Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

  • Not a critical or scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar

Poems of

Anne Bradstreet


 In Reference to her Children

bolded terms: metaphor > extended metaphor or "conceit"
concerning poet's family as nest of birds

Stained-glass representation of Bradstreet
in St. Botolph's Church, Boston, Lincolnshire, England

       In Reference to her Children

[1.1]     I had eight birds hatched in one nest,     
[1.2]     Four Cocks were there, and Hens the rest.
[1.3]     I nursed them up with pain and care,          [nurst = nursed]
[1.4]     No cost nor labour did I spare
[1.5]     Till at the last they felt their wing,
[1.6]     Mounted the Trees, and learned to sing.

[2.1]     Chief of the Brood then took his flight

[2.2]     To Regions far and left me quite.
[2.3]     My mournful chirps I after send
[2.4]     Till he return, or I do end.
[2.5]     Leave not thy nest, thy Dame and Sire,            [Dame and Sire = mother & father]
[2.6]     Fly back and sing amidst this Quire.           [Quire = Choir]

[3.1]     My second bird did take her flight
[3.2]     And with her mate flew out of sight.
[3.3]     Southward they both their course did bend,       [bend = take, incline]
[3.4]     And Seasons twain they there did spend,            [twain = two]
[3.5]     Till after blown by Southern gales
[3.6]     They Norward steer'd with filled sails.           [Norward = Northward]
[3.7]     A prettier bird was nowhere seen,
[3.8]     Along the Beach, among the treen.            [treen = trees]

[4.1]     I have a third of colour white
[4.2]     On whom I placed no small delight,
[4.3]     Coupled with mate loving and true,
[4.4]     Hath also bid her Dame adieu.      [bid her Dame adieu = told her mother goodbye]
[4.5]     And where Aurora first appears,           [Aurora = dawn; i.e., the east]
[4.6]     She now hath perched to spend her years.  

[5.1]     One to the Academy flew                      [Academy = college]
[5.2]     To chat among that learned crew.
[5.3]     Ambition moves still in his breast
[5.4]     That he might chant above the rest,           [chant = sing]
[5.5]     Striving for more than to do well,
[5.6]     That nightingales he might excel.

[6.1]     My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone,
[6.2]     Is 'mongst the shrubs and bushes flown      ['mongst = among]
[6.3]     And as his wings increase in strength
[6.4]     On higher boughs he'll perch at length.

[7.1]     My other three still with me nest
[7.2]     Until they're grown, then as the rest,
[7.3]     Or here or there, they'll take their flight,      [Or = either]
[7.4]     As is ordained, so shall they light.           [light = land]

[8.1]     If birds could weep, then would my tears
[8.2]     Let others know what are my fears
[8.3]     Lest this my brood some harm should catch
[8.4]     And be surprised for want of watch               [watch = care, vigilance]
[8.5]     Whilst pecking corn and void of care
[8.6]     They fall unaware in Fowler's snare;           [Fowler = bird-catcher; snare = trap]
[8.7]     Or whilst on trees they sit and sing
[8.8]     Some untoward boy at them do fling,          [i.e. throw something at them]
[8.9]     Or whilst allured with bell and glass
[8.10]    The net be spread and caught, alas;          [net for catching birds]
[8.11]    Or lest by Lime-twigs they be foil'd;            [twigs lined with lime to hold birds]
[8.12]    Or by some greedy hawks be spoiled.           [spoiled = killed or injured early]

[9.1]     O would, my young, ye saw my breast       [O, if, my young, you could see into my heart]
[9.2]     And knew what thoughts there sadly rest.
[9.3]     Great was my pain when I you bred,
[9.4]     Great was my care when I you fed.
[9.5]     Long did I keep you soft and warm
[9.6]     And with my wings kept off all harm.
[9.7]     My cares are more, and fears, than ever,         [more = greater]
[9.8]     My throbs such now as before were never.

[10.1]     Alas, my birds, you wisdom want                [wisdom as in experience]
[10.2]     Of perils you are ignorant.
[10.3]     Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight,
[10.4]     Sore accidents on you may light.           [sore = wounding; light = land]
[10.5]     O to your safety have an eye,
[10.6]     So happy may you live and die.

[11.1]    Meanwhile, my days in tunes I'll spend
[11.2]    Till my weak lays with me shall end.            [lays = songs, melodies]
[11.3]    In shady woods I'll sit and sing
[11.4]    And things that past, to mind I'll bring.         [past = passed]
[11.5]    Once young and pleasant, as are you,
[11.6]    But former toys (no joys) adieu!                 [toys = fancies, fantasies; adieu = farewell]

[12.1]    My age I will not once lament

[12.2]    But sing, my time so near is spent,
[12.3]    And from the top bough take my flight
[12.4]    Into a country beyond sight
[12.5]    Where old ones instantly grow young
[12.6]    And there with seraphims set song.           [seraphims = angels; there = heaven]
[12.7]    No seasons cold, nor storms they see
[12.8]    But spring lasts to eternity.

[13.1]    When each of you shall in your nest

[13.2]    Among your young ones take your rest,
[13.3]    In chirping languages oft them tell
[13.4]    You had a Dame that lov'd you well,           [Dame = mother]
[13.5]    That did what could be done for young
[13.6]    And nurst you up till you were strong          [nurst = nursed]
[13.7]    And 'fore she once would let you fly           ['fore = before]
[13.8]    She showed you joy and misery,           [shew'd = showed]
[13.9]    Taught what was good, and what was ill,
[13.10]   What would save life, and what would kill.

[14.1]    Thus gone, amongst you I may live,

[14.2]    And dead, yet speak and counsel give.
[14.3]    Farewell, my birds, farewell, adieu,
[14.4]    I happy am, if well with you.