American poetry of the seventeenth century as a reflection of a Puritan's character

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Pavel Pushkov Professor Fanning English 71 14 February 2006 American Poetry of the Seventeenth Century as a Reflection of Puritan’s Character: An Analysis of “Upon Wedlock, and the Death of Children” by Edward Taylor and “Upon the Burning of Our House” by Anne Bradstreet How much do we know about the first settlers? We know that they started to arrive in New England in the first part of the seventeenth century. We also know that many of them were Puritans. From high school history textbooks we know that Puritans were a very religious group that managed to overcome the dangers of a strange land. But who really were those people? How did they live? What did they think and dream about? What were the most important things in their lives? I think that works of

seventeenth century Puritans’ authors will help us to answer these questions. Let us take some poems of Ann Bradstreet and Edward Taylor as examples. Edward Taylor, who for many years was a priest in a small frontier town, left behind many writings. I think that the poem Upon Wedlock and Death of Children shows the poet’s character the best. The poem devoted to two the most important things in Taylor’s life: his family and religion. From the first lines of the poem we can see a deep love of the author for his wife. He compares their marriage to a “True- Love Knot, more sweet than spice, and set with all the flowers of Grace’s dress” (356). The use of the phrase “more sweet than spice” is very touching, in my opinion, because it shows the Taylors as a normal,

loving couple that time after time had some “spicy” moments in their live (356). Nevertheless, they love each other and the poet describes their marriage as a “Wedden’s knot, that ne’re can be untied: no Alexander’s Sword can it divide (356).” Comparing the marriage with a “Gordian Knot,” Taylor shows the strength of the union between his wife and himself (356). Further on in the poem, Taylor writes about his children. We can see a happiness of the father when the author compares himself with a plant whose “stock […] knotted and manly flower out brake” (357). This is how he describes the birth of his son. And later, “ my [Taylor’s] branch again did knot, brought out another flower” this time the writer speaks about his daughter (357). Taylor sees

himself as a plant, and his children are the most beautiful part of that plant: flowers. Moreover, they are one organism with their father, and the flowers cannot be separated from the stem without pain. Nevertheless, some of his children die. This is how Taylor describes the death of his child: “at that unlooked for […] darksome hour […] a glorious hand […] did crop this flower” (357). The verb “crop” is used to show how roughly a “flower” was separated from the “stem”; it shows the pain of the father (357). The following lines demonstrate the agony of a parent watching his child dieing, “… oh, the tortures, Vomit, screeching, groans, and six weeks Fever would pierce hearts like stones” (357). We can see how much the poet loves his children. However,

there is something that Taylor values even more than his wife and kids: it is his religion. Taylor seems to believe that the Lord determines humans’ destiny, and that God created his family. Taylor writes, “God made in paradise” that “True- Love knot, more sweet than spice (Taylor’s marriage),” and “planted” Taylor himself “in that knot” (357). All people are no more than flowers in the garden of God in Taylor’s mind. And it is up to Lord to decide whether he “get’st them green, or let them seed” (357). There is no doubt that Taylor adores his kids, but let us take a look at these lines. While “cropping” the “flowers (children)” Christ “…having Choice, chose this my branch […] Lord take’t. I thank Thee” (357). Does it not sound like