Anne Bradstreet (1612-72) was the first poet, male or female, from America to have a book of poems published. As well as penning a touching poem about her husband, Bradstreet also wrote this poem, ‘To Her Father with Some Verses’, in honour of her father. Before we offer some words of analysis, here is Bradstreet’s poem.
To Her Father with Some Verses
Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die.
Anne Bradstreet offers herself as her father’s humble and grateful daughter in this poem, knowing she is unable to repay the debt she owes him in giving her life and support, but willing to do what small amount she can to show her gratitude through writing a poem. The poem, small and slight as it is in her humble estimation, cannot write off the debt: ‘My stock’s so small I know not how to pay, / My bond remains in force unto this day’. As so often in Bradstreet’s poetry, financial language, the language of gold and trade, credit and debit, is drawn upon.
Indeed, the economic flavour of the language continues throughout the poem: the poem itself is described as a ‘mite’, and anyone who knows their New Testament will doubtless know the parable of the old widow with her two mites – small coins of little worth. Bradstreet continues to be a debtor until the day she dies, unable to pay back the considerable debt: ‘Such is my bond, none can discharge but I, / Yet paying is not paid until I die.’
‘To Her Father with Some Verses’ is a short and slight poem, but it shows the first published female poet of the New World – indeed, the first published poet from the New World of either sex – publicly acknowledging her private gratitude to her father. Using simple rhyming couplets, Bradstreet offers a poem of thanksgiving and daughterly appreciation which is universal, and applicable to all grateful daughters.
If you enjoyed this analysis of ‘To Her Father with Some Verses’, you might also enjoy Bradstreet’s ‘The Author to Her Book’.
Image: via Wikimedia Commons.