Anne Bradstreet: Middle Age

Middle Age

 Childhood and youth forgot, sometimes I've seen, And now am grown more staid that have been green, What they have done, the same was done by me: As was their praise, or shame, so mine must be. Now age is more, more good ye do expect; But more my age, the more is my defect. But what's of worth, your eyes shall first behold, And then a world of dross among my gold. When my Wild Oats were sown, and ripe, and mown, I then receiv'd a harvest of mine own. My reason, then bad judge, how little hope Such empty seed should yield a better crop. I then with both hands graspt the world together, Thus out of one extreme into another, But yet laid hold on virtue seemingly: Who climbs without hold, climbs dangerously. Be my condition mean, I then take pains My family to keep, but not for gains. If rich, I'm urged then to gather more To bear me out i' th' world and feed the poor; If a father, then for children must provide, But if none, then for kindred near ally'd; If Noble, then mine honour to maintain; If not, yet wealth, Nobility can gain. For time, for place, likewise for each relation, I wanted not my ready allegation. Yet all my powers for self-ends are not spent, For hundreds bless me for my bounty sent, Whose loins I've cloth'd, and bellies I have fed, With mine own fleece, and with my household bread. Yea, justice I have done, was I in place, To cheer the good and wicked to deface. The proud I crush'd, th'oppressed I set free, The liars curb'd but nourisht verity. Was I a pastor, I my flock did feed And gently lead the lambs, as they had need. A Captain I, with skill I train'd my band And shew'd them how in face of foes to stand. If a Soldier, with speed I did obey As readily as could my Leader say. Was I a laborer, I wrought all day As cheerfully as ere I took my pay. Thus hath mine age (in all) sometimes done well; Sometimes mine age (in all) been worse than hell. In meanness, greatness, riches, poverty Did toil, did broil; oppress'd, did steal and lie. Was I as poor as poverty could be, Then baseness was companion unto me. Such scum as Hedges and High-ways do yield, As neither sow, nor reap, nor plant, nor build. If to Agriculture I was ordain'd, Great labours, sorrows, crosses I sustain'd. The early Cock did summon, but in vain, My wakeful thoughts up to my painful gain. For restless day and night, I'm robb'd of sleep By cankered care, who sentinel doth keep. My weary breast rest from his toil can find, But if I rest, the more distrest my mind. If happiness my sordidness hath found, 'Twas in the crop of my manured ground: My fatted Ox, and my exuberous Cow, My fleeced Ewe, and ever farrowing Sow. To greater things I never did aspire, My dunghill thoughts or hopes could reach no higher. If to be rich, or great, it was my fate. How was I broil'd with envy, and with hate? Greater than was the great'st was my desire, And greater still, did set my heart on fire. If honour was the point to which I steer'd, To run my hull upon disgrace I fear'd, But by ambitious sails I was so carried That over flats, and sands, and rocks I hurried, Opprest, and sunk, and sack'd, all in my way That did oppose me to my longed bay. My thirst was higher than Nobility And oft long'd sore to taste on Royalty, Whence poison, Pistols, and dread instruments Have been curst furtherers of mine intents. Nor Brothers, Nephews, Sons, nor Sires I've spar'd. When to a Monarchy my way they barr'd, There set, I rid my self straight out of hand Of such as might my son, or his withstand, Then heapt up gold and riches as the clay, Which others scatter like the dew in May. Sometimes vain-glory is the only bait Whereby my empty school is lur'd and caught. Be I of worth, of learning, or of parts, I judge I should have room in all men's hearts; And envy gnaws if any do surmount. I hate for to be had in small account. If Bias like, I'm stript unto my skin; I glory in my wealth I have within. Thus good, and bad, and what I am, you see, Now in a word, what my diseases be: The vexing Stone, in bladder and in reins, Torments me with intolerable pains; The windy cholic oft my bowels rend, To break the darksome prison, where it's penn'd; The knotty Gout doth sadly torture me, And the restraining lame Sciatica; The Quinsy and the Fevers often distaste me, And the Consumption to the bones doth waste me, Subject to all Diseases, that's the truth, Though some more incident to age, or youth; And to conclude, I may not tedious be, Man at his best estate is vanity.