Good morning, class. Here’s an interesting poem by Anne Bradstreet, which I had to write a paper on for my American Literature class a while back, and I’d posted this on the old Blogger site, so you’ll see comments from that.
The Author to Her Book
Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad expos’d to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
In this array, ‘mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam.
In Critics’ hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.
And here is what I wrote. Not my best, but it explains the poem:
By using the terms, “ill-form’d” and “feeble brain,” Bradstreet suggests that she was not capable at the time of producing something better, perhaps because it was in the early stage of her writing, and so the book was laden with errors. It is the reason she kept the book at her side. She felt it unworthy of “public view.” I can understand how she felt, as my own “rambling brat” is available for public consumption, but not my very first one.
Bradstreet’s book was published without her knowledge by friends who took it abroad—which I determine to be overseas—“less wise than true”, meaning they were not knowledgeable in the art of writing and would not understand or see the glaring errors, but their heart was true in attempting to possibly do her a favor by having it published. The book’s imperfections are what the poem is about, essentially. Bradstreet views the book as a literary child—“offspring”—as most writers view their work, and refers to it this way throughout the poem.
She feels the book inadequate for public eyes and prays that the book does not make it into the hands of critics because the errors within “were not lessened” before publication. When she discovered it had been published, she was quite embarrassed by stating in the poem, “At thy return my blushing was not small,” and she refers to the book as a “rambling brat” like a child without proper manners. She refers that she could not stand to even look at the book when stating, “Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight,” but since the book was hers, she held “affection” for it and would attempt to “amend” its “blemishes.”
Upon making the attempt to fix the errors, she would only find more—“I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw, And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.” Bradstreet mended and worked the book’s errors, but could not straighten them out. She had in mind to dress it better, perhaps by choosing different words or passages that would gleam of higher intelligence, but could not find the correct ones to choose, or they just simply did not work.
With what she had, she states “‘mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam,” which means that it would be read by common folk, a clear indication that her attempts to make it better were attempts at making it more scholarly, perhaps. Then she states that she prays it does not fall into critic’s hands and that the book travels to places where it would not be known, such as staying within the common realm.
The “Father” usage could indicate an editor, in which the book had none, and she is its “Mother,” and claims that she is poor, “Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.” This is a statement in which, while she does not approve of the book being available to the public, perhaps it was selling and she could make money from it.
I would actually like to read this book to see what she is talking about in the poem, just out of curiosity, now that I have read this and analyzed it.
This, of course, is just my perception of the poem. You may hold a different view.