The Flesh and the Spirit

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): 175-76.
1In secret place where once I stood
3I heard two sisters reason on
4Things that are past and things to come.
5One Flesh was call'd, who had her eye
6On worldly wealth and vanity;
7The other Spirit, who did rear
8Her thoughts unto a higher sphere.
9"Sister," quoth Flesh, "what liv'st thou on
10Nothing but Meditation?
11Doth Contemplation feed thee so
12Regardlessly to let earth go?
13Can Speculation satisfy
14Notion without Reality?
15Dost dream of things beyond the Moon
16And dost thou hope to dwell there soon?
17Hast treasures there laid up in store
18That all in th' world thou count'st but poor?
19Art fancy-sick or turn'd a Sot
20To catch at shadows which are not?
21Come, come. I'll show unto thy sense,
22Industry hath its recompence.
23What canst desire, but thou maist see
24True substance in variety?
25Dost honour like? Acquire the same,
26As some to their immortal fame;
27And trophies to thy name erect
28Which wearing time shall ne'er deject.
29For riches dost thou long full sore?
30Behold enough of precious store.
31Earth hath more silver, pearls, and gold
32Than eyes can see or hands can hold.
33Affects thou pleasure? Take thy fill.
34Earth hath enough of what you will.
35Then let not go what thou maist find
36For things unknown only in mind."
37"Be still, thou unregenerate part,
38Disturb no more my settled heart,
39For I have vow'd (and so will do)
40Thee as a foe still to pursue,
41And combat with thee will and must
42Until I see thee laid in th' dust.
43Sister we are, yea twins we be,
44Yet deadly feud 'twixt thee and me,
45For from one father are we not.
46Thou by old Adam wast begot,
47But my arise is from above,
48Whence my dear father I do love.
49Thou speak'st me fair but hat'st me sore.
50Thy flatt'ring shews I'll trust no more.
51How oft thy slave hast thou me made
52When I believ'd what thou hast said
53And never had more cause of woe
54Than when I did what thou bad'st do.
55I'll stop mine ears at these thy charms
56And count them for my deadly harms.
57Thy sinful pleasures I do hate,
58Thy riches are to me no bait.
59Thine honours do, nor will I love,
60For my ambition lies above.
61My greatest honour it shall be
62When I am victor over thee,
63And Triumph shall, with laurel head,
64When thou my Captive shalt be led.
65How I do live, thou need'st not scoff,
66For I have meat thou know'st not of.
68The word of life, it is my meat.
69My thoughts do yield me more content
70Than can thy hours in pleasure spent.
71Nor are they shadows which I catch,
72Nor fancies vain at which I snatch
73But reach at things that are so high,
74Beyond thy dull Capacity.
75Eternal substance I do see
77Mine eye doth pierce the heav'ns and see
78What is Invisible to thee.
79My garments are not silk nor gold,
80Nor such like trash which Earth doth hold,
81But Royal Robes I shall have on,
82More glorious than the glist'ring Sun.
83My Crown not Diamonds, Pearls, and gold,
84But such as Angels' heads infold.
86There's none on Earth can parallel.
87The stately Walls both high and trong
88Are made of precious Jasper stone,
89The Gates of Pearl, both rich and clear,
90And Angels are for Porters there.
91The Streets thereof transparent gold
92Such as no Eye did e're behold.
93A Crystal River there doth run
94Which doth proceed from the Lamb's Throne.
95Of Life, there are the waters sure
96Which shall remain forever pure.
97Nor Sun nor Moon they have no need
98For glory doth from God proceed.
99No Candle there, nor yet Torch light,
100For there shall be no darksome night.
101From sickness and infirmity
102Forevermore they shall be free.
103Nor withering age shall e're come there,
104But beauty shall be bright and clear.
105This City pure is not for thee,
106For things unclean there shall not be.
107If I of Heav'n may have my fill,
108Take thou the world, and all that will."


2] Lacrim flood: a torrent of tears. Back to Line
67] Manna: heavenly food (Revelation 2.17). Back to Line
76] inriched: probably sounded "inrichèd." Back to Line
85] The City: New Jerusalem (Revelation 21-22). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1997.