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Best Famous Anne Bradstreet Poems

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12
Written by Anne Bradstreet | Create an image from this poem

The Prologue

1

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 | Create an image from this poem

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 | Create an image from this poem

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 | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by Anne Bradstreet | Create an image from this poem

In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess Queen ELIZABETH

 Proem.
1.
1 Although great Queen, thou now in silence lie, 1.
2 Yet thy loud Herald Fame, doth to the sky 1.
3 Thy wondrous worth proclaim, in every clime, 1.
4 And so has vow'd, whilst there is world or time.
1.
5 So great's thy glory, and thine excellence, 1.
6 The sound thereof raps every human sense 1.
7 That men account it no impiety 1.
8 To say thou wert a fleshly Deity.
1.
9 Thousands bring off'rings (though out of date) 1.
10 Thy world of honours to accumulate.
1.
11 'Mongst hundred Hecatombs of roaring Verse, 1.
12 'Mine bleating stands before thy royal Hearse.
1.
13 Thou never didst, nor canst thou now disdain, 1.
14 T' accept the tribute of a loyal Brain.
1.
15 Thy clemency did yerst esteem as much 1.
16 The acclamations of the poor, as rich, 1.
17 Which makes me deem, my rudeness is no wrong, 1.
18 Though I resound thy greatness 'mongst the throng.
The Poem.
2.
1 No Ph{oe}nix Pen, nor Spenser's Poetry, 2.
2 No Speed's, nor Camden's learned History; 2.
3 Eliza's works, wars, praise, can e're compact, 2.
4 The World's the Theater where she did act.
2.
5 No memories, nor volumes can contain, 2.
6 The nine Olymp'ades of her happy reign, 2.
7 Who was so good, so just, so learn'd, so wise, 2.
8 From all the Kings on earth she won the prize.
2.
9 Nor say I more than truly is her due.
2.
10 Millions will testify that this is true.
2.
11 She hath wip'd off th' aspersion of her Sex, 2.
12 That women wisdom lack to play the Rex.
2.
13 Spain's Monarch sa's not so, not yet his Host: 2.
14 She taught them better manners to their cost.
2.
15 The Salic Law had not in force now been, 2.
16 If France had ever hop'd for such a Queen.
2.
17 But can you Doctors now this point dispute, 2.
18 She's argument enough to make you mute, 2.
19 Since first the Sun did run, his ne'er runn'd race, 2.
20 And earth had twice a year, a new old face; 2.
21 Since time was time, and man unmanly man, 2.
22 Come shew me such a Ph{oe}nix if you can.
2.
23 Was ever people better rul'd than hers? 2.
24 Was ever Land more happy, freed from stirs? 2.
25 Did ever wealth in England so abound? 2.
26 Her Victories in foreign Coasts resound? 2.
27 Ships more invincible than Spain's, her foe 2.
28 She rack't, she sack'd, she sunk his Armadoe.
2.
29 Her stately Troops advanc'd to Lisbon's wall, 2.
30 Don Anthony in's right for to install.
2.
31 She frankly help'd Franks' (brave) distressed King, 2.
32 The States united now her fame do sing.
2.
33 She their Protectrix was, they well do know, 2.
34 Unto our dread Virago, what they owe.
2.
35 Her Nobles sacrific'd their noble blood, 2.
36 Nor men, nor coin she shap'd, to do them good.
2.
37 The rude untamed Irish she did quell, 2.
38 And Tiron bound, before her picture fell.
2.
39 Had ever Prince such Counsellors as she? 2.
40 Her self Minerva caus'd them so to be.
2.
41 Such Soldiers, and such Captains never seen, 2.
42 As were the subjects of our (Pallas) Queen: 2.
43 Her Sea-men through all straits the world did round, 2.
44 Terra incognitæ might know her sound.
2.
45 Her Drake came laded home with Spanish gold, 2.
46 Her Essex took Cadiz, their Herculean hold.
2.
47 But time would fail me, so my wit would too, 2.
48 To tell of half she did, or she could do.
2.
49 Semiramis to her is but obscure; 2.
50 More infamy than fame she did procure.
2.
51 She plac'd her glory but on Babel's walls, 2.
52 World's wonder for a time, but yet it falls.
2.
53 Fierce Tomris (Cirus' Heads-man, Sythians' Queen) 2.
54 Had put her Harness off, had she but seen 2.
55 Our Amazon i' th' Camp at Tilbury, 2.
56 (Judging all valour, and all Majesty) 2.
57 Within that Princess to have residence, 2.
58 And prostrate yielded to her Excellence.
2.
59 Dido first Foundress of proud Carthage walls 2.
60 (Who living consummates her Funerals), 2.
61 A great Eliza, but compar'd with ours, 2.
62 How vanisheth her glory, wealth, and powers.
2.
63 Proud profuse Cleopatra, whose wrong name, 2.
64 Instead of glory, prov'd her Country's shame: 2.
65 Of her what worth in Story's to be seen, 2.
66 But that she was a rich Ægyptian Queen.
2.
67 Zenobia, potent Empress of the East, 2.
68 And of all these without compare the best 2.
69 (Whom none but great Aurelius could quell) 2.
70 Yet for our Queen is no fit parallel: 2.
71 She was a Ph{oe}nix Queen, so shall she be, 2.
72 Her ashes not reviv'd more Ph{oe}nix she.
2.
73 Her personal perfections, who would tell, 2.
74 Must dip his Pen i' th' Heliconian Well, 2.
75 Which I may not, my pride doth but aspire 2.
76 To read what others write and then admire.
2.
77 Now say, have women worth, or have they none? 2.
78 Or had they some, but with our Queen is't gone? 2.
79 Nay Masculines, you have thus tax'd us long, 2.
80 But she, though dead, will vindicate our wrong.
2.
81 Let such as say our sex is void of reason 2.
82 Know 'tis a slander now, but once was treason.
2.
83 But happy England, which had such a Queen, 2.
84 O happy, happy, had those days still been, 2.
85 But happiness lies in a higher sphere.
2.
86 Then wonder not, Eliza moves not here.
2.
87 Full fraught with honour, riches, and with days, 2.
88 She set, she set, like Titan in his rays.
2.
89 No more shall rise or set such glorious Sun, 2.
90 Until the heaven's great revolution: 2.
91 If then new things, their old form must retain, 2.
92 Eliza shall rule Albian once again.
Her Epitaph.
3.
1 Here sleeps T H E Queen, this is the royal bed 3.
2 O' th' Damask Rose, sprung from the white and red, 3.
3 Whose sweet perfume fills the all-filling air, 3.
4 This Rose is withered, once so lovely fair: 3.
5 On neither tree did grow such Rose before, 3.
6 The greater was our gain, our loss the more.
Another.
4.
1 Here lies the pride of Queens, pattern of Kings: 4.
2 So blaze it fame, here's feathers for thy wings.
4.
3 Here lies the envy'd, yet unparallel'd Prince, 4.
4 Whose living virtues speak (though dead long since).
4.
5 If many worlds, as that fantastic framed, 4.
6 In every one, be her great glory famed
Written by Anne Bradstreet | Create an image from this poem

