QOTD: “To Her Father, With Some Verses”

 

Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die–Anne  Bradstreet

Anne Dudley Bradstreet — the first published Puritan poet of any substance — was born into comfortable circumstances in the North of England in 1612 and got married at the age of 16 to Simon Bradstreet. The young couple, along with Anne’s parents, emigrated to the New World in 1630 (Anne was 18), ultimately moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1632, where Anne, despite lifelong poor health, accommodated herself to her new and very different life (including early years of hardship and privation) and had the first of her eight children.

Eventually, the family settled and prospered, and both her husband and father served, at one point or another, as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and were instrumental in the founding of Harvard University, from which two of Anne and Simon’s sons graduated.

She died at the age of 60, in 1672, from tuberculosis, and after a long struggle with increasing paralysis and pain, the aftereffects of a childhood bout of smallpox and a subsequent go-round with scarlet fever. Too short a life, and one which demonstrates, if any proof of such were needed, that being born into comfortable circumstances is no guarantee of a particularly comfortable life.

But, upon my reacquaintance with her the other day, it was her writings that struck me. She’s well educated. And she speaks her mind, and writes about whatever pleases her. The only book of poetry published in her lifetime, “The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America,” by A Gentlewoman in Those Parts, was first published in England, anonymously (because, you know, woman), and contains a series of poems in the Elizabethan tradition on subjects that interested her. They’re technically good, but rather imitative, and it’s not until her later poems, many of which were not published until the mid-19th century, that she really finds her voice, writing in a deeply personal, sometimes questioning, vein about her life, her struggles, her accomplishments, and her faith. The full text of all her works (poor formatting) can be found here. As I skimmed through, I felt her reaching across the centuries, and I found myself wishing I’d known her. I think I’d have liked her.

Anne Bradstreet’s father was Thomas Dudley (now there’s a name from English history!), a devout Puritan and military man who, after immigrating to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, set about improving the situation, the morals, and the education of its residents, founding what is now Cambridge, Massachusetts, establishing schools, becoming a charter member of the new Harvard College, and serving several terms as governor of the colony. His relations with his daughter and son-in-law remained close and cordial (Simon Bradstreet also served as governor of the colony and supported Thomas in his efforts to maintain the strictest Puritan standards in their small society). As can be seen from the above sonnet, Anne loved her father very much and remained grateful for his gift of life, crediting him with her success and accomplishments, which she viewed as a lifelong debt.

Loyaute m’oblige. “Loyalty binds me.” That was Dad’s regimental motto, one he lived every day of his life, and one he impressed upon all three of his children. He died 14 years ago, on Sept. 30, 2007. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Loyaute m’oblige. Here he is on one of our last visits together, saying hello to King John in Worcester Cathedral.

Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die

I think Anne Bradstreet had it about right.

Note: The same biographical information about Anne Bradstreet also appears in another post of mine about her, from a few years ago.

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  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    She: Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
    But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
    Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
    Yet paying is not paid until I die

    When I saw these words earlier in your post, I thought of you and your love for your Dad. A touching tribute to both dads.

    • #1
  2. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    I’ve been caring for my father, 24-7, for the last year and a half, watching him suffer the depredations of late stage, late onset Parkinson’s disease.  What a horrible disease!  It strips one of the ability to function and communicate while leaving memories and emotions intact, a mix of autistic overload, systemic malfunction, stolen dignity and selective procedural dementia, all with flashes of coherence that tease, but disappear.  It tortures you, but let’s some other disfunction kill you.  Recent research shows evidence of prion disease in the autopsied brains of advanced Parkinson’s patients.  ‘m not surprised.  It’s like slow motion ALS. 

    Here’s my “father” poem:

    Do not go gentle into that good night

    Dylan Thomas– 1914-1953

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    • #2
  3. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    I’ve been caring for my father, 24-7, for the last year and a half, watching him suffer the depredations of late stage, late onset Parkinson’s disease. What a horrible disease! It strips one of the ability to function and communicate while leaving memories and emotions intact, a mix of autistic overload, systemic malfunction, stolen dignity and selective procedural dementia, all with flashes of coherence that tease, but disappear. It tortures you, but let’s some other disfunction kill you. Recent research shows evidence of prion disease in the autopsied brains of advanced Parkinson’s patients. ‘m not surprised. It’s like slow motion ALS.

    Here’s my “father” poem:

    Do not go gentle into that good night

    Dylan Thomas– 1914-1953

    Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    A touching and poignant poem.  And yes, an awful, awful, disease. Prayers for your family.  

    • #3
  4. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    Do I know that little girl in the broad rim hat located somewhere in Africa?

    • #4
  5. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Do you have any pictures of your Dad back when he was at work in Nigeria?  I highly approve of the mustache – I knew growing up I was going to have a stash like Dad.

    Also, little She is super adorable.

    • #5
  6. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Do you have any pictures of your Dad back when he was at work in Nigeria? I highly approve of the mustache – I knew growing up I was going to have a stash like Dad.

    Also, little She is super adorable.

    Aww, thanks!  I think Dad must have taken that photo.  My mother was an avid photographer, but she’d spend ages fiddling around to get things “just right.” It was maddening to be a small child in that situation.  By the time she finally pressed the button, I was usually beet red and screaming my head off.  Something more like this (I used to post this as the “after” photo, when someone asked what it was like to be a moderator here):

    I do have some photos of Dad in his Nigeria days.  Some of these I’ve posted before, but here goes:

    I think he grew the mustache during the war. I certainly never knew him without it. None of the other men in his family had one.

     

     

    • #6
  7. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Do I know that little girl in the broad rim hat located somewhere in Africa?

    Hmmm.

    • #7
  8. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Dad took this photo in 1966, three years after we left Nigeria, and on one of his return visits.  I’m including it because this is how the Muslim women I knew in my childhood dressed.  My Nigeria was a land of color and friendly faces with no burkas in sight.

    • #8
  9. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    She (View Comment):
    My Nigeria was a land of color and friendly faces with no burkas in sight.

    Is the burka mainly an Arab thing? Our Somali-Bantu neighbors wear head coverings (hijab?), but not burkas.

    As always, @she , your tribute to your father is inspiring. It seems to me that the cultivation of fatherhood is too often neglected in raising boys today. We were visiting some Amish friends recently, and when Papa got home from work and sat down for a few moments, the little ones clamored to be on his knee and the older boys joined with him in the feeding time chores for the animals. I would say this young family seems to be doing some very important things right.

    • #9
  10. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    JoelB (View Comment):
    Is the burka mainly an Arab thing? Our Somali-Bantu neighbors wear head coverings (hijab?), but not burkas.

    I think it’s mostly a form of dress beloved of extremists/control freaks.  Thus, Boko Haram, the sect that’s terrorizing Northern Nigeria imposes the burka on its adherents and captives.  And, in a little-known reaction, several West African, majority-Muslim nations (including a few Nigerian provinces) have simply banned it.

    • #10
  11. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    She (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Do I know that little girl in the broad rim hat located somewhere in Africa?

    Hmmm.

    She used to call herself Luli.  Not sure I know who she is anymore, either….

    • #11
  12. GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms Reagan
    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Malpropisms
    @GLDIII

    She (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    GLDIII Purveyor of Splendid Ma… (View Comment):

    Do I know that little girl in the broad rim hat located somewhere in Africa?

    Hmmm.

    She used to call herself Luli. Not sure I know who she is anymore, either….

    Don’t neg yourself, even with 60 years passage, I can still see her, and she is just as cute and warm hearted.

    • #12