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Short poem

Anne Bradstreet (ca. 1612-1672)


              1To sing of Wars, of Captains, and of Kings,
              2Of Cities founded, Common-wealths begun,
              3For my mean Pen are too superior things;
              4Or how they all, or each their dates have run,
              5Let Poets and Historians set these forth.
              6My obscure lines shall not so dim their worth.

              7But when my wond'ring eyes and envious heart
              8Great Bartas' sugar'd lines do but read o'er,
              9Fool, I do grudge the Muses did not part
            10'Twixt him and me that over-fluent store.
            11A Bartas can do what a Bartas will
            12But simple I according to my skill.

            13From School-boy's tongue no Rhet'ric we expect,
            14Nor yet a sweet Consort from broken strings,
            15Nor perfect beauty where's a main defect.
            16My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings,
            17And this to mend, alas, no Art is able,
            18'Cause Nature made it so irreparable.

            19Nor can I, like that fluent sweet-tongued Greek
            20Who lisp'd at first, in future times speak plain.
            21By Art he gladly found what he did seek,
            22A full requital of his striving pain.
            23Art can do much, but this maxim's most sure:
            24A weak or wounded brain admits no cure.

            25I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
            26Who says my hand a needle better fits.
            27A Poet's Pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
            28For such despite they cast on female wits.
            29If what I do prove well, it won't advance,
            30They'll say it's stol'n, or else it was by chance.

            31But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild,
            32Else of our Sex, why feigned they those nine
            33And poesy made Calliope's own child?
            34So 'mongst the rest they placed the Arts divine,
            35But this weak knot they will full soon untie.
            36The Greeks did nought but play the fools and lie.

            37Let Greeks be Greeks, and Women what they are.
            38Men have precedency and still excel;
            39It is but vain unjustly to wage war.
            40Men can do best, and Women know it well.
            41Preeminence in all and each is yours;
            42Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.

            43And oh ye high flown quills that soar the skies,
            44And ever with your prey still catch your praise,
            45If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes,
            46Give thyme or Parsley wreath, I ask no Bays.
            47This mean and unrefined ore of mine
            48Will make your glist'ring gold but more to shine.


8] Bartas: Guillaume du Bartas (1544-90), English poet.

19] that fluent sweet-tongued Greek:

33] Calliope: muse of heroic or epic poetry

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Tenth Muse Lately sprung up in America. By a Gentlewoman in those parts (London: Stephen Bowtell, 1650): 3-4. See Anne Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse (1650), a facsimile reproduction
First publication date: 1650
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1997.
Recent editing: 4:2002/1/20

Composition date: 1643 - 1647
Composition date note: See White 254
Form: Heroic Sestets
Rhyme: ababcc

Other poems by Anne Bradstreet