In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come

Some writers fairly tremble with glee as they turn to their latest work. They know that, waiting for them, are crisp verbs, nuanced nouns, pithy observations. Wit and charm and the barest minimum of prepositions and adverbs.

The rest of us turn the page reluctantly. We also know what’s there. Clunky prose, leaden pace, tired cliche. It needed another week — another month — of work before being sacrificed to illiterate copy readers and evil editors. Why in the world did we let that manuscript out of the house?

We’re the ones who understand Anne Bradstreet’s poem.


Critics are really just paid consumers.

With that in mind remember that because of consumers being dumb asses we have many warning stickers that show the decline in basic common sense. So if the average consumer is pretty much a drooling dumb ass with no common sense imagine what a paid consumer is…

Anne Bradstreet’s brother took her poems and published them without telling her. It’s one thing to regret letting your work out in public. Imagine how horrifying it would be to find out that someone else published it for you right under your nose.

At least I’d then have someone else to blame, could tell myself and others that “it was only a first draft, not my fault it was awful.” The pain is in finding – too late to insert it – the perfect verb, the scintillating metaphor. It’s what comes, I’m afraid, of interminable revising. The damn thing is never quite right. Waitwaitwait, I need to change that…

Reminds of a line from Sherard’s book on Oscar Wilde: “ “He related also, with much gusto, how in a country-house he had told his host one evening that he had spent the day in hard literary work, and that, when asked what he had done, he had said, ‘I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma.’ ‘And in the afternoon?’ ‘In the afternoon—well, I put it back again.’”

[There are several versions of that anecdote. As is true with many other quotes whose precise wording is debated, I suspect it was a matter, not of imperfect reporting, but of a quote used many different times, variations the fault of the speaker, not the audience.]


“It’s a sorry man who cannot invent an Oscar Wilde quote to fit his situation.” (A made-up Oscar Wilde quote about making up Oscar Wilde quotes, quoted in “Unquoted: Oscar Wilde”.)


That’s pretty much what her poem was about. The other side of that coin is that if her brother hadn’t published them, she may have never been published at all.

Bradstreet wrote another poem where she discusses the patriarchal society she lives in, but she does it in such a subversive way that I’ve always loved it. It’s like, “Oh, I could never be as great as any male poet.” And she says this through such a brilliant poem.

Having only met Miss Anne on two occassions, both within the last 24hrs, I am quite taken with her…but for her sake…alas I fear…her image now, must tarnished be…Vic-k’s in love with her, you see. :frowning: But…can you blame the old…? :confused:

[i]In Reference to Her Children by Anne Bradstreet
[size=85]I had eight birds hatched in one nest,
Four cocks there were, and hens the rest.
I nursed them up with pain and care,
Nor cost, nor labour did I spare,
Till at the last they felt their wing,
Mounted the trees, and learned to sing;
Chief of the brood then took his flight
To regions far and left me quite.
My mournful chirps I after send,
Till he return, or I do end:
Leave not thy nest, thy dam and sire,
Fly back and sing amidst this choir.
My second bird did take her flight,
And with her mate flew out of sight;
Southward they both their course did bend,
And seasons twain they there did spend,
Till after blown by southern gales,
They norward steered with filled sails.
A prettier bird was no where seen,
Along the beach among the treen.
I have a third of colour white,
On whom I placed no small delight;
Coupled with mate loving and true,
Hath also bid her dam adieu;
And where Aurora first appears,
She now hath perched to spend her years.
One to the academy flew
To chat among that learned crew;
Ambition moves still in his breast
That he might chant above the rest
Striving for more than to do well,
That nightingales he might excel.
My fifth, whose down is yet scarce gone,
Is 'mongst the shrubs and bushes flown,
And as his wings increase in strength,
On higher boughs he’ll perch at length.
My other three still with me nest,
Until they’re grown, then as the rest,
Or here or there they’ll take their flight,
As is ordained, so shall they light.
If birds could weep, then would my tears
Let others know what are my fears
Lest this my brood some harm should catch,
And be surprised for want of watch,
Whilst pecking corn and void of care,
They fall un’wares in fowler’s snare,
Or whilst on trees they sit and sing,
Some untoward boy at them do fling,
Or whilst allured with bell and glass,
The net be spread, and caught, alas.
Or lest by lime-twigs they be foiled,
Or by some greedy hawks be spoiled.
O would my young, ye saw my breast,
And knew what thoughts there sadly rest,
Great was my pain when I you fed,
Long did I keep you soft and warm,
And with my wings kept off all harm,
My cares are more and fears than ever,
My throbs such now as 'fore were never.
Alas, my birds, you wisdom want,
Of perils you are ignorant;
Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight,
Sore accidents on you may light.
O to your safety have an eye,
So happy may you live and die.
Meanwhile my days in tunes I’ll spend,
Till my weak lays with me shall end.
In shady woods I’ll sit and sing,
And things that past to mind I’ll bring.
Once young and pleasant, as are you,
But former toys (no joys) adieu.
My age I will not once lament,
But sing, my time so near is spent.
And from the top bough take my flight
Into a country beyond sight,
Where old ones instantly grow young,
And there with seraphims set song;
No seasons cold, nor storms they see;
But spring lasts to eternity.
When each of you shall in your nest
Among your young ones take your rest,
In chirping language, oft them tell,
You had a dam that loved you well,
That did what could be done for young,
And nursed you up till you were strong,
And 'fore she once would let you fly,
She showed you joy and misery;
Taught what was good, and what was ill,
What would save life, and what would kill.
Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
And dead, yet speak, and counsel give:
Farewell, my birds, farewell adieu,
I happy am, if well with you.[/i][/size]

Fluff: Do urge Vic to visit – if he has not already done so – the Poetry Foundation’s entries on Bradstreet. A lovely long essay on her and her work (and her station), and several more of her poems.


Yes he has, Mr.P, but he’s bookmarked the biography page…he’s ordered Faith Cook’s biography of her, too. … 0852347146

Here’s a selection of some of her humorous stuff. … street.htm