The Author to Her Book by Anne Bradstreet



hello we're going to look at some poetry today by Anne Bradstreet and Bradstreet is one of the very first American poets and she's here in the very infancy of this country and in fact was an immigrant from England so she is one of the very first women poets that we have writing in this country and one of our first poets of any sort of course doing some writing here so she's doubly important in that respect we're going to look at one of her most important and most well-known poems called the author to her book and we're going to go over this a little bit at a time but I want to give you just a couple of items about the overall scope of the poem first it is written in iambic pentameter so this tells us what metre the poem is written in essentially that means it's ten syllables and the stress pattern is unstressed stressed unstressed stressed unstressed stressed through the length of each line so each line generally is written that way although you may find an occasional line that doesn't seem to fit it exactly but overall it is written in iambic pentameter and it's also written in rhyming couplets so each pair of lines we'll rhyme as you see at the at the ends as you go through the poem this poem has a very interesting and very well done metaphor and what we might call an extended metaphor or even a controlling metaphor for the whole poem notice the title and the title is very important here called the author to her book when I sometimes ask students to explicate this poem what I find in a few of the papers that come back typically is that some folks read this in a very literal sense and want to make the the context of the poem point toward a physical real child but Anne Bradstreet is not talking about a literal child this is part of the metaphor that she's using in the poem a metaphor of course is is something that's made to be are compared to something else so we say perhaps that my glasses or a telescope to the world or something like that it's not literally a telescope but I'm making that comparison we might say that a hungry person eats like a lion and that we make that kind of comparison then and that's called a metaphor well the metaphor a controlling metaphor the amber Astrid is using in this poem is comparing her book to a child and this is the controlling metaphor that runs all the way through the poem we're going to take it just a few lines at a time here and kind of go through it slowly so you get a good sense of what the poem is talking about but keep that in mind and if you to read this without the title and again the title is the author to her book if you were to read it without the title it would be pretty easy to get this confused and not realize that she's talking about her book and not a literal child first couple of lines here now illed form offspring of my feeble brain well what's an offspring generally we mean a child like that but notice here at the end of the first line is the offspring of her feeble brain not of her body as a physical child would be but this is an offspring of her brain something that's come from her mind her thoughts or ideas and she's writing down the lines of poetry so this is the kind of offspring we're talking about here a metaphorical offspring second line who after birth this by myside remain so in other words she's kept the child by her the metaphorical child the poetry and of course she had not sent her poetry out she did not intend for it to be published it was sent out by someone else really unbeknownst to her at all so this is again what she's referring to here she was keeping these poems to herself till snatched from thence by friends less wise than true and this is the reference to her poem is being taken without her knowledge and sent in for publication fourth line who the abroad exposed to public view referring now to the publication of her poems without her knowledge or consent and it wasn't that her friends were trying to do anything evil they recognized that she was a good poet and they wanted her poems to be published and she was perhaps reluctant we don't have all the details about this but in any case she wasn't trying to get them published and her friends then took care of this for her let's go to the fifth line made the in rags halting to the press to trudge the press were talking about here is a printing press but again notice how we're continuing this extended metaphor this controlling metaphoric idea here of talking about her poems as if they're children so the poems trudged the word trudged talking about walking or getting someplace by a sort of a hard pace not a leisurely walk but trudging there being something of an effort to get there made thee in rags the first part of this line again can refer to the rags that someone wears but also it has a very interesting connotation here and at the time that this was written paper the paper of our books was made out of rag content cotton content for the most part literally made from old scrap cloths and many case so what they're talking about here in a way is an excellent metaphor not only can it mean that clothes that a child wears but it literally refers to the rag content paper that her poems are printed on so she does a really good job of putting this together all through the point where errors were not lessened all may judge that I returned my blushing was not small well there were some errors in her work and of course some of the errors may be attributable to her but remember that we're way back in time here relative to what we know about all of this sort of thing today in the printing industry at the time print was set one little letter a piece of type at a time and it had to be set backwards and believe it or not sometimes the people setting the press setting the time couldn't even read so it's really easy for somebody to make an error and you get that old expression mind your P's and Q's from this because it was really easy setting type to misplace a pea for a cue in there when you're setting the type backwards one letter at a time so this is what she's referring to also as it went to press apparently in the printing itself the setting of the type there were also some errors that weren't even her errors but of course a reader has no way to know if it's her error our printers error so she was as she says that next line at I returned my blushing was not small she's a little embarrassed about all of this the way it turned out perhaps but mostly because this was just not planned this is not something that she really wanted to happen it just happened without her knowledge my rambling brant imprint should mother call I see as I caste by as one unfit for light that I've visited was so some in my sight this is her first reaction when she gets this knowledge of her poems being printed she just kind of tosses the book aside as something that she really wasn't quite ready to embrace but again she continues this metaphor of a child and comes later to see it in a different light and they are after all her poems yet being mine own at length affection would thy blemishes amend if so I could so she decided now she's going to go back to these poems he's going to revise them some make them better if she can correct those blemishes that appear in her poetry in other words but again always going back to this metaphor of it being a child I wash thy face but more defects I saw and rubbing off a spot still made a flaw so again going back to the idea of washing the face of a child but here she's correcting her errors as she sees them in her poetry erasing something putting in the correction and that sort of thing in the actual print I stretched the even feet again we people have joints people have feet so it works really well talking about a physical person but also think of this as metrical feet again we've talked about the the metrics of the poem being written in iambic pentameter she had to work with the meter the meter doesn't come just without effort and it has to be worked out just like anything else so she had to go back and work on the metrics the metrical feet of the poem as well yet still that run estaba lling than his meet in better dress to trimly was my mind but not save home homespun cloth in the house I find so she wants to her poems to look better but she doesn't quite know how to do it and feels really that her own ability is not up to doing it any better and this is probably what she's referring to here that the homespun cloth at the way that she's able to present her poems she's doing the best she can but she really doesn't feel like her ability is up to what she would like in this array amongst vulgus may Estelle Rome in critics hands beware that does not come and take thy way where yet thou art not known she knows that her poems are going to come under some scrutiny from critics this has always been the case with anyone who tries to write anything but it's even more important for her and her time because we need to remember this is hundreds of years ago writing poetry at this time was considered to be the profession of a man not of a woman so she's up against a handicap at this point simply because she's a woman trying to write poetry in a man's world she knows she's going to be criticized just because of that even if her poems are good they're still going to come under some criticism because she's a woman trying to write seriously at this time and take that way where yet they are not known if for thy father ask say thou has none well she was married so obviously she's not referring to a literal child here but her poems what she's pointing out or her work there's not a man involved in the writing of these poems these are hers so they're coming from her alone in her alone there's no man helping her to write these so she is quite literally the mother and only parent of these poems and for thy mother she alas is poor which caused her thus to send the out of door in other words if she had not been so poor and by poor hear she probably means poor inability if she had been a poet in her own eyes of greater ability that these poems would have looked better when they were sent out to be printed and of course they would look better in the book and and all this would be better poetry in her view but much of this is is genuine humility on her part partly because she understands that she's a woman riding in a man's age of writing and she just has this very deep sense of inadequacy to overcome here even though she is indeed an excellent poet

