Beyond Stateliest Marble by Douglas Wilson — Book Review

This book is part of the Leaders In Action series edited by George Grant.  The series was recommended in one of the Fanning the Flame CD’s our team listened to recently.  The idea is that leaders should seek out historical and Biblical leaders they can emulate.  I chose this particular book because it is the only one in the series whose subject is a woman.

Anne Bradstreet was a wife, mother, devout Puritan and also a poet.  She, her husband and other members of her family came from England to American in 1630 and eventually settled in Boston.  Both her father, Thomas Dudley, and her husband, Simon Bradstreet served as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The author goes to great pains to show us that the Puritans were not dull, dour or uneducated, and that Anne, as an intellectually curious, passionate and winsome woman was not out of place in their midst.  Her world view was completely Christian and orthodox (in her case, Calvinistic).   Her poems dealt with her own everyday concerns such as family, household possessions, deliverance from illness, and the struggles that come with the death of loved ones.  She considered everything that was happening to her in light of Biblical teaching.  She questioned, but never challenged God.

“Like all Christians, she (Anne) had to strive in her faithfulness to God …. she was a Christian growing in the midst of trials.”

Cotton Mather called her poetry “a Monument for her Memory beyond the stateliest marbles.”  She was the first American poetess before Emily Dickinson, and unlike Dickinson, she wrote while in the midst of a full and rich family life.  However, biographer Elizabeth White says:

“It is as a human being,…. that she can still appeal to us over the centuries.  She had a firm and lively character, avid for knowledge, generous in affection and admiration, with a quiet but perceptive humor….”

Anne is certainly worthy of admiration and imitation.  She was a woman of her time, and she lived in her time and her station with joy.  Isn’t that what we all want to do?  Her personality comes through in her poetry and in the way she conducted her life and influenced others in her family and community.  I would recommend this book as a means of learning more about Anne and the early Puritans.  Verdict:  4 stars — I enjoyed it, but it may be too much of an English major moment for some readers!

Anne Bradstreet –Faith and Tribulation

I’m currently reading a biography of the Puritan poet, Anne Bradstreet, and I’ll review it in a later post.  However, I came across this poem which eloquently describes Anne’s faith and fortitude during a time of suffering — the burning of her home.  It’s one of my English major moments, but I hope our readers will enjoy it and be inspired by Anne, both as a woman and a Christian.

Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666

Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning
of Our house, July 10th. 1666. Copied Out of
a Loose Paper.
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e’er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e’er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould’ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It‘s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There‘s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.