Anne Bradstreet

(1612 – 16 September 1672 / Northampton, England)

In Reference To Her Children

Poem by Anne Bradstreet

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.

Comments about In Reference To Her Children by Anne Bradstreet

  • Geeta Radhakrishna MenonGeeta Radhakrishna Menon (4/26/2020 11:56:00 PM)

    A love of a Mother for her children - an emotion so vividly portrayed by the Poetess......10(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Mahtab BangaleeMahtab Bangalee (7/1/2019 6:12:00 AM)

    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, .............//great poetic expression(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Kevin PatrickKevin Patrick (4/26/2019 10:04:00 PM)

    A mother watching her chicklets fly into the air, her love for her children runs deep in this poem, its essence is still pure almost 400 years later, that's not just great poetry, that's human capacity for love.(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Susan WilliamsSusan Williams (1/18/2018 1:02:00 PM)

    She nailed this! ! We Mothers never stop being a Mother no matter how far away our children have flown, no matter Farewell, my birds, farewell adieu,
    I happy am, if well with you. how old and wise they may turn out to be, we still fret over the dangers that lurk out there. - - - - - - Says it all perfectly and poetically! Top-notch piece!(Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
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  • Deepak Kumar Pattanayak (1/18/2018 2:09:00 AM)

    What a profound piece composed so brilliantly with the touch of beautiful nature as simply magnificent and outstanding............thanks for sharing(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Ratnakar Mandlik (6/14/2017 10:56:00 PM)

    A beautiful piece of literature with eternal values. Thanks for sharing it here.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Madhabi BanerjeeMadhabi Banerjee (6/14/2017 1:21:00 PM)

    nice poem. i like it(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
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  • Edward Kofi LouisEdward Kofi Louis (6/14/2017 10:55:00 AM)

    Her flight! ! With the muse of nature. Thanks for sharing.(Report)Reply

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  • Pamela SinicropePamela Sinicrope (6/14/2017 7:19:00 AM)

    I love this poet and this poem. She was a trailblazer in her time.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Bernard F. AsuncionBernard F. Asuncion (6/14/2017 2:38:00 AM)

    Picked twice on this category....(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
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  • * Sunprincess * (2/11/2016 6:35:00 PM)

    ................nicely penned....I agree with Mr. Barney ★(Report)Reply

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  • Tracy CraigheadTracy Craighead (12/13/2015 11:28:00 PM)

    I love Anne Bradstreet, she is always so crystal clear in her love for her husband and children. Her love is fearless and she inspires love in others. This particular poem spoke to me, it highlights a mother's unique connection to her children. A mother's love is hard to put into words, but Anne Bradstreet does a very good job at the ultimate expression of love.(Report)Reply

    9 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Kenneth MaswabiKenneth Maswabi (7/11/2015 12:06:00 PM)

    The cream of poetry revealed.Thank you.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    7 person did not like.
  • Oilibheir Álain ChristieOilibheir Álain Christie (11/17/2014 6:20:00 PM)

    Beautie, Truth an Raritie,
    Grace in all Simplicitie(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • John Richter (11/17/2014 2:51:00 PM)

    I enjoy classical poetry - also re-reading good ones every 5 years or so..... I love Anne's style but must admit half-way through this one I was beginning to wish there had been many fewer than 8 birds hatched (children born) . A little lengthy for my taste - yet in the 17th century listening to this poem recited would have been akin to watching a movie on television. Their version of entertainment. Having just checked her biography it is interesting that she indeed had 8 children and was America's first published poet. What an interesting, but I fear very difficult, life she must have led(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
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  • Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (11/17/2014 8:13:00 AM)

    Three hundred years a long period. But the relevance and importance of this poem is not at all diminished by the gone years. It feels it is still important and relevant and will be so after another three hundred years because of the nicety of motherhood and affectionate she is. The proud feeling of departing the children or little birds is a beautiful poetic sayings and it is great and liked.(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Kim BarneyKim Barney (11/17/2014 6:02:00 AM)

    Nice poem, but it was also chosen as poem of the day exactly five years ago on November 17,2009.
    Poem Hunter, please have some of your humans (if you have any at the website) actually read some of the recent poems and start choosing new ones for poem of the day instead of letting your computers do it.(Report)Reply

    12 person liked.
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  • Michael Harmon (11/17/2009 10:41:00 PM)

    I agree with Kevin. Bearing in mind this was written more than three hundred years ago, it is striking how understandable it remains, which is a remarkable achievement, I think, for any poet.
    Some quick research revealed a site (one of many) ,, where the following excerpts are from:

    Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) is one of the most important figures in the history of American Literature. She is considered by many to be the first American poet....

    Her style is deceptively simple, yet speaks of a woman of high intelligence and ideals who was very much in love, and had unconditional faith. While it was difficult for women to air their views in the 17th Century, Anne Bradstreet did so with ease, as her rich vocabulary and polyvalent knowledge brought a lyrical, yet logical quality to her work which made it pleasant for anyone to read.(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
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  • Kevin StrawKevin Straw (11/17/2009 5:44:00 AM)

    This is a touching and heartfelt account of a mother's mixed feelings as she sees her offspring 'leave the nest'. She broods over her departed young as she brooded over them when they were at home, yet she understands the necessity of giving them their freedom. AB sustains the metaphor wonderfully without letting it obscure the feelings she is expressing by it. She does what good poets do by metaphor, she makes it say what could not be said so well without it.(Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
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  • Ramesh T ARamesh T A (11/17/2009 1:19:00 AM)

    Mother's love is eternal though the birds love freedom and fly away leaving the mother!(Report)Reply

    5 person liked.
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Read poems about / on: farewell, june, happy, beach, children, pain, strength, spring, light, song, joy, child, fear, tree

Poem Submitted: Thursday, May 10, 2001

Poem Edited: Thursday, November 17, 2011

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