Anne Bradstreet and her time/Chapter V
old friends and new.
IN spite of the fits of depression evident in most of the quotations thus far given, there were many alleviations, as life settled into more tolerable conditions, and one chief one was now very near. Probably no event in the first years of Anne Bradstreet's life in the little colony had as much significance for her as the arrival at Boston in 1633, of the Rev. John Cotton, her father's friend, and one of the strongest influences in the lives of both English and American Puritans. She was still living in Cambridge and very probably made one of the party who went in from there to hear his first sermon before the Boston church. He had escaped from England with the utmost difficulty, the time of freedom allowed him by King James who admired his learning, having ended so thoroughly that he was hunted like an escaped convict. Fearless and almost reckless, the Colonial ministers wondered at his boldness, a brother of Nathaniel Ward saying as he and some friends "spake merrily" together: "Of all men in the world, I envy Mr. Cotton of Boston, most; for he doth nothing in way of conformity, and yet hath his liberty, and I do everything in that way and cannot enjoy mine."
The child born on the stormy passage over, and who in good time became Anne Bradstreet's son-in-law, marrying her daughter Dorothy in 1654, appeared with the father and mother at the first public service after his arrival, and before it was positively decided that he should remain in Boston. The baptism, contrary to the usual custom of having it take place, not later than ten days after birth, had been delayed, and Winthrop gives a characteristic picture of the scene: "The Lord's day following, he (Mr. Cotton) exercised in the afternoon, and being to be admitted, he signified his desire and readiness to make his confession according to order, which he said might be sufficient in declaring his faith about baptism (which he then desired for their child, born in their passage, and therefore named Seaborn). He gave two reasons why he did not baptize it at sea (not for want of fresh water, for he held sea-water would have served): 1st, because they had no settled congregation there; 2nd, because a minister hath no power to give the seals, but in his own congregation."
Some slight question, as to whether Boston alone, or the colony at large should be taxed for his support was settled with little difficulty, and on Sept. 10, another gathering from all the neighboring towns, witnessed his induction into the new church a ceremony of peculiar solemnity, preceded by a fast, and followed by such feasting as the still narrow stores of the people admitted.
No one can estimate the importance of this occasion, who does not realize what a minister meant in those first days, when the sermon held for the majority the sole opportunity of intellectual stimulus as well as spiritual growth. The coming of John Cotton to Boston, was much as if Phillips Brooks should bestow himself upon the remotest English settlement in Australia, or a missionary station in northern Minnesota, and a ripple of excitement ran through the whole community. It meant keener political as well as religious life, for the two went side by side. Mather wrote later of New England: "It is a country whose interests were most remarkably and generally enwrapped in its ecclesiastical circumstances," and he added: "The gospel has evidently been the making of our towns."
It was the deacons and elders who ruled public affairs, always under direction of well-nigh supreme authority vested in the minister. There was reason for such faith in them. "The objects of much public deference were not unaware of their authority; they seldom abused it; they never forgot it. If ever men, for real worth and greatness, deserved such pre-eminence, they did; they had wisdom, great learning, great force of will, devout consecration, philanthropy, purity of life. For once in the history of the world, the sovereign places were filled by the sovereign men. They bore themselves with the air of leaderships; they had the port of philosophers, noblemen and kings. The writings of our earliest times are full of reference to the majesty of their looks, the awe inspired by their presence, the grandeur and power of their words."
New England surely owes something of her gift of "ready and commanding speech," to these early talkers, who put their whole intellectual force into a sermon, and who thought nothing of a prayer lasting for two hours and a sermon for three or even four. Nathaniel Ward, whose caustic wit spared neither himself nor the most reverend among his brethren, wrote in his "Simple Cobbler": "We have a strong weakness in New England, that when we are speaking, we know not how to conclude. We make many ends, before we make an end. . . . We cannot help it, though we can; which is the arch infirmity in all morality. We are so near the west pole, that our longitudes are as long as any wise man would wish and somewhat longer. I scarce know any adage more grateful than 'Grata brevitas'."
Mr. Cotton was no exception to this rule, but his hearers would not have had him shorter. It was, however, the personality of the man that carried weight and nothing that he has left for a mocking generation to wonder over gives slightest hint of reason for the spell he cast over congregations, under the cathedral towers, or in the simple meeting house in the new Boston. The one man alive, who, perhaps, has gone through his works conscientiously and hopefully, Moses Coit Tyler, writes of John Cotton's works: "These are indeed clear and cogent in reasoning; the language is well enough, but that is all. There are almost no remarkable merits in thought or style. One wanders through these vast tracts and jungles of Puritanic discourse—exposition, exhortation, logic-chopping, theological hair-splitting—and is unrewarded by a single passage of eminent force or beauty, uncheered even by the felicity of a new epithet in the objurgation of sinners, or a new tint in the landscape-painting of hell."
Hubbard wrote, while he still lived: "Mr. Cotton had such an insinuating and melting way in his preaching, that he would usually carry his very adversary captive, after the triumphant chariot of his rhetoric," but "the chariot of his rhetoric ceased to be triumphant when the master himself ceased to drive it," and we shall never know the spell of his genius. For one who had shown himself so uncompromising in action where his own beliefs were concerned, he was singularly gentle and humble. Followed from his church one day, by a specially sour and peevish fanatic, who announced to him with a frown that his ministry had become dark and flat, he replied:
"Both, brother—it may be both; let me have your prayers that it may be otherwise."
