Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), who belonged to the Puritan Period (1620-1660), was arguably the first ever woman whose poetry was widely published. It is so interesting to hear that Bradstreet was born in the Age of Elizabeth while she passed away in the Restoration Period. Moreover, she is also one of the most accomplished contemporaries of John Milton (1608-1674).
To My Dear and Loving Husband is a representative Puritan poem written by Anne Bradstreet. The title of Bradstreet’s poem suggests that there is deep mutual love between the speaker and her husband. So, let’s explore the summary, analysis, theme, rhyme, etc. of To My Dear and Loving Husband in the following sections.
Anne Bradstreet’s “To My Dear and Loving Husband”
To My Dear and Loving Husband: Summary
In Anne Bradstreet’s poem To My Dear and Loving Husband, the speaker, or should we say the poet, describes the love she shares with her husband. She boasts about her exemplary relationship with her dear and loving husband. Moreover, the title itself shows that both the pair are head over heels in love with one another.
The speaker of To My Dear and Loving Husband claims that she and her husband are one and there is no other couple like them. She also mentions, there is no other husband in the other as much loved by his wife. She also poses a challenge to other women to see if they are as happy as the speaker herself as a wife.
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For her, the husband’s love is above everything, including the whole mines of gold or the riches of the earth. The speaker proclaims that her love is so intense which even rivers cannot quench. Instead, only her spouse’s love can “give recompense” for her love. Likewise, she also confesses that her husband’s love for her is unpayable. Hence, she ends up praying for her husband for manifold reward from heaven for his love.
In the last couplet of To My Dear and Loving Husband, the speaker asks of her husband to persevere even more in order to immortalize their love. She wishes for people to remember her and her husband for their epitomic love even after their death.
Analysis of Anne Bradstreet’s To My Dear and Loving Husband
Anne Bradstreet’s poem To My Dear and Loving Husband is a single stanza poem that has twelve lines which are properly rhymed. The rhyming pattern of the poem is aa bb cc dd ee ff. This musical feature helps to create a romantic setting.
To My Dear and Loving Husband opens with three consecutively anaphoric phrases ‘If ever’. Since the term ‘if’ is used, by and large, in conditional sentences, our analysis of the poem is that maybe the speaker is wishing for a kind of love that she describes throughout the poem. Anne Bradstreet herself was in a marital relationship with her husband, Simon Bradstreet, for around forty years till her death from 1628 to 1672.
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Nevertheless, the speaker mentions “If ever two were one, then surely we.” It means, the couple’s mutual bond is such strong that they are inseparable. We assume that people are one when they are alone but Bradstreet’s paradox says that you become one with your partner when united in wedlock. During the Puritan period, divorce and separation leading to the end of a relationship were meant to be profane activities. The speaker is representing the marital norms and values of that era by challenging other women in marital happiness.
In the fourth and the fifth lines, the speaker says: “I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,/ Or all the riches that the East doth hold.” It seems people were materialistic even in the Puritan period because if they weren’t, she would not have to defend the intensity of her love. Her thirst for love can be quenched not by any river but by the love from her husband.
The speaker always puts her husband a step ahead in the degree of love they share. She easily surrenders that her husband’s “love is such I can no way repay.” Thus, she prays for heaven to reward him, on her behalf, with manifold love. In the last couplet, she is most probably giving advice on to other women and men. She says: “while we live, in love let’s so persever,/ That when we live no more we may live ever.” The speaker has already mentioned that she shares an unusual love with her husband and hence, the couple might not be the one who needs to persevere in love. She suggests other people to love their respective spouses so much that their love will remain immortal till eternity even if their physical death is unavoidable.
What is the Theme of To My Dear and Loving Husband?
Anne Bradstreet’s poem To My Dear and Loving Husband carries multiple themes. Its primary theme is conjugal love while it has other themes of death, property, etc. as well.
Bradstreet puts forward conjugal love as the central theme of her poem To My Dear and Loving Husband. She is of the opinion that in a marital relationship, one has to learn to surrender. It is because if neither of the couple surrenders they will only grow on to become imbued with a superior complexity.
Death is another important theme of Bradstreet’s poem To My Dear and Loving Husband. Following the law of the universe, she does not disagree with the fact that people will die sooner or later. Hence, since death is unavoidable one has to learn to immortalize their name.
Bradstreet also brings issues of property in her poem. She has internalized that property is important but it is not as important as love. For a married couple, their primary goal should be to keep strengthening their relationship by giving less priority to material success.