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Poem by Anne Bradstreet


1 Sometime now past in the Autumnal Tide,
2 When Ph{oe}bus wanted but one hour to bed,
3 The trees all richly clad, yet void of pride,
4 Were gilded o’re by his rich golden head.
5 Their leaves and fruits seem’d painted but was true
6 Of green, of red, of yellow, mixed hew,
7 Rapt were my senses at this delectable view. 


8 I wist not what to wish, yet sure thought I,
9 If so much excellence abide below,
10 How excellent is he that dwells on high?
11 Whose power and beauty by his works we know.
12 Sure he is goodness, wisdom, glory, light,
13 That hath this under world so richly dight.
14 More Heaven than Earth was here, no winter and no night. 


15 Then on a stately Oak I cast mine Eye,
16 Whose ruffling top the Clouds seem’d to aspire.
17 How long since thou wast in thine Infancy?
18 Thy strength and stature, more thy years admire,
19 Hath hundred winters past since thou wast born?
20 Or thousand since thou brakest thy shell of horn?
21 If so, all these as nought, Eternity doth scorn. 


22 Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz’d,
23 Whose beams was shaded by the leafy Tree.
24 The more I look’d, the more I grew amaz’d
25 And softly said, what glory’s like to thee?
26 Soul of this world, this Universe’s Eye,
27 No wonder some made thee a Deity.
28 Had I not better known (alas) the same had I. 


29 Thou as a Bridegroom from thy Chamber rushes
30 And as a strong man joys to run a race.
31 The morn doth usher thee with smiles and blushes.
32 The Earth reflects her glances in thy face.
33 Birds, insects, Animals with Vegative,
34 Thy heat from death and dullness doth revive
35 And in the darksome womb of fruitful nature dive. 


36 Thy swift Annual and diurnal Course,
37 Thy daily straight and yearly oblique path,
38 Thy pleasing fervour, and thy scorching force,
39 All mortals here the feeling knowledge hath.
40 Thy presence makes it day, thy absence night,
41 Quaternal seasons caused by thy might.
42 Hail Creature, full of sweetness, beauty, and delight! 


43 Art thou so full of glory that no Eye
44 Hath strength thy shining Rays once to behold?
45 And is thy splendid Throne erect so high
46 As, to approach it, can no earthly mould?
47 How full of glory then must thy Creator be!
48 Who gave this bright light luster unto thee.
49 Admir’d, ador’d for ever be that Majesty! 


50 Silent alone where none or saw or heard,
51 In pathless paths I lead my wand’ring feet.
52 My humble Eyes to lofty Skies I rear’d
53 To sing some Song my mazed Muse thought meet.
54 My great Creator I would magnify
55 That nature had thus decked liberally,
56 But Ah and Ah again, my imbecility! 


57 I heard the merry grasshopper then sing,
58 The black clad Cricket bear a second part.
59 They kept one tune and played on the same string,
60 Seeming to glory in their little Art.
61 Shall creatures abject thus their voices raise
62 And in their kind resound their maker’s praise
63 Whilst I, as mute, can warble forth no higher lays? 


64 When present times look back to Ages past
65 And men in being fancy those are dead,
66 It makes things gone perpetually to last
67 And calls back months and years that long since fled.
68 It makes a man more aged in conceit
69 Than was Methuselah or’s grand-sire great,
70 While of their persons and their acts his mind doth treat. 


71 Sometimes in Eden fair he seems to be,
72 See glorious Adam there made Lord of all,
73 Fancies the Apple dangle on the Tree
74 That turn’d his Sovereign to a naked thrall,
75 Who like a miscreant’s driven from that place
76 To get his bread with pain and sweat of face.
77 A penalty impos’d on his backsliding Race. 


78 Here sits our Grand-dame in retired place
79 And in her lap her bloody Cain new born.
80 The weeping Imp oft looks her in the face,
81 Bewails his unknown hap and fate forlorn.
82 His Mother sighs to think of Paradise
83 And how she lost her bliss to be more wise,
84 Believing him that was and is Father of lies. 


85 Here Cain and Abel come to sacrifice,
86 Fruits of the Earth and Fatlings each do bring.
87 On Abel’s gift the fire descends from Skies,
88 But no such sign on false Cain’s offering.
89 With sullen hateful looks he goes his ways,
90 Hath thousand thoughts to end his brother’s days,
91 Upon whose blood his future good he hopes to raise. 


92 There Abel keeps his sheep, no ill he thinks,
93 His brother comes, then acts his fratricide.
94 The Virgin Earth of blood her first draught drinks,
95 But since that time she often hath been cloy’d.
96 The wretch with ghastly face and dreadful mind
97 Thinks each he sees will serve him in his kind,
98 Though none on Earth but kindred near then could he find. 


99 Who fancies not his looks now at the Bar,
100 His face like death, his heart with horror fraught.
101 Nor Male-factor ever felt like war,
102 When deep despair with wish of life hath fought,
103 Branded with guilt, and crusht with treble woes,
104 A Vagabond to Land of Nod he goes, 
105 A City builds that walls might him secure from foes. 


106 Who thinks not oft upon the Father’s ages?
107 Their long descent, how nephews’ sons they saw,
108 The starry observations of those Sages,
109 And how their precepts to their sons were law,
110 How Adam sigh’d to see his Progeny
111 Cloth’d all in his black, sinful Livery,
112 Who neither guilt not yet the punishment could fly. 


113 Our life compare we with their length of days.
114 Who to the tenth of theirs doth now arrive?
115 And though thus short, we shorten many ways,
116 Living so little while we are alive.
117 In eating, drinking, sleeping, vain delight
118 So unawares comes on perpetual night
119 And puts all pleasures vain unto eternal flight. 