Such a nature would never revolt against the system of spiritual cross-questioning that belonged to every church, and it is easy to see how his hold on his congregation was never lost, even at the stormiest episode in his New England career.
The people flocked to hear him, and until the removal to Ipswich, there is no doubt that Anne Bradstreet and her husband met him often, and that he had his share in confirming her faith and stimulating her thought. Dudley and he remained friends to the end, and conferred often on public as well as private matters, but there are no family details save the record of the marriage in later years, which united them all more closely, than even their common suffering had done.
Health alone, or the want of it, gave sufficient reason for at least a shadow of gloom, and there were others as substantial, for fresh changes were at hand, and various circumstances had brought her family under a general criticism against which Anne Bradstreet always revolted. Minute personal criticism was the order of the day, considered an essential in holding one another in the straight path, and the New England relish for petty detail may have had its origin in this religious gossip. As usual the first trouble would seem to have arisen from envy, though undoubtedly its originator strenuously denied any such suspicion. The houses at Cambridge had gradually been made more and more comfortable, though even in the beginning, they were the rudest of structures, the roofs covered with thatch, the fire-places generally made of rough stones and the chimneys of boards plastered with clay. To shelter was the only requisite demanded, but Dudley, who desired something more, had already come under public censure, the governor and other assistants joining in the reproach that "he did not well to bestow such cost about wainscotting and adorning his house in the beginning of a plantation, both in regard to the expense, and the example."
This may have been one of the "new customs" at which poor Anne's "heart rose, for none of the company, not even excepting the governor, had come from as stately and well-ordered a home as theirs, the old castle still testifying to the love of beauty in its ancient owners." Dudley's excuse was, however, accepted, "that it was for the warmth of his house, and the charge was but little, being but clapboards nailed to the wall in the form of wainscot."
The disagreement on this question of adornment was not the only reason why a removal to Ipswich, then known as Agawam, may have seemed desirable. Dudley, who was some thirteen years older than the Governor, and whose capacity for free speech increased with every year, had criticised sharply the former's unexpected removal to Boston, and placable as Winthrop always was, a little feeling had arisen, which must have affected both families. The first open indication of Dudley's money-loving propensities had also been made a matter of discussion, and was given "in some bargains he had made with some poor members of the same congregation, to whom he had sold seven bushels and a half of corn, to receive ten for it after harvest, which the governor and some others held to be oppressing usury."
Dudley contested the point hotly, the governor taking no "notice of these speeches, and bore them with more patience than he had done upon a like occasion at another time," but the breach had been made, and it was long before it ceased to trouble the friends of both. With all his self-sacrifice, Dudley desired leadership, and the removal to Ipswich gave him more fully the position he craved, as simply just acknowledgment of his services to the Colony, than permanent home at Cambridge could have done. Objections were urged against the removal, and after long discussion waxing hotter and hotter Dudley resigned, in a most Puritan fit of temper, leaving the council in a passion and "clapping the door behind him." Better thoughts came to all. The gentle temper of both wife and daughter quieted him, and disposed him to look favorably upon the letter in which the council refused to accept his resignation, and this was the last public occasion upon which such scandal arose. But Ipswich was a safe harbor, and life there would hold fewer thorns than seemed sown in the Cambridge surroundings, and we may feel sure, that in spite of hardships, the long-suffering Anne and her mother welcomed the change, when it had once been positively decided upon.
The most serious objection arose from the more exposed situation of Ipswich and the fact that the Indians were becoming more and more troublesome. The first year, however, passed in comparative quiet. A church was organized, sermons being the first necessity thought of for every plantation, and "Mr. Wilson, by leave of the congregation of Boston whereof he was pastor, went to Agawam to teach the people of that plantation, because they had yet no minister," to be succeeded shortly by Nathaniel Ward, a man of most intense nature and personality, who must have had marked effect on every mind brought under his influence. A worker of prodigious energy, he soon broke down, and after two years of pastorship, left Ipswich to become a few years later, one of the commission appointed to frame laws for the Colony and to write gradually one of the most distinctive books in early American literature, "The Simple Cobbler of Agawam." That he became the strong personal friend of the Bradstreet family was natural, for not only were they of the same social status, but sympathetic in many points, though Simon Bradstreets' moderation and tolerant spirit undoubtedly fretted the uncompromising Puritan whose opinions were as stiff and incisive as his way of putting them. An extensive traveller, a man of ripe culture, having been a successful lawyer before the ministry attracted him, he was the friend of Francis Bacon, of Archbishop Usher and the famous Heidelberg theologian, David Pareus. He had travelled widely and knew men and manners, and into the exhortations and expoundings of his daily life, the unfoldings of the complicated religious experience demanded of every Puritan, must have crept many a reminiscence of old days, dear to the heart of Anne Bradstreet, who, no matter what theory she deemed it best to follow, was at heart, to the end of her life a monarchist. We may know with what interest she would listen, and may fancy the small Simon and Dorothy standing near as Puritan discipline allowed, to hear tales of Prince Rupert, whom Nathaniel Ward had held as a baby in his arms, and of whom he wrote what we may be sure he had often said: "I have had him in my arms; . . . I wish I had him there now. If I mistake not, he promised then to be a good prince; but I doubt he hath forgot it. If I thought he would not be angry with me, I would pray hard to his Maker to make him a right Roundhead, a wise-hearted Palatine, a thankful man to the English; to forgive all his sins, and at length to save his soul, notwithstanding all his God-damn-me's."
