Реферат: American Poetry of the Seventeenth Century as a Reflection of Puritan’s Character
14 February 2006
An Analysis of “Upon Wedlock, and the Death of Children” by EdwardTaylor and “Upon the Burning of Our House” by Anne Bradstreet
How much do we know about the first settlers? We know thatthey started to arrive in New England in the first part of the seventeenthcentury. We also know that many of them were Puritans. From high school historytextbooks we know that Puritans were a very religious group that managed toovercome the dangers of a strange land. But who really were those people? How did they live? What did they think and dream about? What werethe most important things in their lives? I think that works of seventeenthcentury Puritans’ authors will help us to answer these questions. Let us takesome poems of Ann Bradstreet and Edward Taylor as examples.
Edward Taylor, who for many years was a priest in a small frontiertown, left behind many writings. I think that the poem Upon Wedlock and Deathof Children shows the poet’s character the best. The poem devoted to two themost important things in Taylor’s life: his family and religion.
From the first lines of the poem we can see a deep love of theauthor for his wife. He compares their marriage to a “True- Love Knot, moresweet than spice, and set with all the flowers of Grace’s dress” (356). The useof the phrase “more sweet than spice” is very touching, in my opinion, becauseit shows the Taylors as a normal, loving couple that time after time had some“spicy” moments in their live (356). Nevertheless, they love each other and thepoet describes their marriage as a “Wedden’s knot, that ne’re can be untied: noAlexander’s Sword can it divide (356).” Comparing the marriage with a “GordianKnot,” Taylor shows the strength of the union between his wife and himself(356).
Further on in the poem, Taylor writes about his children. We can seea happiness of the father when the author compares himself with a plant whose“stock […] knotted and manly flower out brake” (357). This is how he describesthe birth of his son. And later, “ my [Taylor’s] branch again did knot, broughtout another flower” this time the writer speaks about his daughter (357).Taylor sees himself as a plant, and his children are the most beautiful part ofthat plant: flowers. Moreover, they are one organism with their father, and theflowers cannot be separated from the stem without pain.
Nevertheless, some of his children die. This is how Taylor describesthe death of his child: “at that unlooked for […] darksome hour […] a glorioushand […] did crop this flower” (357). The verb “crop” is used to show howroughly a “flower” was separated from the “stem”; it shows the pain of thefather (357). The following lines demonstrate the agony of a parent watchinghis child dieing, “… oh, the tortures, Vomit, screeching, groans, and six weeksFever would pierce hearts like stones” (357). We can see how much the poetloves his children.
However, there is something that Taylor values even more than hiswife and kids: it is his religion. Taylor seems to believe that the Lorddetermines humans’ destiny, and that God created his family. Taylor writes,“God made in paradise” that “True- Love knot, more sweet than spice (Taylor’smarriage),” and “planted” Taylor himself “in that knot” (357). All people areno more than flowers in the garden of God in Taylor’s mind. And it is up toLord to decide whether he “get’st them green, or let them seed” (357).
There is no doubt that Taylor adores his kids, but let us take alook at these lines. While “cropping” the “flowers (children)” Christ “…havingChoice, chose this my branch […] Lord take’t. I thank Thee” (357). Does it notsound like Taylor is proud and happy that God took his children, and notsomebody else’s? The poet sincerely believes that his children are in a muchbetter place than earth now. Furthermore, Taylor sees humans as the property ofGod. “Take [children], Lord, they’re Thine,” the poet addresses to God (357).Nothing, even the death of loved ones, can shake the poet’s faith.
Not everyone, however, was as orthodox as Taylor. Anne Bradstreet, afamous Puritan poetess, did not write as much about religion as Taylor. Manyother things inspired her writing. Some critics even consider the poetess to bea ”disguised rebel” against Puritanism. This point of view is very reasonable.For example, after the death of her grandson, in her poem On My Dear GrandchildSimon Bradstreet, Bradstreet wrote, “such was His [god’s] will, but why, let’snot dispute” (268). Does not it sound like she did ask God “why”? To questionthe God! Can you imagine Taylor doing something like this? Let us examine oneof Bradstreet’s poems to find out if she really was a rebel or not.
When Bradstreet wrote her poem Upon the Burning of Our House, shewas fifty-four, an old age at that time. She might have been a rebel when shewas younger, but she definitely is not one at that time. Her belief in god issincere. As soon as she realizes that her house is on fire, she asks the Lord“to strengthen me [Bradstreet] in my distress” (269). Later, when her house hasburnt to the ground, Anne is not angry with God at all. On the contrary, shepraises him. “I praised His name that gave and took […] it was his own, it wasnot mine,” the poetess says (270). Taylor uses almost the same words describingthe death of his children. Everything belongs to God. The humans’ existence onEarth is nothing but a preparation to eternal life. According to Puritans’belief there is no sense n being upset about the burned home because foreveryone there is “a house on high erect, framed by that mighty Architect”(270).
The part of the poem describing Bradstreet’s burned place is veryemotional. I think only a woman could write it. “And here and there the placesspy where oft I set and long did lie,” the poetess writes (270). “My pleasantthings in ashes lie, and them behold no more shall I,” she also mentioned(270). It seems that the poetess worries more about her memories that wereconnected with the lost possessions, than about a real price of herbelongings.
It is interesting how Bradstreet addresses to her house directly”under thy roof no guest shall sit, nor at thy table eat a bit. Nor pleasanttale shall e’er be told […] No candle e’er shall shine in thee. No bridegroom’svoice e’er heard shall be” (270). The poetess mourns the house like a livingbeing who can no longer be a host. “In silence ever shall thou [house] lie”(270). These lines tell us quite a bit about an every day life of the pioneers.Families would spend their leisure time telling tales (270). A visit of a guestcould be a big event in an isolated community (270). That is why the lost ofthe house for Bradstreet was like the lost of an old and welcoming friend.
The last two lines of the poem are difficult to interpret. “ Theworld no longer let me love, my hope and treasure lie above” she says (270).Probably, Bradstreet means that she does not have much left to live for, andnothing good is waiting for her in our world anymore. That is why her only“hope and treasure lie above” in the kingdom of God (270).
Anne Bradstreet’s poetry broke the rules of the Puritans’ world. Sheappreciates many earthly matters, not only religion. However, I do not thinkshe is a rebel. She understands the limitations of Puritans’ society, but I didnot find any evidence in her poetry that she wanted to change anything. This isnot a rebellion. I think that Bradstreet is a devoted Christian, and believesthat everything is in hands of God.
These two poems picture the real life of the first settlers.Unexpectedly, we found out that pioneers were not so differ from us. They,worked, loved, and suffered when their loved ones died. Religion, however, wasmuch more important for them than for modern people. I think that faith helpedpioneers to survive in those hard conditions.
Bradstreet,Anne. “Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666.”The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Bayem, 6th ed. New York:W.W. Norton, 2003. 269-270.
Taylor,Edward. “Upon Wedlock, and the Death of Children.” The Norton Anthology ofAmerican Literature. Ed. Nina Byem,