'Contemplations' by Anne Bradstreet

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Some time now past in the Autumnal Tide,
When Phoebus wanted but one hour to bed,
The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,
Were gilded o'er by his rich golden head.
Their leaves and fruits seem'd painted, but was true
Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hue,
Rapt were my senses at this delectable view.

I wist not what to wish, yet sure, thought I,
If so much excellence abide below,
How excellent is He that dwells on high!
Whose power and beauty by his works we know;
Sure he is goodness, wisdom, glory, light,
That hath this underworld so richly dight:
More Heaven than Earth was here, no winter and no night.

Then on a stately oak I cast mine eye,
Whose ruffling top the clouds seem'd to aspire;
How long since thou wast in thine infancy?
Thy strength, and stature, more thy years admire;
Hath hundred winters past since thou wast born,
Or thousand since thou breakest thy shell of horn?
If so, all these as naught Eternity doth scorn.

Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz'd,
Whose beams was shaded by the leafy tree;
The more I look'd, the more I grew amaz'd,
And softly said, what glory's like to thee?
Soul of this world, this Universe's eye,
No wonder, some made thee a Deity:
Had I not better known (alas), the same had I.

Thou as a bridegroom from thy chamber rushes,
And, as a strong man, joys to run a race;
The morn doth usher thee, with smiles and blushes,
The Earth reflects her glances in thy face.
Birds, insects, animals with vegetive,
Thy heart from death and dulness doth revive:
And in the darksome womb of fruitful nature dive.

Thy swift annual, and diurnal course,
Thy daily straight, and yearly oblique path,
Thy pleasing fervor, and thy scorching force,
All mortals here the feeling knowledge hath.
Thy presence makes it day, thy absence night,
Quaternal Seasons caused by thy might:
Hail creature, full of sweetness, beauty and delight.

Art thou so full of glory, that no eye
Hath strength, thy shining rays once to behold?
And is thy splendid throne erect so high,
As to approach it, can no earthly mould?
How full of glory then must thy Creator be,
Who gave this bright light lustre unto thee!
Admir'd, ador'd forever, be that Majesty....

I heard the merry grasshopper then sing,
The black-clad cricket bear a second part,
They kept one tune, and played on the same string,
Seeming to glory in their little art.
Shall creatures abject thus their voices raise?
And in their kind resound their Maker's praise:
Whilst I, as mute, can warble forth no higher lays....

When I behold the heavens as in their prime,
And then the earth (though old) still clad in green,
The stones and trees, insensible of time,
Nor age nor wrinkle on their front are seen;
If winter come, and greenness then do fade,
A Spring returns, and they more youthful made;
But Man grows old, lies down, remains where once he's laid.

By birth more noble than those creatures all,
Yet seems by nature and by custom curs'd,
No sooner born, but grief and care makes fall
That state obliterate he had at first:
Nor youth, nor strength, nor wisdom spring again,
Nor habitations long their names retain,
But in oblivion to the final day remain....

O Time, the fatal wrack of mortal things,
That draws oblivion's curtains over kings,
Their sumptuous monuments, men know them not,
Their names without a record are forgot,
Their parts, their ports, their pomp's all laid in th' dust,
Nor wit nor gold, nor buildings 'scape time's rust;
But he whose name is grav'd in the white stone
Shall last and shine when all of these are gone.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Anne Bradstreet’s Poetry, Contemplations: A Deeper Look

If you’re a fan of poetry, chances are good that you’ve heard of Anne Bradstreet. After all, she’s one of the most famous poets of the 17th century, and her works are still read and studied today. One of her most well-known pieces is a poem called “Contemplations,” which was originally published in 1650. But what makes this poem so special? Why has it endured for centuries? And what can we learn from it today? In this literary criticism and interpretation, we’ll take a deeper look at Anne Bradstreet’s “Contemplations” to answer these questions and more.

Background Information

Before we dive into the poem itself, it’s important to understand a bit about Anne Bradstreet’s life and the context in which she wrote. Bradstreet was born in England in 1612, but she and her family moved to America as Puritan refugees in 1630. She married Simon Bradstreet, who would later become governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and they had eight children together. Despite her busy life as a wife and mother, Bradstreet found time to write poetry, which was highly unusual for a woman in the 17th century. Her poetry was heavily influenced by her Puritan faith, and she often wrote about God and the natural world.

“Contemplations” was published in Bradstreet’s collection of poems called The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. The collection was the first published work by a woman in the American colonies, and it was well-received both in America and in England. “Contemplations” is the longest poem in the collection, and it’s widely considered to be one of Bradstreet’s best works.

Poem Analysis

“Contemplations” is a long, complex poem that can be divided into several sections. The poem begins with Bradstreet describing the natural world around her, including the trees, birds, and flowers. She marvels at the beauty of nature and reflects on how it all points to the glory of God. She writes:

Nature in darkness groans, and men are bound To worship clouds, not knowing what they’ve found.

Here, Bradstreet is saying that even though people often worship the things they can see and touch, like clouds, they don’t truly understand the majesty of God that is all around them.

As the poem continues, Bradstreet reflects on her own mortality and the fleeting nature of life. She writes:

Our life is but a span, so frail and fleeting, ’Tis gone before we know it’s past repeating.

Bradstreet is reminding us that life is short and we should make the most of every moment. She then goes on to contemplate the afterlife and the idea of heaven. She writes:

O what is heaven but the fellowship Of minds that each to other sweetly leap, And with united force and ardor strive To make immortal bliss for aye survive?