Even in these early days, certain feminine pomps and vanities had emigrated with their owners, and much disconcerted the energetic preacher. Anne Bradstreet had no share in them, her gentle simplicity making her always choose the least obtrusive form of speech and action, as well as dress, but she must have smiled over the fierceness with which weaker sisters were attacked, and perhaps have sought to change the attitude of this chronic fault-finder; "a sincere, witty and valiant grumbler," but always a grumbler, to whom the fashions of the time seemed an outrage on common sense. He devotes a separate section of his book to them, and the delinquencies of women in general because they were "deficients or redundants not to be brought under any rule," and therefore not entitled to "pester better matter with such stuff," and then announces that he proposes, "for this once to borrow a little of their loose-tongued liberty, and mis-spend a word or two upon their long-waisted but short-skirted patience." "I honor the woman that can honor herself with her attire," he goes on, his wrath rising as he writes; "a good text always deserves a fair margent, but as for a woman who lives but to ape the newest court-fashions, I look at her as the very gizzard of a trifle, the product of a quarter of a cipher, the epitome of nothing; fitter to be kicked, if she were of a kickable substance, than either honored or humored. To speak moderately, I truly confess, it is beyond the ken of my understanding to conceive how those women should have any true grace or valuable virtue, that have so little wit as to disfigure themselves with such exotic garbs, as not only dismantles their native, lovely lustre, but transclouts them into gaunt bar-geese, ill-shapen, shotten shell-fish, Egyptian hieroglyphics, or at the best into French flirts of the pastry, which a proper English woman should scorn with her heels. It is no marvel they wear trails on the hinder part of their heads; having nothing it seems in the forepart but a few squirrels brains to help them frisk from one ill-favored fashion to another. . . . We have about five or six of them in our colony; if I see any of them accidentally, I cannot cleanse my fancy for a month after. . . . If any man think I have spoken rather merrily than seriously, he is much mistaken; I have written what I write, with all the indignation I can, and no more than I ought."
Let it be remembered, that these ladies with "squirrels brains," are the "grandmothers" whose degenerate descendants we are daily accused of being. It is an old tune, but the generations have danced to it since the world began, each with a profound conviction of its newness, and their own success in following its lead. Nor was he alone in his indignation, for even in the midst of discussions on ordnance, and deep perplexities over unruly settlers, the grave elders paused, and as Winthrop records:
"At the lecture in Boston a question was propounded about veils. Mr. Cotton concluded, that where (by the custom of the place) they were not a sign of the woman's subjection, they were not commanded by the apostle. Mr. Endecott opposed, and did maintain it by the general arguments brought by the apostle. After some debate, the governor, perceiving it to grow to some earnestness, interposed, and so it brake off." Isaiah had protested, before Nathaniel Ward or the Council echoed him, but if this is the attitude the sturdy preacher held toward the women of his congregation, he must have found it well to resign his place to his successor, also a Nathaniel, Nathaniel Rogers, one of the row of "nine small children," still to be seen in the New England Primer, gazing upon the martyr, John Rogers, the famous preacher of Dedham, whose gifts of mind and soul made him a shining mark for persecution, and whose name is still honored in his descendants.
Of less aggressive and incisive nature than Nathaniel Ward, he was a man of profound learning, his son and grandson succeeding him at Ipswich, and the son, who had accompanied him from England becoming the President of Harvard College. His sympathy with Simon Bradstreet's moderate and tolerant views, at once brought them together, and undoubtedly made him occasionally a thorn in the side of Governor Dudley, who felt then, precisely the same emotions as in later life were chronicled in his one attempt at verse:
"Let men of God in Courts and Churches watch,
O'er such as do a Toleration hatch,
Lest that ill egg bring forth a cockatrice
To poison all with Heresie and Vice."
Nathaniel Rogers has left no written memorial save a tract in the interest of this most objectionable toleration, in which, while favoring liberty and reformation, he censured those who had brought false charges against the king, and as a result, was accused of being one of the king's agents in New England. Anne Bradstreet's sympathies were even more strongly with him than those of her husband, and in the quiet listening to the arguments which went on, she had rarest opportunity for that gradual accumulation of real worldly wisdom to be found in many of her "Reflections" in prose.
At present there was more room for apprehension than reflection. Indian difficulties were more and more pressing, and in Sept., 1635, the General Court had included Ipswich in the order that no dwelling-house should be more than half a mile from the meeting-house, it being impossible to guard against the danger of coming and going over longer space. The spring of 1636-7 brought still more stringent care. Watches were kept and no one allowed to travel without arms. The Pequot war was the culmination for the time, the seed of other and more atrocious conflicts to come, and whatever the judgment of to-day may be on the causes which brought such results, the terror of the settlers was a very real and well-grounded fact. As with Deerfield at a later date, they were protected from Indian assaults, only by "a rude picketted fort. Sentinels kept guard every night; even in the day time, no one left his door-steps without a musket; and neighborly communication between the houses was kept up principally by underground passages from cellar to cellar."
