Anne Bradstreet’s Poem “Contemplations”

In the literary scholarship, Anne Bradstreet’s poetry is usually discussed as Puritan and feminist. Therefore, Bradstreet’s poems should be considered as unique representations of the revolutionary female vision that combines the discussion of religious ideas and the discussion of a woman’s place in the world. “Contemplations” is the most vivid example of Bradstreet’s Puritan poetry, in which the author presents her view of the relationship between humanity, God, and the natural environment. Bradstreet’s “Contemplations” is traditionally discussed as the illustration of the Puritan world-view; however, it is important to focus on further research in the field. Thus, in her poem, Bradstreet not only provides the distinguishing Puritan world-view but also applies the Puritan style to discuss the aspects of nature in the context of their divine origin and from the point of a Puritan woman. In this case, it is important to answer the question on how Bradstreet exhibits the Puritan style in “Contemplations” with the focus on discussing religion, culture, gender, nature, and God as the source of order and while utilizing metaphors within a framework of a Puritan poem.

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The main argument to state that “Contemplations” should be discussed in the context of the Puritan style is that Bradstreet focuses on the manifestation of the Creator and His natural gifts in the poem. Thus, Bradstreet develops the themes of religion, culture, and gender in her poetry while noting that each object of the natural world is a trigger to think about God, to recollect the Biblical story, to understand the issue of human immortality, and to receive certain spiritual lessons. Furthermore, Bradstreet accentuates the joy of living the earthly life according to God’s rules. Finally, it is important to state that the poet masterly discusses the issue of gender in the poem while referring to the role of Eve in influencing the lives of all women of the world.

Focusing on the above-mentioned points and details, it is necessary to state that in “Contemplations”, Bradstreet emphasizes the role of God as the source of order on the Earth rather than simply presents the image of nature. Bradstreet focuses much on depicting the natural objects, and the main stress is not on presenting their realistic descriptions, but on presenting their symbolic meanings. In this context, each plant, bird, and animal reflected in the poem makes the author think about her spirituality. Bradstreet points at the idea that God is in each leaf and bug, and the divine message can be found in each whiff of the wind. It is important to state that this vision is directly associated with the Puritan world-view, and it is explicitly represented in Bradstreet’s poem with the focus on the detailed analysis of the relationship between nature and God.

The Puritan style of “Contemplations” is also observed with references to metaphors used by Anne Bradstreet to celebrate her faith. Having the Puritan mind, Bradstreet represents her faith through meditation and those metaphors that are used to depict the natural objects. The uniqueness and perfectness of what the author sees around her are associated with the absolute perfectness of what one can expect in a man’s afterlife. Every aspect of the natural world is reconsidered by the author in the religious context. As a result, it is possible to state that Bradstreet uses the metaphor of the natural world to illustrate the perfectness of the other, greater or divine world.

More attention should be paid to the analysis of the Puritan style about “Contemplations” with the focus on the concepts of culture and gender. The reason is that Bradstreet is often discussed as one of the first feminist poets, and it is necessary to explore how the author represented the role of a woman living in the context of the Puritan culture in her “Contemplations”. On the one hand, Bradstreet acknowledges the woman’s right and the ability for meditating and for receiving spiritual lessons to develop the soul and gain certain spiritual knowledge. Furthermore, in “Contemplations”, Bradstreet represents the female character who is independent in her journey of understanding the divine nature of the world around her. On the other hand, the author also determines the role of Eve in violating God’s rules. Thus, Bradstreet’s approach to discussing gender in the context of the Puritan culture is a challenging question because proclaiming the virtues of the Puritan person, Bradstreet also accentuates the possibilities for a Puritan woman to become closer to the divine wisdom and God’s glory.

In her “Contemplations”, Bradstreet sounds both positively and thoughtfully depending on the aspect she discusses in the concrete stanza or contemplation. In this context, the poem is a collection of thirty-three unique contemplations presented as seven-line stanzas. The first lines of the stanzas are written in iambic pentameter when the last line of the stanza is written as the alexandrine meter. This approach contributes to creating complete short contemplation. Although the stanzas are similar in their form, they are written in a sequence to present the progression of themes related to natural observations, meditation, self-analysis, and then, analysis of the human’s role in the world. Bradstreet’s “Contemplations” presents the full development of the human’s thought regarding the relations of God and humans. The author successfully uses the uniform stanzas to accentuate changes in the mood because optimistic first stanzas are changed with rather thoughtful and pessimistic last stanzas in the poem. All these aspects add to the depth of Bradstreet’s meditation and self-analysis presented in the poem.

Bradstreet’s representation of the Puritan view in “Contemplations” can be discussed as unique because the poem is written by the Puritan female author who attempts to add to the traditional vision of the Puritan poem. “Contemplations” occupies a specific place in other Bradstreet’s poetry because this poem is most self-conscious and self-reflective in comparison with the other poems written by Bradstreet. Although meditation was typical for Puritan poetry, Bradstreet’s approach to self-reflection is different because it has the features of the self-analysis, when the author presents the complex examination of the female individual’s place in nature and the Puritan world.

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As a result, the nature in “Contemplations” is discussed with references to the Puritan ideology but through the lens of the woman’s perception. The nature described in the poem is not only the literary presentation of New England’s landscape, but it is the discussion of the nature of Nature in the context of religion typical for the Puritans. It is important to note that the Puritans viewed nature as the manifestation of God’s holy order, and Bradstreet follows this view discussing nature as the metaphorical reflection of Heaven. However, Bradstreet goes forth, and she discusses not only sacred elements of nature and world order, points at humanity’s role, and accentuates the natural diversity, but she also emphasizes her specific place in nature while following the unique individual perspective of a Puritan woman. In this context, the importance of “Contemplations” is in Bradstreet’s extreme focus on the person’s inner perception and religious reflection in the context of the Puritan ideology that explains not only basic Puritan views but also the individual’s visions of nature and its divine laws. It is important to note that other of Bradstreet’s poems do not explain the above-mentioned issues with the unique depth characteristic for the style of “Contemplations”.

From this point, Anne Bradstreet’s poem “Contemplations” can be discussed as a vivid example of the poetry that reflects the person’s devotion to God and a Puritan woman’s comprehension of her role in the world full of divine messages and spiritual lessons. Thus, although the poem is traditionally discussed as Puritan, it is rather complex and needs to be discussed from the perspective of a female author who demonstrates her affiliation with both nature and God. Thus, the research is aimed to analyze the aspects of Anne Bradstreet’s approach to exhibiting the Puritan style in “Contemplations” with the focus on religion, nature, and gender. As a result, the paper will be organized to present the discussion of Bradstreet’s vision of religion and relations between God, nature, and a human; analysis of Bradstreet’s style and use of metaphors to indicate the connection between nature and faith; analysis of the author’s approach to discussing gender and culture in the poem; discussion of the poem’s importance among the other Puritan works; and the conclusion regarding the representation of the Puritan view in Bradstreet’s poem.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Anne Bradstreet’s Poem “Contemplations”'. 22 January.

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