'In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659' by Anne Bradstreet
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I had eight birds hatched in one nest,
Four cocks there were, and hens the rest.
I nursed them up with pain and care,
Nor 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 dam and sire,
Fly back and sing amidst this choir.
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 steered with filled sails.
A prettier bird was no where seen,
Along the beach among the treen.
I have a third of colour white,
On whom I placed no small delight;
Coupled with mate loving and true,
Hath also bid her dam adieu;
And where Aurora first appears,
She now hath perched to spend her years.
One to the academy flew
To chat among that learned crew;
Ambition moves still in his breast
That he might chant above the rest
Striving for more than to do well,
That nightingales he might excel.
My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone,
Is 'mongst the shrubs and bushes flown,
And as his wings increase in strength,
On higher boughs he'll perch at length.
My other three still with me nest,
Until they're grown, then as the rest,
Or here or there they'll take their flight,
As is ordained, so shall they light.
If birds could weep, then would my tears
Let others know what are my fears
Lest this my brood some harm should catch,
And be surprised for want of watch,
Whilst pecking corn and void of care,
They fall un'wares in fowler's snare,
Or whilst on trees they sit and sing,
Some untoward boy at them do fling,
Or whilst allured with bell and glass,
The net be spread, and caught, alas.
Or lest by lime-twigs they be foiled,
Or by some greedy hawks be spoiled.
O would my young, ye saw my breast,
And knew what thoughts there sadly rest,
Great was my pain when I you fed,
Long did I keep you soft and warm,
And with my wings kept off all harm,
My cares are more and fears than ever,
My throbs such now as 'fore were never.
Alas, my birds, you wisdom want,
Of perils you are ignorant;
Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight,
Sore accidents on you may light.
O to your safety have an eye,
So happy may you live and die.
Meanwhile my days in tunes I'll spend,
Till my weak lays with me shall end.
In shady woods I'll sit and sing,
And things that past to mind I'll bring.
Once young and pleasant, as are you,
But former toys (no joys) adieu.
My age I will not once lament,
But sing, my time so near is spent.
And from the top bough take my flight
Into a country beyond sight,
Where old ones instantly grow young,
And there with seraphims set song;
No seasons cold, nor storms they see;
But spring lasts to eternity.
When each of you shall in your nest
Among your young ones take your rest,
In chirping language, oft them tell,
You had a dam that loved you well,
That did what could be done for young,
And nursed you up till you were strong,
And 'fore she once would let you fly,
She showed you joy and misery;
Taught what was good, and what was ill,
What would save life, and what would kill.
Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
And dead, yet speak, and counsel give:
Farewell, my birds, farewell adieu,
I happy am, if well with you.
Editor 1 Interpretation
A Deep Dive into Anne Bradstreet's "In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659"
Anne Bradstreet is one of the most influential poets of the colonial era, and she is often referred to as the first American poet. Her works are characterized by their religious themes, and her most famous poem, "In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659" is no exception. This poem has been widely studied and analyzed, and it continues to hold relevance today. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve deep into the themes and imagery of this timeless work.
The poem is structured as a letter from a mother to her children, and it is written in rhyming couplets. The speaker begins by expressing her love for her children and her gratitude for their existence. She then reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. The poem takes a turn in the second half, as the speaker addresses her children directly and offers them advice on how to live a virtuous life.
One of the most prominent themes in this poem is the fleeting nature of life. The speaker reflects on how quickly time passes and how our lives can be cut short at any moment. She writes, "To-day for me, with none remain,/ To-morrow, I am gone again," emphasizing the idea that life is fragile and unpredictable. This theme is further reinforced by the imagery of flowers and leaves, which are often used to symbolize the transience of life.
Another important theme in this poem is the importance of faith and living a virtuous life. The speaker urges her children to "fear the Lord," and she emphasizes the importance of humility, kindness, and honesty. This theme is closely tied to the religious context of the poem, as Bradstreet was a Puritan and her works often reflected her faith.
Bradstreet uses a variety of imagery throughout the poem to convey her themes. One of the most striking examples is the extended metaphor of the "flower" and the "leaf." The speaker reflects on how quickly flowers and leaves wither and die, and she uses this imagery to convey the transience of life. She writes, "Like as the damask rose you see,/ Or like the bloom on the cherry tree,/ Or the carnation's lovely hue,/ Or like the lily's shining dew,/ Or the rosemary and bays/ Or like to these, the trappings of our hearse." The use of specific flowers and plants adds depth to the metaphor, and it also emphasizes the beauty and fragility of life.
