The Prologue by Anne Bradstreet Questions with Answers

The Prologue by Anne Bradstreet Questions with Answers

Short Questions with Answers

Q. 1. What does The Prologue by Anne Bradstreet mean?

Ans. Anne Bradstreet’s  poem, The Prologue portrays the struggles of being a woman in a Puritan society. Anne Bradstreet lived in a time where women were meant to keep quiet and tend to the children and domestic chores. She wrote The Prologue during this time to express her opinion on a woman’s voice in society.

2. What is the theme of The Prologue by Anne Bradstreet?

Ans. The Prologue deals with the theme of humility. As a devout Puritan, Anne Bradstreet believed deeply in humility. She thought that all people, whether they were men or women or children, should humble themselves, and avoid clothing or actions or speech that might make them seem proud.

Q. 3. What do you know of Anne Bradstreet’s puritanic stand?

Ans. Anne Bradstreet tried to live the Puritan life style which elevated men above women and believed that good works were the way to become one of God’s elect. She felt that her parents were models of Puritans who were supposed to live and in her writing modeled them to others who read about them.
Q. 4. For my mean pen are too superior things; (1.3). Explain this line with reference to the context.
Ans. All of a sudden, she switches it up on us. Now she tells us this poem isn’t really going to be about these big events and famous people at all. Apparently she feels like these grand historical themes are “too superior” for her “mean” that means “low” or “unimportant” pen. In this case, she does not mean that the actual pen she uses any good. She uses it symbolically to represent her skill as a writer. That kind of symbolism, where you take a part of something to stand in for the whole, is called metonymy.

Q. 5. “Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours“. (1.42). What does the poet mean to say here?

Ans. The poet wants men, secure in being first, to acknowledge that women can do good work, too. She makes her opponents look like creeps for attacking her. Bradstreet’s feminist voice is quite obvious in the quoted line.
Q. 6. And oh ye high flown quills that soar the skies (1. 43). What do ‘high flown quills’ mean? What figure of speech is used here? The poet reveals her feminist perspective in the quoted line. poets as ‘high flown quills.’
Ans. She describes male This image plays on the fact that poets’ pens were made out of bird feathers or quills. She combines that idea with synecdoche, by substituting a reference to a part of a thing (the feather) for the whole (the bird).
Q. 7. “And ever with your prey still catch your praise”, (1.44). What does the poet want to say here?
Ans. Keeping up the metaphor of poet as bird, the poet imagines these amazing male poets catching both ‘prey’ and praise.” The words sound the same, and that association makes for a gentle little joke. This line shows that she knows her way around words and is a comfortable and capable poet. Many people, as the poet complains here, constantly harbour the idea that women cannot write.
Q. 8. If e’er you deign these lowly lines your eyes, Give thyme or Parsley wreath, I ask no Bays. (LI.45-46)
Ans. The poet makes one last, modest request. If people happen to read her poems, and want to reward her, she won’t ask for a crown of laurel or ‘Bays’. The laurel crown was given to winners of poetry competitions in ancient times. She doesn’t need that, since she’s promised to leave war and triumph to the men. Instead, she asks for a crown of “thyme or Parsley.” Those, as anyone who has made pasta lately know, are cooking herbs. Rather than being symbols of greatness, they represent the home, and women’s work. Bradstreet’s speaker has found an elegant way of saying that these poems aren’t meant to win glory, but to match up to the humble desires and skills of women.
Q.9. This mean and unrefined ore of mine Will make your glist’ring gold but more to shine. (L1.47-48) Explain the quoted lines with reference to the context.
Ans. These are the concluding lines of Anne Bradstreet’s poem Prologue. Here the speaker uses a metaphor to compare her own poetry to drab, “unrefined ore.” Placed next to the art of men, she promises it will only make them look better, like glittering (“glistering”) pure gold. We can point out the use of the alliteration in “glist’ring gold”.
10.”It is but vain unjustly to wage war”. (1.39) Why does the poet say so? 
