The Author to Her Book: Anne Bradstreet’s Significant Uses of Diction

Topics: Poetry, Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary Pages: 6 (1203 words) Published: September 24, 2014
The Author to Her Book: Anne Bradstreet’s Significant Uses of Diction After reading Anne Bradstreet’s, The Author to Her Book, I initially understood the poem to explain a complex feeling of the speakers’ disdain and love, but mostly disdain towards her child. I knew there was something more to this poem; I was drawn in so much further than the first understanding I got from it. I originally didn’t notice the title, and with the title came a whole other dimension, or layer. I then interpreted the author is not only explaining her struggles to finish a physical book, but also allowing the reader insight to her internal conflict of struggling to ultimately love and trust herself by externalizing as a book. This resonated with me. I wanted to have more of an intimate relationship with the Bradstreet, so I looked into her background. I was interested in the period she was writing, her culture, and her influences. Also, in literature, and particularly in poetry it is essential to understand the various layers of meaning assigned to words. So I found it significantly helpful to research certain words in the poem such as “feeble,” “feet,” “trim,” and “vulgar,” to understand their function in key phrases. My research involved the denotation, the etymology, and the connotations of these words. For me, this knowledge then orchestrated a clearer picture of the poem. Anne Bradstreet deemed herself an American poet in the 1600’s, she was a puritan mother of eight children, and was the first women poet published in England and in America. She was strong in her religious beliefs, had pride in America, yet not so much in her home country of England, and can be considered an early feminist for having valued knowledge, and was a free thinker, in spite of the expectations for women at the time. She faced criticisms as a women poet, and so kept her ambitions a secret (Poets.org). The Author to Her Book is Bradstreet’s preface to the second edition of the Tenth Muse and it downplays her excellence in a time when patriarchal literary medium ruled (Poets.org). Immediately, the speaker’s self criticism begins in the first line with “Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain (Bradstreet).” I think the word “feeble,” is an important word that captures the overall negative tone of the poem. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the adjective feeble means, “lacking strength, weak, infirm. Now implying an extreme degree of weakness, and suggesting either pity or contempt.” Its origin is old French (flieble), and the word feeble is Middle English, and also the word didn’t become popular until the mid 1800’s (OED). I think the use of the word “feeble,” was an ideal choice as oppose to other words such as, “frail,” or “weak,” because the connotation of the word feeble makes me think of someone timid, but I also think due to environment of the time the author means to be humble. She suggests she isn’t intelligent and her work is terrible. We see other displays of humbleness throughout the majority of the poem, using words such as “irksome,” “blemishes,” “defects,” etc., which refer to her lack of abilities to be an excellent author. Prosody is, “the branch of knowledge which deals with the forms of metrical composition, and formerly also with the pronunciation of words, esp. as this relates to versification; (more generally) the patterns of rhythm and sound used in poetry (OED).” Prosody is referred to in line fifteen of the poem when the speaker attempts to straighten out her ‘child’s’ “feet.” The use of “feet” has a dual use of imagery of an actual child’s anatomical feet which are needed in order to stand, and also refers to a method of poetic structure. On the website, Purdue OWL, in the section, Pattern and Variation, Conrey explains a poetic foot is “a brief exploration of the various aspects of sound that can be utilized when making a poem. The crafting of the aural aspects of a poem is what we may call "ear training."” Maybe she...

Cited: "Anne Bradstreet." Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web.
Arp, Thomas R., Greg Johnson, and Laurence Perrine. "Chapter Five: The Author to Her Book - Anne Bradstreet." Perrine 's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012. 731+. Print.
Conrey, Sean M. "Welcome to the Purdue OWL." Purdue OWL: Pattern and Variation: Aural. N.p., 03 Apr. 2013. Web.
"Discover the Story of EnglishMore than 600,000 Words, over a Thousand Years." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web.
"Trim." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web.
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