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Motivations For Humility
Motives for Humility 'To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings, Of cities founded, commonwealths begun, For my mean pen are too superior things...' (Bradstreet, lines 1-3) 'I am this crumb of Dust which is designed To make my Pen unto Thy praise alone, And my dull Fancy I would gladly grind ' (Taylor 13-15) Throughout their prologues, both Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor use imagery, metaphors, and diction to express humility in their abilities to compose poetry. Bradstreet, a woman of the Puritan society, displays her poetry as unworthy compared to those of the distinguished poets of that era. Taylor, a minister of the Puritan community, also feels that his poetry is not worthy of admiration. However, Taylor is seeking the admiration of God whereas Bradstreet is seeking the admiration of men. Thus, one can find when reading these prologues, that each author's humility, though similar in its portrayal, is different in its purpose and motive. Beginning with Bradstreet's prologue, I will attempt to analyze this motivation behind their humility. Anne Bradstreet begins her poem with a disclaimer, which tells us that we should not expect too much out of her. She does not want us to get our hopes up and regard her poetry with inspiration in any way. From the first three lines to the last three lines, Bradstreet continues to humble herself. The quotation included in the opening lines of this essay is the opening of her prologue. She is convincing us that wars, captains, kings, cities founded, and commonwealths begun are far too superior for her "mean pen" to even consider writing about. " Or how they all, or each their dates have run Let poets and historians set these forth, My obscure lines shall not so dim their worth" (Bradstreet 4-6). What Bradstreet means by saying this is that she is only bound to drag down other poets who truly are great by her own writings or "obscure lines." Bradstreet makes many mentions to the Greek throughout her prologue and uses them as the scapegoat for her own inferiority. Bradstreet first mentions the Greeks and their mythology in the second stanza where she says, " Great Bartas sugared lines do but read o'er, Fool I do grudge the Muses did not part " (Bradstreet 8,9). The Muses, which she mentions, were the nine goddesses of the arts and sciences in Greek mythology. She even calls herself a fool for holding a grudge against these Muses for not being generous enough to hand her the skill that they granted to the celebrated French writer Bartas. Bradstreet also makes mention in stanza four to the "fluent sweet tongued Greek, Who lisped at first, in future times speak plain" (Bradstreet 19,20). She is speaking of the Greek orator Demosthenes who conquered a speech defect by means of art, which gave him, "A full requital of his striving pain" (Bradstreet 22). " A weak or wounded brain admits no cure" (Bradstreet 24). This "weak or wounded brain" is the female's brain in comparison with the male's brain. This final line in the forth stanza in a way sums up what she is attempting to describe to us in the first half of her prologue. The first half "contains the necessary statements about essentialized female inferiority " (Blackstock). Bradstreet then goes on to state that "Men can do best and women know it well, Preeminence in all and each is yours" (Bradstreet 40,41). These lines don't exactly state that she acknowledges her own female deficiencies, rather they are "a plea for the realization of women's capabilities that patriarchy and Puritanism suppress"(Blackstock). Bradstreet closes her prologue with a metaphor by saying, "This mean and unrefined ore of mine Will make your glist'ring gold but more to shine" (Bradstreet 47,48). This statement is a sharp contrast between her "unrefined substance" and the writings of men, which glitter like gold. Bradstreet has proven to us in her prologue that she is seeking the admiration of men by constantly reminding us of how the Greek gods granted them superiority and how she, no matter how hard she tries, will always be just one rung below them. Edward Taylor's prologue from Preparatory Meditations is one in which we...
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Blackstock, Carrie Galloway. Anne Bradstreet and Performativity. Early AmericanLiterature. New York: M.C. Publishing, 1997. Vol. 32. Issue 3, 222. Byam, Nina, et al. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter Fifth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995. Bradstreet, Anne. "The Prologue." Baym 128-129. Taylor, Edward. "Prologue." Baym 165-166. Zondervan. Life Application Bible. New International Version. Wheaton,Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1991.
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