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- Anne Bradstreet and Her Time - 6/59 -

it down as "all unprofitable," there is no doubt that it helped to broaden his nature and establish the Catholic-mindedness which in later years, in spite of every influence against it, was one of his distinguishing characteristics. In the meantime he was a delightful companion. Cut off by his principles from much that passed as enjoyment, hating the unbridled licentiousness, the "ornate beastliness," of the Stuart reign, he like others of the same faith took refuge in intellectual pleasures. Like Colonel Hutchinson--and this portrait, contrary in all points to the preconceived idea, is a typical one--he "could dance admirably well, but neither in youth nor riper years made any practice of it; he had skill in fencing such as became a gentleman; he had great love to music and often diverted himself with a viol, on which he played masterly; he had an exact ear and judgment in other music; he shot excellently in bows and guns, and much used them for his exercise; he had great judgment in paintings, graving, sculpture, and all liberal arts, and had many curiosities of value in all kinds; he took great delight in perspective glasses, and, for his other rarities was not so much affected with the antiquity as the merit of the work; he took much pleasure in improvement of grounds, in planting groves and walks and fruit trees, in opening springs, and making fish-ponds."

All these tastes were almost indispensable to anyone filling the position which, alike, Dudley and Bradstreet held. "Steward" then, had a very different meaning from any associated with it now, and great estates were left practically in the hands of managers while the owners busied themselves in other directions, relying upon the good taste as well as the financial ability of the men who, as a rule, proved more than faithful to the trust.

The first two years of marriage were passed in England, and held the last genuine social life and intellectual development that Anne Bradstreet was to enjoy. The love of learning was not lost in the transition from one country to another, but it took on more and more a theological bias, and embodied itself chiefly in sermons and interminable doctrinal discussions. Even before the marriage, Dudley had decided to join the New England colony, but Simon Bradstreet hesitated and lingered, till forced to a decision by the increasing shadow of persecution. Had they remained in England, there is little doubt that Anne Bradstreet's mind, sensitively alive as it was to every fine influence, would have developed in a far different direction to that which it finally took. The directness and joyous life of the Elizabethan literature had given place to the euphuistic school, and as the Puritans put aside one author after another as "not making for godliness," the strained style, the quirks and conceits of men like Quarles and Withers came to represent the highest type of literary effort. But no author had the influence of Du Bartas, whose poems had been translated by Joshua Sylvester in 1605, under the title of "Du Bartas. His Duuine Weekes and Workes, with a Complete Collection of all the other most delightfull Workes, Translated and Written by ye famous Philomusus, Josvah Sylvester, Gent." He in turn was an imitator; a French euphuist, whose work simply followed and patterned after that of Ronsard, whose popularity for a time had convinced France that no other poet had been before him, and that no successor could approach his power. He chose to study classical models rather than nature or life, and his most formidable poem, merely a beginning of some five or six thousand verses on "the race of French kings, descended from Francion, a child of Hector and a Trojan by birth," ended prematurely on the death of Charles IX, but served as a model for a generation of imitators.

What spell lay in the involved and interminable pages the modern reader cannot decide, but Milton studied them, and affirmed that they had aided in forming his style, and Spenser wrote of him--

"And after thee, (du Bellay) 'gins Barras hie to raise His Heavenly muse, th' Almighty to adore. Live, happy spirits! th' honor of your name, And fill the world with never dying fame."

Dryden, too, shared the infatuation, and in the Epistle Dedicatory to "The Spanish Friar," wrote: "I remember when I was a boy, I thought inimitable Spenser a mean poet, in comparison of Sylvester's 'Dubartas,' and was wrapt into an ecstasy when I read these lines:

"'Now when the winter's keener breath began To crystallize the Baltic ocean; To glaze the lakes, to bridle up the floods, And periwig with snow (wool) the bald-pate woods.'

"I am much deceived if this be not abominable fustian." Van Lann stigmatizes this poem, _Le Semaine ou Creation du Monde_, as "the marriage-register of science and verse, written by a Gascon Moses, who, to the minuteness of a Walt Whitman and the unction of a parish-clerk, added an occasional dignity superior to anything attained by the abortive epic of his master."

