Anne Bradstreet

Wendy Martin and Danielle Hinrichs

in American Literature

ISBN: 9780199827251
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Anne Bradstreet

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In 1630, eighteen-year-old Anne Bradstreet joined her family, her new husband, and a large group of Puritan faithful on a harrowing three-month journey from Southampton, England, to New England. Bradstreet’s father and husband were prominent members of a Puritan community seeking freedom from persecution by the Church of England. Although she willingly joined her family, Bradstreet had reservations about leaving an English estate filled with books and opportunities to forge a new life in a wilderness that lacked adequate food, shelter, and safety. She later remarked, “[I] came into this country, where I found a new world and new manners, at which my heart rose. But after I was convinced it was the way of God, I submitted to it and joined the church at Boston” (Ellis 1867, p. 5, under Primary Works). Despite facing many illnesses, bearing eight children, and establishing herself within a hierarchical culture that considered women subservient to men, and men to God, Bradstreet became the first published author in the colonies. Her early poems engage historical and political themes and draw heavily from English and French literary sources. Most critics agree that her most powerful work comes in her later, more personal poems, where she speaks in a confident voice about her own experiences as a Puritan woman. In these poems, she conveys her love for her husband and her devastating grief at the loss of three young grandchildren. Two of her most acclaimed and highly anthologized poems demonstrate her pleasure in the world and her struggle to subordinate the natural world to the divine one. In “Verses upon the Burning of Our House, July 10, 1666,” Bradstreet conveys the tension between her worldly concerns and spiritual aspirations, seeking always to view affliction and tragedy as God’s beneficent corrections that lead the faithful to a permanent afterlife. In “Contemplations,” often considered Bradstreet’s finest poem, the poet sees in the natural world evidence of the divine and seeks to transcend the beauty of nature to embrace eternal joy. Within a restrictive culture that punished women for leaving the domestic sphere or questioning authority, Anne Bradstreet managed to assert a poetic voice, a powerful and eloquent voice that would inspire and influence American poets in her time and today.

Article.  10283 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (American)

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