"Childhood"
By Anne Bradstreet

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

Boston : John Foster, 1678 Our texts are taken from the Text Creation Partnership's digital edition of Several poems compiled with great variety of wit and learning published in Boston in 1678. This text is sometimes referred to by its alternate title, and the sobriquet given to Anne Bradstreet, "The Tenth Muse". Title page drawn from the University of Pennsylvania's Celebration of Women Writers.

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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Materials have been transcribed from and checked against first editions, where possible. See the Sources section.


Citation

Bradstreet, Anne. "Childhood". Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, John Foster, 1678 . Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthology.lib.virginia.edu/work/Bradstreet/bradstreet-childhood. Accessed: 2024-03-02T09:17:39.872Z

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[TP] 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.
The second Edition, Corrected by the Author,
and enlarged by an Addition of several other
Poems found amongst her Papers
after her Death.

Boston, Printed by John Foster, 1678.
45 ChildhoodtitletitleThis poem is the first of four poems in a larger work called Of the Four Ages of Man. 1Ah me! conceiv'd in sin, and born in sorrow, 2A nothing, here to day, but gone to morrow. 3Whose mean beginning, blushing cann't reveale, 4But night and darkenesse, must with shame conceal. 5My mothers breeding sicknessbreedingbreedingBreeding sickness is referring to her pregnancy. Source: Oxford English Dictionary, I will spare; 6Her nine months weary burden not declare. 7To shew her bearing pangs, I should do wrong, 8To tel that paine, which cann't be told by tongue; 9With tears into this world I did arrive 10My mother still did waste, as I did thrive: 46 11Who yet with love, and all alacrityalacrityalacrityAlacrity means cheerful readiness or willingness. Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 12Spending was willing, to be spent for me; 13With wayward cryes, I did disturb her rest; 14Who sought still to appease me, with her brest, 15With weary armes, she danc'd, and By, Bybyby"By, By" is the title of a song, probably a lullaby., sung, 16When wretched I (ungrate) had done the wrong! 17When Infancy was past, my Childishnesse, 18Did act al folly, that it could expresse. 19My sillinesse did only take delight, 20In that which riper age did scorn, and slight: 21In Rattles, Bables, and such toyish fluffe. 22My then ambitious thoughts, were low enough. 23My high borne soule, so straitly was confin'd 24That its own worth, it did not know, nor mind. 25This little house of flesh, did spacious count: 26Through ignorance, all troubles did surmount. 27Yet this advantage, had mine ignorance, 28Freedome from Envy, and from Arrogance, 29How to be rich, or great. I did not carkecarkecarkeTo cark means to labour anxiously. Source: Oxford English Dictionary; 30A Baron or a Duke, ne'r made my mark. 31Nor studious was, Kings favours how to buy, 32With costly presents, or base flattery. 33No office covered, wherein I might 34Make strong my selfe, and turne aside weak right. 35No malice bare, to this, or that great Peer, 36Nor unto buzzing whisperors, gave ear. 37I gave no hand, nor vote, for death, or life: 38I'd nought to do,'twixt Prince, and peoples strife.authorityauthorityBradstreet 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”) 39No StatiststatiststatistA 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'listmartialistmartialistMartialist is another word for soldier. Source: Oxford English Dictionary i'th'field; 40Where e're I went, mine innocence was shield.47 41My quarrels, not for DiademsdiademdiademThis 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; 42But for an Apple, Plumbe, or some such prize, 43My stroks did cause no death, nor wounds, nor skars. 44My little wrath did cease soon as my wars. 45My duel was no challenge, nor did seek. 46My foe should welteringwelteringwelteringTo welter means to wither. Source: Oxford English Dictionary, with his bowels reek.bowelsbowelsThis line is likely referring to when a person's bowels empty after they die. 47I had no Suits at lawsuitssuitsSuits at law refers to lawsuits. Bradstreet had no legal troubles as a child., neighbours to vex. 48Nor evidence for land, did me perplex. 49I fear'd no stormes, nor al the windes that blows, 50I had no ships at Sea, no fraughtsfraughtsfraughtsFraught is equivalent to the modern word freight. Source: Oxford English Dictionary to loose. 51I fear'd no drought, nor wet, I had no crop, 52Nor yet on future things did place my hope. 53This was mine innocence, but oh the seeds, 54Lay raked up, of all the cursed weeds, 55Which sprouted forth, in my insuinginsuinginsuingInsuing is equivalent to the modern word ensuing, meaning following. Source: Oxford English Dictionary age, 56As he can tell, that next comes on the stage. 57But yet let me relate, before I go, 58The sins, and dangers I am subject to. 59From birth stayned, with Adams sinfull factsinsinAdam's sinful fact refers to original sin from the Creation story of the Book of Genesis.; 60From thence I'gangangan'gan is an abbreviation of "began". to sin, as soon as act. 61A perverse will, a love to what's forbid: 62A serpents sting in pleasing face lay hid. 63A lying tongue as soon as it could speak, 64And fift CommandementfifthfifthAnne Bradstreet was Puritan. The Fifth Commandment refers to "Honoring thy father and mother." Source: Wikipedia do daily break. 65Oft stubborn, peevish, sullen, pout, and cry: 66Then nought can please, and yet I know not why. 67As many was my sins, so dangers too: 68For sin brings sorrow, sicknesse, death, and woe. 69And though I misse, the tossings of the mind: 70Yet griefs, in my fraile flesh, I still do find.48 71What gripes of wind, mine infancy did pain? 72What tortures I, in breeding teeth sustain? 73What cruditiescruditiescruditiesImperfect Humours or indigestibles. Source: Oxford English Dictionary my cold stomach hath bred? 74Whence vomits, wormes, and fluxfluxfluxFlux is an abnormally copious flowing of blood, excrement, etc. from the bowels or other organs. Source: Oxford English Dictionary have issued? 75What breaches, knocks, and falls I daily have? 76And some perhaps, I carry to my grave. 77Sometimes in fire, sometimes in waters fall: 78Strangely preserv'd, yet mind it not at all. 79At home, abroad, my danger's manifold. 80That wonder tis, my glasse till now doth hold. 81I've done, unto my elders I give way. 82For 'tis but little, that a child can say.littlelittleAfter this, Bradstreet begins the second poem in Of the Four Ages of Man, "Youth."

Footnotes