In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth, 1665

This poem follows the pattern of recollection, recognition, and resignation. Note the difference here between a poem about a loved one and Bradstreet's earlier poems to her husband. Here the focus is on the spiritual implication of death, not the sensual. Children are flowers growing in God’s garden. He can take them whenever he chooses; they are only on loan from Him. She accepts this, even though the pain is obviously great.

Is the second stanza an attack on God, or another example of resignation to a divine knowledge that supersedes human understanding? It is natural, she says, for old trees to rot, for ripe fruit to fall, for mature grain to be harvested — but seedlings to be cut down? Who would do that? It seems against the natural order, and of course it is—but does that make it sinister, evil, and God a jerk? No, and she accepts that answer. It is God’s hand alone that does this. Is that then a criticism of God, i.e, what kind of God would do such a thing as take a young baby? Or a recognition of and resignation to the ways of God that simply go beyond our human understanding. The answer rests with divinity; it is not of this world.

In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Elizabeth Bradstreet, who deceased August, 1665, being a Year and Half Old


Farewell dear babe, my heart’s too much content,

Farewell sweet babe, the pleasure of mine eye,

Farewell fair flower that for a space was lent,

Then ta’en away unto eternity.

Blest babe, why should I once bewail thy fate,

Or sigh thy days so soon were terminate,

Sith thou art settled in an everlasting state.


By nature trees do rot when they are grown,

And plums and apples thoroughly ripe do fall,

And corn and grass are in their season mown,

And time brings down what is both strong and tall.

But plants new set to be eradicate,

And buds new blown to have so short a date,

Is by His hand alone that guides nature and fate.