Anne Bradstreet: Writing through trials

And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. (2 Timothy 1:11-12)

Where Anne Hutchinson’s teaching drew the ire of Massachusetts Bay Colony authorities, Anne Bradstreet’s poetry quietly reflected a fierce intellect and willingness to broach subjects as personal as her love for her husband and as wide-reaching as the role of women in Puritan society

Born in Northamptonshire, England, Anne Dudley had been educated in literature and history, as well Greek, Latin, French and Hebrew. She married Simon Bradstreet at 16. Two years later, her parents, her husband and her young family settled in Massachusetts. The family settled in Salem, but moved to Charlestown, Newtown and Ipswich before finally settling down in Andover in 1645.

Anne’s husband, Simon, often traveled on government business, which gave Anne the source material, so to speak, for some of her poetry. She expressed her love for him and how deeply she missed him, as seen in the opening lines of A Letter to her Husband, absent upon Publick employment

My head, my heart, mine Eyes, my life, nay 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 lye?

Anne also found inspiration in her children, nature, and faith – particularly the challenges to faith and the questions that come in times of difficulty. Often, as in these lines from Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666, her poetry reminds her of God’s providence even in great loss.

Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.

Only one book of her poetry prior to her death in September 1672. The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America was published by her brother-in-law in 1650 and drew praise from John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace. There has been some debate about whether or not Anne knew the work was to be published, with some writers saying that she had to engage in a bit of deception in saying it was against her will to avoid the appearance of being too ambitious.

Anne’s poetry echoes Scripture in different ways. Lines from Verses upon the Burning of our House …, for example, are reminiscent of Job, while poems declaring her love for her husband sound a bit like a tamer version of Song of Songs. And, like David in the Psalms, Anne’s poetry written in times of grief and hardship find hope in God’s faithfulness.

When we face trials, we also can look to Christ as our anchor. In addition to praying through those difficult times, consider journaling or writing poetry, as Anne did, to help you bring that truth from a concept you acknowledge with to a truth that you hold in your heart.

***
This is the 16th post in my Write 31 Days series for 2017 in which I am taking a devotional look at key women in Christian history. For more information, or to start the series from the beginning, visit the introductory post.

2 thoughts on “Anne Bradstreet: Writing through trials

  1. I love Anne Bradstreet’s poems! It’s true that she wrote very scripturally, and the difference between her and Anne Hutchinson as they both set out to change the world… one quietly, with God first, and the other brazenly, with a desire to be important masked behind “teaching God’s word” has always struck me very deeply. Thank you for sharing!
    And that verse from Timothy is one of my favorites <3.
    Blessings in Christ,
    Bri from forget-not-his-benefits.blogspot.com

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