Anne Bradstreet

(1612 – 16 September 1672 / Northampton, England)

Childhood


Ah me! conceiv'd in sin, and born in sorrow,
A nothing, here to day, but gone to morrow,
Whose mean beginning, blushing can't reveal,
But night and darkness must with shame conceal.
My mother's breeding sickness, I will spare,
Her nine months' weary burden not declare.
To shew her bearing pangs, I should do wrong,
To tell that pain, which can't be told by tongue.
With tears into this world I did arrive;
My mother still did waste, as I did thrive,
Who yet with love and all alacrity,
Spending was willing to be spent for me.
With wayward cries, I did disturb her rest,
Who sought still to appease me with her breast;
With weary arms, she danc'd, and By, By, sung,
When wretched I (ungrate) had done the wrong.
When Infancy was past, my Childishness
Did act all folly that it could express.
My silliness did only take delight
In that which riper age did scorn and slight,
In Rattles, Bables, and such toyish stuff.
My then ambitious thoughts were low enough.
My high-born soul so straitly was confin'd
That its own worth it did not know nor mind.
This little house of flesh did spacious count,
Through ignorance, all troubles did surmount,
Yet this advantage had mine ignorance,
Freedom from Envy and from Arrogance.
How to be rich, or great, I did not cark,
A Baron or a Duke ne'r made my mark,
Nor studious was, Kings favours how to buy,
With costly presents, or base flattery;
No office coveted, wherein I might
Make strong my self and turn aside weak right.
No malice bare to this or that great Peer,
Nor unto buzzing whisperers gave ear.
I gave no hand, nor vote, for death, or life.
I'd nought to do, 'twixt Prince, and peoples' strife.
No Statist I: nor Marti'list i' th' field.
Where e're I went, mine innocence was shield.
My quarrels, not for Diadems, did rise,
But for an Apple, Plumb, or some such prize.
My strokes did cause no death, nor wounds, nor scars.
My little wrath did cease soon as my wars.
My duel was no challenge, nor did seek.
My foe should weltering, with his bowels reek.
I had no Suits at law, neighbours to vex,
Nor evidence for land did me perplex.
I fear'd no storms, nor all the winds that blows.
I had no ships at Sea, no fraughts to loose.
I fear'd no drought, nor wet; I had no crop,
Nor yet on future things did place my hope.
This was mine innocence, but oh the seeds
Lay raked up of all the cursed weeds,
Which sprouted forth in my insuing age,
As he can tell, that next comes on the stage.
But let me yet relate, before I go,
The sins and dangers I am subject to:
From birth stained, with Adam's sinful fact,
From thence I 'gan to sin, as soon as act;
A perverse will, a love to what's forbid;
A serpent's sting in pleasing face lay hid;
A lying tongue as soon as it could speak
And fifth Commandment do daily break;
Oft stubborn, peevish, sullen, pout, and cry;
Then nought can please, and yet I know not why.
As many was my sins, so dangers too,
For sin brings sorrow, sickness, death, and woe,
And though I miss the tossings of the mind,
Yet griefs in my frail flesh I still do find.
What gripes of wind, mine infancy did pain?
What tortures I, in breeding teeth sustain?
What crudities my cold stomach hath bred?
Whence vomits, worms, and flux have issued?
What breaches, knocks, and falls I daily have?
And some perhaps, I carry to my grave.
Sometimes in fire, sometimes in water fall:
Strangely preserv'd, yet mind it not at all.
At home, abroad, my danger's manifold
That wonder 'tis, my glass till now doth hold.
I've done: unto my elders I give way,
For 'tis but little that a child can say.

Submitted: Friday, April 02, 2010

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