To My Dear and Loving Husband
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[e]
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
The primary subject of this poem is love, which is a powerful and binding force that can make two people into one. The other important theme is conjugal love, which in this poem is a perfect union between the speaker and her husband. The other two themes of death and religion are merged into love in this poem.
The speaker is Bradstreet herself, who is a married woman and loves her husband very much. The title “To My Dear and Loving Husband” is a dedication to her husband, and shows an amazing chemistry in their conjugal relationship. The tone of the poem is emotional, as the speaker is romantic and seems happy about the marriage.
There are no explicit hints to its setting, but the poem refers to Anne’s personal life as a writer, a wife, a mother, and a Puritan immigrant to Massachusetts. Hence, we can guess that it was written around 1633 in Boston, Massachusetts. We can imagine a woman sitting before a fireplace along with her husband. She is gazing at him lovingly, while children are playing in the living room.
The speaker opens the poem with a description of their love, stating, “If ever two were one, then surely we.” She loves him very much, saying, “If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.” She goes on to describe that no other woman in this world could be so happy: “If ever wife was happy in a man, / Compare with me, ye women, if you can.” She then cites examples of material beauty and wealth, but puts more importance in her love: “I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold / Or all the riches that the East doth hold.”
The speaker explains that her love is like a thirst that even a river cannot quench. This is an allusion to her sexual desire, which is equal to the thirst “that rivers cannot quench.” She only needs his love and cannot live without it, as “love is such I can no way repay.” She then turns to its spiritual perspective, saying, “The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.” The speaker believes that they should love each other as much as possible while living in this world, so that when they will be sent to heaven, their love will become eternal: “when we live no more, we may live ever.” This is a nod to her Puritan background, as Anne believed that the union of lovers in the heaven is due to their earthly love.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband” is written in iambic pentameter as shown in these two lines: “If ever wife was happy in a man, / Compare with me, ye women, if you can.”Most of the poem sticks to this particular metrical pattern. The rhyme scheme is AABBCCDD and EEFF, which means there are rhyming couplets in the entire poem. In the whole poem, the eighth line is an exception, as it does not completely rhyme with the ninth line. However, the final words of the eighth and ninth lines, “quench” and “recompense,” both contain the “-en” sound. This is an apt use of near rhyme, or slant rhyme.
Anaphora is employed in first three lines, in that “If ever” is a repetition of words at the beginning of consecutive lines. It is intended to create a powerful sense of a consistent pattern. Apart from this, alliteration is used to create rhythm and rhyme such as, were/we, wife/was and live/love.
The diction of this poem is simple without complex connotations. However, the poet has used some archaic words, such as “thy,” which means your, and “doth,” which is an older version of “does” (although, of course, these words were not archaic during Anne’s life). This poem is a riff of the tradition of epithalamium, which is a poem written for the bride on her way to her marital chamber. However, it’s not exactly an epithalamium, as the couple in this poem is already married.
Guidance for Usage of Quotes
The poet, Anne Bradstreet, pays regards to her husband. It presents modern readers access into the attitudes of the Puritans towards love, marriage, and religious interpretations of love. Anne has proclaimed her great love for her husband and his passion for her, which she describes by giving high importance to her love more than anything else on this earth. Likewise, today, wives can describe the value of their husband’s love by dedicating these quotes from the poem:
“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.”
“My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.”