Ans. This line is taken from Anne Bradstreet’s poem The Prologue. The poet decides it would be useless “vain” and unjust to fight a battle with men for some kind of blue ribbon in poetry. Fighting with men is not her motto. As she said at the beginning, she will leave waging war against men.
Greeks be Greeks, and Women what they are.
Q.11. Let Men have precedency and still excel; (ll.37-38) Explain with reference to the context
Ans. The poet-persona lets the Greeks drop. She does not have to beat her opponents, nor does she want to although maybe she has given us a hint that she could if she felt like it. She is willing to let men be first ‘have precedency’ and to outdo women ‘excel’.

Short Essay Type Questions with Answers

Q. 1. What is the connection between the form and the content in The Prologue by Anne Bradstreet?
Ans. Anne Bradstreet, one of the primary poets of the Puritan era, seems to be ironic in this poem. Here we notice that Bradstreet’s content rejects the idea that men are “superior” to women. In stanza five, Bradstreet outwardly rebels against the traditional female rolea move that was rather brave for her day. There is an irony in stanza seven as she defers to men. She says that men possess superior talents in writing to those of women. She seemingly plays down her own talents, expressing that she surely cannot write better than the Greeks with her “mean” pen. The word ‘mean’ here stands for ‘mere’ or ‘ineffetive’. In terms of poetic form, Bradstreet further rebels against the idea that her verse is inferior by composing finely-crafted lines, each of which contains ten syllables. The predominant meter throughout is iambic pentameter. This is one of the most common meters in poetry, consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable so that each line has five stressed syllables. We can see the example below, wherein the words or letters in all caps receive the stress when the poem
is spoken:
To SING of WARS, of CAP-tains AND of KINGS
There might be a bit of variation in some lines, but the dominant pattern is iambic pentameter. We should also note that the last two lines in each stanza consist of a rhyming couplet. Thus, Bradstreet echoes her content arguing for the talents of women by composing a tightly crafted poem that proves her case.
In the poem The Prologue how does Anne Bradstreet rationalize and legitimize her role as a female writer?
Q. 2. I am obnoxious to each carping tongue Who says my hand a needle better fits?
– Explain the lines with reference to the context.
Ans. This is perhaps the best illustration from this poem by Anne Bradstreet of her rejection of the idea that she, as a woman, should listen to the “carping tongues” of those who feel she would be better occupied in sewing than in sharing her opinions as a writer. In this poem, Bradstreet openly acknowledges that she is by no means infallible: she states in the opening stanza that she has only a “mean Pen,” poorly equipped in her “poor lines,” when she is contrasted with the output of “Poets and Historians.” However, the initial two stanzas of the poem do not mention her gender at all. On the contrary, in these stanzas the humility she expresses has nothing to do with her womanhood at all.
Bradstreet is evidently unwilling to accept any suggestion that she, as a woman, is less capable of capable commentary than other humans of any gender. However, she does attempt to preempt critical commentary from readers by noting that “From School-boy’s tongue no Rhet’ric we expect.” She then describes her own “Muse” as “blemished” and notes that it cannot be expected, therefore, to produce perfect notes, as could be expected from a broken instrument. Bradstreet therefore elicits audience sympathy and engagement by comparing herself to an innocent schoolchild-notably, a boy.
Bradstreet is unrepentant in her commentary that any scorn cast “on female wits” will fall upon deaf ears in her case. She states that “men have precedency and still excel / It is but vain unjustly to wage war.” This suggests, first, that men get angry about female intelligence out of sheer vanity, as they already have more power; it also indicates perhaps that this anger is driven by a fear that, should they not “wage war,” women’s intelligence might push them toward equality. At the end of this stanza, Bradstreet asks simply that men “grant some small acknowledgement” of the intelligence of women.
Q. 3. Assess Anne Bradstreet’s The prologue as a lyric.
A lyric is a kind of poem usually short and personal expressing the poet’s personal feelings and emotions rather than telling a story. This definition of lyric is matched with the characters of the prologue. 
