"The Prologue" and "The Author to Her Book"

Essay by toto323 March 2006

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The Prologue

To sing of wars, of captains, and of kings,

Of cities founded, commonwealth begun,

For my mean pen are too superior things:

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.

Why does she seem to be putting down her own ability to write? Mean, humble and thin? Why does she call these subjects of poetry "superior things"? Do you think she personally finds them "superior"? Why are they "things"? obscure" can mean: inadequately provided with light, not readily perceived, remote from centres of human activity, lacking showiness or consciousness, unseen. It often applies to communication with hidden or veiled meanings. So what different things could she be saying about her poetry in contrast to that of men? Remember that obscure can mean dim as well as block. She seems to be playing with words and meanings here.

But when my wond'ring eyes and envious heart

Great Bartas sugared lines do but read o'er,

Fool I do grudge the Muses did not part

Twixt him and me that overfluent store;

A Bartas can do what a Bartas will

But simple I according to my skill.

Guilliame du Bartas (1544-1590) authored The Divine Weeks, an epic poem on Christian history; he was probably Bradstreet's favourite male writer. His poetry is rather elaborately ornamented with imagery and classical illusions, not simple and straight-forward as her lines here are. Who or what is the fool here? Note that she has moved the word to the beginning of the line, replacing an ordinarily unaccented syllable, thus emphasizing it heavily. What would be the normal sentence structure? In other words, it doesn't seem fair that she doesn't get half of his gifts. After all, the Muses...