Anne Bradstreet: Poems on herself as woman poet
Hypertext prepared by
Ann Woodlief, Virginia Commonwealth University

Click on red text for notes

The Prologue

To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings,
Of cities founded, commonwealth begun,
For my mean pen are too superior things:
Or how they all, or each their dates have run
Let poets and historians set these forth, 
My obscure lines shall not so dim their worth. 

But when my wond'ring eyes and envious heart 
Great Bartas sugared lines do but read o'er, 
Fool I do grudge the Muses did not part
Twixt him and me that overfluent store
A Bartas can do what a Bartas will 
But simple I according to my skill. 

From schoolboy's tongue no rhetoric we expect, 
Nor yet a sweet consort from broken strings, 
Nor perfect beauty where's a main defect; 
My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings, 
And this to mend, alas, no art is able, 
"Cause nature made it so irreparable.

Nor can I, like that fluent sweet tongued Greek
Who lisped at first, in future times speak plain. 
By art he gladly found what he did seek, 
A full requital of his striving pain. 
Art can do much, but this maxim's most sure: 
A weak or wounded brain admits no cure. 

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. 

But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild 
Else of our sex, why feigned they those nine
And poesy made Calliope's own child
So 'mongst the rest they placed the arts divine; 
But this weak knot they will full soon untie, 
The Greeks did nought, but play the fools and lie.

Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are
Men have precedency and still excel, 
It is but vain unjustly to wage war; 
Men can do best, and women know it well
Preeminence in all and each is yours; 
Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours. 

And oh ye high flown quills that soar the skies, 
And ever with your prey still catch your praise, 
If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes, 
Give thyme or parsley wreath, I ask no bays
This mean and unrefined ore of mine 
Will make your glist'ring gold but more to shine. 

The Author to her Book

Thou ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain, 
Who after birth did'st by my side remain, 
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true 
Who thee abroad, expos'd to publick view; 
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge, 
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge) 
At thy return my blushing was not small, 
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call, 
I cast thee by as one unfit for light, 
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight; 
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. 
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet; 
In better dress to trim thee was my mind, 
But nought save home-spun cloth, i' th' house I find. 
In this array, 'mongst vulgars mayst thou roam 
In critics hands, beware thou dost not come; 
And take thy way where yet thou art not known, 
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none: 
And for thy mother, she alas is poor
Which caus'd her thus to send thee out of door. 

"Anthropomorphism and Apostrophe,Comparison and Conceit: Analysis of 'The Author to Her Book'" by Jonah Knobler

Lines from "In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess" 
...Now say, have women worth? or have they none? 
Or had they some, but with our Queen is 't gone? 
Nay masculines, you have thus taxed us long. 
But she, though dead, will vindicate our wrong. 
Let such as say our sex is void or reason 
Know 'tis a slander now but once was treason. 

More Bradstreet Poems (study texts): 
"A Letter to Her Husband, Absent Upon Public Employment"
"To My Dear and Loving Husband'