Childhood
By Anne Bradstreet and Anne Bradstreet Birth: 1612 Death: 1672 Married Colonial America: New England

  • Transcription, correction, editorial commentary, and markup by Staff and Research Assistants at The University of Virginia, John O'Brien, Sara Brunstetter
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Sources

Colonial America , 1678 Our texts are taken from the Text Creation Partnership's digital edition of "Several poems compiled with great variety of wit and learning, full of delight, wherein especially is contained a compleat discourse, and description of the four elements constitutions, ages of man, seasons of the year. : Together with an exact epitome of the three first monarchyes viz. the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian. And beginning of the Romane Common-Wealth to the end of their last king: with diverse other pleasant & serious poems, by a gentlewoman in New-England," published in Boston in 1678.

Editorial Statements

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Original spelling and capitalization is retained, though the long s has been silently modernized and ligatured forms are not encoded.

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Citation

Bradstreet, Anne. , , 1678. Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. https://anthologydev.lib.virginia.edu/work/Bradstreet/bradstreet-childhood. Accessed: 2020-04-05T23:47:45.659Z
Childhoodn00ln00lThis poem is the first of four poems in a larger work called "Of the Four Ages of Man." Anne Bradstreet Ah me! conceiv'd in sin, and born in sorrow, A nothing, here to day, but gone to morrow. Whose mean beginning, blushing cann't reveale, But night and darkenesse, must with shame conceal. My mothers breeding sicknessn002n002Breeding sickness is referring to her pregnancy. Source: Oxford English Dictionary, I will spare; Her nine months weary burden not declare. To shew her bearing pangs, I should do wrong, To tel that paine, which cann't be told by tongue; With tears into this world I did arrive My mother still did waste, as I did thrive: Who yet with love, and all alacrityn003n003Alacrity means cheerful readiness or willingness. Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Spending was willing, to be spent for me; With wayward cryes, I did disturb her rest; Who sought still to appease me, with her brest, With weary armes, she danc'd, and By, Byn004n004(DRAFT)By, By is the title of a song, probably a lullaby., sung, When wretched I (ungrate) had done the wrong! When Infancy was past, my Childishnesse, Did act al folly, that it could expresse. My sillinesse did only take delight, In that which riper age did scorn, and slight: In Rattles, Bables, and such toyish fluffe. My then ambitious thoughts, were low enough. My high borne soule, so straitly was confin'd That its own worth, it did not know, nor mind. This little house of fleshn005n005(draft I don't know if this one is necessary)Little house of flesh refers to Bradstreet's childhood body., did spacious count: Through ignorance, all troubles did surmount. Yet this advantage, had mine ignorance, Freedome from Envy, and from Arrogance, How to be rich, or great. I did not carken006n006To cark means to labour anxiously. Source: Oxford English Dictionary; A Baron or a Duke, ne'r made my mark. Nor studious was, Kings favours how to buy, With costly presents, or base flattery. No office covered, wherein I might Make strong my selfe, and turne aside weak right. No malice bare, to this, or that great Peer, Nor unto buzzing whisperors, gave ear. I gave no hand, nor vote, for death, or life: I'd nought to do,'twixt Prince, and peoples strife.n007n007Bradstreet had no place in disputes between the people and the royal family. This is likely an allusion to the English Civil War, which she discussed in other poems. (Bradstreet,"A Dialogue between Old England and New; concerning their present Troubles”) No Statistn008n008A Statist is someone who believes that the state should control either economic or social policy, or both, to some degree. Source: Wikipedia I: nor Marti'listn009n009Martialist is another word for soldier. Source: Oxford English Dictionary i'th'field; Where e're I went, mine innocence was shield. My quarrels, not for Diademsn0l0n0l0This use of diadem, which is another word for crown, is likely a metonym for royalty. She did not fight for royalty as a child.did rise; But for an Apple, Plumbe, or some such prize, My stroks did cause no death, nor wounds, nor skars. My little wrath did cease soon as my wars. My duel was no challenge, nor did seek. My foe should welteringn0l1n0l1To welter means to wither. Source: Oxford English Dictionary, with his bowels reek.n0l2n0l2This line is likely referring to when a person's bowels empty after they die. I had no Suits at lawn0l3n0l3Suits at law refers to lawsuits. Bradstreet had no legal troubles as a child., neighbours to vex. Nor evidence for land, did me perplex. I fear'd no stormes, nor al the windes that blows, I had no ships at Sea, no fraughtsn0l4n0l4Fraught is equivalent to the modern word freight. Source: Oxford English Dictionary to loose. I fear'd no drought, nor wet, I had no crop, Nor yet on future things did place my hope. This was mine innocence, but oh the seeds, Lay raked up, of all the cursed weeds, Which sprouted forth, in my insuingn0l5n0l5Insuing is equivalent to the modern word ensuing Source: Oxford English Dictionary age, As he can tell, that next comes on the stage. But yet let me relate, before I go, The sins, and dangers I am subject to. From birth stayned, with Adams sinfull factn0l6n0l6Adam's sinful fact refers to original sin from the Creation story of the Book of Genesis.; From thence I'gann0l7n0l7'gan is an abbreviation for began. to sin, as soon as act. A perverse will, a love to what's forbid: A serpents sting in pleasing face lay hid. A lying tongue as soon as it could speak, And fift Commandementn0l8n0l8Since Anne Bradstreet was Puritan, the Fifth Commandment refers to "Honor thy father and mother." Source: Wikipediado daily break. Oft stubborn, peevish, sullen, pout, and cry: Then nought can please, and yet I know not why. As many was my sins, so dangers too: For sin brings sorrow, sicknesse, death, and woe. And though I misse, the tossings of the mind: Yet griefs, in my fraile flesh, I still do find. What gripes of wind, mine infancy did pain? What tortures I, in breeding teeth sustain? What cruditiesn019n019Imperfect Humours or indigestibles. Source: Oxford English Dictionary my cold stomach hath bred? Whence vomits, wormes, and fluxn020n020Flux is an abnormally copious flowing of blood, excrement, etc. from the bowels or other organs. Source: Oxford English Dictionary have issued? What breaches, knocks, and falls I daily have? And some perhaps, I carry to my grave. Sometimes in fire, sometimes in waters fall: Strangely preserv'd, yet mind it not at all. At home, abroad, my danger's manifold. That wonder tis, my glasse till now doth hold. I've done, unto my elders I give way. For'tis but little, that a child can say.n02ln02lAfter this, Bradstreet begins the second poem in "Of the Four Ages of Man," "Youth."

Footnotes