Anne Bradstreet was one of the most remarkable English poets in early North American colonial history. She was the first Puritan author in American literature, and her writings continue to give insight into women’s role in Puritan society. Her writing “To My Dear and Loving Husband” is a great example of female Puritan belief. Let’s take a look at a synopsis of the poem along with an analysis of the figurative language she used.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband” by Anne Bradstreet is a love poem written about her and her husband’s relationship. The poem begins by speaking about how if two people ever became one person, then it was surely them. If a man was every loved by his wife, it would be him. If a wife was ever happy with her husband, then surely it was her and you can compare her to any other woman who feels the same. She goes on to state that she prizes him more than any riches of the world and that her love will never. She says that she can never repay the love of her husband and that she prays he will get his reward in heaven. She ends the poem by stating that even when they are in heaven that they will continue to love each other forever.
This poem’s true meaning is quite simple: Bradstreet loves her husband and wishes it to continue even after their deaths. So let’s instead take a look at the type of language used in “To My Dear and Loving Husband”.
Structure: Rhyming iambic-pentameter couplets: AABBCCDD (near rhyme, not exact) EEFF
However, even though this is written in iambs, the first three lines break the rhythm with the word “If”–which is also used as an anaphora. The word “then” after the commas of the first and second line also break the pattern. There are also other breaks throughout the poem.
Let’s keep in mind the year this poem was written. The last two lines did actually rhyme during the time of Bradstreet. “Persevere” and “ever” rhymed in 1650 (the date this poem was written). Nonetheless, “quench” and “recompense” are considered “near-rhymes”. This causes the word “recompense” to have extra meaning–that her husband’s love cannot be repaid.
The last two lines have extra syllables.
Figurative Language & Meaning
- “If ever two were one, then surely we” – If in the history of the world, if ever “1 + 1 = 1” then it would be them.
- “Compare with me, ye women, if you can.” – You can’t compare other women to her
- “that the East doth hold” – More money than China and India have
- “that rivers cannot quench” – She is comparing love to fire and that even all the water in the rivers cannot put it out.
- “Nor ought but love from thee give recompense” – Nothing but her love can repay him
- “Thy love is such I can no way repay” – However, his love is so great that even her love cannot repay it.
- “heavens reward thee manifold” – He will receive his reward in the afterlife
- “in love let’s so persevere” – Let our love continue even in hardships, in this case the hardship is death
- “That when we live no more, we may live ever” – When they are dead their love and life will continue on
Poem: “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 persevere,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
This is quite the simple poem, but once explicated, you notice that Bradstreet offers quite a bit more than just a regular love note. She sees his love as magic, majestic, and something that mortals cannot even compare their own love to. She has a fire in her belly for him and that fire will never end.
Of course, everyone has felt this way. We have all felt that our love cannot be understood or compared to others. That is what really makes this poem worth reading. We can relate to it and we can see ourselves write this poem.