In the prologue, Bradstreet expresses her personal feelings and emotions against the attitude of male hegemony. Women were treated as servant in the early puritan society. They wre confined to the home. They were unable to go out of their fixed territory without any emergency. So they were kept in darkness. There is no value of the individual liberty of women. If any woman does something valuable, men say, “She must copy or happen it by chance”. The male society is reluctant to acknowledge women’s artistic excellence. Such kind of harsh attitude of male society cannot be accepted and Bradstreet bitterly criticizes it. The prologue contains the personal feelings and emotions of the poet. So, we can consider the poem as a lyric.
Q. 4. How does Anne Bradstreet criticize the male society in her prologue?
Ans. The Prologue as a poem speaks about Bradstreet’s struggle with being a woman within a puritan society. During this time, women were not meant to speak their mind and were meant to recognize only men’s supposed superiority. As a reference to this is line 40, “Men can do best, and women know it well”. It is noteworthy that the poet uses some literary devices such as irony and sarcasm to make a critique of male hegemony. She criticizes the male society with her soft tone. She is very mild in her criticism on male dominance which makes it ironical. At the very beginning of the poem, she uses some understatements to make her points clear. She speaks of ‘mean pen’ to indicate her creativity. But ironically it hints at her inability at poetizing. She compares herself with Bartas who had the chance to write whatever he likes. She use an understatement to compare herself with a school boy to criticize the attitude of male society with polite tone. Though Bradsrteet relegate her position by comparing herself with a school boy, we know that she is the first woman to write a critique on male dominance which is new in the early American scenario. This is much a tribute to writing career of a woman as it is anything else. She once said that unless she writes none can hear her. So she writes in hope of being read, being heard. She is not a man so so that she can speak her mind publicly. So she writes. She uses ‘obnoious’ and ‘carping tongue’ to clarify the hostility of the male world. The men of her society used to say that “(a woman’s) Her hands fit better at needle”. In the next stanza, her critique becomes more obvious. Anne Bradstreet draws the reader’s attention by using sarcastic and ironic expressions.
Q. 5. What are the subject-matter or themes of The Prologue?
Ans. At the simple level it can be stated that The Prologue is a poem all about poetry. In just 48 lines, Bradstreet manages to talk about where poems come from, what makes them good (and who gets to decide what good means) and, most of all, about who should be allowed to write them. This is all tied up in what it means to be a woman in seventeenth-century New England (hint: freedom? not so much), and this poem confronts the issue of female authorship straight on.
The Prologue focuses on the trials of a female poet trying to make her voice heard in the world (in the days before feminism… or microphones). In a bigger sense, though, it’s about men and women, and how they relate to each other. At times, it seems a little like a battle of the sexes (may the best poet win). For the most part, though, the speaker does a really amazing job of deferring to the men who might criticize her while also boldly and steadily insisting that she has a right to speak as both a woman and a poet. Preach, sister.
At a few key points, the speaker of “The Prologue” goes back to the past (no Deloreans necessary) for a little bit of backup. The way she sees it, the ancient Greeks might have had better ideas about women and poetry than the men of her time. Combine that with a casual reference to Demosthenes, and you have a woman who knows and cares about classical history, and isn’t afraid to show it. Talking about the ancient Greeks is a way to remind her potential critics that they’re dealing with an educated woman here. Engarde, fellas.
You may have noticed that the speaker spends a lot of “The Prologue” talking about men who she thinks might criticize her for being a woman who writes poetry. (If you did notice that, congratsyou are awake and have a pulse.) She doesn’t directly call it prejudice, but that’s definitely what she’s dealing with here. She’s pushing back against people who tell her she can’t do something because of her gender. Sure, she does it in a gentle, almost submissive way. But steadily and surely she makes the doubters look like fools, clowns, and morons. We think there’s something really brave about this poem, even though it can take a moment to see it.
