What Is Anne Bradstreet’s “Contemplations” About?

The Anne Bradstreet poem, “Contemplations,” is about the beauty of nature and gratitude towards God for creating the Earth. She laments man’s failure to show gratefulness to God for the world he has made. Her poem is made up of 33 stanzas, each with a different sentiment about nature and man’s relationship to it.

“Contemplations” ends with a focus on time, and how it takes away the glory and beauty of everything, including man’s life. She also references the Geneva Bible, which Puritans believed signified grace and closeness to God. Bradstreet’s poem has Puritan undertones, with its emphasis on Heaven and Earth alike, as well as the failures and shortcomings of humans.

This poem is widely considered Bradstreet’s greatest, due not only to its content but its implementation of assonance and alliteration to achieve a unified poetic voice.

Each stanza of this poem is seven lines, and gradually compares the cyclical life of the natural world with the inevitable mortality of mankind. The brevity of life was a focus of Puritan thought, and it is reflected in this Puritan poet’s work.

Bradstreet lived in the 17th century, and is considered a New World poet. She moved with her family from England to New England in 1630, and struggled to reconcile her Puritan family values with her increasing independence and confidence.