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Anne Bradstreet

(1612-1672) "Authority without wisdom is like a heavy axe without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish." -Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet was unaware of the publishing of her poems and had no intention of publishing them. Her brother read her poems and thought they were inspiring and published them without her consent. Imagine someone taking your personal thoughts and publishing them to the world. These personal thoughts of Anne Bradstreet are now famous poems known around the world.

One of Anne Bradstreet's most famous poems is one called, "In Reference to her Children." This poem is an example of an allegory, where the poem can be read as if she just wrote about birds, or it can be read from a highly symbolic point of view. In this poem she describes her eight children by comparing them metaphorically to a nest of birds. She talks about the feelings a mother has towards her children and the anxieties a mother has when raising children. Throughout the poem she describes each of her children and what they are doing in their life. The poems says that she had four boys and four girls and took care of them by giving them everything that she could. When Anne's eldest child had left, she felt very sad and wanted him to come back to the nest. She described her second eldest as the prettiest bird she had ever seen. The third child left her mother and went east where she found a husband and settled down. Anne's fourth child went to school and had a great amount of ambition, wanting to be the very best. She describes her fifth child as weak or sick, and unable to leave the nest and says that her younger three children are still with her in the nest. Throughout the poem Anne continues to describe her fears as a mother and reflect on all of the things that she has done for them since birth. She gave them guidance and wisdom, teaching them right from wrong. In closing she states how when she is dead she will still be there in spirit to guide them and that she is only happy when they are.


"Chief of the Brood then took his flight
To Regions far and left me quite.
My mournful chirps I after send
Till he return, or I do end.
Leave not thy nest, thy Dame or Sire,
Fly back and sing amidst this Quire.”


This is an example of how Anne describes each of her children in this poem. This excerpt in particular is about her eldest child. Her eldest child took flight and left the nest, traveling to a far away place. As a loving mother, Anne wanted him to come back and was evoked with sadness when he had left.

“Great was my pain when I you bred,
Great was my care when I you fed.
Long did I keep you soft and warm
And with my wings kept off all harm.”


This describes Anne’s feelings as a mother and compares them metaphorically to a mother bird. When Anne had her kids she endured great pain and cared for them. She also kept them from harm and did everything she could to protect them.

“Taught what was good, and what was ill,
What would save life, and what would kill.
Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
And dead, yet speak and counsel give.
Farewell, my birds, farewell, adieu,
I happy am, if well with you.”


This closing excerpt talks about the lessons and values Anne has instilled in her children. It talks about her death and how she will still be there for her children even when she is gone physically. She hopes she has taught her children what was right and what was wrong and that she has given them enough guidance. She ends with saying she is only happy when her children are.

After reading this poem i got a sense of how parents feel when their children are leaving home. This poem reminded me of the saying, "the empty nest." This saying refers to a house where all of the children have left and refers to the house as the "nest." People use this saying when talking to one another about their children leaving and the parents being "empty nesters." Like birds, when all their children have left, their home is empty. Throughout the story one could fell the warm compassion that Anne had for her children. She gave them guidance and wisdom, and protected them as they were growing. In many other works mothers have the same compassion for their children as do many mothers today. Personally, my mom tries to give my brothers and I more than what she had because she loves us and cares for us. Most parents would give their children the world if they could. I strongly liked the idea that Anne Bradstreet had of comparing her household of children to a nest of birds metaphorically, giving the poem a relateable feel and deeper meaning of the saying "the empty nest."

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