In her poem “The Author to Her Book,” Anne Bradstreet uses similes and metaphors to enhance the theme of a fledgling author’s embarrassment at having her work published before she was ready. For example, in the line, “I cast thee by as one unfit for light” (line 9), Bradstreet uses the simile “as one unfit for light” to compare her poetry to a darkened, almost malevolent thing, as the phrase conjures up images of subhuman creatures that never see the light of day. She also uses metaphors such as comparing her work to a kind of bastard child, as shown in the line, “Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain” (line 1). Bradstreet uses this comparison frequently throughout the poem, juxtaposing her work with the image of an unwanted and somehow deformed child. Theses similes and metaphors enhance the central theme that Bradstreet, whose work was published and sent abroad by her friends without her knowledge and before she had edited the work to her satisfaction, feels embarrassment at presenting verse to the world in publications she may have felt did not accurately represent her talent.
The central analogy in Bradstreet’s “A Dialogue between Old England and New” concerns the personification of Old England as the “mother” and New England as the “daughter.” As a mother might confide in her daughter and share her woes, so does Old England here to New England. To fully understand the analogy in Bradstreet’s poem, one must comprehend the history being discussed in the poem. At the time, i.e., the 17th century, Old England was suffering from religious and political upheaval. Bradstreet notes these “sores” in the third stanza, in which Old England references historical events, as shown in the lines, “Must Edward be depos’d? Or is ‘t the hour / That second Richard must be clapp’d i’ th’ Tower?” (lines 39-40). This line refers to Richard II’s imprisonment in the “Tower” of London and illustrates the kind of political chaos in England during the 17th century.
Question of Interest or Perplexity: What does Anne Bradstreet’s poem “The Author to Her Book” reveal about the dilemma faced by female authors in the New World?
- Bradstreet, Anne. “The Author to Her Book.” From The Complete Works of Anne Bradstreet, 1981, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43697/the-author-to-her-book.
- “A Dialogue between Old England and New.” From The Complete Works of Anne
Bradstreet, 1981, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43700/a-dialogue-between-old-england-and-new.