Anne Bradstreet: Water

Updated September 23, 2019 | Infoplease Staff


Scarce Earth had done, but th' angry water moved.
Sister (quoth she) it had full well behoved
Among your boastings to have praised me
Cause of your fruitfulness as you shall see:
This your neglect shews your ingratitude
And how your subtilty, would men delude
Not one of us (all knows) that's like to thee
Ever in craving from the other three;
But thou art bound to me above the rest,
Who am thy drink, thy blood, thy Sap, and best:

If I withhold what art thou? dead dry lump
Thou bearst nor grass or plant, nor tree nor stump,
Thy extream thirst is moistn'ed by my love
With springs below, and showres from above
Or else thy Sun-burnt face and gaping chops
Complain to th' heavens, if I withhold my drops
Thy Bear, thy Tiger and thy Lion stout,
When I am gone, their fierceness none needs doubt
Thy Camel hath no strength, thy Bull no force
Nor mettal's found in the courageous Horse
Hinds leave their calves, the Elephant the fens
The wolves and Savage beasts forsake their Dens
The lofty Eagle, and the stork fly low,
The Peacock and the Ostrich, share in woe,
The Pine, the Cedar, yea, and Daphne's Tree
Do cease to nourish in this misery,
Man wants his bread and wine, &pleasant fruits
He knows, such sweets, lies not in Earth's dry roots
Then seeks me out, in river and in well
His deadly malady I might expell:
If I supply, his heart and veins rejoyce,
If not, soon ends his life, as did his voyce;
That this is true, Earth thou can'st not deny
I call thine Egypt, this to verifie,
Which by my falling Nile, doth yield such store
That she can spare, when nations round are poor
When I run low, and not o'reflow her brinks
To meet with want, each woeful man bethinks;
And such I am in Rivers, showrs and springs
But what's the wealth, that my rich Ocean brings
Fishes so numberless, I there do hold
If thou should'st buy, it would exhaust thy gold:

There lives the oyly Whale, whom all men know
Such wealth but not such like, Earth thou maist show.
The Dolphin loving musick, Arians friend
The witty Barbel, whose craft doth her commend
With thousands more, which now I list not name
Thy silence of thy Beasts doth cause the same
My pearles that dangle at thy Darling's ears,
Not thou, but shel-fish yield, as Pliny clears,
Was ever gem so rich found in thy trunk
As Egypts wanton, Cleopatra drunk?
Or hast thou any colour can come nigh
The Roman purple, double Tirian dye?
Which Caesar's Consuls, Tribunes all adorn,
For it to search my waves they thought no Scorn,
Thy gallant rich perfuming Amber greece
I lightly cast ashore as frothy fleece:
With rowling grains of purest massie gold,
Which Spains Americans do gladly hold.

Earth thou hast not moe countrys vales &mounds
Then I have fountains, rivers lakes and ponds;
My sundry seas, black, white and Adriatique,
Ionian, Baltique, and the vast Atlantique,
Aegean, Caspian, golden rivers fire,
Asphaltis lake, where nought remains alive:
But I should go beyond thee in my boasts,
If I should name more seas than thou hast Coasts,
And be thy mountains ne'er so high and steep,
I soon can match them with my seas as deep.
To speak of kinds of waters I neglect,
My diverse fountains and their strange effect:
My wholsome bathes, together with their cures;
My water Syrens with their guilefull lures,
The uncertain cause of certain ebbs and flows,
Which wondring Aristotles wit n'er knows,
Nor will I speak of waters made by art,
Which can to life restore a fainting heart.
Nor fruitfull dews, nor drops distil'd from eyes,
Which pitty move, and oft deceive the wise:
Nor yet of salt and sugar, sweet and smart,
Both when we lift to water we convert.
Alas thy ships and oars could do no good
Did they but want my Ocean and my flood.

The wary merchant on his weary beast
Transfers his goods from south to north and east,
Unless I ease his toil, and do transport
The wealthy fraight unto his wished port,
These be my benefits, which may suffice:
I now must shew what ill there in me lies.
The flegmy Constitution I uphold,
All humours, tumours which are bred of cold:
O're childhood and ore winter I bear sway,
And Luna for my Regent I obey.
As I with showers oft times refresh the earth,
So oft in my excess I cause a dearth,
And with abundant wet so cool the ground,
By adding cold to cold no fruit proves found.
The Farmer and the Grasier do complain
Of rotten sheep, lean kine, and mildew'd grain.
And with my wasting floods and roaring torrent,
Their cattel hay and corn I sweep down current.
Nay many times my Ocean breaks his bounds,
And with astonishment the world confounds,
And swallows Countryes up, ne'er seen again,
And that an island makes which once was main:
Thus Britian fair ('tis thought) was cut from France
Scicily from Italy by the like chance,
And but one land was Africa and Spain
Untill proud Gibraltar did make them twain.
Some say I swallow'd up (sure tis a notion)
A mighty country in th' Atlantique Ocean.
I need not say much of my hail and Snow,
My ice and extream cold, which all men know,
Whereof the first so ominous I rain'd,
That Israel's enemies therewith were brain'd;
And of my chilling snows such plenty be,
That Caucasus high mounts are seldome free,
Mine ice doth glaze Europes great rivers o're,
Till sun release, their ships can sail no more,
All know that inundations I have made,
Wherein not men, but mountains seem'd to wade;
As when Achaia all under water stood,
That for two hundred years it n'er prov'd good.
Deucalions great Deluge with many moe,
But these are trifles to the flood of Noe,
Then wholly perish'd Earths ignoble race,
And to this day impairs her beauteous face,
That after times shall never feel like woe,
Her confirm'd sons behold my colour'd bow.
Much might I say of wracks, but that He spare,
And now give place unto our Sister Air.
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