27 January 2009

My head, my heart, mine Eyes, my life, nay more


I like Anne Bradstreet. When her husband felt called to do Stuff on the other side of the ocean, she packed up and went with the dude, exchanging a cozily predictable existence in England for adventures unknown in the Wild New World. She somehow managed to pull off being a genuine writer while also being the mother of eight.

There are in fact many reasons to like Anne Bradstreet, and one of my favorites is the way she flummoxes the feminist critics: She was the First Real American Poet! A Woman! Wo-man! HOOAH! But wait a minute…what’s this? She wrote all this stuff about her husband and her kids, like she was actually….fulfilled…by that slavish domestic stuff. Poor oppressed thing didn’t know any better! Sounds like she might’ve even believed her husband to be her head?! Oh! Now what do we do with her? Wait—look at this—I believe this here is subversive! Yes, subversive! One of our very favorite literary terms! In fact one of our only literary terms!

And so on, as they co-opt her for their cause. But I digress. Gauntlets’ Penelope post tangentially put me in mind of Bradstreet’s “A Letter to Her Husband, Absent Upon Public Employment.” So I thought I might as well put you in mind of it too. If freshman English is but a distant door down the crowded corridors of your mind, go read it again. You can even feel subversive if you want.

6 comments:

Rebekah said...

Wonderful Anne. "To My Dear and Loving Husband" has been bouncing around in my head for 15 years--hard to believe I've had one of my own for over half that time now.

Gauntlets said...

You just totally made my day. :D

I only own a few snippets of Anne in a book given me by my feminist high school literature teacher . . . I think I'll waste the remainder of the afternoon figuring out where that book got to.

Mossback Meadow said...

I can't believe you posted about Bradstreet today. My favorite of hers is "In Reference to Her Children..."

Reb. Mary said...

MM: I have a feeling that one'll be tugging my heartstrings more and more in years to come :O That stained glass window references that poem--the thing she's holding is a nest with 8 baby birds.

Cheryl said...

I really like Bradstreet, too--in fact, as a grad student I wrote a paper about the group of poems written to her husband. For the weirdos among you who might be interested in the topic, I analyzed the persuasive aspect of the poems and the rhetorical tools Bradstreet used to make her "case" to her "audience" (hey, give me a break, okay? It's hard to come up with a fresh topic!)

I think it's cool that Bradstreet is often called the first American poet (not the first female American poet, mind you, but just the first one, period).

Here's one of my favorites (I copied it all since it's not too long):

"By Night When Others Soundly Slept"

By night when others soundly slept
And hath at once both ease and Rest,
My waking eyes were open kept
And so to lie I found it best.

I sought him whom my Soul did Love,
With tears I sought him earnestly.
He bow'd his ear down from Above.
In vain I did not seek or cry.

My hungry Soul he fill'd with Good;
He in his Bottle put my tears,
My smarting wounds washt in his blood,
And banisht thence my Doubts and fears.

What to my Saviour shall I give
Who freely hath done this for me?
I'll serve him here whilst I shall live
And Loue him to Eternity.

Reb. Mary said...

Cheryl, nice one. You can count me as an interested weirdo any day :D