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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: Family Time with Anne Bradstreet

March 7, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, history, ponderings, women

Here I am with daughter Morgan this week on the Buzz Lightyear ride at Walt Disney World. Are we both intent on hitting those targets (and beating each other's score) or what?!

In a roundabout way, I’m celebrating International Women’s Day along with our lovely and talented Poetry Friday host today, Heidi Mordhorst .

This week I got to spend cherished time with the two women I’m closest to in life – my mother, Nita Morgan (Hi, Mom!) and my daughter, Morgan. Morgan is home for spring break from college, and we travelled to Florida for my niece’s wedding. (Left hubby and son here to keep the fort.)

While at my folks’ house, Morgan and I bunked together in the guestroom. It was cold – and I don’t mean just “Oh, those Florida people think anything below 70 degrees is cold,” I mean it really was nippy with wild winds while we were there. So we added a quilt made by my grandmother to the top of our cozy bed. Another generation, another family layer. My mother’s mother died before Morgan was born, but they would have loved each other.

I wanted to find some appropriate poem to share today – something the relationships of mothers and children. Anne Bradstreet sprang to mind.

You remember Anne (1612-1672).... She came over in the Arabella in 1630 with husband Simon and the Winthrop contingent. She’s intrigued me for years. Very well educated, and – gasp! – a writer. Yet unlike her friend Anne Hutchinson whose outspoken views got her banished, Anne Bradstreet managed to remain in the community, raising eight children and writing when she could. (Jeannine Atkins has a marvelous picture book about Anne Hutchinson, by the way.)

Bradstreet didn’t seek publication, though her brother-in-law had her some of her poetry published (the story goes without her knowledge) in England in 1650, in a collection called The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America (1650). The rest of her publications came posthumously.

She wrote of her family and her faith with sincere devotion and in the midst of the grueling challenges of those early years in the colonies, and personal health woes and trials as well.

Here are the opening lines of
“In Reference to her Children”

I had eight birds hatcht in one nest,
Four Cocks were there, and Hens the rest.
I nurst them up with pain and care,
No cost nor labour did I spare
Till at the last they felt their wing,
Mounted the Trees and learned to sing.
Chief of the Brood then took his flight
To Regions far and left me quite.
My mournful chirps I after send
Till he return, or I do end.
Leave not thy nest, thy Dame and Sire,
Fly back and sing amidst this Quire.
My second bird did take her flight
And with her mate flew out of sight.
Southward they both their course did bend,
And Seasons twain they there did spend,
Till after blown by Southern gales
They Norward steer'd with filled sails.
A prettier bird was no where seen,
Along the Beach, among the treen.

She continues with thoughts about each child.
And, toward the end:

When each of you shall in your nest
Among your young ones take your rest,
In chirping languages oft them tell
You had a Dame that lov'd you well, …

Read the rest of the poem here. (And learn more about Anne Dudley Bradstreet here and here and here.)

While I admire Bradstreet’s devotion to family and her spiritual life, I also relish the feminist-friendly notions she let seep through in her writing more than 350 years ago, such as these lines from “The Prologue”:

"I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong.
For such despite they cast on female wits:
If what I do prove well, it won't advance,
They'll say it's stol'n, or else it was by chance."

Pretty spunky for a Puritan woman, no? For more great poetry by female, as well as male, wits, sail on over to see Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.


  1. March 8, 2013 8:40 AM EST
    Thank you for sharing work by Anne Bradstreet today! I haven't read this poem before. I will also check out that book about Anne Hutchinson. (And I love family quilts! One day I will have to learn to make them so they can make their way to my future great grands.)
    - Tabatha
  2. March 8, 2013 9:54 AM EST
    Spunky indeed! :) e
    - elizabeth d
  3. March 8, 2013 10:11 AM EST
    Tabatha, thanks so much! I've made a couple of smaller quilts before, but like you, ought to tackle a large one so it could be passed down "to future great grands" to keep them warm.

    Hi, e - thanks for stopping by. Wonder how you and I would have fared in the 17th century? Hmmmmm....!
    - Robyn Black
  4. March 8, 2013 10:27 AM EST
    Who knew Puritans could be such spitfires?? Thanks for sharing, Robyn - I'd head of Anne Bradstreet, but was unfamiliar with her writing.
    - Matt Forrest
  5. March 8, 2013 10:43 AM EST
    What a wonderful post for International Women's Day! It was nice to hear Anne's voice today from centuries ago. Glad you included those lines from the Prologue to prove just how spunky she was. I do love Jeannine's book about Anne Hutchinson too. You've reminded me to read it again :).
    - jama
  6. March 8, 2013 11:32 AM EST
    Hi, Matt - Gotta love Anne Bradstreet! (I'll try to channel her spunk this next week in the tournie - mwah haa haaa.) ;0) Thanks for popping in!

