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‘The Author to Her Book’ is a poem written by Anne Bradstreet. It explores the bittersweet relationship an author shares with the book they write.
About the Author:
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) was an eminent English poet. She was famed to be the first woman New World Poet. Famous works of hers include ‘The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America’, ‘To My Dear and Loving Husband’, and ‘The Flesh and the Spirit’.
The theme of this poem is disappointment. The person who is an author bemoans the state of the work they had produced, how they could not bear the form it had taken after being published.
This poem consists for 24 lines encompassed in a single stanza. It follows the rhyme scheme ‘aa bb cc’ and so on and so forth. Written in iambic pentameter, this poem falls under the category of a dramatic monologue. The stanzas here are for mere convenience.
Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain, Who after birth didst by my side remain, Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true, Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick view, Made thee in raggs, halting to th’ press to trudge, Where errors were not lessened (all may judg).
The poem begins with a direct addressal to the book the persona had written. They call it as a deformed child of their mind who would remain by their side once born. However, this book of theirs is snatched away from the author by their well-meaning friends to be published into the world. Next, the persona talks about how the process of printing involved subjecting their book to sheer torment, where their book is mercilessly pressed and still produced erroneous.
At thy return my blushing was not small, My rambling brat (in print) should mother call, I cast thee by as one unfit for light, Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight; Yet being mine own, at length affection would Thy blemishes amend, if so I could: I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw, And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
Upon seeing their book returned from publishing, the persona who is the author blushes from embarrassment. They are self-conscious of their ‘rambling’ being published and brought to light when they themselves find it unfit to be so. However, the book is the author’s own so they believe that perhaps the affection they have over it could make its flaws disappear. Even then, their attempts to wash away the errors was fruitless and erasure only led to realisation of a fresh fault.
I stretched thy joynts to make thee even feet, Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet; In better dress to trim thee was my mind, But nought save home-spun Cloth, i’ th’ house I find. In this array ’mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam.
This stanza portrays a critical view of the persona’s published copy of the book. It is uneven, clearly filled with mistakes as noted previously. The persona tries to ‘dress’ their book better with some home spun cloth in an attempt to improve its appearance in vain.
In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come; And take thy way where yet thou art not known, If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none: And for thy Mother, she alas is poor, Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.
Here, the persona cautions their book to not fall into the hands of any literary critic and go to some unknown place where it can be anonymous. Should the book be questioned on its parentage, the persona advises it to state that it had no father and its mother, owing to poverty, had sent it away.
This is a poem that sheds light on how unhappy authors could be with the way their books are published in publishing houses. Here, the persona expresses their extreme unhappiness over the way their book turned out, going as far as to abandon it to avoid embarrassment.