In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659

Original Text: 
Anne Bradstreet, Several Poems, 2nd edn. (Boston: John Foster, 1678). Cf. The Complete Works of Anne Bradstreet, ed. Joseph R. McElrath, Jr., and Allan P. Robb (Boston: Twayne, 1981): 184-86.
1I had eight birds hatcht in one nest,
2Four Cocks were there, and Hens the rest.
3I nurst them up with pain and care,
4No cost nor labour did I spare
5Till at the last they felt their wing,
6Mounted the Trees and learned to sing.
8To Regions far and left me quite.
9My mournful chirps I after send
10Till he return, or I do end.
11Leave not thy nest, thy Dame and Sire,
12Fly back and sing amidst this Quire.
14And with her mate flew out of sight.
15Southward they both their course did bend,
16And Seasons twain they there did spend,
17Till after blown by Southern gales
18They Norward steer'd with filled sails.
19A prettier bird was no where seen,
22On whom I plac'd no small delight,
23Coupled with mate loving and true,
24Hath also bid her Dame adieu.
26She now hath percht to spend her years.
28To chat among that learned crew.
29Ambition moves still in his breast
30That he might chant above the rest,
31Striving for more than to do well,
32That nightingales he might excell.
34Is 'mongst the shrubs and bushes flown
35And as his wings increase in strength
36On higher boughs he'll perch at length.
38Until they're grown, then as the rest,
39Or here or there, they'll take their flight,
40As is ordain'd, so shall they light.
41If birds could weep, then would my tears
42Let others know what are my fears
43Lest this my brood some harm should catch
44And be surpris'd for want of watch
45Whilst pecking corn and void of care
46They fall un'wares in Fowler's snare;
47Or whilst on trees they sit and sing
48Some untoward boy at them do fling,
50The net be spread and caught, alas;
52Or by some greedy hawks be spoil'd.
53O would, my young, ye saw my breast
54And knew what thoughts there sadly rest.
55Great was my pain when I you bred,
56Great was my care when I you fed.
57Long did I keep you soft and warm
58And with my wings kept off all harm.
59My cares are more, and fears, than ever,
61Alas, my birds, you wisdom want
62Of perils you are ignorant.
63Oft times in grass, on trees, in flight,
64Sore accidents on you may light.
65O to your safety have an eye,
66So happy may you live and die.
67Mean while, my days in tunes I'll spend
68Till my weak lays with me shall end.
69In shady woods I'll sit and sing
70And things that past, to mind I'll bring.
71Once young and pleasant, as are you,
72But former toys (no joys) adieu!
73My age I will not once lament
74But sing, my time so near is spent,
75And from the top bough take my flight
76Into a country beyond sight
77Where old ones instantly grow young
78And there with seraphims set song.
79No seasons cold, nor storms they see
80But spring lasts to eternity.
81When each of you shall in your nest
82Among your young ones take your rest,
83In chirping languages oft them tell
84You had a Dame that lov'd you well,
85That did what could be done for young
86And nurst you up till you were strong
87And 'fore she once would let you fly
88She shew'd you joy and misery,
89Taught what was good, and what was ill,
90What would save life, and what would kill.
91Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
92And dead, yet speak and counsel give.
93Farewell, my birds, farewell, adieu,
94I happy am, if well with you.


7] Chief of the brood: Samuel, born 1633-34 (White 227), "sailed to England on November 7, 1657, and returned July 17, 1661" (Hensley 306). Back to Line
13] second bird: Dorothy (White 311-12), "married Seaborn Cotton, June 25, 1654" (Hensley 306). Back to Line
20] treen: trees (old plural form). Back to Line
21] a third: Sarah, born ca. 1638 (White 158), "married Richard Hubbard of Ipswich" (Hensley 306). Her "colour white" may allude to the complexion not uncommon in redheads. Back to Line
25] Aurora: Greek goddess of the dawn (hence first appearing in the east). Back to Line
27] One to the Academy: Simon, Jr., born Sept. 28, 1640 (White 158), "admitted to Harvard, June 25, 1656" (Hensley 306). Back to Line
33] My fifth: Dudley (White 312). Back to Line
37] My other three: Hannah, Mercy, and John. Back to Line
49] bell and glass: the bell-glass covered plants to protect them, perhaps from birds and animals, whom its shining may have attracted. Back to Line
51] lime-twigs: birdlime, a sticky matter made from holly bark and smeared on twigs to catch small birds. Back to Line
60] throbs: palpitations of the heart. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1997.