Anne Bradstreet on Offspring of My Feeble Brain

anne bradstreetHow would you feel if someone made copies of your private poems, carried them across the ocean, and unbeknownst to you published them in a book?

Anne Dudley Bradstreet arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. She was among the first Puritans to settle in Salem, New England. A well-educated woman from a well-to-do background she found the boat crossing and the wretched living conditions in the colony unbearable. Her first home did not even have a table for eating or working. But she survived, found comfort in God and her beloved books, raised her eight children, and served her husband, whom she loved dearly.

Simon Bradstreet was Chief Administer of the Colony and later its last governor. He was often absent from home, traveling around the settlements on business. Lonely, Anne devoted herself to her reading and to writing poetry in private to be shared only with her family and close educated friends.

She had no intent to ever publish her work, since at the time, it was frowned upon for women to express their own views. However, in 1650 her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, made copies of her poetry in secret, took them to England, and had them published under the title of The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts, making her the first published American poet.

Anne was horrified, as any writer would be if they had not intended their work for publication, but also a bit pleased, as we can see in the response she wrote about her “rambling brat.”

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 exposed to public 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,          

The 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 critic’s 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. 

anne bradstreet cartoon

3 Replies to “Anne Bradstreet on Offspring of My Feeble Brain”

  1. Great website! I love that poem, “The Author to Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet. You may want to check the link to Anne Hutchinson. Thanks.

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