1 August 2021 Susannah

Anne Bradstreet & To my dear and loving husband

Portrait of a Family by William Dobson

Anne Bradstreet (1612 – 1672) was a 17th century poet. She was born in England, but became the first Puritan writer in North America. She was married at sixteen and emigrated with all her family to Massachusetts, and she had eight children. Her poetry often centres on the importance of being a mother and the role of women, on her personal religious faith, and her struggles in life. Her works were well received in both the New World and the Old.

To my Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

This is a poem about love as a force which can bind two people as one. Death, religion and love are all merged, as she sees no sign that their love with end with the death of either partner but will continue into eternity. Her love is like a thirst that even a river could not quench.

It was probably written about 1633, in Boston. It is in iambic pentameter. There was a tradition of poems called ‘epithalamium’, poems written for a bride on her way to the marital chamber. This poem, however, is unusual in that it celebrates married rather than newly romantic love.

Its diction is simple, with the repetition creating a powerful sense of a consistent pattern.

You can listen to two different versions of the poem here:

Although Anne Bradstreet endured many hardships in her life, her poems are usually written in a hopeful and positive tone. Share your thoughts on this one by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Portrait of a Family by William Dobson – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22153867
Body image credit- Anne Bradstreet by Edmund H. Garrett, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91796948

Comments (6)

  1. This is similar to the Shakespeare sonnet Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

    Because in the end the poem will live on to give their love immortality.

    The first one did not open for me so I only heard one beautiful reading of the poem.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Sorry you had problems opening the poems. Yes, there are similarities to the Shakespeare sonnet in theme, though Shakespeare does it so much better. However, it is a lovely poem.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      So glad you enjoyed the poem. Isn’t it interesting how very different readings of it can be.

  2. Tony Voss

    Thank you Susannah, A lovely “Notes”.
    Anne Bradstreet’s poem is beautiful and it was interesting to hear the different readings. I definitely have a favourite of the three.
    All the best,

    • Susannah Fullerton

      People read a poem so differently and it is fascainting to compare.

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