 Give thyme or Parsley wreath, I ask no Bays.
47 This mean and unrefined ore of mine 48 Will make your glist'ring gold but more

Written by Anne Bradstreet |

Deliverance from Another Sore Fit

 In my distress I sought the Lord 
When naught on earth could comfort give, 
And when my soul these things abhorred, 
Then, Lord, Thou said'st unto me, "Live.
" Thou knowest the sorrows that I felt; My plaints and groans were heard of Thee, And how in sweat I seemed to melt Thou help'st and Thou regardest me.
My wasted flesh Thou didst restore, My feeble loins didst gird with strength, Yea, when I was most low and poor, I said I shall praise Thee at length.
What shall I render to my God For all His bounty showed to me? Even for His mercies in His rod, Where pity most of all I see.
My heart I wholly give to Thee; O make it fruitful, faithful Lord.
My life shall dedicated be To praise in thought, in deed, in word.
Thou know'st no life I did require Longer than still Thy name to praise, Nor ought on earth worthy desire, In drawing out these wretched days.
Thy name and praise to celebrate, O Lord, for aye is my request.
O grant I do it in this state, And then with Thee, which is the best.