Anne Bradstreet 7

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Virginia U. Jensen - “The actions of righteous women ripple on through time and space and even generations.”

In “The Prologue,” Anne Bradstreet writes a poem that seeks to understand her role as a female poet in a male-dominated Puritan society. She knows that her poetry is perceived as inferior because it was considered the province of men and appear to humble herself within the context of the poem by indicating her unworthiness, yet through the subtext, Bradstreet craftily challenges men and proves her poetic prowess. With an eloquent mixture of apologia and verbal irony, Anne Bradstreet produces a powerful poem that displays her creative talents and raises questions about the role of women in a patriarchal society without directly threatening her male audience. “The Prologue” serves as an introduction to Anne Bradstreet’s poems under a collection of her poetry titled The Tenth Muse. This poem functions to explain to her audience the topics her poetry will and will not address: “To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings/ Of cities founded, commonwealth begun/ For my mean pen are too superior” (1-3). She sets the apologetic and self-effacing tone with these first few lines by saying that songs of “wars, of captains, and of kings” are too superior for her modest, “mean” pen to write about. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “mean” can be defined as “humble” or “intermediate.” Bradstreet purposely displays humility in order to avoid offending her audience. In fact, she spends the first four stanzas of the poem describing what an inferior writer she is compared to all the others before her. However, upon closer inspection, Bradstreet is setting the stage for her argument by acknowledging her faults and others’ criticisms and slides in a few retorts. She says, “Great Bartas sugared lines do but read o’er/ Fool I do grudge the Muses did not part ‘Twixt him and me that over fluent store” (8-10), referring to one of the most respected poets whom the Muses...
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