Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bradstreet - Poetry

For the rest of this series, click on the 'Poetry' tag at the bottom.

The next poem is from Anne Bradstreet, the first American poet in the book.  It's from 'The Prologue'.  The book isn't clear but it might just be a fragment.

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits.
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong;
For such despite they cast on female wits,
If what I do prove well, it won't advance-
They'll say it's stolen, or else it was by chance.

But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild,
Else of our sex why feigned they those Nine,
and Poesy made Calliope's own child?
So 'mongst the rest they placed the Arts Divine.
But this weak knot they will full soon untie-
The Greeks did nought but play the fools and lie.

Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are.
Men have precedency, and still excel.
It is but vain unjustly to wage war.
Men can do best, and women know it well.

And oh, ye high flown quills that soar the skies,
And ever with your prey still catch your praise,
If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes,
Give thyme or parsley wreath; I ask no bays.
This mean and unrefined ore of mine
Will make your glistering gold but more to shine.

Taken at face value, it's quite a sexist bit of work but of course, it shouldn't be taken at face value.  The poem was written in the seventeenth century, after all.  I like the way that there is no line that a man could actually point at and object to.  Yet, it's easy for the reader to see through it all.  Of course this woman can write as well as any man!

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