Devout Puritans like Anne Bradstreet believed deeply in humility. They thought that all people, whether they were men or women or children, should humble themselves, and avoid clothing or actions or speech that might make them seem proud. (Like, we’re really proud of our jean jacket collection, but that would so have to go in Bradstreet’s world.) That’s actually helpful for understanding the moments where the speaker of The Prologue agrees to take a back seat to male poets. Showing that kind of humility, for a Puritan, was not ‘humiliating’ in the negative way we think about it today.
6 .What do you think is the significance of the title of the poem? 
The title of this poem just gives us some basic information. Essentially, it tells us that this poem is a prologue, a short piece of writing that is meant to introduce a longer work. In this case, that longer work is a book of Bradstreet’s poems that was sent to the publishers in London without her knowing about it. The book itself, which appeared in 1650, was titled The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America. Ans.
What this does, as a prologue, is to confront the issue of gender right away. It gets out ahead of the potential criticism, which is a pretty great strategy for dealing with the flak a female writer might expect to get in Bradstreet’s era. We think it also sets the reader’s expectations a little low. The speaker sounds so modest, sometimes even a little short on self-esteem. But the work that this introduces, The Tenth Muse, is a pretty serious, smart and carefully crafted book of poems. No matter who you are or when you’re
writing, it’s not bad to have your readers going in expecting too little, rather than too much. The title of the poem locates that message front and center for any male readers who might have their noses put out by Bradstreet’s writing.
Q. 7. To sing of Wars, of Captains, and of Kings,
Of Cities founded, Common-wealth begun, (II. 1-2)
– Explain these lines with reference to the context.
Ans. These two lines are taken from Anne Bradstreet’s poem The Prologue. Bradstreet starts out on a big note here. It’s like she’s ringing a gong to announce her presence. Her speaker leaps right into the grandest subjects of history: war and politics. If you were just reading this first line, you might think she and we are just assuming that the speaker is a she, since we have no evidence to the contrary was about to write an epic poem, like The Iliad.
Q. 8. “My obscure lines shall not so dim their worth”. (Line – 6) Explain this line with reference to the context. What does the poet assert here?
Ans. This line is taken from Anne Bradstreet’s poem The Prologue. This speaker won’t let her ‘obscure’ lines mess with the most important material or history, because she thinks that if she does it badly it will make them seem like they are worth less than they are. Let us look at this line again. Check out the word “obscure.” That can mean “not important,” “humble,” “not famous.” But it can also mean “dark” or “hidden by darkness.” So when she tells us that her obscure “humble” lines might ‘dim’ history, she’s playing on the double meaning of ‘obscure’. Maybe that does not seem so amazing, but we think it’s important, because it gives us a hint that Bradstreet is playing two games at once here. On the one hand, she’s telling us that her poetry isn’t good enough to let her play with the big boys, and on the other, she’s showing off her poetic chops. Let’s keep an eye on this lady, folks-she’s got some tricks up her sleeve.
Q. 9. Or how they all, or each their dates have run,
Let Poets and Historians set these forth. (Ll.4-5) Explain. it
Ans. She’ll leave the big work of describing the past and how took place how their dates have run to “Poets and Historians.” Apparently she’s going to let those guys talk about (or “set forth”) those topics, while she deals with something less major. It is an interesting way to put it.
It also seems pretty significant that she refers to other people as “Poets,” which implies that she doesn’t include herself in that category. In this opening stanza, it almost feels like she’s trying to hide from who she is.
Now that you’ve seen a few lines, maybe you’ve picked up on the steady rhythm of this poem. It’s written in pretty much perfect iambic pentameter. If that term’s got you scratching your noggin (and, you know, you’ve washed your hair recently), then head on over to the “Form and Meter” section for a full breakdown. While we’re at it, let’s check out the rhyme too. Each stanza in this poem has the same rhyme scheme. The first line rhymes with the third, the second line rhymes the fourth, and each stanza ends with a pair of rhyming lines (we call those last two a rhyming couplet). So if we wrote out the general pattern using letters, it would go ABABCC (where each letter represents the sound of that line’s end rhyme).
Q. 10. But when my wond’ring eyes and envious heart
Great Bartas’ sugar’d lines do but read o’er, (ll. 7-8) Explain.
