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: