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In Bradstreet's “On My Dear Grandchild Simon Bradstreet” and Taylor's “Upon Wedlock, and Death of Children” death of a child is the primary theme. There are a number of images used to support this theme.
No sooner came, but gone, and fall’n asleep,
Acquaintance short, yet parting caused us weep;
Three flowers, two scarcely blown, the last I’ th’ bud,
Cropt by th’ Almighty’s hand...
In these first four lines, Anne Bradstreet uses the words "gone" and "asleep"—the last which is often used to refer to death.
In Shakespeare's Hamlet, when the Danish Prince considers suicide, he speaks of sleep. He is actually referring to death: his worry is that if he kills himself, what if he is punished—if there are dreams in death as in life?
So, when Bradstreet speaks of the child's sleep, it is not literal sleep, but figurative—the child has died just a month after birth. A short acquaintance refers to the child's time on earth, and weeping is the response to the baby's passing. "...bud, Cropt..." refers to death as well. The child—like a flower—has just bloomed. "Cropt" by God would indicate that He cut the flower—taking the baby's life—also alluding to death.
Go pretty babe, go rest with sisters twain...
This line refers to death, as the new baby has died and will now join two sisters that have passed away before him.
Edward Taylor also makes numerous references to death in his poem. He refers to the birth of the child as the creation of a flower. Then...
...a glorious hand from glory came
...soon did Crop this flowere
Which almost tore the root...
In Pray're...it did ascend,
And Angells bright did it to heaven tend.
Here Taylor notes that God "cropped" the flower (the baby—the "manly flower"). The child's death almost destroyed the speaker ("tore the root"). Prayer accompanied the passing of the baby, and the angels tended the child as he/she rose to heaven. The speaker tries to find comfort in this loss, and again refers to death:
...part of mee
Is now in it, Lord, glorifi'de with thee.
There is some gratification to the parent that some part of him is now in the presence of God in heaven. The speaker does not consider an end to having children. Quite the contrary he notes...
In joy, may I sweet Flowers for Glory breed,
Whether thou getst them green, or lets them seed.
He will joyfully have more children, regardless of whether God will take the child still "green" (young), or let the child seed...one assumes, have children of his own some day. "...getst them green" is another reference to the loss of a child.
Both of these poems contain not only strong Christian references (both authors had Puritan backgrounds), but praise for God even when the child is lost—that He works wisely in all things, even in the taking of a child. (This reflects Christian theology.) Both poems concentrate on the death of a child and how to cope with this. The infant mortality rate during this time is estimated to have been close to seventy-five percent, due to difficult births, illness, etc. Losing a child would have been tragic and devastating, but not unusual.
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