Of Birds and Bobcats and Offspring All
Inspired by Anne Bradstreet’s poem
In Reference to Her Children, 1659
I had four bobcats in my lair,
Two were toms and two were fair.
Off they’ve ventured far and near,
Seems unreal with not one here.
Three from litter, one was claimed,
Miss them all with pain the same.
Most solitary, each of them,
Just one mate in just one den.
Claimed tom now in desert deep,
Pray the Lord his soul to keep,
Safe as he hunts with those quite brave,
Wish he were now here in my cave.
Eldest tom is firm and lean,
Light of foot and eyes quite keen.
His den is close which brings delight,
Can take him food on a moonlit night.
Eldest female traverses far,
Across the spans to another star.
Her coat is red and of spotted hue,
She’s focused, sleek and agile, too.
Baby kit strong as the rest,
Playful, thoughtful, full of zest.
Bold and tender, small and swift,
She will make my spirits lift.
That’s my four to Anne’s full eight,
Birds and bobcats were our fate.
So universal a mother’s fears,
Perils change not throughout the years.
When they were wee I panicked all,
Certain each would trip and fall,
Into trouble of unending kinds,
How do mothers not lose their minds?
Oh, how dear when I stroked their fur,
Kneaded, snuggled and heard them purr.
Nestled snug in our den so tight,
Safe from dangers about the night.
But fate decrees they grow and flee,
Far from here and away from me.
Now trust is what I must embrace,
Believing full in faith and grace,
That they’ll live their lives with full aplomb,
As they make themselves a snuggled home.
At first I wandered lost in thought,
Paralyzed by the change this wrought.
My empty lair so stark and still,
I longed once more for it to fill,
With playful noises amidst the den,
How could I now live without them?
When hunting for a meal to share,
A rabbit brought into the lair,
But kits to eat were now nowhere.
Within me cries “How is this fair?”
Can a bobcat cry like a human lost?
Her entire purpose now since been tossed?
But, oh, how now this angst must end,
Replaced with thanks that kits now spend,
Their days in places they choose to be,
Coats shining strong and velvety.
They’ll bring rabbits to their own one day,
Groom them well, and hug and say,
“What utmost joy were my bobcats dear,
Who now are gone far away from here.”
I must thank you, Anne, for your theme so real,
For collective truth and broad appeal,
To mothers all in whatever form,
Who know the love of those we bore.
Dorothy Drusilla Hagan
February 11, 2017
And now follows, a brief commentary:
A Modern Comparison
to Anne Bradstreet’s poem
In Reference to Her Children
Written 358 years ago, Anne Bradstreet’s In Reference to Her Children is a tribute to her poetic prowess, and a testimony to the many universal themes of motherhood. Composed in forty-eight iambic tetrameter couplets, the poem is ninety-six lines in length. It is composed in roughly three parts: a description of her children, her fears as she brings them up, and her feelings as life slows down when this task is nearly done. Try as I might I could not exactly repeat her eight-syllable lines; for the most part seven syllables seem to come more naturally to me, and I feel perhaps that’s what I am meant to contribute.
Having had the privilege to teach Anne Bradstreet to my high school students, I was overjoyed to find this poem outside of class in another text. It has inspired me to try to imitate her theme, meter and rhyme scheme. The emotional trappings of motherhood are much the same over the centuries. Truly, I was struck by just how much her feelings were my feelings. Mrs. Bradstreet used the metaphor of birds in her nest; I have chosen bobcats in my lair.
Thank you with every shred of my being, Anne, for sharing your poem with me and inspiring me thus. One of your daughters shared my name, and I hope within this namesake I may reach across the ages, and offer blessings, from my family to yours.