Here, Bradstreet is describing heaven as a place where people can come together and work towards a common goal, which is to achieve eternal happiness. She’s also saying that this kind of happiness can only be achieved through unity and cooperation.

The poem then takes a darker turn, as Bradstreet reflects on the sin and suffering that exists in the world. She writes:

Yet sin, that foolish thing, the world’s delight, And death, that horrid sting, and endless night, Have robbed the world of peace, and planted strife ’Twixt man and man, and almost all his life.

Bradstreet is acknowledging that even though the world is beautiful and God is good, there is still sin and suffering that exists. She’s also saying that this sin and suffering is what causes strife and conflict between people.

The poem ends with Bradstreet reflecting on her own life and her relationship with God. She writes:

My senses are too gross to understand The mystic pleasures of a promised land; I am a barren field, unfit for those Choice blessings which the righteous only knows.

Here, Bradstreet is admitting that she doesn’t fully understand the mysteries of God, but she’s still striving to be a better person and to be closer to Him. She’s also saying that she’s not perfect, but she’s trying to do her best.


So what can we learn from Anne Bradstreet’s “Contemplations”? There are several themes that emerge from the poem, including the beauty of nature, the fleeting nature of life, the importance of unity and cooperation, and the presence of sin and suffering in the world. But perhaps the most important theme is Bradstreet’s relationship with God.

Throughout the poem, Bradstreet is constantly reflecting on her own faith and her relationship with God. She’s acknowledging that she doesn’t understand everything, but she’s still trying to be a better person and to be closer to Him. This idea of striving for a closer relationship with God is something that’s still relevant today, and it’s something that many people can relate to.

Another important theme in the poem is the idea of unity and cooperation. Bradstreet is saying that in order to achieve happiness and peace, people need to work together and be united. This is something that’s still important today, especially in a world that’s often divided by politics, religion, and other factors.

Overall, Anne Bradstreet’s “Contemplations” is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that still resonates with readers today. It’s a reminder of the beauty of nature, the fleeting nature of life, and the importance of faith and unity. If you haven’t read it before, I highly recommend checking it out. You just might find that it speaks to you in unexpected ways.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Anne Bradstreet’s Poetry Contemplations is a classic piece of literature that has stood the test of time. It is a collection of poems that explores the beauty of nature and the wonders of the universe. Bradstreet’s writing style is unique and captivating, and her use of language is both elegant and powerful. In this analysis, we will delve into the themes and motifs of Poetry Contemplations and explore the ways in which Bradstreet’s work has influenced the literary world.

The first thing that strikes the reader about Poetry Contemplations is the sheer beauty of the language. Bradstreet’s use of imagery and metaphor is masterful, and her descriptions of nature are breathtaking. In the poem “Contemplations,” she writes:

“Then did the sun on one side of the heaven Shoot down his golden beams, and on the other His brother-moon shot forth his silver arrows, And all the stars set forth their glittering lamps.”

This passage is a perfect example of Bradstreet’s ability to paint a vivid picture with words. The reader can almost feel the warmth of the sun and the coolness of the moon, and the stars seem to twinkle before their eyes. Bradstreet’s language is not only beautiful, but it also serves to convey deeper themes and ideas.

One of the central themes of Poetry Contemplations is the idea of mortality. Bradstreet often reflects on the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. In the poem “The Author to Her Book,” she writes:

“Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain, Who after birth didst by my side remain, Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true, Who thee abroad exposed to public view.”

Here, Bradstreet is reflecting on the impermanence of her own work. She sees her poetry as a “feeble brainchild” that is destined to be forgotten. This theme of mortality is also present in the poem “Contemplations,” where Bradstreet writes:

“O Time, the fatal wrack of mortal things, That draws oblivion’s curtains over kings, Their sumptuous monuments, men know them not, Their names without a record are forgot.”

In this passage, Bradstreet is reflecting on the transience of human achievement. She sees time as a force that erases all traces of human existence, no matter how grand or impressive. This theme of mortality is a common one in literature, but Bradstreet’s unique perspective and elegant language make it feel fresh and new.

Another important theme in Poetry Contemplations is the idea of faith. Bradstreet was a deeply religious woman, and her poetry often reflects her faith in God. In the poem “Contemplations,” she writes:

“O Thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang From jagged mountains, and embraceth all That underneath him crawls, or walks, or flies, May look on us with an indulgent eye.”

Here, Bradstreet is addressing God directly, expressing her awe and reverence for the divine. She sees God as a powerful and benevolent force that watches over all of creation. This theme of faith is also present in the poem “The Author to Her Book,” where Bradstreet writes:

“Yet being mine own, at length affection would Thy blemishes amend, if so I could: I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw, And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.”

In this passage, Bradstreet is reflecting on the idea of redemption. She sees her own flaws and imperfections, but she also believes that she can improve herself and her work through hard work and dedication. This idea of redemption is closely tied to her faith in God, as she sees God as the ultimate source of forgiveness and salvation.

Overall, Poetry Contemplations is a masterful work of literature that explores some of the most important themes in human existence. Bradstreet’s use of language is both beautiful and powerful, and her unique perspective on life and faith has influenced countless writers and thinkers over the centuries. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply appreciate great writing, Poetry Contemplations is a must-read for anyone who wants to explore the beauty and complexity of the human experience.

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