Mr. Daniel Dennison, who had married Anne Bradstreet's sister, was chosen captain for Ipswich and remained so for many years. As the Indians were driven out, they concentrated in and about New Hampshire, which, being a frontier colony, knew no rest from peril day and night, but it was many years before any Massachusetts settler dared move about with freedom, and the perpetual apprehension of every woman who dreaded the horrible possibilities of Indian outrage, must have gone far toward intensifying and grinding in the morbid sensitiveness which even to-day is part of the genuine New England woman's character. The grim details of expeditions against them were known to every child. The same impatience of any word in their favor was shown then, as we find it now in the far West, where their treachery and barbarity is still a part of the story of to-day, and Johnson, in his "Wonder-Working Providence," gives one or two almost incredible details of warfare against them with a Davidic exultation over the downfall of so pestilent an enemy, that is more Gothic than Christian.
"The Lord in mercy toward his poor churches, having thus destroyed these bloody, barbarous Indians, he returns his people in safety to their vessels, where they take account of their prisoners. The squaws and some young youths they brought home with them; and finding the men to be deeply guilty of the crimes they undertook the war for, they brought away only their heads."
Such retribution seemed just and right, but its effect on Puritan character was hardly softening, and was another unconscious factor in that increasing ratio of hatred against all who opposed them, whether in religious belief, or in the general administration of affairs. In these affairs every woman was interested to a degree that has had no parallel since, unless it may be, on the Southern side during our civil war. Politics and religion were one, and removal to Ipswich had not deadened the interest with which they watched and commented on every fluctuation in the stormy situation at "home," as they still called England, Cotton taking active part in all discussions as to Colonial action.
It was at this period that she wrote the poem, "A Dialogue between Old England and New," which holds the political situation at that time. Many of the allusions in the first edition, were altered in the second, for as Charles II had then begun his reign, loyalty was a necessity, and no strictures upon kings could be allowed. The poem, which is rather a summary of political difficulties, has its own interest, as showing how thoroughly she had caught the spirit of the time, as well as from the fact that it was quoted as authority by the wisest thinkers of the day, and regarded with an awe and admiration we are hardly likely to share, as the phenomenal work of a phenomenal woman.
A Dialogue between Old England and New,
Concerning their Present Troubles.
Alas, dear Mother, fairest Queen and best,
With honour, wealth and peace happy and blest;
What ails thee hang thy head and cross thine arms?
And sit i' th' dust, to sigh these sad alarms?
What deluge of new woes thus overwhelme
The glories of thy ever famous Realme?
What means this wailing tone, this mournful guise?
Ah, tell thy daughter, she may sympathize.
Art ignorant indeed of these my woes?
Or must my forced tongue my griefs disclose?
And must myself dissect my tatter'd state,
Which mazed Christendome stands wond'ring at?
And thou a child, a Limbe, and dost not feel
My fainting weakened body now to reel?
This Physick purging portion I have taken,
Will bring Consumption, or an Ague quaking,
Unless some Cordial, thou fetch from high,
Which present help may ease my malady.
If I decease, dost think thou shalt survive?
Or by my wasting state dost think to thrive?
Then weigh our case, if 't be not justly sad;
Let me lament alone, while thou art glad.
And thus (alas) your state you much deplore,
In general terms, but will not say wherefore;
What medicine shall I seek to cure this woe
If th' wound so dangerous I may not know?
But you, perhaps, would have me ghess it out,
What hath some Hengist like that Saxon stout,
By fraud or force usurp'd thy flow'ring crown,
Or by tempestuous warrs thy fields trod down?
Or hath Canutus, that brave valiant Dane,
The Regal peacefull Scepter from the tane?
Or is 't a Norman, whose victorious hand
With English blood bedews thy conquered land?
Or is 't Intestine warrs that thus offend?
Do Maud and Stephen for the crown contend?
Do Barons rise and side against their King,
And call in foraign aid to help the thing?
Must Edward be deposed? or is 't the hour
That second Richard must be clapt 'i th' tower?
Or is 't the fatal jarre again begun
That from the red white pricking roses sprung?
Must Richmond's aid, the Nobles now implore,
To come and break the Tushes of the Boar?
If none of these, dear Mother, what's your woe?
Pray do you fear Spain's bragging Armado?
Doth your Allye, fair France, conspire your wrack,
Or do the Scots play false behind your back?
Doth Holland quit you ill for all your love?
Whence is the storm from Earth or Heaven above?
Is 't drought, is 't famine, or is 't pestilence,
Dost feel the smart or fear the Consequence?
Your humble Child intreats you, shew your grief,
Though Arms nor Purse she hath for your relief,
Such is her poverty; yet shall be found
A Suppliant for your help, as she is bound
I must confess, some of those sores you name,
My beauteous body at this present maime;
But forreign foe, nor feigned friend I fear,
For they have work enough, (thou knowst) elsewhere.
Nor is it Alcie's Son nor Henrye's daughter,
Whose proud contention cause this slaughter;
Nor Nobles siding to make John no King,
French Jews unjustly to the Crown to bring;
No Edward, Richard, to lose rule and life,
Nor no Lancastrians to renew old strife;
No Duke of York nor Earl of March to soyle
Their hands in kindred's blood whom they did foil.
