A poem by Anne Bradstreet.

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wist than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affaction would
Thy blemishes amend, if so i could:
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I streched thy joints to make thee even feet,
yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i' th' house I find.
In this array 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
In critics hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
if for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out the door

The Author to Her Book: A Poem of Introspection and Self-Evolution

(This essay was part of my Advanced Placement English summer assignment for 2003. The topic was: Explain the effect of the central metaphor in this piece. For the poem itself, please see QueeQueg's writeup, above.)

The art of writing is not always centered on stimulating the reader. At certain times, an author or poet writes for his or her own edification. In order for a writer to evolve and learn, they must test their abilities, and criticize their own work. Writers stream their words into poems and stories that they believe in, and they constantly strive to create a greater sense of realistic imagery and detail.

Anne Bradstreet wove an ingenious metaphor into her piece "The Author to Her Book” that reveals an example of this evolution. Throughout the poem, she makes anthropomorphic references to many of her other works, calling them her “children.” This cannot be wholly true, because although poems are a creation of human thought, and can seem to create a tangible image and have a personality all their own, they are not biological children, but children of one's creativity. On line 10, Bradstreet attempts to give them faces through the word visage (French for face). The fact that are given faces hints toward emotion, a characteristic that Edgar Allen Poe stated was necessary to a poem in his “Poetic Principle.” However, “blemished faces” is a metaphor for the poem’s inability to correctly express that emotion. Without the emotion, the poem is lifeless and “dirty.”

The main effect the poem creates is not for the readers, but for Bradstreet herself. The poem is a step in her evolution as a writer, and she recognizes that. The works she has created are no longer focusing on the words inside. Now, the intent has shifted toward the total image of the piece, and that is why she relates them to children. As a “child,” Bradstreet represents that poem as an untamed, blemished, and not yet sculpted creature. Creatures naturally adapt and grow as time goes by. She now sees that if she leaves the poems alone, they will never fix themselves, as a young child is unable to care for its own wounds.

The metaphor also brings about another interesting revelation on Bradstreet’s part. There are times when poems are just not good enough to be “perfect.” Writers publish only the best of their craft, with the less notable rarely being publicized. Some writers cannot leave the latter alone, making every attempt to fix the failing poem. However, Bradstreet has noticed that as a writer, not every piece is perfect, and so they should just be discarded or published as-is, with the hope that they are accepted. This is an important revelation in her writing, because it shows how she is starting to realize that her works have flaws, and at times, those flaws are irreparable. The fact that she understands that some poems can never meet her standards enables her to let go, and put them aside.

Writers often use their own works to help themselves grow, and refine their style. Anne Bradstreet shows a great step in her evolution through the metaphors she uses in “The Author to Her Book.” Now that she has learned more about her own writing, she can produce better works for her readers. The more she learns about her work from the outside makes the worlds she can create on the inside more vivid.

Anne Bradstreet, in "The Author to Her Book," creates a controlling metaphor, her book as her offspring, to express her complex attitude about sending her book out to others. She has affection for her work but it couldn't grow without sending it out the door, and at the same time freeing that by sending her work out to the "less wise than true" could change her creation for worse.

Having affection in her work because she created it, Anne Bradstreet was trying to improve her work and share it. "At thy return my blushing was not small," Bradstreet metaphorically tells her "child" (Book). She wanted the book's blemishes to amend and "stretched (its) joints to make (it) even feet." Bettering the work for her book's sake, she called herself poor and that was why she "sent (it) out the door." All authors have a start somewhere, and often sacrifice their first work to put their foot in society to share other works. She had only "homespun cloth" not a full printing press to print many copies. She had to send it to the press, to be "exposed to public view."

While she had affection for her work - she also had a guilty feeling about sending out her book. This complex attitude is brought out when she believes her work was "snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true." She worries about the protection of her work as "in critic's hands (it needs to) beware (it) does not come." The "vulgars may'st (it) roam" and it may not be strong enough to withstand hardship. No matter who helped her with her book, it had the chance to be negatively affected, taking the author's scope out of her work.

She sent out her work because it wasn't perfect. Its errors were lessened, so that all may not judge them. The child (book) was irksome Scottish Inside Joke to her until it returned, where upon returning, dressed better than she could afford, her "blushing was not small." Even though the work was edited, it became better with the help of her "friends." A child she created became a story and a book to share.


See Queequeg's post for complete copy of the poem.

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