Anne Bradstreet struggled with illness throughout her life. She contracted smallpox when she was still a child living in England, and she nearly died from the disease.
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A few years later, she fell ill after months of poor nutrition and difficult living conditions after her arrival in Massachusetts. The overall mood of this is poem is despair, bordering on anger. She goes from questioning God in the beginning, screaming at him in the middle, to finally accepting that he has heard her voice and has healed her at the close.
He took her out of the pit she was in and ends this poem by praising him for it. You might question why something like this has happened. Bradstreet also spends a great deal of time listing her symptoms and bodily suffering. The end of disease likewise is cause for celebration.
In fact, our modern perception of Puritans as sexless, emotionless, infinitely pious beings was a Victorian invention. Perhaps it stems from Victorian morality and a kinship they saw with the Puritans as a result of that sort of social behavior, but nonetheless, that depiction endured, and has seeped into our modern views.
Looking back, before the Victorians filtered the Puritans through their eyes, you will realize that the Puritans were real people, with real emotions and desires. If ever two were one, then surely we. If ever man were loved by wife, then thee; If ever wife was happy in a man, Compare with me ye women if you can.
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I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold, Or all the riches that the East doth hold. My love is such that rivers cannot quench, Nor ought but love from thee give recompense. Thy love is such I can no way repay; The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray. In , at the age of sixteen, Anne Dudley married twenty-five year old Simon Bradstreet. Shortly thereafter, in , the Bradstreets set off on a three month journey aboard The Arbella to settle in the New World. The journey was rough, and did not exactly fall into our twenty first-century ideas of a happy honeymoon for the young couple.
O strange effect! Where ever, ever stay, and go not thence, Till natures sad decree shall call thee hence; Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone, I here, thou there, yet both but one. The emotions Anne puts down on the page are ones of someone who is deeply in love. Although the Puritans had different ideals about life than the majority of us do today, Anne Bradstreet helps us find the connections over time that may not be immediately apparent. Today, love is widely considered essential for marriage.
The Puritans felt similarly, however, the order of operations was reversed—marrying for love is a newer concept. The Puritans saw love as essential to a marital union, but it was not the reason for it. Marriage was meant for security, community, and procreation—love is what came after. Despite the love and devotion Puritans often felt for their spouses, it was common practice for Puritans to remarry quickly after their spouse died.beturete.tk
Deliverance from a Fit of Fainting
Anne Bradstreet died in , and Simon remarried a woman named Ann Gardner in As far as I have looked, I have not been able to find a single reference to Anne in his writing after her death. Anne and Simon had eight children together. Although Simon was away for long periods of time during their marriage, in the loving manner Anne writes about him, it is clear that the two had a happy union. Hensley, Jeannine, et al.
Love and Marriage Among the Puritans. Robinson, Christy K. A Puritan Valentine. Rogers, Alexander Zane. Woodlief, Ann.
Biography of Anne Bradstreet. A few years after her arrival in Massachusetts, Bradstreet fell very ill with a fever and believed that there was a strong chance that this disease would end her life. Her embrace of death at a young age might seem surprising for twenty-first century readers, but it was perhaps a more common attitude among seventeenth-century teenagers who were surrounded by death so much. Medicine and healthcare in the seventeenth-century were so poor that when someone got sick with even a common illness, survival rates were very low and people became normalized to death.
For me, this poem makes life seem quite trivial. This depressing acceptance of death continues throughout the poem, suggesting that nothing we do really matters and at the end of the day we all just die anyways so who really cares. She was able to turn to poetry in her darkest hours and create something special. This was the first extant poem that she wrote in her career and this lead to a lot more poetic success for the rest of her life.
O bubble blast, how long can'st last? As Flesh covets greed and material wealth, Spirit hopes to reap greater rewards in the afterlife. In secret place where once I stood Close by the Banks of Lacrim flood, I heard two sisters reason on Things that are past and things to come. One Flesh was call'd, who had her eye On worldly wealth and vanity; The other Spirit, who did rear Her thoughts unto a higher sphere.
What is most interesting to me about this move is that she represents her characters as females, and in particular in this poem, as twin sisters.
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This move—allowing women to represent universal human concerns—subverts conventional ideas of representation in literary works. Traditionally, males are often depicted as embodiments of powerful entities like gods or elements, and when women are present, they are often lesser gods or entities who suffer dominance under masculine powers. By representing the Earth and the Heavens as females, Bradstreet highlights the importance of femininity in universal beings and truths.
British Library The conflict between these two female speakers is intense, as they represent two opposite ideals. Flesh is presented as a vain and base being, much like the Devil sent to corrupt Adam and Eve. The hidden Manna I do eat; The word of life, it is my meat. My thoughts do yield me more content Than can thy hours in pleasure spent.
Flesh is treated not only as Earth and human desire but as sin itself, which, in turn, reflects the idea that humanity and Earth are evils to be combated by the spirit. Perhaps this idea seems so extreme to me because I do not share the same religious zeal as Bradstreet did, but her character of Spirit appears adamantly antagonistic to the world and its people. While Flesh is perhaps too greedy and materialistically obsessed, I wonder if Bradstreet meant for us to find a flaw in Spirit, who seems to have no faith or belief in humans and the Earth.
While it can easily be argued that our Earth has experienced many horrible tragedies and humans can act quite sinfully, it also can be argued that our world has given us many beautiful wonders, such as poetry, nature, and human relationships. From sickness and infirmity Forevermore they shall be free.
Nor withering age shall e're come there, But beauty shall be bright and clear. This City pure is not for thee, For things unclean there shall not be. If I of Heav'n may have my fill, Take thou the world, and all that will. The Bradstreet Fellows have a new series of blog posts to help you through the short days and cold nights. Dakota teases out the promises and pitfalls of such a formulation. As this series suggests, Bradstreet was often sick--she contracted smallpox while still in England; shortly after her arrival in Massachusetts, she suffered a severe fever.
As Bobby, Daniel, and Emma illustrate, Bradstreet understood illness as a lesson from God, and saw a correlation between sickness and her spiritual wrongs. Our next three posts take us out of the sickbed and into a world of unexpected connections. As it turns out, this mystery singer comes from a long line of musicians who have been serenading audiences in and around our corner of Massachusetts for centuries.
Finally, Rochelle Brothers reflects on her multi-sensory experience of the archive. Stay tuned for more information! As a resident of Peabody, I have been to Salem frequently. I even remember taking a field trip to the Witch House when I was in elementary school. So, when we visited the house for the play, a wave of nostalgia hit as soon as I saw the various rooms: they were very similar to what I remember from that field trip.
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