Study Guide

The Prologue Allusions

By Anne Bradstreet


Literary and Philosophical References:

  • Guillaume du Bartas (7-12): Guillaume du Bartas (full name Guillaume de Salluste, seigneur du Bartas—now say that three times fast) was a French Protestant poet. He was most famous for writing an epic poem about the creation of the world. As far as our speaker is concerned, Bartas is the greatest thing since sliced bread (okay, sliced bread wouldn't come along for a while, but you get the idea). He's everything she thinks a great poet should be. Apparently a lot of the Puritans of her time agreed with her.
  • Demosthenes (19-22): The speaker brings up Demosthenes as an example of someone who started out from behind and pulled ahead through hard work. Demosthenes was a famous Greek orator, but he wasn't a natural from the start. It took practice and "striving pain" (22) to become the legendary "sweet-tongued Greek" (19).
  • The Muses (9, 16, 32): The Muses were the ancient Greek goddesses of science and art. Our speaker brings them up a lot in this poem. This is partly because the muses were believed to inspire the creation of poetry, and it was fashionable to bring them up in a poem in Bradstreet's day. It helped to convince your reader that you were cultured and well-read, and that you understood classical history. Even more importantly, for our speaker, the muses were women. Faced with prejudice from critics who think she can't be a woman and a good poet, the muses become a kind of proof for our speaker that women and art have always gone together.
  • Calliope (33): The muse of epic poetry, whose name was Calliope, gets a special shout-out in line 33. Partly, this underlines the point the speaker just made, that the muses were women. We think she is also just plain old proud to be a kind of metaphorical daughter of the goddess of poetry. Even if she's just a legend, or an idea, she's a famous and symbolically powerful woman. For a female writer in Bradstreet's day, being able to celebrate a famous woman in your poem is a pretty big deal.

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