The Flesh and the Spirit

 In secret place where once I stood
Close by the Banks of Lacrim flood,
I heard two sisters reason on
Things that are past and things to come.
One Flesh was call'd, who had her eye On worldly wealth and vanity; The other Spirit, who did rear Her thoughts unto a higher sphere.
'Sister,' quoth Flesh, 'what liv'st thou on Nothing but Meditation? Doth Contemplation feed thee so Regardlessly to let earth go? Can Speculation satisfy Notion without Reality? Dost dream of things beyond the Moon And dost thou hope to dwell there soon? Hast treasures there laid up in store That all in th' world thou count'st but poor? Art fancy-sick or turn'd a Sot To catch at shadows which are not? Come, come.
I'll show unto thy sense, Industry hath its recompence.
What canst desire, but thou maist see True substance in variety? Dost honour like? Acquire the same, As some to their immortal fame; And trophies to thy name erect Which wearing time shall ne'er deject.
For riches dost thou long full sore? Behold enough of precious store.
Earth hath more silver, pearls, and gold Than eyes can see or hands can hold.
Affects thou pleasure? Take thy fill.
Earth hath enough of what you will.
Then let not go what thou maist find For things unknown only in mind.
' pirit.
'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 | Create an image from this poem

In Reference to Her Children

 I had eight birds hatched in one nest,
Four cocks there were, and hens the rest.
I nursed them up with pain and care, Nor cost, nor labour did I spare, Till at the last they felt their wing, Mounted the trees, and learned to sing; Chief of the brood then took his flight To regions far and left me quite.
My mournful chirps I after send, Till he return, or I do end: Leave not thy nest, thy dam and sire, Fly back and sing amidst this choir.
My second bird did take her flight, And with her mate flew out of sight; Southward they both their course did bend, And seasons twain they there did spend, Till after blown by southern gales, They norward steered with filled sails.
A prettier bird was no where seen, Along the beach among the treen.
I have a third of colour white, On whom I placed no small delight; Coupled with mate loving and true, Hath also bid her dam adieu; And where Aurora first appears, She now hath perched to spend her years.
One to the academy flew To chat among that learned crew; Ambition moves still in his breast That he might chant above the rest Striving for more than to do well, That nightingales he might excel.
My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone, Is 'mongst the shrubs and bushes flown, And as his wings increase in strength, On higher boughs he'll perch at length.
My other three still with me nest, Until they're grown, then as the rest, Or here or there they'll take their flight, As is ordained, so shall they light.
If birds could weep, then would my tears Let others know what are my fears Lest this my brood some harm should catch, And be surprised for want of watch, Whilst pecking corn and void of care, They fall un'wares in fowler's snare, Or whilst on trees they sit and sing, Some untoward boy at them do fling, Or whilst allured with bell and glass, The net be spread, and caught, alas.
Or lest by lime-twigs they be foiled, Or by some greedy hawks be spoiled.
O would my young, ye saw my breast, And knew what thoughts there sadly rest, Great was my pain when I you fed, Long did I keep you soft and warm, And with my wings kept off all harm, My cares are more and fears than ever, My throbs such now as 'fore were never.
Alas, my birds, you wisdom want, Of perils you are ignorant; Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight, Sore accidents on you may light.
O to your safety have an eye, So happy may you live and die.
Meanwhile my days in tunes I'll spend, Till my weak lays with me shall end.
In shady woods I'll sit and sing, And things that past to mind I'll bring.
Once young and pleasant, as are you, But former toys (no joys) adieu.
My age I will not once lament, But sing, my time so near is spent.
And from the top bough take my flight Into a country beyond sight, Where old ones instantly grow young, And there with seraphims set song; No seasons cold, nor storms they see; But spring lasts to eternity.
When each of you shall in your nest Among your young ones take your rest, In chirping language, oft them tell, You had a dam that loved you well, That did what could be done for young, And nursed you up till you were strong, And 'fore she once would let you fly, She showed you joy and misery; Taught what was good, and what was ill, What would save life, and what would kill.
Thus gone, amongst you I may live, And dead, yet speak, and counsel give: Farewell, my birds, farewell adieu, I happy am, if well with you.
Written by Anne Bradstreet | Create an image from this poem

Spirit

 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 | Create an image from this poem

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 | Create an image from this poem

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.
12