Bradstreet Heritage Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), although born in England, is considered to be the first American poet. She is also revered as the first woman to be published. Married to Simon Bradstreet at age sixteen, she ventured with her family to the Massachusetts colony. Simon, the governor of Massachusetts colony, served a major role in her life and her literary career. He was the subject in many of the poems included in the two volumes Bradstreet had published.
A Puritan all her life, Bradstreet led a simple life guided by principles of grace, plainness, and divine missions. In “To My Dear and Living Husband”, she shows her devotion to her husband in a smooth and simple manner. We can see from the poem the strong feelings she has for her husband. However, she contradicts some of her Puritan beliefs at certain points in the poem. To Anne Bradstreet, her husband is exactly what he should be; the love of her life.
Over and over again she expresses her devotion to him with a repetition of images. One such image is presented in lines 5-7. She states.. “I prize my love more than whole mines of gold Or all the riches that the East doth hold. My love is such that rivers cannot quench,..” She states here that she would accept nothing in return for the love that she shares with her husband and that no power, great or small, could destroy it. Love is a tricky subject to many, and to some: a fictional thing.
On a personal note, I hope to one day find this love that she speaks of. Bradstreets love for Simon is untouchable and eternal. “To My Dear and Living Husband” is a beautiful and well-written poem. In breaking apart the structure, we see that the poem contains twelve lines, each containing ten syllables. Since each line is write in the iambic fashion of alternating unstressed syllables and stressed syllables, we can conclude that the poem is a sonnet. However, since the rhyme scheme is AA BB CC DD EE FF, we see that it does not fit in as one of the more famous Shakespearean or Petrarchian sonnets.
In the first line, we see the togetherness Anne and Simon share as she says the two of them are one. Physically, this is a paradox. No two people can be united as one. But, however, spiritually, the two complete each others life , so that, in marriage, they are one. Throughout lines 1-3, Bradstreet gives their relationship as an example to others with phrases like, “If ever two were one”, “If ever one were loved by wife”, and “if ever wife was happy in a man.” In lines 1 and 3, we see two sound examples of alliteration. The “w” sound is repeated in the phrases “two were one” and “ever wife was”.
In line 4, the author seems boastful of her relationship. But I will address that subject later. As I mentioned earlier, lines 5-7 present images which show her love for Simon. Some may view these three lines as a hyperbole, but love can completely change a person. And as a Puritan, Bradstreet has no desire or need for “mines of gold” or eastern riches anyway.
In lines 7-8, we see an insignificant fault in the poem. The rhyming pattern throughout the entire poem is exact rhyme. Lines 7-8 are a forced rhyme (quench & recompense. In the 9th line, she says that his love for her can in no way be repaid. This can be seen as a symbol of how great her love is, or as an example of synaesthesia; for there is no way to purchase or pay for true love.
Metonomy is seen in line 10 with the word “heavens”. When the author speaks of the heavens repaying him, heaven is symbolic of God or life. Soundwise, line 11 is one of the most beautiful and flowing lines of the poem. When the author says, “while we live, in love lets so persever”, we see alliteration of the “w” sounds, alliteration and consonance of the “l” sounds, and alliteration and consonance of the “s” sounds. This allows for the words to flow well and just roll of your tongue.
Lines 11 and 12 each contain a ceasura. These pauses in the middle of the line make the statement seem to add emotion to mere printed words. Finally, in line 12, we reach what I consider to be the strongest statement in the poem: “That when we live no more, we may live ever.”. This line is a paradox. Although Anne Bradstreet insists that their love is eternal and that after they die, they shall continue loving one another, it is physically impossible to be dead yet still living.
The poem is written in a 17th century, old-English style. We can base this on the use of words such as”thee”, “ye”, “thy”, and “doth”. Although Anne Bradstreet was a Puritan for the entirety of her life, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” may or may not be a reflection of Puritan life. The Puritans were Protestants who sought to be simple, yet religiously and morally strict. One other Puritan belief is that one should not become too emotionally attached to anything.
Throughout the poem, we see that Bradstreet is attached to Simon to the point that shed love him after their death. Also, as I mentioned earlier, in line 4 she seems boastful of their love for each other. She calls out to other women in a bragging manner, “Compare with me..if you can”. However, she redeems herself in the last three lines. Here she prays to the heavens and speaks of the afterlife.
It is a difficult to decide whether this poem is a reflection of Puritan life. That is left open to opinion. In conclusion, we can plainly see the great love Anne Bradstreet had for her husband Simon. She expresses this through imagery, symbolism, and many other poetic devices. A devout Puritan, it is left to opinion whether or not she reflected the Puritan lifestyle, but one thing is for sure.
Anne Bradstreet had a love for her husband that could not be matched by anything on this world.