    Jama, thanks. I'm glad you know Jeannine's book. Those illustrations by Michael Dooling are wonderful, too.
    - Robyn Black
  7. March 8, 2013 2:04 PM EST
    Love the picture of you and Morgan - beautiful! I am not familiar with Anne Bradstreet's poetry, but I am glad you introduced her today. I feel a kindred spirit to woman who are fiercely devoted to their children (and partners), but relish their creative independence. Thanks so much for sharing this today. Perfect post for International Women's Day! =)
    - Bridget Magee
  8. March 8, 2013 2:21 PM EST
    Loved the photo Robyn. Yes, you are a galactic hero--great role model for women. I enjoyed the Bradstreet poem. Thank you for sharing.
    - Joy Acey at
  9. March 8, 2013 3:18 PM EST
    Bridget, thanks for coming over! And to think A. Bradstreet pulled off that combination in 17th-Century Puritan New England... ;0)

    Hi, Joy! Ha ha - for a quick snap of the camera lens, I was a galactic hero! (Glad the universe doesn't depend upon my video-game coordination skills, though.) Thanks for always making me smile, and glad you liked the poem, too.
    - Robyn Black
  10. March 8, 2013 3:29 PM EST
    Thanks for sharing about Anne Bradstreet and your mom and daughter. You are so lucky. Hey, I know those winds they were there in January when I was in Florida.
    - jone
  11. March 8, 2013 3:49 PM EST
    Jone, thanks for dropping by! And yes - very, very fortunate, thanks. People don't think Florida can get chilly (and I often tease my mother when she says it might get in the 40s at night or something), but those winds will change your mind!
    - Robyn Black
  12. March 8, 2013 4:22 PM EST
    I love the picture of you and Morgan. You are both very focused! and I love the image of you both under your grandmother's quilt. Thanks for the Bradstreet poem. It's clearly time to go back and re-read her work. Like Bridget I feel a strong identification with her.
    - Liz
  13. March 8, 2013 6:24 PM EST
    When each of you shall in your nest
    Among your young ones take your rest,
    In chirping languages oft them tell
    You had a Dame that lov'd you well, …

    Truly a message to pass from generation to generation. Thanks for the introduction to this poet, Robyn...I, too , am referencing Jeannine's wonderful book - such an interesting period of time.
    - Tara
  14. March 8, 2013 6:41 PM EST
    Thanks, Liz - Glad to hear you're an Anne Bradstreet fan as well. :0)

    Hi, Tara - I just love those lines. Had to include them, even though they come toward the end of the poem. And Jeannine's book is one of my favorites for young readers about that time period.
    - Robyn Black
  15. March 8, 2013 8:36 PM EST
    Loved the poem, Robyn. It was a wonderful choice. By the way, you and your daughter look like sisters! Beautiful picture!
    - Anonymous
  16. March 8, 2013 9:07 PM EST
    Aww, thanks! (And of course that just SO made my day/night... ;0) )
    - Robyn Black
  17. March 9, 2013 4:13 AM EST
    Hi there lovely Robyn, the photograph, the quilt story, the layers and generations of brave strong women in your family as it links to all other women around the globe - is just strangely unifying. Brings all sisterhood together. The poem is striking, heartfelt, and filled with warmth. :) Happy International Women's Day! :)
    - Myra from GatheringBooks
  18. March 9, 2013 5:40 AM EST
    When you read Anne B, it seems astonishing that she came to us at all--not, presumably, that she was one of only a few women writing, but as you say, that she managed to do it (with a little subversion built in) and stay part of the mainstream. This is a wonderful post, Robyn, which goes in lots of directions at once and gracefully! I hope it was a wonderful time for all your generations.
    - Heidi Mordhorst
  19. March 9, 2013 8:01 AM EST
    Love the website re-design!

    And yes, those are some spunky words for a Puritan woman! You go, Girl!
    - Mary Lee Hahn
  20. March 9, 2013 11:40 AM EST
    Dear Myra - you're one of my favorite International Women! Thanks for visiting on a busy birthday weekend. I hope you are having a wonderful celebration!

    Heidi, thanks for hosting this week. Don't you just love Anne Bradstreet?! And thanks for the comments - alas, I'm always going in lots of directions at once... ;0)

    Thanks, Mary Lee! Glad you like the new look and the old but timely poem.
    - Robyn Black
  21. March 10, 2013 7:56 AM EDT
    What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your family stories and Bradstreet's poetry. Such a great way to celebrate women!
    - Andromeda Jazmon
  22. March 10, 2013 2:34 PM EDT
    Hi, Andi! Thanks so much - and Happy International Women's Day to you, too. :0)
    - Robyn Black

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