In Memory Of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet Summary

In Anne Bradstreet's poem, "In Memory of My Dear Grandchild--Elizabeth Bradstreet," what is she trying to say?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The full title of Bradstreet's poem is as follows: "In Memory of My Dear Grandchild--Elizabeth Bradstreet, Who Deceased August, 1665, Being a Year and a Half Old". She was writing about her granddaugher who has died as a baby. Bradstreet was a devout Puritan who believed in God's grace and His will, but she was also a woman who loved her family deeply. Both aspects of her character are present in the poem as she mourns the baby's death while striving to accept God's will.

The first four lines of the poem express her deep love for this child. She calls the baby "dear" and "sweet" and refers to her as a "fair flower." The baby is her heart's contentment and "the pleasure of [her] eye," and has been taken from her.

In the next three lines, Bradstreet questions her own grief, reminding herself that this baby has gone to be with God, "settled in an everlasting state." The following four lines examine the natural order of life, growth, and death with examples from nature. She writes, "And time brings down what is both strong and tall."

In the poem's conclusion, Bradstreet addresses her grief that this child had not lived a long life as is the natural order. She finds comfort in her faith that it is God's hand that "guides nature and fate." She struggles to accept her personal loss as being God's will. This same theme is developed in Bradstreet's poem, "Upon the Burning of Our House."

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not so sure that Bradstreet wrote this poem in order to "say something."  It seems as though she is simply trying to come to grips with what feels like a great tragedy—the death of a very young child—and seeking comfort in her faith.  Bradstreet knows that the child's life was only "lent" to them by God before she would be "ta'en away unto eternity" (lines 3, 4).  As a result, she asks herself why she is "bewail[ing]" the child's fate when she knows that the little one has gone on to her "everlasting state" with God, something that ought to comfort her (lines 5, 7).

Bradstreet knows that the way of nature is that things die once "they are grown" or after they become "ripe," but this child was neither grown nor even remotely mature (lines 8,9).  Instead, she was "new set," her bud "new blown," so Bradstreet comes to the conclusion that "His hand alone" has guided the child to her "fate" (lines 12, 13, 14).  She recognizes that there is a difference between the death of a child and the death of someone much older, but she comforts herself with the idea that God's will is equally at work in both.  

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