Anne Bradstreet

The 17th century poet Anne Bradstreet was born in Northamptonshire, England, around 1612-13. She married in 1628 and emigrated to America when just 18 years old. She had eight children and wrote many of the poems that were eventually published after her brother-in-law took her manuscript back with him to England and had it printed without her knowledge. She was in fact the first North American to publish a book of poems. While she is outside the main Renaissance period, her poetry is based on the Renaissance style. 

As mentioned above, Bradstreet's poems were published in England without her knowledge. This poem reveals how she feels about this book of poetry once she has learned of its existence. 

 

The Author to Her Book

By Anne Bradstreet

 

books 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 the 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 runnest more hobbling than is meet; 
In better dress to trim thee was my mind, 
But nought save home-spun cloth, in the house I find. 
In this array, 'mongst vulgars mayst thou roam, 
In critics 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.

 

Tasks

  1. Identify the main metaphor that runs throughout the poem. 
  2. Find images that support this metaphor. 
  3. What do these images suggest about Bradstreet's attitude to her own work?
  4. Why do you think she wants to keep the book away from critics? 
  5. What happens when she tries to improve on her poems?
  6. What is the overall mood of the poem?