No crafty Tyrant now usurps the Seat,
Who Nephews slew that so he might be great;
No need of Tudor Roses to unite,
None knows which is the Red or which the White;
Spain's braving Fleet a second time is sunk,
France knows how oft my fury she hath drunk;
By Edward third, and Henry fifth of fame
Her Lillies in mine Arms avouch the same.
My sister Scotland hurts me now no more,
Though she hath been injurious heretofore;
What Holland is I am in some suspence,
But trust not much unto his excellence.
For wants, sure some I feel, but more I fear,
And for the Pestilence, who knows how near
Famine and Plague, two Sisters of the Sword,
Destruction to a Land doth soon afford.
They're for my punishment ordain'd on high,
Unless our tears prevent it speedily.
But yet I answer not what you demand
To shew the grievance of my troubled Land?
Before I tell the Effect I'le shew the Cause,
Which are my sins, the breach of sacred Laws,
Idolatry, supplanter of a nation,
With foolish Superstitious Adoration,
Are liked and countenanced by men of might
The gospel trodden down and hath no right;
Church offices were sold and bought for gain,
That Pope had hoped to find Rome here again;
For Oaths and Blasphemies did ever Ear
From Belzebub himself such language hear?
What scorning of the saints of the most high,
What injuries did daily on them lye,
What false reports, what nick-names did they take
Not for their own but for their Master's sake?
And thou, poor soul, wert jeer'd among the rest,
Thy flying for the truth was made a jest
For Sabbath-breaking, and for drunkenness,
Did ever loud profaneness more express?
From crying blood yet cleansed am not I,
Martyrs and others, dying causelessly.
How many princely heads on blocks laid down
For nought but title to a fading crown!
'Mongst all the crueltyes by great ones done,
Of Edward's youths, and Clarence hapless son,
O Jane, why didst thou dye in flow'ring prime?
Because of royal stem, that was thy crime.
For bribery, Adultery and lyes,
Where is the nation I can't parallize?
With usury, extortion and oppression,
These be the Hydraes of my stout transgression.
These be the bitter fountains, heads and roots,
Whence flowed the source, the sprigs, the boughs, and fruits,
Of more than thou canst hear or I relate,
That with high hand I still did perpetrate;
For these were threatened the woful day
I mockt the Preachers, put it far away;
The Sermons yet upon Record do stand
That cri'd destruction to my wicked land;
I then believed not, now I feel and see,
The plague of stubborn incredulity.
Some lost their livings, some in prison pent,
Some fin'd from house and friends to exile went.
Their silent tongues to heaven did vengeance cry,
Who saw their wrongs, and hath judg'd righteously,
And will repay it seven fold in my lap;
This is forerunner of my After clap.
Nor took I warning by my neighbors' falls,
I saw sad Germany's dismantled walls,
I saw her people famish'd, nobles slain,
The fruitful land a barren Heath remain.
I saw immov'd her Armyes foil'd and fled,
Wives forc'd, babes toss'd, her houses calimed.
I saw strong Rochel yielded to her Foe,
Thousands of starved Christians there also
I saw poor Ireland bleeding out her last,
Such crueltyes as all reports have passed;
Mine heart obdurate stood not yet aghast.
Now sip I of that cup, and just't may be
The bottome dreggs reserved are for me.
To all you've said, sad Mother, I assent,
Your fearful sins great cause there's to lament,
My guilty hands in part, hold up with you,
A Sharer in your punishment's my due.
But all you say amounts to this affect,
Not what you feel but what you do expect,
Pray in plain terms what is your present grief?
Then let's joyn heads and hearts for your relief.
Well to the matter then, there's grown of late
'Twixt King and Peers a Question of State,
Which is the chief, the law or else the King.
One said, it's he, the other no such thing.
Tis said, my beter part in Parliament
To ease my groaning land, shew'd their intent,
To crush the proud, and right to each man deal,
To help the Church, and stay the Common-weal
So many obstacles came in their way,
As puts me to a stand what I should say;
Old customes, new prerogatives stood on,
Had they not held Law fast, all had been gone;
Which by their prudence stood them in such stead
They took high Strafford lower by the head.
And to their Land be 't spoke, they held i' th' tower
All England's Metropolitane that hour;
This done, an act they would have passed fain
No Prelate should his Bishoprick retain;
Here tugged they hard (indeed), for all men saw
This must be done by Gospel, not by law.
Next the Militia they urged sore,
This was deny'd (I need not say wherefore),
The King displeas'd at York himself absents,
They humbly beg return, shew their intents;
The writing, printing, posting too and fro,
Shews all was done, I'll therefore let it go;
But now I come to speak of my disaster,
Contention grown, twixt Subjects and their Master;
They worded it so long, they fell to blows,
That thousands lay on heaps, here bleeds my woes;
I that no wars so many years have known,
Am now destroy'd and slaughter'd by mine own;
But could the Field alone this strife decide,
One Battle two or three I might abide.
But these may be beginnings of more woe
Who knows but this may be my overthrow?
Oh, pity me in this sad Perturbation,
My plundered Towns, my houses devastation,
My weeping Virgins and my young men slain;
My wealthy trading fall'n, my dearth of grain,
The seed times come, but ploughman hath no hope
Because he knows not who shall inn his Crop!
The poor they want their pay, their Children bread,
Their woful Mothers' tears unpittied.
If any pity in thy heart remain,
Or any child-like love thou dost retain,
For my relief, do what there lyes in thee,
And recompence that good I've done to thee.