Another powerful image in the poem is the reference to the "hearse." The speaker compares the trappings of death to the flowers and leaves that she has been describing, emphasizing the inevitability of our mortality. This image is particularly effective because it brings together the themes of the transience of life and the importance of faith, as the hearse is often associated with funeral processions and the afterlife.
The language of the poem is simple and straightforward, but it is also rich in meaning. The use of rhyming couplets gives the poem a musical quality, and it also emphasizes the structure of the poem as a letter from a mother to her children. The language is also filled with religious references and allusions, which reinforces the theme of faith and the importance of living a virtuous life.
"In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659" is a deeply personal poem, and it reflects Bradstreet's own experiences as a mother and a Puritan. The poem is both a reflection on the transience of life and a call to action for her children to live virtuously. While the poem is grounded in its religious context, its themes are universal and continue to hold relevance today.
One of the most powerful aspects of this poem is its use of imagery. By comparing the transience of life to the withering of flowers and leaves, Bradstreet is able to convey the fragility and beauty of life in a way that is both vivid and emotional. This metaphor is particularly effective because it is able to capture both the fleeting nature of life and the importance of living a virtuous life.
Another important aspect of the poem is its emphasis on faith and the importance of living a virtuous life. While the poem is grounded in its Puritan context, its message is one that transcends religion. The speaker urges her children to live with humility, kindness, and honesty, and these values continue to be important today.
"In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659" is a timeless work of poetry that continues to hold relevance today. Through its use of vivid imagery and simple language, the poem is able to convey the fragility and beauty of life, while also emphasizing the importance of faith and living a virtuous life. As we reflect on our own lives and the world around us, we can find solace and inspiration in the words of Anne Bradstreet.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Anne Bradstreet’s “Poetry In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659” is a classic piece of literature that has stood the test of time. This poem is a heartfelt expression of a mother’s love for her children and her desire to protect them from the harsh realities of life. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and literary devices used in this poem to understand its significance.
The central theme of this poem is the love of a mother for her children. Bradstreet expresses her love for her children in every line of the poem. She describes her children as “my joy, my life, my crown” and “my all in all.” This love is unconditional, and Bradstreet is willing to do anything to protect her children from harm. She says, “I’ll teach them to keep close to God’s word, and all the blessed rules he hath given.” This shows that Bradstreet’s love for her children is not just emotional but also practical.
Another theme in this poem is the fragility of life. Bradstreet is aware that life is fleeting and that her children are not immune to the dangers of the world. She says, “I’ll watch them lest they dash against the stones, or tumble into the waves.” This shows that Bradstreet is aware of the dangers that her children face and that she is determined to protect them.
The poem is structured in four stanzas, each with six lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCC. The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line has ten syllables with the stress falling on every other syllable. This gives the poem a rhythmic flow that is pleasing to the ear.
The first stanza sets the tone for the poem. Bradstreet expresses her love for her children and her desire to protect them. She says, “I have no jewel as those lovely eyes, their precious sight enlivens all my joys.” This shows that Bradstreet’s children are the most precious thing in her life.
The second stanza is a reflection on the fragility of life. Bradstreet says, “I’ll watch them lest they dash against the stones, or tumble into the waves.” This shows that Bradstreet is aware of the dangers that her children face and that she is determined to protect them.
The third stanza is a reflection on the importance of faith. Bradstreet says, “I’ll teach them to keep close to God’s word, and all the blessed rules he hath given.” This shows that Bradstreet believes that faith is essential in protecting her children from harm.
The fourth stanza is a reflection on the future. Bradstreet says, “And when, alas! they shall with their mother sleep, and all their days in vain, in silence, weep.” This shows that Bradstreet is aware that one day she will not be there to protect her children and that they will have to face the world on their own.
Bradstreet uses several literary devices in this poem to convey her message. One of the most prominent devices is imagery. Bradstreet uses vivid imagery to describe her children and the dangers they face. She says, “I’ll watch them lest they dash against the stones, or tumble into the waves.” This creates a vivid picture in the reader’s mind of the dangers that Bradstreet’s children face.
Another literary device that Bradstreet uses is repetition. She repeats the phrase “my joy, my life, my crown” throughout the poem. This repetition emphasizes the importance of her children in her life and reinforces the central theme of the poem.
Bradstreet also uses alliteration in the poem. She says, “their precious sight enlivens all my joys.” The repetition of the “s” sound creates a musical quality to the poem and adds to its overall beauty.
In conclusion, Anne Bradstreet’s “Poetry In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659” is a beautiful expression of a mother’s love for her children. The poem explores the themes of love, the fragility of life, and the importance of faith. The structure of the poem is simple yet effective, and the use of literary devices adds to its overall beauty. This poem is a timeless classic that will continue to resonate with readers for generations to come.
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