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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Of the Four Ages of Man

By Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612–1672)

[Born in Northampton, England, 1612–13. Died at Andover, Mass., 1672. The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America. 1650.]

LO, now four other act upon the stage,

Childhood and Youth, the Manly and Old age:

The first son unto phlegm, grandchild to water,

Unstable, supple, cold and moist ’s his nature.

The second, frolic, claims his pedigree

From blood and air, for hot and moist is he.

The third of fire and choler is compos’d,

Vindicative and quarrelsome dispos’d.

The last of earth and heavy melancholy,

Solid, hating all lightness and all folly.

Childhood was cloth’d in white and green to show

His spring was intermixed with some snow:

Upon his head nature a garland set

Of Primrose, Daisy and the Violet,

Such cold mean flowers the spring puts forth betime,

Before the sun hath thoroughly heat the clime.

His hobby striding did not ride but run,

And in his hand an hour-glass new begun,

In danger every moment of a fall,

And when ’t is broke then ends his life and all:

But if he hold till it have run its last,

Then may he live out threescore years or past.

Next Youth came up in gorgeous attire

(As that fond age doth most of all desire),

His suit of crimson and his scarf of green,

His pride in ’s countenance was quickly seen;

Garland of roses, pinks and gillyflowers

Seemed on ’s head to grow bedew’d with showers.

His face as fresh as is Aurora fair,

When blushing she first ’gins to light the air.

No wooden horse, but one of mettle tried,

He seems to fly or swim, and not to ride.

Then prancing on the stage, about he wheels,

But as he went death waited at his heels.

The next came up in a much graver sort,

As one that cared for a good report,

His sword by ’s side, and choler in his eyes,

But neither us’d as yet, for he was wise;

Of Autumn’s fruits a basket on his arm,

His golden god in ’s purse, which was his charm.

And last of all to act upon this stage

Leaning upon his staff came up Old Age,

Under his arm a sheaf of wheat he bore,

An harvest of the best, what needs he more?

In ’s other hand a glass ev’n almost run,

Thus writ about: “This out, then am I done.”