Friday, January 16, 2009

To My Dear and Loving Husband - a Poetry Friday post

Today, another poem by Puritan poet, Anne Bradstreet, who emigrated to Ipswich, Massachusetts in the 1630s with her husband, Simon Bradstreet, a Cambridge graduate who eventually became Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts. Anne and her husband had eight children, despite Anne suffering from some paralysis, possibly as a lasting effect of smallpox. She wrote in the Elizabethan tradition, as her mastery of rhymed couplets and iambic pentameter show. A volume of poems was published in England during her lifetime. Shortly after her death, a volume of her work (containing today's poem) was published in America. A third collection of religious poems was published in the 19th century.

I started reading more Bradstreet after a dear friend confessed a massive crush on Anne, and I completely see why. Happy birthday, B!

Today's poem is a beautiful love poem, methinks. I don't believe I know too many women who are as content in their marriages as Anne seems to have been, gauging from this poem, but it is decidedly something to aspire to.

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.

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Cloudscome said...

I have those last two lines stuck in my head now. What a great meditation to run round and round! A fine rhythm methinks.

Kelly Fineman said...

Iambic pentameter is very soothing, particularly when done well, as here.

Schelle said...

Ahhhhh. I love this - I first read it, of all places, on the back of a package of herbal tea! I ripped the back off the box and kept it for years - it's probably still somewhere in my overflowing filing cabinet :D Thanks for reminding me of an old favourite - and for the story behind the poet!

John Mutford said...

I've got an mp3 of Alyssa Milano reciting this, so it's a little hard to take it as serious as I should.

Kelly Fineman said...

Schelle: The backs of herbal tea boxes and packets are wonderful things. (Have you seen the movie Catch & Release, where Kevin Smith's character keeps quoting from them?)

John: Ha! I too would have a hard time hearing this with a straight face under that circumstance, I think.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but what is the iambic pentameter in this poem? I dont know what it means, Im trying to understand

Kelly Fineman said...

Iambic pentameter is the name of the meter in the poem. It means that each line consists of five poetic feet (that's the "pentameter" part), and that the kind of foot used is called an iamb, which is a two-syllable foot consisting of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one (e.g., "taDUM" or "my LOVE").

If you were to read the first line aloud, you'd end up stressing every second syllable: "if EVer TWO were ONE then SUREly WE" (taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM - five iambs per line).

Hope this helps - I know it's a technical explanation and a technical term!