Dear Mother, cease complaints and wipe your eyes,
Shake off your dust, chear up and now arise,
You are my Mother Nurse, and I your flesh,
Your sunken bowels gladly would refresh,
Your griefs I pity, but soon hope to see,
Out of your troubles much good fruit to be;
To see those latter days of hop'd for good,
Though now beclouded all with tears and blood;
After dark Popery the day did clear,
But now the Sun in 's brightness shall appear;
Blest be the Nobles of thy Noble Land,
With ventur'd lives for Truth's defence that stand;
Blest be thy Commons, who for common good,
And thy infringed Laws have boldly stood;
Blest be thy Counties, who did aid thee still,
With hearts and States to testifie their will;
Blest be thy Preachers, who did chear thee on,
O cry the Sword of God and Gideon;
And shall I not on them with Mero's curse,
That help thee not with prayers, Arms and purse?
And for myself let miseries abound,
If mindless of thy State I ere be found.
These are the dayes the Churches foes to crush,
To root out Popelings, head, tail, branch and rush;
Let's bring Baals' vestments forth to make a fire,
Their Mytires, Surplices, and all their Tire,
Copes, Rotchets, Crossiers, and such empty trash,
And let their Names consume, but let the flash
Light Christendome, and all the world to see,
We hate Romes whore, with all her trumpery.
Go on, brave Essex, with a Loyal heart,
Not false to King, nor to the better part;
But those that hurt his people and his Crown,
As duty binds, expel and tread them down,
And ye brave Nobles, chase away all fear,
And to this hopeful Cause closely adhere;
O Mother, can you weep and have such Peers,
When they are gone, then drown yourself in tears,
If now you weep so much, that then no more
The briny Ocean will o'erflow your shore.
These, these are they I trust, with Charles our King,
Out of all mists, such glorious days shall bring;
That dazzled eyes beholding much shall wonder,
At that thy settled peace, thy wealth and splendor.
Thy Church and weal establish'd in such manner,
That all shall joy, that then display'st thy Banner;
And discipline erected so I trust,
That nursing Kings shall come and lick thy dust.
Then justice shall in all thy courts take place,
Without respect of person, or of case;
Then Bribes shall cease, and Suits shall not stick long
Patience and purse of Clients oft to wrong;
Then high Commissions shall fall to decay,
And Pursivants and Catchpoles want their pay.
So shall thy happy nation ever flourish,
When truth and righteousness they thus shall nourish,
When thus in peace, thine Armies brave send out,
To sack proud Rome, and all her Vassals rout;
There let thy name, thy fame and glory shine,
As did thine Ancestors in Palestine;
And let her spoyls full pay with Interest be,
Of what unjustly once she poll'd from thee,
Of all the woes thou canst, let her be sped
And on her pour the vengeance threatened;
Bring forth the Beast that rul'd the World with 's beck,
And tear his flesh, and set your feet on 's neck;
And make his filthy Den so desolate,
To th' astonishment of all that knew his state.
This done, with brandish'd Swords to Turky goe,
For then what is 't, but English blades dare do?
And lay her waste for so 's the sacred Doom,
And to Gog as thou hast done to Rome.
Oh Abraham's seed lift up your heads on high,
For sure the day of your Redemption's nigh;
The Scales shall fall from your long blinded eyes,
And him you shall adore who now despise,
Then fulness of the Nations in shall flow,
And Jew and Gentile to one worship go;
Then follows days of happiness and rest;
Whose lot doth fall, to live therein is blest.
No Canaanite shall then be found i' th' Land,
And holiness on horses bell's shall stand;
If this make way thereto, then sigh no more,
But if it all, thou did'st not see 't before;
Farewell, dear Mother, rightest cause prevail
And in a while, you'll tell another tale.
This, like all her earlier work, is heavy reading, the account given by "Old Age" in her "Four Ages of Man," of what he has seen and known of Puritan affairs, being in somewhat more lively strain. But lively was an adjective to which Mistress Anne had a rooted objection. Her contemporaries indulged in an occasional solemn pun, but the only one in her writings is found in the grim turn on Laud's name, in the "Dialogue" just quoted, in which is also a sombre jest on the beheading of Strafford.
"Old Age" recalls the same period, opening with a faint—very faint—suggestion of Shakespeare's thought in his "Seven Ages."
"What you have been, even such have I before
And all you say, say I, and somewhat more,
Babe's innocence, youth's wildness I have seen,
And in perplexed middle Age have been;
Sickness, dangers and anxieties have past,
And on this stage am come to act my last,
I have been young and strong and wise as you;
But now Bis pueri senes, is too true.
In every age I've found much vanity
An end of all perfection now I see.
It's not my valour, honor, nor my gold,
My ruined house now falling can uphold,
It's not my learning Rhetorick wit so large,
Hath now the power, death's warfare to discharge,
It's not my goodly state, nor bed of downe
That can refresh, or ease, if Conscience frown,
Nor from Alliance can I now have hope,
But what I have done well that is my prop;
He that in youth is Godly, wise and sage,
Provides a staff then to support his Age.
Mutations great, some joyful and some sad,
In this short pilgrimage I oft have had;
Sometimes the Heavens with plenty smiled on me,
Sometime again rain'd all Adversity,
Sometimes in honor, sometimes in disgrace,
Sometime an Abject, then again in place.