Ans. Here the poet confesses that, when she reads the poems of one of her favorite poets, she feels both amazement and envy. That writer, Guillaume du Bartas, was a French Protestant, and a big favorite with the Puritans. He was definitely the kind of guy who tackled big subjects (for more on the man and his work see the
“Literary and Philosophical References” section). By slipping in an allusion to Bartas, Bradstreet’s speaker gives us a sense of her taste in poetry, and also lets us know that she’s well read. We love the way Bradstreet calls his lines “sugar’d.” It is such a great description of the experience of reading a favorite poem-just like eating something sweet and delicious.
Q. 11. Fool, I do grudge the Muses did not part
Twixt him and me that over-fluent store.(Ll. 9-10) Explain.
Ans. Bradstreet’s language gets a little fancy here, but stick with us and we’ll break it on down. Basically what she’s saying is that, when she reads Bartas, she wishes that the Muses (mythological women who inspired the creation of art) had shared with her some of his supply of talen (“that over-fluent store”).
By the way, she’s calling herself a fool at the start of line 6, because she feels like she shouldn’t be jealous of Bartas. It sort of sounds like she’s calling her reader a fool, though, which makes her sound a little like Mr. T. We would love to see him read this poem.
Q. 12. A Bartas can do what a Bartas will
But simple I according to my skill.(Ll. 11-12) Explain.
Ans. Finally, she decides she has to let it go, and be happy with what she has. She won’t challenge the greats, like Bartas, or be jealous of them. Instead, she will do what she can with the skill that was given to her. Way to make the most it, speaker lady.
Q. 13. From School-boy’s tongue no Rhet’ric we expect,
Nor yet a sweet Consort from broken strings, (LI. 13-14) Explain.
Ans. In the beginning of this stanza, Bradstreet gives us a few metaphors for her inferior skills as a poet. The basic idea in all of these comparisons is that you shouldn’t expect something or someone to do more than it was made to do, so why should you expect her, a lowly woman, to write like a famous man?
For example, a little kid ‘School-boy’ would not be expected to give fancy speeches (“Rhet’ric”). You also wouldn’t expect beautiful melodies (“sweet Consort”) from a musical instrument with “broken strings.” Both of these things are analogies for her poetry.
Q. 14. Nor perfect beauty where’s a main defect.(L 15) Explain.
Ans. You also wouldn’t expect something or someone to be perfectly beautiful if you saw some major fiaw.
Essentially, Bradstreet’s speaker is telling us to keep our expectations reasonable (i.e., low). Just like a broken instrument or flawed beauty, there’s apparently only so much you can expect from a woman poet. Again, physical beauty is an analogy for skill as a poet. Man, we just want to give her a pep talk, don’t you?
Q. 15. My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings, (L 16) Explain.
Ans. In this line, the poem picks up the idea of the “main defect” from the line before and applies it directly to the speaker’s own poetry. Since Bradstreet didn’t believe that the Greek gods were real, you can think of this “muse” as a personification of artistic inspiration. The speaker is giving human qualities (like foolishness, or the ability to sing) to an idea. You might imagine that a poet’s muse would be beautiful, perfect, and appropriately godlike. Bradstreet’s speaker wants us to know that’s not the case with her muse. Apparently her muse is flawed in all kinds of ways, and she sings like it too.
We may say this a bunch, but what makes this poem so tricky (and so cool) is the difference between what Bradstreet says and how she says it. While the line means “my poetry kind of stinks,” the line itself is great. It’s not broken or blemished at all, in fact it’s vivid, well-balanced and in perfect iambic pentameter. So while she tells us she’s lousy, she’s also showing us that she’s anything but. It’s sort of a great way to get back at the haters while pretending to agree with them, isn’t it?
Q. 16. And this to mend, alas, no Art is able, ‘Cause Nature made it so irreparable. (LI.17-18) Explain.
Ans. There’s nothing she can do to fix the flaws and brokenness that she sees in her poems. Because the speaker’s muse is broken and foolish, no amount of careful work (“Art”) can fix the poetry she inspires.
