Monday, June 19, 2006

A Costly Luxury

"The first choice Anne had to make before she picked up her pen was what meter to use, since this was a crucial part of declaring her intentions as a Puritan and a poet. Once she had decided, she could not waver. This was partly for practical reasons. Each page was precious to Anne. Although her wealthy father did have a larger supply of paper and vellum than most people and she herself had a small bound book to write in, once she had used up this writing material, it was expensive to get more, and it could take months to arrive from England. Mistakes were a costly luxury, therefore, and drafts were an impossibility. Anne would have to think out the lines first and memorize them before hazarding them onto paper."

~ from "Upon My Son," chapter 10 of Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet, Charlotte Gordon

Anne Bradstreet's first poem:

Upon a Fit of Sickness,
Anno. 1632. Aetatis Suae, 19

Twice ten years old not fully told
since nature gave me breath,
My race is run, my thread spun,
lo, here is fatal death.
All men must die, and so must I;
this cannot be revoked.
For Adam's sake this word God spake
when he so high provoked.
Yet live I shall, this life's but small,
in place of highest bliss,
Where I shall have all I can crave,
no life is like to this.
For what's this but care and strife
since first we came from womb?
Our strength doth waste, our time doth haste,
and then we go to th' tomb.
O bubble blast, how long can'st last?
that always art a breaking,
No sooner blown, but dead and gone,
ev'n as a word that's speaking.
O whilst I live this grace me give,
I doing good may be,
Then death's arrest I shall count best,
because it's Thy decree;
Bestow much cost there's nothing lost,
to make salvation sure,
O great's the gain, though got with pain,
comes by profession pure.
The race is run, the field is won,
the victory's mine I see;
Forever known, thou envious foe,
the foil belongs to thee.


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