But he had some subtle, and to the nineteenth century mind, inscrutable charm. Poets studied him and Anne Bradstreet did more than study; she absorbed them, till such originality as had been her portion perished under the weight. In later years she disclaimed the charge of having copied from him, but the infection was too thorough not to remain, and the assimilation had been so perfect that imitation was unconscious. There was everything in the life of Du Bartas to appeal to her imagination as well as her sympathy, and with her minute knowledge of history she relished his detail while reverencing his character. For Du Bartas was a French Puritan, holding the same religious views as Henry IV, before he became King of France, his strong religious nature appealing to every English reader. Born in 1544, of noble parents, and brought up, according to Michaud in the Biographic Universelle, to the profession of arms, he distinguished himself as a soldier and negotiater. Attached to the person of Prince Henry "in the capacity of gentleman in ordinary of his bedchamber, he was successfully employed by him on missions to Denmark, Scotland and England. He was at the battle of Ivry and celebrated in song the victory which he had helped to gain. He died four months after, in July, 1559, at the age of forty-six, in consequence of some wounds which had been badly healed. He passed all the leisure which his duties left him, at his chateau du Bartas. It was there that he composed his long and numerous poems.... His principal poem, _La Semaine,_ went through more than thirty editions in less than six years, and was translated into Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, German and Dutch."

The influence was an unfortunate one. Nature had already been set aside so thoroughly that, as with Dryden, Spenser was regarded as common-place and even puerile, and the record of real life or thought as no part of a poet's office. Such power of observation as Anne Bradstreet had was discouraged in the beginning, and though later it asserted itself in slight degree, her early work shows no trace of originality, being, as we are soon to see, merely a rhymed paraphrase of her reading. That she wrote verse, not included in any edition of her poems, we know, the earliest date assigned there being 1632, but the time she had dreaded was at hand, and books and study went the way of many other pleasant things.

With the dread must have mingled a certain thrill of hope and expectation common to every thinking man and woman who in that seventeenth century looked to the New World to redress every wrong of the Old, and who watched every movement of the little band that in Holland waited, for light on the doubtful and beclouded future.

The story of the first settlement needs no repetition here. The years in Holland had knit the little band together more strongly and lastingly than proved to be the case with any future company, their minister, John Robinson, having infused his own intense and self-abnegating nature into every one. That the Virginian colonies had suffered incredibly they knew, but it had no power to dissuade them. "We are well weaned," John Robinson wrote, "from the delicate milk of the mother-country, and inured to the difficulties of a strange land; the people are industrious and frugal. We are knit together as a body in a most sacred covenant of the Lord, of the violation whereof we make great conscience, and by virtue whereof, we hold ourselves strictly tied to all care of each other's good and of the whole. It is not with us, as with men whom small things can discourage."

By 1629, the worst difficulties had been overcome, and the struggle for mere existence had ended. The little colony, made up chiefly of hard working men, had passed through every phase of suffering. Sickness and famine had done their worst. The settlers were thoroughly acclimated, and as they prospered, more and more the eyes of Puritan England turned toward them, with a longing for the same freedom. Laud's hand was heavy and growing heavier, and as privileges lessened, and one after another found fine, or pillory, or banishment awaiting every expression of thought, the eagerness grew and intensified. As yet there had been no separation from the Mother Church. It had simply "divided into two great parties, the Prelatical or Hierarchical, headed by Laud, and the Nonconformist or Puritan." For the latter, Calvin had become the sole authority, and even as early as 1603, their preachers made up more than a ninth of the clergy. The points of disagreement increased steadily, each fresh severity from the Prelatical party being met by determined resistance, and a stubborn resolution never to yield an inch of the new convictions. No clearer presentation of the case is to be found anywhere than in Mason's life of Milton, the poet's life being absolutely contemporaneous with the cause, and his own experience came to be that of hundreds. From his childhood he had been set apart for the ministry, but he was as he wrote in later life, with a bitterness he never lost, "Church-outed by the prelates." "Coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded in the Church, that he who would take orders, must subscribe slave, and take an oath withal, which, unless he took with a conscience that would retch, he must either straight perjure or split his faith, I thought it better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing."

Each year of the increasing complications found a larger body enrolled on his side, and with 1629, Simon Bradstreet resigned any hope of life in England, and cast in his fortunes once for all with the projected colony. In dissolving his third Parliament Charles had granted the charter for the Massachusetts Colony, and seizing upon this as a "Providential call," the Puritans at once circulated "conclusions" among gentry and traders, and full descriptions of Massachusetts. Already many capitalists deemed encouragement of the emigration an excellent speculation, but the prospective emigrants had no mind to be ruled by a commercial company at home, and at last, after many deliberations, the old company was dissolved; the officers resigned and their places were filled by persons who proposed to emigrate.

Two days before this change twelve gentlemen met at Cambridge and

Anne Bradstreet and Her Time - 6/59

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