Study Guide

The Prologue Stanza 8

By Anne Bradstreet

Stanza 8

Line 43

And oh ye high flown quills that soar the skies,

  • Still, the speaker can't leave us without taking one final lap. She wants to close her poem, but also, again, to demonstrate that she knows what she's doing.
  • She starts out this stanza with a fancy move, calling male poets "high flown quills." This image plays on the fact that poets' pens were made out of bird feathers (quills). She combines that idea with synecdoche, by substituting a reference to a part of a thing (the feather) for the whole (the bird).

Line 44

And ever with your prey still catch your praise,

  • We get another little bit of fancy footwork here. Keeping up the metaphor of poet as bird, she imagines these amazing male poets catching both "prey" and "praise." The words sound the same, and that association makes for a gentle little joke (okay, so it's not a very funny one). Still, this line shows that she knows her way around words and is a comfortable and capable poet. 
  • Again, as we said before, the work she's doing here is, by its very existence, constantly undermining the idea that women can't write.

Lines 45-46

If e'er you deign these lowly lines your eyes,
Give thyme or Parsley wreath, I ask no Bays.

  • She makes one last, modest request. If people happen to read her poems, and want to reward her, she won't ask for a crown of laurel ("Bays"). The laurel crown was given to winners of poetry competitions in ancient times. 
  • She doesn't need that, since she's promised to leave war and triumph to the men. Instead, she asks for a crown of "thyme or Parsley." Those, as anyone who has made pasta lately know, are cooking herbs. Rather than being symbols of greatness, they represent the home, and women's work. Sheesh. 
  • Bradstreet's speaker has found an elegant way of saying that these poems aren't meant to win glory, but to match up to the humble desires and skills of women.

Lines 47-48

This mean and unrefined ore of mine
Will make your glist'ring gold but more to shine.

  • We conclude with two last lines to make her hysterical male critics feel better, and one last great image to do it with. Here the speaker uses a metaphor to compare her own poetry to drab, "unrefined ore." Placed next to the art of men, she promises it will only make them look better, like glittering ("glistering") pure gold. 
  • We also want to point out the cool alliteration in "glist'ring gold" (check out "Sound Check").
  • More than that, though, we want to pause and look back at the central question of this poem: is Bradstreet's speaker really bowing down to all of her male readers, or could she possibly be sticking up for herself on the sly?