Flesh and Spirit Summary by Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet was one of the most prominent English poets of North America. She was also the first female writers from the British North American colonies whose works got published. She was a prominent Puritan, and it is very well seen in her poems. Here, I am going to analyse the poem “Flesh and Spirit” and its style and structure. This poem was published in two parts, one of the Flesh, and the other of the replies of Flesh’s ideas by Spirit. The analysis of “Flesh” is as follows:

In secret place where once I stood
Close by the Banks of Lacrim flood,
I heard two sisters reason on
Things that are past and things to come.
One Flesh was call’d, who had her eye
On worldly wealth and vanity;
The other Spirit, who did rear
Her thoughts unto a higher sphere.

The poet is describing about the two sisters, whose conversation he heard while he was at the bank of the Lacrim River where he was standing silently. These two sisters were having a discussion on things that had happened in their life, and the things that are yet to come. The poet is describing how the two sisters get into an argument about their ambitions in life, and the things that they want. The sister named Flesh tries to explain to her sister named Spirit that the world has everything that could keep them happy and content. The Earth is full of wealth and vanity. But Spirit has different aims in life. Her thoughts are in a higher hemisphere altogether.
“Sister,” quoth Flesh, “what liv’st thou on
Nothing but Meditation?
Doth Contemplation feed thee so
Regardlessly to let earth go?
Can Speculation satisfy
Notion without Reality?

In these lines, the poet is writing about the dialogue between the two sisters. Faith tries to tell her sister that there is nothing good about the meditation that she ritually does everyday and everytime. She does not understand how contemplation feeds her, and keeps her happy. She questions Spirit that could speculation satisfy a life where there is no notion of reality. She is trying to convince her sister that the Earth is full of wealth and happiness, and she should also enjoy them.
Dost dream of things beyond the Moon
And dost thou hope to dwell there soon?
Hast treasures there laid up in store
That all in th’ world thou count’st but poor?
Art fancy-sick or turn’d a Sot
To catch at shadows which are not?

Faith tells Spirit that the dreams that she has are all beyond Moon, which might not come true ever. When the treasure is laid on Earth, she should not dream about things that are not within her reach. The Earth is full of treasures and Spirit should try to understand their value and enjoy.
Come, come. I’ll show unto thy sense,
Industry hath its recompence.
What canst desire, but thou maist see
True substance in variety?
Dost honour like? Acquire the same,
As some to their immortal fame;
And trophies to thy name erect
Which wearing time shall ne’er deject.

Now Flesh invites her sister Spirit to look around at Earth, and see that in the world there have been people with immortal fame and name, which cannot be forgotten with time. All that one has to do is indulge in the pleasures of the world, and not think of anything beyond her reach. It is not that the world is wrong or bad, one just needs to see.
For riches dost thou long full sore?
Behold enough of precious store.
Earth hath more silver, pearls, and gold
Than eyes can see or hands can hold.
Affects thou pleasure? Take thy fill.
Earth hath enough of what you will.
Then let not go what thou maist find
For things unknown only in mind.”

Flesh asks her sister that only for eternal riches you have been waiting at the shore for long, and all that she does is meditate. The world has enough riches and wealth to keep everyone happy. All that they have to do is grab the opportunity and all of the wealth that is around them and lead a happy and content life. She asks Spirit to look around, as Earth has everything for them.

In this poem, the poet is trying to capture what Flesh is trying to negotiate with Spirit, by telling her about the riches and luxury that Earth has to give offer her, all she has to do is stop meditating and look around her. The Earth is full of riches that could keep her happy throughout her life, and there is nothing left in meditation. There is enough wealth in the world which she can hold in her hand and prosper. The Earth is full of what she needs and those who have pursued riches and luxuries in the world, they too have done something that their name has become immortal. She urges her sister to not keep dreaming about the Moon, when she can live happily on Earth. The Flesh tries to convince her not to dream about the things that are not within her reach.

Anne Bradstreet was one of the most prominent English poets of North America. She was also the first female writers from the British North American colonies whose works got published and recognized in the literary world. She was a prominent Puritan, and it is very well seen in her poems. Here, I am going to analyse the poem “Flesh and Spirit” and its style and structure. This poem was published in two parts, one of the Flesh, and the other of the replies of Flesh’s ideas by Spirit. The analysis of the “Spirit” is as follows:

Spirit.

‘Be still, thou unregenerate part,

Disturb no more my settled heart,

For I have vow’d (and so will do)

Thee as a foe still to pursue,

And combat with thee will and must

Until I see thee laid in th’ dust.

In these lines, Spirit replies to her sister Flesh about everything that she just said, and is agitated by her talks. She asks Flesh to be quiet, and calls her the un-regenerate part, and asks her to not disturb her and her calm and settled heart anymore. She says that she knows what she is doing, and she knows what she is going to pursue, and if her sister stops her from pursuing that, she is an enemy. She says that one day she will fight with Flesh and leave her alone in the dust and reach for her ambition.

Sister we are, yea twins we be,

Yet deadly feud ‘twixt thee and me,

For from one father are we not.

Thou by old Adam wast begot,

But my arise is from above,

Whence my dear father I do love.

