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The touching poem “Before the Birth of One of Her Children” by Anne Bradstreet explores a woman’s perspective on dying. The speaker writes this letter to her spouse when pregnant. ‘Before the Birth of One of Her Children,’ published in 1678, deals with the dark issue of child mortality. Bradstreet, who had eight children herself, writes from a personal perspective. In “Before the Birth of One of Her Children,” she draws on her experience to create a distinctive narrator—a pregnant lady who is pondering the potential consequences of her pregnancy.
About the poet
The earliest Puritan figure in American literature and the most well-known of the early English poets in North America was Anne Bradstreet. Bradstreet was a well-read scholar who was influenced by the writings of Du Bartas. He was born to a prosperous Puritan household in Northampton, England. In addition to her other responsibilities, Bradstreet also produced poetry; her early works resemble Du Bartas, but her later works adopt a distinctive style that is based on her experiences as a mother, her battles with life’s hardships, and her Puritan religion. The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, her debut collection, was well-read in both the United States and England.
All things within this fading world hath end, Adversity doth still our joyes attend; No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet, But with death’s parting blow is sure to meet. The sentence past is most irrevocable, A common thing, yet oh inevitable. How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend, How soon’t may be thy Lot to lose thy friend, We are both ignorant, yet love bids me These farewell lines to recommend to thee, That when that knot’s untied that made us one, I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
In the opening lines of “Before the Birth of One of Her Children,” the speaker declares that death is a universal truth. No matter how deep and solid one’s personal ties are, she understands that it will eventually happen. Everyone will experience “death’s parting blow.” Her concerns about dying are closely tied to her pregnancy, which is her current state. Pregnancy was extremely perilous in Bradstreet’s day and claimed countless lives each year. She worries that the next child she and her husband have will be the last one she ever has. Although she doesn’t yet know the result, it’s possible. She was motivated to write this poetry by the idea that it was a possibility. The woman’s partner is explicitly mentioned in the verses. While she still has the chance, she is saying farewell to him.
And if I see not half my dayes that’s due, What nature would, God grant to yours and you; The many faults that well you know I have Let be interr’d in my oblivious grave; If any worth or virtue were in me, Let that live freshly in thy memory And when thou feel’st no grief, as I no harms, Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms.
The speaker of the poem continues in the next lines by stating that she may not live out “half” of the “dayes” she is entitled to, but she hopes that her husband and children will be given more time. She presents a realistic vision of mortality and the prospect that she may soon be gone from her family in these words while maintaining her composure. She wants her spouse to remember the good things about her, not any of her shortcomings. The directness with which she delivers these remarks enhances their impact. Anyone who loved her, including the listener, couldn’t help but be impacted by her comments since she is talking about her dying in such an open manner. This is especially true when she expresses her want for him to keep loving her as the lady who slept in his arms.
And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains Look to my little babes, my dear remains. And if thou love thyself, or loved’st me, These o protect from step Dames injury. And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse, With some sad sighs honour my absent Herse; And kiss this paper for thy loves dear sake, Who with salt tears this last Farewel did take.
In the concluding portion of the poem, the speaker expresses her belief that her spouse will remarry one day. She hopes that the stepmother would refrain from abusing her kids. He would undoubtedly shield the speaker’s children from harm if he truly loved her. The speaker finishes her poetry by offering one more reflection on the poem itself. If she passes away, she wants him to turn to the poem and kiss the page in her honor. This ought to be a treasured memory and a book he may read when he’s down.