This is Nature’s fault-it created this irreparable flaw, and the speaker can’t fix it. What’s that flaw, exactly? Well the speaker doesn’t come out and say it, but it seems to us that the flaw is, sadly, that she was born a woman. (We know, we know-but keep in mind that this was way back in the seventeenth century, folks.)
We also want to point out how active Nature is here, with all its making and doing. It’s almost like it’s a character in the poem.For that matter, Art, even though it’s “unable,” is treated like a character too. When a poet gives human qualities to a thing or an idea like “Nature” or “Art,” that’s called personification.
As we’ve said before, it’s not totally clear to us that Bradstreet completely buys this line about female inferiority, but that is what her speaker is going with for now.
Q. 17. Nor can I, like that fluent sweet-tongued Greek Who lisp’d at first, in future times speak plain. (LI.19-20) Explain.
Ans. One of the things we really like about this poem is how the thoughts are linked together from line to line and stanza to stanza. That also applies from line to line, like in this case, where the sentence carries over across the line break.That nifty poetic technique is called enjambment.
Here Bradstreet starts a new stanza by picking up and extending an idea she just talked about (lines 17-18), that nature can’t fix flaws. This time, though, she drops in a fancy-pants allusion to classical Greece. The “sweet-tongued Greek” she’s talking about is Demosthenes, a famous orator from ancient Athens. The story goes that he had a speech impediment as a boy, but overcame it with
hard work and practice. We shoul point out that “sweet-tongued” is just a figure of speech, a metaphor for being a good talker. His tongue wasn’t really sweet-that would be kinda gross.
Of course, you’d only catch the Demosthenes reference if you had a classical education, which Bradstreet did (see our “Best of the Web” section for more on her unusual childhood). So while she’s supposedly downplaying her ability, she’s also showing off a little, letting the boys know that she belongs in their club, at least in one way.
Q. 18. By Art he gladly found what he did seek, A full requital of his striving pain. (Ll.21-22)
Ans. Demosthenes worked hard and got what he wanted. His skill as an orator was the compensation (“requital”) for his efforts. In his case, at least, Art overcame nature. Our speaker is not so sure that this applies to here, and the comparison to Demosthenes comes off as a little negative. At the same time, we can’t help but think of Bradstreet’s huge achievement, as a woman and a published poet from the brand-new American colonies. It is hard to imagine that publishing her work did not feel at least a little like a reward for her own “striving pain”
Q. 19. Art can do much, but this maxim’s most sure: A weak or wounded brain admits no cure.(11.23-24) Explain.
Ans. Even though Demosthenes triumphed, Bradstreet’s speaker isn’t so sure that she’ll be able to do the same. She’s impressed by the power of Art, and believes it “can do much.” Still, she doesn’t think it can fix her problem, which is, apparently, a “weak and wounded brain.”
It’s maybe kinda tough for all of us open-minded, modern Shmoopers to imagine how seriously people in Bradstreet’s day took the difference between men and women. It’s not that they all hated women or anything, but they definitely believed in the idea of the “weaker sex.” So when Bradstreet describes her brain as “weak or wounded,” she might really mean it.
On the other hand, she might be using this poem to push back a little against the idea of female inferiority. We think every reader has to decide that for herself. We notice some quality alliteration with “weak or wounded.”
Q. 20. I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits. (Ll. 25-26) Explain.
Ans. Here’s another little switch in tone. The speaker goes from worrying about her own shortcomings to going after her critics. Clearly she feels like she’s under attack.
When she describes herself as “obnoxious,” she means “vulnerable” or “exposed” (not obnoxious like your little brother). These complaining voices (each “carping tongue”) say she should stick to her sewing.
This is basically the seventeenth-century version of “get back in the kitchen” and Bradstreet’s speaker is having none of it.
Rather than ignoring prejudice or giving up her poetic career, she’s going to use these lines to directly confront any potential male critics. That’s a pretty powerful stance. Whether or not she thinks she’s as good as a man, she’s not going to give up writing to make these people happy.
