Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet


ENG 223: American Literature Before 1865

Lesson 3: Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet
Sept. 4-6, 2002


By the end of this lesson, you should be able to do each of the following without consulting notes or other resources:

  • Describe the life and literary contributions of Anne Bradstreet, William Bradford, and John Winthrop.
  • Interpret themes and other features in Smith’s narratives.
  • Explicate poetry.
  • Define or identify relevant terms, names, and dates.


Before coming to class on Monday, you should complete the following assignments:


Read “Anne Bradstreet” (238), “The Prologue” (239-240), “The Flesh and the Spirit” (260-262), “The Author to Her Book” (262-263), “To My Dear and Loving Husband” (263), “Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666” (269)


Write a draft of the essay for your author project.


Our class activities this week include the following:


Think Fast: In a paragraph (100 words), react to one of Anne Bradstreet’s poems.  Try to interpret features that stand out to you and explain how these features help to convey meaning.

Presentation: Anne Bradstreet, Puritan Poet (Professor Canada)

Cooperative Learning: Using what you have learned in my presentation on poetry explication, explicate one of Bradstreet’s poems.

Discussion: During this time, we will discuss the insights and questions that have emerged during our reading, “Think Fast” exercise, my presentation, and cooperative learning.

Think Again: In a brief essay (200-300 words), explicate one of Bradstreet’s poems.  Citing at least three specific details, explain how the poem’s form and content work together to create meaning.

Conferences: While the rest of you are working on the “Think Again” exercise, I will meet with two of you in one-on-one conferences.  During this time, I will review some of your writing, orally quiz you on lesson objectives, and field your questions.

Announcements: We will wrap up this lesson with announcements regarding upcoming lessons, as well as other relevant subjects.

Names and Terms

Make sure you know the meaning and significance of each of the following names and terms:

  • Anne Bradstreet
  • Pilgrims
  • Puritans
  • poetry
  • lyric
  • rhythm
  • rhyme
  • foot
  • Iamb
  • trochee
  • anapest
  • dactyl
  • spondee
  • pyrrhic
  • trimeter
  • tetrameter
  • pentameter
  • hexameter
  • persona


Make sure you are familiar with the following key date in early American history:


1619: African slaves brought to Virginia

1620: Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock

1630: Puritans settle Massachusetts


You can find more information about the subject covered in this lesson by consulting the print or electronic resources listed below:


All American: Anne Bradstreet features a biographical sketch of Bradstreet, commentary on her literature, and a chronology of her life, along with lists of her major works, family members, homes, and occupations. 

The Dictionary of Literary Biography, a multivolume subject encyclopedia, contains an entry on Anne Bradstreet. 

Be Your Best: Reading Poetry offers a step-by-step guide to making sense of difficult poetry.

Updated August 30, 2002
Mark Canada, 2002


Congratulations!  Despite famine, captivity, and your first “Think Again” exercise, you survived the first stop on our road trip through early American literature.  Things will calm down momentarily this week as we visit the world of Anne Bradstreet and the Puritans.  We also will take our first close-up look at poetry, and you will learn or review some strategies for explicating poems.



In 1620, more than a decade after John Smith and other Englishmen established the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown, a group of English men and women came to America for a different reason. Having given up on the Church of England, which they thought had become too much like the Catholic Church, these Pilgrims sought to establish an ideal church in America. Led by William Bradford, they arrived in present-day Massachusetts on a ship called the Mayflower.  Ten years later, John Winthrop led a group of Puritans to the same general area, only this time with the plan of setting an example for the church back in England. 

Anne Bradstreet, 1612-1672

Among this second group of English immigrants was a woman named Anne Bradstreet, who came to America with her husband, Simon Bradstreet.  An admirer of English poets such as Sir Philip Sydney and Edmund Spenser, Anne Bradstreet first earned recognition for her lofty poetry about world history and other grand subjects.  Some of her early poems, including “The Prologue,” appeared in a book called The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, published without her consent in England in 1650 thanks to the efforts of brother-in-law.  Today, Bradstreet’s reputation as a major poet of the Puritan era primarily rests not on these poems, however, but on her domestic poems, such as "The Author to Her Book" and the poems she wrote for her husband and children.  In these works, Bradstreet treats subjects closer to home—birth, death, marriage, children—and masterfully gives them life with imagery that is also close to home.  In her introspection and exploration of her faith, Bradstreet belongs to a tradition of Puritan writers stretching from John Winthrop to Jonathan Edwards. She also could deviate from Puritan conventions, however. Poems such as "To My Dear and Loving Husband," for example, treat the romantic love between a man and woman as openly as some of her other poems treat love of God.


In this lesson, we began our exploration of Puritan literature with a look at the poet Anne Bradstreet.  In our next lesson, we will turn another Puritan, the prose writer Mary Rowlandson.  Get ready for another wild ride!