1831 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anne Bradstreet

John Wilson, et. al., in Blackwood's Magazine (February 1831); Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 4:252-53.



NORTH. I have lately looked over — in three volumes — Specimens of North American Poetry, with Critical and Biographical Notices, and have met with many most interesting little poems, and passages of poems. The editor has been desirous of showing what had been achieved under the inspiration of the American Muses before the days of Irving and Cooper, Pierpont and Percival, and thinks, rightly, that the lays of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, the poets of the Western World, are as likely to bear some characteristic traits of national or individual character, as those of the Minnesingers and Trouvers — or the "Gongorism of the Castilian rhymesters of old."

SHEPHERD. Gongorism! What's that?

NORTH. Accordingly, he goes as far back as 1612, and gives us a pretty long poem called Contemplations, by Anne Bradstreet, daughter of one Governor of Massachusetts Colony, and wife of another, who seems to have been a fine spirit.

SHEPHERD. Was she, sir?

NORTH. She is said to have been "a woman honoured and esteemed, where she lived, for her gracious demeanour, her eminent parts, her pious conversation, her virtuous disposition, her exact diligence in her place, and discreet managing of her family occasions; and more so, these poems are the fruits but of some few hours curtailed from her sleep, and other refreshments."

SHEPHERD. Then Anne Bradstreet, sir, was a fine spirit! Just like a' our ain poetesses — in England and Scotland — married or no married yet — and och! och! och! hoo unlike to her and them the literary limmers o' France, rougin' and leerin' on their spinnle-shanked lovers, that maun hae loathed the sicht and the smell o' them, starin' and stinkin' their way to the grave!

TICKLER. James!