Upon a Fit of Sickness

Ben Ciavolella

Before she was twenty, Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) made a long and treacherous voyage to the New World with her husband and family. She would become America's first published poet; she would also endure a number of physical and spiritual harships. Through it all, her poetry showed a continual dependence upon the Lord. Bradstreet composed one such poem after surviving an affliction of tuberculosis:


Upon a Fit of Sickness
Twice ten years old not fully told 
    Since nature gave me breath, 
My race is run, my thread is spun, 
    Lo, here is fatal Death. 
All men must die, and so must I, 
    This cannot be revoked; 
For Adam's sake this word God spake 
    When he so high provoked. 
Yet live I shall—this life's but small— 
    In place of highest bliss, 
Where I shall have all I can crave; 
    No life is like to this. 
For what's this life but care and strife? 
    Since first we came from womb 
Our strength doth waste, our time doth haste, 
    And then we go to tomb. 
O bubble blast, how long can'st last 
    That always art a-breaking?
No sooner blown but dead and gone, 
    Ev'n as a word that's speaking. 
Oh, whilst I live this grace me give, 
    I doing good may be, 
Then death's arrest I shall count best, 
    Because it's Thy decree; 
Bestow much cost there's nothing lost, 
    To make salvation sure; 
O great's the gain, though got with pain, 
    Comes by profession pure. 
The race is run, the field is won, 
    The victory's mine, I see, 
For ever know, thou envious foe, 
    The foil belongs to thee.*
*As published in The Writing of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet (The Duodecimos, 1897), 267-8.

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Ben Ciavolella