Such private changes oft mine eyes have seen,
In various times of state I've also been,
I've seen a Kingdom flourish like a tree,
When it was ruled by that Celestial she;
And like a Cedar, others so surmount,
That but for shrubs they did themselves account.
Then saw I France and Holland sav'd Cales won,
And Philip and Albertus half undone,
I saw all peace at home, terror to foes,
But oh, I saw at last those eyes to close.
And then methought the day at noon grew dark,
When it had lost that radiant Sunlike Spark;
In midst of griefs I saw our hopes revive,
(For twas our hopes then kept our hearts alive)
We changed our queen for king under whose rayes
We joy'd in many blest and prosperous dayes.
I've seen a Prince, the glory of our land
In prime of youth seiz'd by heaven's angry hand,
Which fil'd our hearts with fears, with tears our eyes,
Wailing his fate, and our own destinies.
I've seen from Rome an execrable thing,
A Plot to blow up nobles and their King,
But saw their horrid fact soon disappointed,
And Land Nobles sav'd with their annointed.
I've Princes seen to live on others' lands;
A royal one by gifts from strangers' hands
Admired for their magnanimity,
Who lost a Prince-dome and a Monarchy.
I've seen designs for Ree and Rochel crost,
And poor Palatinate forever lost.
I've seen unworthy men advanced high,
And better ones suffer extremity;
But neither favour, riches, title, State,
Could length their days or once reverse their fate.
I've seen one stab'd, and some to loose their heads,
And others fly, struck both with gilt and dread;
I've seen and so have you, for tis but late
The desolation of a goodly state,
Plotted and acted so that none can tell
Who gave the counsel, but the Prince of hell.
Three hundred thousand slaughtered innocents
By bloody, Popish, hellish miscreants;
Oh, may you live, and so you will I trust,
To see them swill in blood until they burst.
I've seen a King by force thrust from his throne,
And an Usurper subt'ly mount thereon;
I've seen a state unmoulded, rent in twain,
But ye may live to see 't made up again.
I've seen it plunder'd, taxt and soaked in blood,
But out of evill you may see much good.
What are my thoughts, this is no time to say.
Men may more freely speak another day;
These are no old-wives tales, but this is truth,
We old men love to tell what's done in youth."
Though this is little more than rhymed chronology, there are curious reminders here and there of the spirit of the time. Gentle as was Anne Bradstreet's nature, it seemed to her quite natural to write of the "bloody, Popish, hellish miscreants"—
"Oh may you live, and so you will I trust,
To see them swill in blood untill they burst."
There was reason it was true; the same reason that brings the same thought to-day to women on the far Western frontiers, for the Irish butcheries had been as atrocious as any Indian massacre our own story holds. The numbers butchered were something appaling, and Hume writes: "By some computations, those who perished by all these cruelties are supposed to be a hundred and fifty or two hundred thousand; by the most moderate, and probably the most reasonable account, they are made to amount to forty thousand—if this estimation itself be not, as is usual in such cases, somewhat exaggerated."
Irish ferocity was more than matched by English brutality. Puritanism softened many features of the Saxon character, but even in the lives of the most devoted, there is a keen relish for battle whether spiritual or actual, and a stern rejoicing in any depth of evil that may have overtaken a foe. In spite of the tremendous value set upon souls, indifference to human life still ruled, and there was even a certain relish, if that life were an enemy's, in turning it over heartily and speedily to its proper owner, Satan. Anne Bradstreet is no exception to the rule, and her verses hold various fierce and unexpected outbursts against enemies of her faith or country. The constant discussion of mooted points by the ministers as well as people, made each man the judge of questions that agitated every mind, and problems of all natures from national down to town meeting debates, were pondered over in every Puritan home. Cotton's interest in detail never flagged, and his influence was felt at every point in the Colony, and though Ipswich, both in time and facilities for reaching it, was more widely separated from Boston than Boston now is from the remotest hamlet on Cape Cod, there is no doubt that Nathaniel Ward and Mr. Cotton occasionally met and exchanged views if not pulpits, and that the Bradstreet family were not entirely cut off from intercourse. When Nathaniel Ward became law-maker instead of settled minister, it was with John Cotton that he took counsel, and Anne undoubtedly thought of the latter what his grandson Cotton Mather at a later day wrote. "He was indeed a most universal scholar, and a living system of the liberal arts and a walking library."
Walking libraries were needed, for stationary ones were very limited.Dudley's, one of the largest in the Colony, contained between fifty and sixty books, chiefly on divinity and history, and from the latter source Anne obtained the minute historical knowledge shown in her rhymed account of "The Four Monarchies." It was to her father that she owed her love of books. She calls him in one poem, "a magazine of history," and at other points, her "guide," and "instructor," writing:
"Most truly honored and as truly dear,
If worth in me, or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same?
Then may your worthy self from whom it came?"
As at Cambridge, and in far greater degree, she was cut off from much that had held resources there. At the worst, only a few miles had separated them from what was fast becoming the center and soul of the Colony. But Ipswich shut them in, and life for both Mistress Dudley and her daughter was an anxious one. The General Court called for the presence of both Dudley and Bradstreet, the latter spending much of his time away, and some of the tenderest and most natural of Anne Bradstreet's poems, was written at this time, though regarded as too purely personal to find place in any edition of her poems. The quiet but fervent love between them had deepened with every year, and though no letters remain, as with Winthrop, to evidence the steady and intense affection of both, the "Letter to her Husband, absent upon some Publick employment," holds all the proof one can desire.
