Anne Bradstreet is generally considered the first American poet. Born around 1612 near Northampton, England, she married Simon Bradstreet at age 16, and the couple emigrated to the New World in 1630. In such bestselling collections as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, Bradstreet wrote of her life as a mother, wife, and daughter during the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Bradstreet's education gave her advantages to write with authority about politics, history, medicine, and theology. Her personal library of books was said to have numbered over 800, before many were destroyed when her home burned down. This event itself inspired a poem entitled "Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666". She rejects the anger and grief that this worldly tragedy has caused her and instead looks toward God and the assurance of heaven as consolation, saying:
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My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence."
The role of women is a common theme found in Bradstreet's poems. Bradstreet often uses a sarcastic tone in her poetry.
"To My Dear and Loving Husband"
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.
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.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
"Before the Birth of One of Her Children"
All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joys attend;
No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
But with death's parting blow are sure to meet.
The sentence past is most irrevocable,
A common thing, yet oh, inevitable.
How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend,
How soon't may be thy lot to lose thy friend,
We both are ignorant, yet love bids me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when the knot's untied that made us one,
I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
And if I see not half my days that's due,
What nature would, God grant to yours and you;
The many faults that well you know I have
Let be interred in my oblivious grave;
If any worth or virtue were in me,
Let that live freshly in thy memory
And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harmes,
Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms,
And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains
Look to my little babes, my dear remains.
And if thou love thyself, or loved'st me,
These O protect from stepdame's injury.
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
With some sad sighs honor my absent hearse;
And kiss this paper for thy dear love's sake,
Who with salt tears this last farewell did take