120 When I behold the heavens as in their prime
121 And then the earth (though old) still clad in green,
122 The stones and trees, insensible of time,
123 Nor age nor wrinkle on their front are seen.
124 If winter come and greenness then do fade,
125 A Spring returns, and they more youthful made,
126 But Man grows old, lies down, remains where once he’s laid. 


127 By birth more noble than those creatures all,
128 Yet seems by nature and by custom curs’d,
129 No sooner born but grief and care makes fall
130 That state obliterate he had at first:
131 Nor youth, nor strength, nor wisdom spring again,
132 Nor habitations long their names retain
133 But in oblivion to the final day remain. 


134 Shall I then praise the heavens, the trees, the earth,
135 Because their beauty and their strength last longer?
136 Shall I wish there, or never to had birth,
137 Because they’re bigger and their bodies stronger?
138 Nay, they shall darken, perish, fade and die,
139 And when unmade, so ever shall they lie.
140 But man was made for endless immortality. 


141 Under the cooling shadow of a stately Elm
142 Close sate I by a goodly River’s side,
143 Where gliding streams the Rocks did overwhelm.
144 A lonely place, with pleasures dignifi’d.
145 I once that lov’d the shady woods so well,
146 Now thought the rivers did the trees excel,
147 And if the sun would ever shine, there would I dwell. 


148 While on the stealing stream I fixt mine eye,
149 Which to the long’d-for Ocean held its course,
150 I markt nor crooks, nor rubs that there did lie
151 Could hinder ought but still augment its force.
152 O happy Flood, quoth I, that holds thy race
153 Till thou arrive at thy beloved place,
154 Nor is it rocks or shoals that can obstruct thy pace. 


155 Nor is’t enough that thou alone may’st slide,
156 But hundred brooks in thy clear waves do meet,
157 So hand in hand along with thee they glide
158 To Thetis’ house, where all imbrace and greet.
159 Thou Emblem true of what I count the best,
160 O could I lead my Rivolets to rest,
161 So may we press to that vast mansion, ever blest. 


162 Ye Fish which in this liquid Region ’bide
163 That for each season have your habitation,
164 Now salt, now fresh where you think best to glide
165 To unknown coasts to give a visitation,
166 In Lakes and ponds, you leave your numerous fry.
167 So Nature taught, and yet you know not why,
168 You watry folk that know not your felicity. 


169 Look how the wantons frisk to task the air,
170 Then to the colder bottom straight they dive;
171 Eftsoon to Neptune’s glassy Hall repair
172 To see what trade they, great ones, there do drive,
173 Who forrage o’re the spacious sea-green field
174 And take the trembling prey before it yield,
175 Whose armour is their scales, their spreading fins their shield. 


176 While musing thus with contemplation fed,
177 And thousand fancies buzzing in my brain,
178 The sweet-tongu’d Philomel percht o’re my head
179 And chanted forth a most melodious strain
180 Which rapt me so with wonder and delight
181 I judg’s my hearing better than my sight
182 And wisht me wings with her a while to take my flight. 


183 O merry Bird (said I) that fears no snares,
184 That neither toils nor hoards up in thy barn,
185 Feels no sad thoughts nor cruciating cares
186 To gain more good or shun what might thee harm--
187 Thy clothes ne’er wear, thy meat is everywhere,
188 Thy bed a bough, thy drink the water clear--
189 Reminds not what is past, nor what’s to come dost fear. 


190 The dawning morn with songs thou dost prevent,
191 Sets hundred notes unto thy feathered crew,
192 So each one tunes his pretty instrument
193 And warbling out the old, begin anew,
194 And thus they pass their youth in summer season,
195 Then follow thee into a better Region,
196 Where winter’s never felt by that sweet airy legion. 


197 Man at the best a creature frail and vain,
198 In knowledge ignorant, in strength but weak,
199 Subject to sorrows, losses, sickness, pain,
200 Each storm his state, his mind, his body break--
201 From some of these he never finds cessation
202 But day or night, within, without, vexation,
203 Troubles from foes, from friends, from dearest, near’st Relation. 


204 And yet this sinful creature, frail and vain,
205 This lump of wretchedness, of sin and sorrow,
206 This weather-beaten vessel wrackt with pain,
207 Joys not in hope of an eternal morrow.
208 Nor all his losses, crosses, and vexation,
209 In weight, in frequency and long duration
210 Can make him deeply groan for that divine Translation. 


211 The Mariner that on smooth waves doth glide
212 Sings merrily and steers his Barque with ease
213 As if he had command of wind and tide
214 And now becomes great Master of the seas,
215 But suddenly a storm spoils all the sport
216 And makes him long for a more quiet port,
217 Which ’gainst all adverse winds may serve for fort. 


218 So he that faileth in this world of pleasure,
219 Feeding on sweets that never bit of th’ sour,
220 That’s full of friends, of honour, and of treasure,
221 Fond fool, he takes this earth ev’n for heav’ns bower,
222 But sad affliction comes and makes him see
223 Here’s neither honour, wealth, or safety.
224 Only above is found all with security. 


225 O Time the fatal wrack of mortal things
226 That draws oblivion’s curtains over kings,
227 Their sumptuous monuments, men know them not;
228 Their names with a Record are forgot,
229 Their parts, their ports, their pomp’s all laid in th’ dust.
230 Nor wit, nor gold, nor buildings scape time’s rust,
231 But he whose name is grav’d in the white stone
232 Shall last and shine when all of these are gone.

Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet's other poems:
  1. To Her Most Honoured Father Thomas Dudley Esq; These Humbly Presented
  2. For the Restoration of My Dear Husband from a Burning Ague, June, 1661
  3. Deliverance from a Fit of Fainting
  4. For Deliverance from a Feaver
  5. Upon Some Distemper of Body

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