"My head, my heart, mine Eyes, my life, my more,
My joy, my Magazine of earthly store.
If two be one as surely thou and I,
How stayest thou there, whilst I at Ipswich lie?
So many steps, head from the heart to sever,
If but a neck, soon would we be together;
I like the earth this season mourn in black
My Sun is gone so far in 's Zodiack,
Whom whilst I joyed, nor storms nor frosts I felt,
His warmth such frigid colds did cause to melt.
My chilled limbs now nummed lye forlorn,
Return, return sweet Sol, from Capricorn;
In this dead time, alas, what can I more
Than view those fruits which through thy heat I bore?
Which sweet contentment yield me for a space,
True, living Pictures of their Father's face.
O strange effect! now thou art Southward gone,
I weary grow, the tedious day so long;
But when thou Northward to me shalt return,
I wish my Sun may never set but burn
Within the Cancer of my glowing breast.
The welcome house of him my dearest guest.
Where ever, ever stay, and go not thence
Till nature's sad decree shall call thee hence;
Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone,
I here, thou there, yet both are one."
A second one is less natural in expression, but still holds the same longing.
"Phœbus, make haste, the day's too long, be gone,
The silent nights, the fittest time for moan;
But stay this once, unto my suit give ear,
And tell my griefs in either Hemisphere.
(And if the whirling of thy wheels don't drown'd)
The woeful accents of my doleful sound,
If in thy swift Carrier thou canst make stay,
I crave this boon, this Errand by the way,
Commend me to the man more lov'd than life,
Shew him the sorrows of his widowed wife;
My dumpish thoughts, my groans, my brakish tears,
My sobs, my longing hopes, my doubting fears,
And if he love, how can he there abide?
My Interest's more than all the world beside.
He that can tell the Starrs or Ocean sand,
Or all the grass that in the Meads do stand,
The leaves in th' woods, the hail or drops of rain,
Or in a corn field number every grain,
Or every mote that in the sunshine hops,
May count my sighs, and number all my drops:
Tell him, the countless steps that thou dost trace,
That once a day, thy Spouse thou mayst embrace;
And when thou canst not treat by loving mouth,
Thy rays afar salute her from the south.
But for one month I see no day (poor soul)
Like those far scituate under the pole,
Which day by day long wait for thy arise,
O, how they joy, when thou dost light the skyes.
O Phœbus, hadst thou but thus long from thine,
Restrained the beams of thy beloved shine,
At thy return, if so thou could'st or durst
Behold a Chaos blacker than the first.
Tell him here's worse than a confused matter,
His little world's a fathom under water,
Nought but the fervor of his ardent beams
Hath power to dry the torrent of these streams
Tell him I would say more but cannot well,
Oppressed minds, abruptest tales do tell.
Now post with double speed, mark what I say,
By all our loves, conjure him not to stay."
In the third and last, there is simply an imitation of much of the work of the seventeenth century; with its conceits and twisted meanings, its mannerisms and baldness, but still the feeling is there, though Mistress Bradstreet has labored painfully to make it as unlike nature as possible.
"As loving Hind that (Hartless) wants her Deer,
Scuds through the woods and Fern with hearkening ear,
Perplext, in every bush and nook doth pry,
Her dearest Deer might answer ear or eye;
So doth my anxious soul, which now doth miss,
A dearer Deer (far dearer Heart) than this.
Still wait with doubts and hopes and failing eye;
His voice to hear or person to descry.
Or as the pensive Dove doth all alone
(On withered bough) most uncouthly bemoan
The absence of her Love and Loving Mate,
Whose loss hath made her so unfortunate;
Ev'n thus doe I, with many a deep sad groan,
Bewail my turtle true, who now is gone,
His presence and his safe return, still wooes
With thousand doleful sighs and mournful Cooes.
Or as the loving Mullet that true Fish,
Her fellow lost, nor joy nor life do wish,
But lanches on that shore there for to dye,
Where she her captive husband doth espy,
Mine being gone I lead a joyless life,
I have a living sphere, yet seem no wife;
But worst of all, to him can't steer my course,
I here, he there, alas, both kept by force;
Return, my Dear, my Joy, my only Love,
Unto thy Hinde, thy Mullet and thy Dove,
Who neither joys in pasture, house nor streams,
The substance gone, O me, these are but dreams,
Together at one Tree, O let us brouse,
And like two Turtles roost within one house,
And like the Mullets in one River glide,
Let's still remain one till death divide.
Thy loving Love and Dearest Dear,
At home, abroad and everywhere.
Of a far higher order are a few lines, written at the same time, and with no suspicion of straining or of imitation in the quiet fervor of the words, that must have carried a thrill of deep and exquisite happiness to the heart of the man, so loved and honored.
"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."
The woman who could feel such fervor as these lines express, owed the world something more than she ever gave, but every influence tended, as we have seen, to silence natural expression. One must seek, however, to discover why she failed even when admitting that failure was the only thing to be expected, and the causes are in the nature of the time itself, the story of literary development for that period being as complicated as politics, religion and every other force working on the minds of men.