Anne Bradstreet - Biography and Works

Anne Bradstreet was the first poet in America to publish a volume of poetry. 'The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up' in America was published in England in 1650. This book is generally considered the first book of original poetry written in colonial America. Through it she asserted the right of women to learning and expressing of thought. Although some of Bradstreet's verses are conventional, much of it is direct and shows sensitivity to beauty.

Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)

Bradstreet was born in Northampton, England. She was a daughter of Thomas Dudley, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and in 1628 she married Simon Bradstreet, who later became governor of the colony. A housewife with eight children, she was also the first important poet in the American colonies. Bradstreet lived in England until 1630, when at the age of 18 she arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where she spent the rest of her life. Although Bradstreet wrote many poems on familiar British remarkable works responded directly to her experiences in colonial New England. They reveal her attraction to her new world, even as the discomforts of life in the wilderness sickened her. Her poetry contains a muted declaration of independence from the past and a challenge to authority. Bradstreet’s most deeply felt poetry concerns the arduous life of the early settlers, and her work provides an excellent view of the difficulties she and her fellow colonists encountered. She wrote several poems in response to the early deaths of her grandchildren, and her Contemplations (1678) explore her place in the natural world. Bradstreet also used her poetry to examine her religious struggles; she was unable to embrace Calvinism completely. “The Flesh and the Spirit” (1678) describes the conflict she felt between living a pleasant life and living a Christian life, and “Meditations Divine and Moral” (1867) recounts to her children her doubts about Puritanism. Although Bradstreet addressed broad and universal themes, she is remembered best for her body of evocative poems that provide intimate glimpses into the home life of inhabitants of colonial New England. Though Bradstreet is generally called a puritan, her instincts were to love this world more than the promised next world of Puritan theology. Most Puritan poets saw the purpose of poetry as a careful Christian examination of their lives. But Bradstreet’s poetry dramatizes a tension between the material and the otherworldly, her attachment with beauty and comfort and her desire to live a pious life and prepare for the next. Anne Bradstreet is not a great poet, but she did become a unique she wrote lyrical poetry about the things closest and dearest to her- her home, family, and god.

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