She says that maybe they are twins, but they are from two different fathers.Flesh is born out of Adam, and Spirit is born from God. Hence, her love for her father is going to raise her above everything, and help her achieve what she wants in life. She is obedient and loving daughter, and she is not going to fall in the trap of temptations to be happy momentarily and indulge in Earthly attachments.

Thou speak’st me fair but hat’st me sore.

Thy flatt’ring shews I’ll trust no more.

How oft thy slave hast thou me made

When I believ’d what thou hast said

And never had more cause of woe

Than when I did what thou bad’st do.

She says that she is not going to believe or fall for anything that Flesh is going to tell her about her pleasure and treasure. She is not going to be flattered by her words, and give up on her beliefs and ideas. Flesh had tried many times to enslave her in her words, which had never happened, and all that Flesh believed and followed also brought woes and unhappiness along with it. It has never been constantly happy and blessed time in her life.

I’ll stop mine ears at these thy charms

And count them for my deadly harms.

Thy sinful pleasures I do hate,

Thy riches are to me no bait.

Thine honours do, nor will I love,

For my ambition lies above.

My greatest honour it shall be

When I am victor over thee,

And Triumph shall, with laurel head,

When thou my Captive shalt be led.

How I do live, thou need’st not scoff,

For I have meat thou know’st not of

Spirit says that she will shut her ears to the deadly and poisonous talks that Flesh is telling her. She hates sinful pleasures of indulging in the Earthly riches and luxuries. She says that her aspirations lie above the pleasures of the world, and they are no bait for her to distract her from her ambitions. Her ambitions are going to give her the greatest honour, better than the immortal trophies and fame that people on Earth have. She says that in the end she would be the victor over her greedy sister Flesh. She says that Flesh wouldn’t understand the importance of what she wants in life, and hence is stuck with the luxuries and riches on Earth.

The hidden Manna I do eat;

The word of life, it is my meat.

My thoughts do yield me more content

Than can thy hours in pleasure spent.

Nor are they shadows which I catch,

Nor fancies vain at which I snatch

But reach at things that are so high,

Beyond thy dull Capacity.

Spirit says that the word of life is all she aspires, and her thoughts are more content and above the worries and pleasure of the Earthly pleasure and riches. These riches and luxuries would provide only momentarily pleasure and peace, but they all fade away with time. She does not want any fancies or any luxuries which is going to leave her in vain later on. She says that the what she wants to achieve is higher than her sister’s reach, and she has no capacity to achieve it with her Earthly worries and pleasures.

Eternal substance I do see

With which inriched I would be.

Mine eye doth pierce the heav’ns and see

What is Invisible to thee.

My garments are not silk nor gold,

Nor such like trash which Earth doth hold,

But Royal Robes I shall have on,

More glorious than the glist’ring Sun.

Spirit says that what she sees and seeks is eternal, and not momentarily, and it is invisible to her, as she is blinded by the joy and luxuries of the Earth. Spirit says that her garments might not be made of silk or gold, which means, she might not be one of the richest people now, but later she would be wrapped in the Royal Robes in Kingdom of God, which would be more glorious than the glorious things that we know. Spirit means to say that her hardwork and meditation would take her to a better place, where she’d live in a better condition, and it would be an eternal joy.

My Crown not Diamonds, Pearls, and gold,

But such as Angels’ heads infold.

The City where I hope to dwell,

There’s none on Earth can parallel.

The stately Walls both high and strong

Are made of precious Jasper stone,

The Gates of Pearl, both rich and clear,

And Angels are for Porters there.

Spirit says that it’s okay if she is not laden with pearls and jewelry, since she knows that later she will be with all the Angels in the heaven. The place she wants to dwell, there is nothing on Earth that would be close to equal of the divinity of the Kingdom of God. The place where the walls made out of precious metals are erect high and strong. Behind these walls, there are Angels who await for your arrival, and live an eternal blissful life.

The Streets there of transparent gold

Such as no Eye did e’re behold.

A Crystal River there doth run

Which doth proceed from the Lamb’s Throne.

Of Life, there are the waters sure

Which shall remain forever pure.

Nor Sun nor Moon they have no need

For glory doth from God proceed.

No Candle there, nor yet Torch light,

For there shall be no darksome night.

Spirit describes to her sister about the Kingdom of God, where, she says, the roads are made out of transparent gold, which no one has ever seen so far. There is a fountain which contains water which is always pure and sweet. There is always light in the Kingdom, and there is no need of Sun, Moon, or any candle for light. Hence, there is no darkness anywhere.

Here Spirit is trying to set a contrast between the shallow pleasures of Earth and the ever divine bliss of Heaven, where she want to go. She says that heaven has unmatchable beauty and glory. There will be no hint of darkness, and hence, no candles or sun to provide light.

From sickness and infirmity

Forevermore they shall be free.

Nor withering age shall e’re come there,

But beauty shall be bright and clear.

This City pure is not for thee,

For things unclean there shall not be.

If I of Heav’n may have my fill,

Take thou the world, and all that will.’

Spirit tells Flesh that in Kingdom of God, a person would be free of all the vanity and troubles of the Earth. This is a place where a person would be free of ageing, cycle of life. But such a city is not for people like Flesh, who only think about the love of substance and unclean. She says that her sister can keep her world and its riches, and she would pursue towards her dream, where eternal divinity awaits for her.