Expansive Poetry & Music Online Classic Reprint

Two by
Anne Bradstreet

She is described by many critics as the first female professional writer in America. Born in England shortly before the death of Shakespeare, Anne Bradstreet lived and worked at about the same time as Milton, but lived in America for most of her life. She published one collection in her lifetime, from which the following are both drawn:


                          by Anne Bradstreet             



     SOME time now past in the Autumnal Tide,                               

          When Phoebus wanted but one hour to bed,                          

     The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,                          

          Were gilded o'er by his rich golden head.                         

     Their leaves and fruits seem'd painted, but was true                   

     Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hue,                                

     Rapt were my senses at this delectable view.                           


     I wist not what to wish, yet sure, thought I,                          

          If so much excellence abide below,                                

     How excellent is He that dwells on high!                               

          Whose power and beauty by his works we know;                      

     Sure he is goodness, wisdom, glory, light,                             

     That hath this underworld so richly dight:                             

     More Heaven than Earth was here, no winter and no night.               


     Then on a stately oak I cast mine eye,                                 

          Whose ruffling top the clouds seem'd to aspire;                   

     How long since thou wast in thine infancy?                             

          Thy strength, and stature, more thy years admire;                 

     Hath hundred winters past since thou wast born,                        

     Or thousand since thou breakest thy shell of horn?                     

     If so, all these as naught Eternity doth scorn.                        


     Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz'd,                             

           Whose beams was shaded by the leafy tree;                         

     The more I look'd, the more I grew amaz'd,                             

          And softly said, what glory's like to thee?                       

     Soul of this world, this Universe's eye,                               

     No wonder, some made thee a Deity:                                     

     Had I not better known (alas), the same had I.                         


     Thou as a bridegroom from thy chamber rushes,                          

          And, as a strong man, joys to run a race;                         

     The morn doth usher thee, with smiles and blushes,                     

          The Earth reflects her glances in thy face.                       

     Birds, insects, animals with vegetive,                                 

     Thy heart from death and dulness doth revive:                          

     And in the darksome womb of fruitful nature dive.                      


     Thy swift annual, and diurnal course,                                  

          Thy daily straight, and yearly oblique path,                      

     Thy pleasing fervor, and thy scorching force,                          

          All mortals here the feeling knowledge hath.                      

     Thy presence makes it day, thy absence night,                          

     Quaternal Seasons caused by thy might:                                 

     Hail creature, full of sweetness, beauty and delight.                  


     Art thou so full of glory, that no eye                                 

          Hath strength, thy shining rays once to behold?                   

     And is thy splendid throne erect so high,                              

          As to approach it, can no earthly mould?                          

     How full of glory then must thy Creator be,                            

     Who gave this bright light lustre unto thee!                           

     Admir'd, ador'd forever, be that Majesty....                           


     I heard the merry grasshopper then sing,                               

          The black-clad cricket bear a second part,                        

     They kept one tune, and played on the same string,                     

          Seeming to glory in their little art.                             

     Shall creatures abject thus their voices raise?                        

     And in their kind resound their Maker's praise:                        

     Whilst I, as mute, can warble forth no higher lays....                 


     When I behold the heavens as in their prime,                           

          And then the earth (though old) still clad in green,              

     The stones and trees, insensible of time,                              

          Nor age nor wrinkle on their front are seen;                      

     If winter come, and greenness then do fade,                            

     A Spring returns, and they more youthful made;                         

     But Man grows old, lies down, remains where once he's laid.            


     By birth more noble than those creatures all,                          

          Yet seems by nature and by custom curs'd,                         

     No sooner born, but grief and care makes fall                          

          That state obliterate he had at first:                            

     Nor youth, nor strength, nor wisdom spring again,                      

     Nor habitations long their names retain,                               

     But in oblivion to the final day remain....                            


     O Time, the fatal wrack of mortal things,                              

          That draws oblivion's curtains over kings,                        

     Their sumptuous monuments, men know them not,                          

          Their names without a record are forgot,                          

     Their parts, their ports, their pomp's all laid in th' dust,           

     Nor wit nor gold, nor buildings 'scape time's rust;                    

     But he whose name is grav'd in the white stone                         

     Shall last and shine when all of these are gone.                       


                        Of the Four Ages of Man

                          by Anne Bradstreet                                 




          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."                      



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