This Week in Church History: Death of Anne Bradstreet, September 16, 1672

On this day in 1672 the famous Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet died in North Andover, MA. Bradstreet along with her husband Simon had moved to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 and had first helped settle the new settlement of Boston before moving on to what was then called Newe Towne in the early 1630s. Newe Towne would eventually become Cambridge, home to Harvard College.

In 1650 her work “The Tenth Muse” was published (without her knowledge) in London, making her the first American poet to be published in both Europe and North America. In addition to her marvelous poetry, Bradstreet and her family were amongst the most influential in mid­-17th century Massachusetts. Her husband Simon played a major role in the founding of Harvard College in 1636 and two of their children would graduate from the school in the 1650s. 

In 1666, the Bradstreet family home burned to the ground, leaving them destitute. With Anne’s health also failing, due in no small part to growing struggles with tuberculosis, this was a doubly devastating event for the family. But in the aftermath of the fire, Bradstreet wrote what has become one of her most famous poems:

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e’er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e’er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould’ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It‘s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There‘s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.