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- Anne Bradstreet and Her Time - 30/59 -


Today the hillsides are green and smooth. Scattered farms are seen, and houses outside the town proper are few, and the quiet country gives small hint of the active, eager life so near it. In 1810, Dr. Timothy Dwight, whose travels in America were read with the same interest that we bestow now upon the "Merv Oasis," or the "Land of the White Elephant," wrote of North Andover, which then held many of its original features:

"North Andover is a very beautiful piece of ground. Its surface is elegantly undulating, and its soil in an eminent degree, fertile. The meadows are numerous, large and of the first quality. The groves, charmingly interspersed, are tall and thrifty. The landscape, everywhere varied, neat and cheerful, is also everywhere rich.

"The Parish is a mere collection of plantations, without anything like a village. The houses are generally good, some are large and elegant The barns are large and well-built and indicate a fertile and well-cultivated soil.

"Upon the whole, Andover is one of the best farming towns in Eastern Massachusetts."

Andover roads were of incredible crookedness, though the Rev. Timothy makes no mention of this fact: "They were at first designed to accommodate individuals, and laid out from house to house," and thus the traveller found himself quite as often landed in a farm-yard, as at the point aimed for. All about are traces of disused and forgotten path-ways--

"Old roads winding, as old roads will, Some to a river and some to a mill,"

and even now, though the inhabitant is sure of his ground, the stranger will swear that there is not a street, called, or deserving to be called, straight, in all its borders. But this was of even less consequence then than now. The New England woman has never walked when she could ride, and so long as the church stood within easy distance, demanded nothing more. One walk of Anne Bradstreets' is recorded in a poem, and it is perhaps because it was her first, that it made so profound an impression, calling out, as we shall presently see, some of the most natural and melodious verse which her serious and didactic Muse ever allowed her, and being still a faithful picture of the landscape it describes. But up to the beginning of the Andover life, Nature had had small chance of being either seen or heard, for an increasing family, the engrossing cares of a new settlement, and the Puritan belief that "women folk were best indoors," shut her off from influences that would have made her work mean something to the present day. She had her recreations as well as her cares, and we need now to discover just what sort of life she and the Puritan sisterhood in general led in the first years, whose "new manners and customs," so disturbed her conservative spirit.

CHAPTER X.

VILLAGE LIFE IN 1650.

Of the eight children that came to Simon and Anne Bradstreet, but one was born in the "great house" at Andover, making his appearance in 1652, when life had settled into the routine that thereafter knew little change, save in the one disastrous experience of 1666. This son, John, who like all the rest, lived to marry and leave behind him a plenteous family of children, was a baby of one year old, when the first son, Samuel, "stayed for many years," was graduated at Harvard College, taking high honor in his class, and presently settling as a physician in Boston, sufficiently near to be called upon in any emergency in the Andover home, and visited often by the younger brothers, each of whom became a Harvard graduate. Samuel probably had no share in the removal, but Dorothy and Sarah, Simon and Hannah, were all old enough to rejoice in the upheaval, and regard the whole episode as a prolonged picnic made for their especial benefit. Simon was then six years old, quite ready for Latin grammar and other responsibilities of life, and according to the Puritan standard, an accountable being from whom too much trifling could by no means be allowed, and who undoubtedly had a careful eye to the small Hannah, aged four, also old enough to knit a stocking and sew a seam, and read her chapter in the Bible with the best. Dorothy and Sarah could take even more active part, yet even the mature ages of eight and ten did not hinder surreptitious tumbles into heaped up feather beds, and a scurry through many a once forbidden corner of the Ipswich home. For them there was small hardship in the log house that received them, and unending delight in watching the progress of the new. And one or another must often have ridden before the father, who loved them with more demonstration than the Puritan habit allowed, and who in his frequent rides to the new mill built on the Cochichewick in 1644, found a petitioner always urging to be taken, too. The building of the mill probably preceded that of the house, as Bradstreet thought always of public interests before his own, though in this case the two were nearly identical, a saw and grist-mill being one of the first necessities of any new settlement, and of equal profit to owner and users.

Anne Bradstreet was now a little over thirty, five children absorbing much of her thought and time, three more being added during the first six years at Andover. When five had passed out into the world and homes of their own, she wrote, in 1656, half regretfully, yet triumphantly, too, a poem which is really a family biography, though the reference to her fifth child as a son, Mr. Ellis regards as a slip of the pen:

"I had eight birds hatcht in one nest, Four Cocks there were, and Hens the rest; I nurst them up with pain and care, Nor cost, nor labour did I spare, Till at the last they felt their wing, Mounted the Trees, and learn'd to sing; Chief of the Brood then took his flight To Regions far, and left me quite; My mournful chirps I after send, Till he return, or I do end; Leave not thy nest, thy Dam and Sire, Fly back and sing amidst this Quire. My second bird did take her flight, And with her mate flew out of sight; Southward they both their course did bend, And Seasons twain they there did spend; Till after blown by Southern gales, They Norward steer'd with filled Sayles. A prettier bird was no where seen, Along the beach among the treen.

I have a third of colour white On whom I plac'd no small delight; Coupled with mate loving and true, Hath also bid her Dam adieu; And where Aurora first appears, She now hath percht, to spend her years; One to the Academy flew To chat among that learned crew; Ambition moves still in his breast That he might chant above the rest, Striving for more than to do well, That nightingales he might excell. My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone Is 'mongst the shrubs and bushes flown, And as his wings increase in strength, On higher boughs he'l pearch at length. My other three, still with me nest, Untill they'r grown, then as the rest, Or here or there, they'l take their flight, As is ordain'd, so shall they light. If birds could weep, then would my tears Let others know what are my fears Lest this my brood some harm should catch, And be surpriz'd for want of watch, Whilst pecking corn, and void of care They fish un'wares in Fowler's snare; Or whilst on trees they sit and sing, Some untoward boy at them do fling; Or whilst allur'd with bell and glass, The net be spread, and caught, alas. Or least by Lime-twigs they be foyl'd, Or by some greedy hawks be spoyl'd. O, would my young, ye saw my breast, And knew what thoughts there sadly rest, Great was my pain when I you bred, Great was my care when I you fed, Long did I keep you soft and warm, And with my wings kept off all harm; My cares are more, and fears then ever, My throbs such now, as 'fore were never; Alas, my birds, you wisdome want, Of perils you are ignorant; Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight, Sore accidents on you may light. O, to your safety have an eye, So happy may you live and die; Mean while my dayes in tunes I'll spend, Till my weak layes with me shall end.

In shady woods I'll sit and sing, And things that past, to mind I'll bring. Once young and pleasant, as are you, But former boyes (no joyes) adieu. My age I will not once lament, But sing, my time so near is spent. And from the top bough take my flight, Into a country beyond sight, Where old ones, instantly grow young, And there with Seraphims set song; No seasons cold, nor storms they see, But spring lasts to eternity; When each of you shall in your nest Among your young ones take your rest, In chirping language, oft them tell, You had a Dam that lov'd you well, That did what could be done for young, And nurst you up till you were strong, And 'fore she once would let you fly, She shew'd you joy and misery; Taught what was good, and what was ill, What would save life, and what would kill? Thus gone, amongst you I may live,


Anne Bradstreet and Her Time - 30/59

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