Anne Bradstreet: Air

Updated September 23, 2019 | Infoplease Staff


Content (quoth Air) to speak the last of you,
Yet am not ignorant first was my due:
I do suppose you'l yield without controul
I am the breath of every living soul.
Mortals, what one of you that loves not me
Abundantly more than my Sisters three?
And though you love fire, Earth and Water well
Yet Air beyond all these you know t' excell.
I ask the man condemn'd that's neer his death,
How gladly should his gold purchase his breath,
And all the wealth that ever earth did give,
How freely should it go so he might live:
No earth, thy witching trash were all but vain,
If my pure air thy sons did not sustain,
The famish'd thirsty man that craves supply,
His moving reason is, give least I dye,
So both he is to go though nature's spent
To bid adieu to his dear Element.

Nay what are words which do reveal the mind,
Speak who or what they will they are but wind.
Your drums your trumpets &your organs found,
What is't but forced air which doth rebound,
And such are ecchoes and report of th' gun
That tells afar th' exploit which it hath done,
Your songs and pleasant tunes they are the same,
And so's the notes which Nightingales do frame.
Ye forging Smiths, if bellows once were gone
Your red hot work more coldly would go on.
Ye Mariners, tis I that fill your sails,
And speed you to your port with wished gales.
When burning heat doth cause you faint, I cool,
And when I smile, your ocean's like a pool.
I help to ripe the corn, I turn the mill,
And with myself I every Vacuum fill.
The ruddy sweet sanguine is like to air,
And youth and spring, Sages to me compare,
My moist hot nature is so purely thin,
No place so subtilly made, but I get in.
I grow more pure and pure as I mount higher,
And when I'm thoroughly varifi'd turn fire:
So when I am condens'd, I turn to water,
Which may be done by holding down my vapour.

Thus I another body can assume,
And in a trice my own nature resume.
Some for this cause of late have been so bold
Me for no Element longer to hold,
Let such suspend their thoughts, and silent be,
For all Philosophers make one of me:
And what those Sages either spake or writ
Is more authentick then our modern wit.
Next of my fowles such multitudes there are,
Earths beasts and waters fish scarce can compare.
Th' Ostrich with her plumes th' Eagle with her eyn
The Phoenix too (if any be) are mine,
The Stork, the crane, the partridg, and the phesant
The Thrush, the wren, the lark a prey to th' pesant,
With thousands more which now I may omit
Without impeachment to my tale or wit.
As my fresh air preserves all things in life,
So when corrupt, mortality is rife;

Then Fevers, Pmples, Pox and Pestilence,
With divers more, work deadly consequence:
Whereof such multitudes have di'd and fled,
The living scarce had power to bury the dead;
Yea so contagious countryes have we known
That birds have not 'Scapt death as they have flown
Of murrain, cattle numberless did fall,
Men feared destruction epidemical.
Then of my tempests felt at sea and land,
Which neither ships nor houses could withstand,
What wofull wracks I've made may well appear,
If nought were known but that before Algere,
Where famous Charles the fifth more loss sustained
Then in his long hot war which Millain gain'd
Again what furious storms and Hurricanoes
Know western Isles, as Christophers Barbadoes;
Where neither houses, trees nor plants I spare,
But some fall down, and some fly up with air.
Earthquakes so hurtfull, and so fear'd of all,
Imprison'd I, am the original.
Then what prodigious sights I sometimes show,
As battles pitcht in th' air, as countryes know,
Their joyning fighting, forcing and retreat,
That earth appears in heaven, O wonder great!
Sometimes red flaming swords and blazing stars,
Portentous signs of famines, plagues and wars,
Which make the Monarchs fear their fates
By death or great mutation of their States.
I have said less than did my Sisters three,
But what's their wrath or force, the fame's in me.
To adde to all I've said was my intent,
But dare not go beyond my Element.
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