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Anne Bradstreet

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Essay title: Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet was not only the first English-speaking, North American poet, but she was also the first American, woman poet to have her works published. In 1650, without her knowledge, Bradstreet’s brother-in-law had many of her poems published in a collection called The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America. Although these poems did not reflect what would be her best work, they did emulate what would be the greatest influence on all of her writing. Anne Bradstreet’s Puritan life was the strongest, and the most obvious influence on her work. Whether it was her reason for writing, how she wrote, or what she wrote about, Bradstreet’s poems would reflect the influence of Puritan life and doctrine.

Although there is very little information about Anne Bradstreet’s earlier life, we do know that she was born in 1612, probably in Northampton, England. Anne grew up in the Earl of Lincoln’s home, which was a very distinguished household with an extensive library. Her father Thomas Dudley, who handled many of the Earl’s affairs, encouraged his daughter’s education. Also serving as a steward to the Earl of Lincoln was Anne’s future husband, Simon Bradstreet. Both men were well educated, prominent people who would carry their knowledge and influence to the New World (Piercy 18).

In 1628 Anne and Simon were married. Two years later Thomas Dudley and the Bradstreets began their three month journey to New England on the Arbella (Piercy 18). The purpose of their journey was to arrive in a new world where they could practice and teach their puritan doctrine. The new colony was perfect for their simplified religion due to the lack of traditions that were already established in England.

Here begins the influence of the Puritan life on Anne’s work. Christian Doctrine became the only topic that was acceptable for people to write about. It was used to educate and persuade the colonies to worship and honor God. Many Puritans kept journals and diaries as a history of God’s work among the colonies. The available readings contained moral lessons all established by Puritan leaders, or the church. In the article “Puritan Poetry: Public or Private” the author explains the aim of public poems is to present, confirm, and glorify the cause. It also suggests that the concerns of public poetry are divine and political, which are not separate according to the Puritans (Salska 119). This describes the intentions of the Puritans published reading. It was used to establish and enforce Puritan doctrine.

Anne Bradstreet’s poems also had these intentions. Although she did not intend for her poetry to be published, she shared her work with family and friends for these same reasons. She wanted to present to them the truths in her own life, that they may take these truths as their own. Anne writes to her children that her intention for writing is not “to show my skill, but to declare the truth, not set forth myself, but the glory of God.” (Doriani 54). In Anne’s personal journal she often tells her children how she has turned to God in times of suffering and conflict. She hopes that they will imitate her actions and feel the rewards. Many of her later works are personal stories, written so her children might “gain some spiritual advantage” (Piercy 35).

As a Puritan woman Anne’s largest purpose in writing was to glorify God (Doriani 57). This would strongly influence the topics, subjects, and situations that Anne wrote about.

Writing to enlighten her Puritan family and society also influenced how Anne wrote. Since Anne was writing to declare the truth, she also wanted what she wrote to be learned and remembered. Anne grew up listening and singing the Psalms. The Bay Psalms Book is Sternhold and Hopkin’s translation of the Psalms. Doriani, author of Bradstreet and the Psalms Tradition declares that all but two of Anne’s Andover Manuscript poems are in two of the most common meters of the Bay Psalms Book: common meter and long meter. They also imitate the Psalms with metrical regularity and simple rhyme schemes (abab and abcb) (Doriani 56).

Compare the examples below. Both sound reasonably similar.

Psalms 21: My Dear Husbands Safe Arrival:

The Lord to mee a shepheard is, What did I ask for but Thou gav’st?

want therefore shall not I. What could I more desire?

The metrical regularity and the rhyme schemes in her poems made them easy to remember. Therefore, the lessons of her poetry would not easily be forgotten. Imitating the Psalms was a way of using what she and the other Puritans already knew, to construct more lessons that could be taught and memorized.

The Bible also influenced the vocabulary

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