Study Guide

The Prologue Tongues

By Anne Bradstreet


There's actually kind of a weird amount of references to tongues in here, for a pretty short poem. We can think of a couple of reasons why that might be. For one, the "tongue" works as metonymy (a part that represents the whole) for the power of speech (just like the pen does for the power of writing). Also, public speaking was really important in Bradstreet's day. Oration was how you convinced people of things, how you proved your skill in front of a crowd. In a sense, this poem is all about this "speaker" finding her voice (which is intimately related to her "tongue").

  • Line 13: Here she uses the natural shortcomings of a child as an analogy for her work as a poet. She's setting our expectations low. If she fails, what can you expect, given how "broken" and "blemished" her talent is (line 16)?
  • Line 19: In this case, "sweet-tongued" is a metaphor, meaning that Demosthenes was a beautiful speaker. His tongue wasn't actually sweet, which would be kind of gross—and probably a little disturbing if you were Demosthenes. 
  • Line 25: Here again, "tongue" is a symbol for a bigger set of ideas. She's not really worried about the actual tongues of the guys who might be mean to her. She's talking about all of the critical things they might say or write, in conversation or in print.

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