Q. 21. A Poet’s Pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits. (Ll. 27-28) – Explain with reference to the context.
Ans. The syntax is a little complicated here, but basically the speaker’s saying that her male critics (who might be real or imaginary) have nothing but scorn for the idea of her writing poems. They worry that she will “wrong” (mess up, violate) the craft of poetry. (Line 26 is basically saying “Everyone thinks I’m going to royally screw the art form up by trying to attempt it.”) Their reasons for thinking this don’t have anything to do with this particular female poet. They show contempt (“despite”) for women poets in general, and especially for “female wits” (that could mean either “female
intelligence” or “female writers”). We should point out that not all men felt this way about female poets. In fact, a bunch of Bradstreet’s male relatives helped her to get published. On the other hand, they didn’t ask first, and they made it clear to her readers that she’d finished all her chores first. Sigh. It wasn’t easy to be a female poet in seventeenth-century New England. Here we see the use of alliteration in “Poet’s Pen.
Q. 22. If what I do prove well, it won’t advance,
They’ll say it’s stol’n, or else it was by chance.(Ll. 29-30) – Explain with reference to the context.
Ans. Our poor speaker feels like she just can’t win. She knows that even if she writes well, she won’t get any love from the critics.They’ll just say she stole it from someone else, or got lucky (“it was by chance”).
Q. 23. But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild, Else of our Sex, why feigned they those nine(Ll. 31-32) Explain.
Ans. In order to defend herself, she goes right back to the muses, and to ancient Greece, which, as we’ve already seen, are two recurring themes in this poem.
She uses the Greeks to poke fun at prejudiced male readers. Why, the speaker asks playfully, would the Greeks have made (“feigned”) the muses themselves women if they thought women were such crappy artists? Ha! Bradstreet 1, Jerks 0. Sorry, we kind of have a tendency to root for her-we’ll try to keep it under control.
Special poetry bonus points if you noticed the internal rhyme with that long E in “antique” and “Greeks.” Cool, huh? If you just shouted out “You betcha!”, get yourself over to “Form and Meter” for more of that good stuff.
Q. 24. And poesy made Calliope’s own child?
So ‘mongst the rest they placed the Arts divine, (Ll. 33-34) Explain.
Ans. Just for good measure, the speaker throws in one more little dig about the ancient Greeks. In this line she points out that the muse of epic poetry, Calliope, was herself a woman, taking her place among the other arts.
She didn’t really need to add that last allusion, since all the muses were women, but she seems to be kind of enjoying needling her opponents now.
It’s also worth pointing out the personification of poetry (she uses the old-fashioned term “poesy”). Bradstreet’s speaker turns an idea, “poetry,” into a person by referring to it as a child.
Q. 25. But this weak knot they will full soon untie.
The Greeks did nought but play the fools and lie.(Ll. 35-36) Explain.
Ans. Having brought up this good point, she puts it to rest, imagining what her opponents will say. She doesn’t imagine they will have any trouble with this “weak knot” of an argument. Notice, by the way, how she picks up on the theme of female weakness she brought up before when talking about her “weak brain” (line 24). Her critics’ cutting response seems to boil down to, “The Greeks were dumb and full of it” -not exactly impressive.
The reader is left to pick up on the difference between the speaker’s calm, patient voice and her opponents’ foolishness. It’s just another echo of the gentle ironic tone that runs through this poem.
Q. 26. Men can do best, and Women know it well.
Preeminence in all and each is yours; (11.40-41. – Explain with reference to the context
Finally, she is willing to admit that men are the best, and she claims that all women know this fact. It is a peacemaking move. By letting men have first place she is helping the guys who criticize her to feel less threatened, and also fitting in with the conventions for how women in her society are expected to speak and behave. Also, check out the switch to “yours” in line 40. The poem up to this point has been about men and their ideas. Now she’s talking directly to them. It’s just one more way she ups the intensity as the poem draws to a close.
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