Before the Birth of One of Her Children

All things within this fading world hath end,

Adversity doth still our joyes attend;

No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,

But with death’s parting blow is sure to meet.

The sentence past is most irrevocable,

A common thing, yet oh inevitable.

How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend,

How soon’t may be thy Lot to lose thy friend,

We are both ignorant, yet love bids me

These farewell lines to recommend to thee,

That when that knot’s untied that made us one,

I may seem thine, who in effect am none.

And if I see not half my dayes that’s due,

What nature would, God grant to yours and you;

The many faults that well you know I have

Let be interr’d in my oblivious grave;

If any worth or virtue were in me,

Let that live freshly in thy memory

And when thou feel’st no grief, as I no harms,

Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms.

And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains

Look to my little babes, my dear remains.

And if thou love thyself, or loved’st me,

These o protect from step Dames injury.

And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,

With some sad sighs honour my absent Herse;

And kiss this paper for thy loves dear sake,

Who with salt tears this last Farewel did take.

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  1. The poem is addressed to the speaker’s husband. What does she ask of him? 
  2. Most of Bradstreet’s poems reflect a deep faith tied to Christian notions of Providence, the belief that God has a plan for us which we can’t change. Where does that faith appear in this particular poem? How might someone with faith in Providence look at the world's dangers today: climate change, or racial injustice, economic hardship, or war?
  3. Despite the dark subject matter, Bradstreet’s poem follows a regular, calm rhythm and rhyme scheme. How do those formal aspects of the poem affect the way we read the speaker’s feelings about her situation?
  4. Try reciting the poem while smiling. How else might you convey the speaker’s confidence that, despite her worry, she trusts God’s will?
  5. What worries you? Write a poem in which you imagine one of your fears coming true. What requests might you make of those around you to help alleviate your worry?

Useful Link

This article gives a useful overview of the role women played in the American colonies. There’s also information about the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in 1692:

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