A Christian Poet
Good afternoon. I hope you all are doing well and are having a good week thus far. This is the first Christian biography blog I have written, and it wasn’t even originally designed as a blog. (The inspiration for this actually came from my Literature class’s Poet Paper assignment.) This Christian Poet Biographical Sketch may become a regular (like monthly or quarterly) installment to my blog, but I honestly don’t know. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. If you prefer me to stick to what I’ve been doing, I will do so gladly; but if you happen to like this post, please let me know by taking the poll at the bottom of this post so I will know whether I should write another Christian biography blog post for next month (or whenever).
Since this was originally a class assignment, I do have source citations, which are located at the bottom. Many of them are websites that you can access for more exhaustive information on this post’s featured Christian Poet, Anne Bradstreet.
Deemed “America’s first poet,” Anne Bradstreet lived a life of suffering (Harvard Square Library online). She was born to Thomas Dudley, the steward of the Earl of Lincoln, in 1612, but her life of luxury ended with her crossing of the Atlantic with other Puritans in 1630. Thenceforth, her life would be the life of a pioneer, both literally and figuratively. A revolutionary female in a patriarchal society, Anne Bradstreet would overcome illness, loneliness, and frustrations with society to become America’s first female poet.
Comfort and doting love marked Bradstreet’s formative years in England. Her father’s wealth afforded her a rare education; Mr. Dudley himself taught his daughter “literature and history in Greek, Latin, French, Hebrew, as well as English” (Woodlief online). Mr. Dudley certainly raised young Anne in “elegant and literate estates” (Foerster 30). During this time, then-Miss Dudley met her future husband, Simon Bradstreet; Mr. Dudley had taken charge of Simon upon the death of Simon’s father (Anne Bradstreet Biography). In 1628, when Anne was 16 and Simon was 25, Anne Dudley became Anne Bradstreet. The love of the two newlyweds, however, would not prevent the years of hardship to come.
Two years into their marriage, the Bradstreets sailed with John Winthrop, the Dudleys, and other Puritans to Massachusetts. There, the Puritans established New Towne, which would later become Cambridge (Harvard Square Library online). The harsh environment aggravated Mrs. Bradstreet’s weakened immune system—she had contracted smallpox earlier in life—and afflicted her with illness (Anne Bradstreet Biography). Anne’s frail health, though, did not overcome—though it did waver—her faith in God. In response to her “new world,” Mrs. Bradstreet’s “heart rose” in protestation, but after she found it to be “the way of God”—even though that way entailed further suffering in addition to illness—her faith triumphed over her doubt-casting illness (Foerster 30-31).
In addition to illness, Mrs. Bradstreet also battled loneliness. Winthrop and Dudley, respectively the governor and deputy governor of Massachusetts Bay, appointed Mr. Bradstreet as Chief-Administrator upon their arrival to the colony. (Bradstreet would later succeed his two elders as governor.) Mr. Bradstreet’s administrative and later gubernatorial duties would subsequently require him to leave his wife for days at a time. While Mr. Bradstreet was in Boston handling colonial affairs, Mrs. Bradstreet would be at her rural Ipswich and Andover homes raising eight children in solitude. To occupy herself, Anne began to write poems “primarily for herself, her family, and her friends” (Woodlief online). Her brother-in-law, however, copied her earliest poems and published them in England without her knowledge (Foerster 30). This was the only published book of her poems published in her lifetime; her other, more original and more popular poems were published posthumously.
These poems were published posthumously because of religious pressure. Bradstreet wrote once, “any woman who sought to use her wit, charm, or intelligence in the community at large found herself ridiculed, banished, or executed by the Colony’s powerful group of male leaders. … even deriving her ideas of God from the contemplations of her husband’s excellencies” (Woodlief online). Mrs. Bradstreet’s secrecy is also explained by her inevitable knowledge of the brazenness of Anne Hutchinson, a contemporary of Bradstreet (Woodlief online). The poems not published in her lifetime were more personal (and risky) than the poems published in Tenth Muse. Therefore, her beloved husband—who, despite his frequent absences, was a subject and even the intended audience for some of Bradstreet’s poems—and a few close friends were the only ones privileged to read the poems before Bradstreet’s death in 1672 (Woodlief online and Puritan Woman).
Anne Bradstreet lived within her time: she worked within the Puritan rule of law, rather than outside it, as Anne Hutchinson did. Silenced by the Puritan patriarchy, Bradstreet chose silent penmanship rather than open confrontation. As a good Christian wife and mother, she submitted herself to those roles and even delighted in them (Woodlief online). In fact, some of Bradstreet’s most popular and best poems are those that depict her domestic life (Foerster 36). Although illness, loneliness, and a patriarchal society all opposed Anne Bradstreet, she rose above those obstacles in an age of male dominance to become America’s first female poet. Without (modern liberal) feminism, Anne Bradstreet found her worth in her faith, in her God. It is not amazing that Anne Bradstreet wrote beautiful poetry when “carping tongue[s]” said her “hand a needle better fits” (Puritan Woman). Rather, it is amazing that Anne Bradstreet wrote beautiful poetry despite—no, because of—what many would view as the limitations of being a Christian wife and mother.
Anne Bradstreet Biography. 6 February 2010 <http://www.annebradstreet.com/anne_bradstreet_bio_001.htm.>
Foerster, Norman, Editor. American Poetry and Prose Complete, Fifth Edition. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Harvard Square Library. ANNE BRADSTREET. 6 February 2010 <http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/poets/bradstreet.php.>
Shade, Rose. Puritan Woman. 6 February 2010 <http://www.csun.edu/~hceng029/thebest/shadepuritan.html>.
Woodlief, Ann. Biography of Anne Bradstreet. 6 February 2010 <http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/webtexts/Bradstreet/bradbio.htm>.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband”
“The Vanity of All Worldly Things”
Her Father’s Epitaph
“For Deliverance From A Fever”
“In Reference to Her Children”
The above poems can all be accessed on the Internet.
God bless you all! I hope you have enjoyed the post—be sure to take the poll below so I can have an idea of whether I should write about another Christian poet or not!
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