29 thoughts on “The Author to Her Book by Anne Bradstreet

  1. I'd like to make one point clear… What she meant by "Friend" wasn't actually a friend but her brother in law, he was the only one who supported her while the vulgars were against judged her a lot as they were against the idea of a "house-wife who writes.." so her brother in law asked to publish her work but she refused..

  2. This was better than my teacher explaining it to me. You really broke it down very well. You are well educated and much needed. Thanks for your help.

  3. @EnglishGuyinTexas
    thankyou so much, i hav a ap poetry forum tomorrow and my poem is this,
    but i keep gettin confuse with the last line

  4. The last line likely refers to the status of her manuscript when it left her hands. In other words, it was not as good as she would have liked. Remember that this poem is about her poetry, not a literal child. All though the poem she talks about how her poetry (the child) is not as good as she would have liked. The line just above the last one refers to Bradstreet as "poor." This may refer to money, but it also likely refers to her own estimation of her writing skills, poor in her eyes.

  5. can someone please help me with the last line i still dont get it
    "which caused her thus to send thee out of door"

  6. Im trying to figure out who and when it was painted the portrait of anne bradstreet where she is sitting at a table wearing a black and white dress and bonnet. do you have any idea?

  7. This was amazing, very helpful and very informative. Any other videos like this on other poem/ prose passages?

  8. Hello, Sir.
    In order to become an English teacher, I am attending to an University Subject's of English Literature in my country, Brazil. We are exactly working on this author, Anne Bradstreet. I really appreciate your awesome explanation.
    Thank you, sir.
    Best wishes,

    Adriano Gazzo

  9. Wow… I Was Looking Through The People Who Commented And It Seems That Most Are Reading This At Around the Age of 20-25

    …I'm Only 16 and I Have To Do A 2 Page Essay on How The Controlling Metaphor Expresses the Complex Attitude of the Speaker, All At A College Level

    So Thank You So Much English Guy In Texas

    I Wasn't In Class Yesterday When My Teacher Handed Out the Poem and Today We Had A Sub So I Had No Help At All With Understanding This and You Did That and Much More

    Thank You

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