... 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 Bradstreet began their three month journey to New England on the Arabella (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 Stern hold 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 (a bab and abc b) (Doriani 56).
Compare the examples below. Both sound reasonably similar. Psalms 21: My Dear Husbands Safe Arrival: The Lord to me a shepherd is, What did I ask for but Thou gave " 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 that Anne used in her writing. For instance, she refers to God as "light", "strength", "shelter", and "shadow." All of these images can be found in many of the psalms.
She uses expressions such as "paying vows" and "rendering praises" (Doriani 57). Because of Anne's knowledge of the Bible, she transferred many of the images, vocabulary, and expressions that Puritans were familiar with into her own works. Being a Female Puritan also influenced how Anne wrote. Perry Miller explains it perfectly when he writes, "women who stepped beyond their domestic confines through literature, by reading or writing, were considered dangerous to themselves and society... Puritans expressed considerable scorn for women who wrote or published" (Blackstock 223).
Anne was fully aware of this scorn and used techniques in her writing to get around this. In Anne's early poems she closely imitates Du Bartas and Sir Walter Raleigh. These poems have a very masculine voice. To gain acceptance in the public, Anne may have felt that she needed to portray this voice that was not her own. The subject matters of these early poems are history, medicine, nature, and current events. All which stay far away from controversial ideas.
Since Anne closely imitates these men, if people reject her poems, they are also rejecting Du Bartas and Raleigh. "The Author to Her Book" is an example of how Anne rejects herself as a successful poet and apologizes for her work. By the end of the poem she portrays herself as a mother, which is what society sees as a more acceptable role for her. Anne frequently professes her inability as a poet in her poems about Du Bartas.
She explains that she can not even be compared to him, for she will never succeed in writing like him (Blackstock 238). Being a female in the Puritan world would not only affect how Anne wrote, but what she wrote about. Most of her poetry reflected her deep faith and commitment to God while discussing personal subjects like childbirth, loneliness in her husband's absence, death of family members, and illness. Two themes that reveal themselves in many of Anne's poems are thanksgiving and trust in God (Doriani 62). Puritans believed that everything that happened in life had some spiritual meaning. If one experienced any misfortune it came from God.
Anne wrote to her children, "If at anytime you are chastened of God, take it as thankfully and joyfully as in greatest mercies, for if ye be his, ye shall reap the greatest benefit by it" (Piercy 36). Most of Anne's thanksgiving poems are because God has removed some suffering in her life. In "Deliverance from a Fit of Fainting" Anne writes, "Worthy art Thou, O Lord, of praise." She continues the poem with reasons for her praise, and concludes with "Why should I live but to Thy praise" (Doriani 64). Anne also writes many poems that demonstrate her trust in God. While she is asking for help, she believes that God will hear her call.
In "Upon My Dear and Loving Husband" Anne writes, "O thou Most High who rules all/ and hear " st the prayers of thine/ O hearken, Lord, unto my suit/ And my petition sign." She continues with describing her and her husband's obedience to God, and reminds God of his responsibility to both (Doriani 65). Although Puritan females did not play an important role in public life, they did have important responsibilities in their private lives that were mandated by God. These responsibilities portray themselves in Anne's work. Anne portrays this in demonstrating her feeling of responsibility to her children and husband. She wanted to reflect a life to them that would keep them on the path of God for she considered herself her families's spiritual guidance.
Ultimately being a Puritan was the greatest influence on Anne Bradstreet's writing. It was the responsibilities of a Puritan woman that drove her to write, the Puritan culture she lived in that conformed how she wrote, and the Puritan doctrines she truly believed in that molded her thoughts into what she wrote about. Works Cited Blackstock, Carrie. "Anne Bradstreet and Performa tivity Self-Cultivation, Self-Deployment." Early American Literature 32 (1997): 223-247. Doriani, Beth. "Then Have I...
Said With David: Anne Bradstreet's Andover Manuscript Poems and the Influence of the Psalms Tradition." Early American Literature 24 (1989): 52-69. Piercy, Josephine K. Anne Bradstreet. New York: T wayne Publishing, 1965. Salska, Agnieszka. "Puritan Poetry: Public and Private" Early American Literature 19 (1984): 114-119.
White, Elizabeth W. Anne Bradstreet. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971. White, Peter.
Puritan Poets and Poetics. PA: The Pennsylvania State University, 1985.