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 recompence.
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 poem was written by America’s first female poet, the Puritan, Anne Bradstreet. In fact, she is one of only a handful of female American poets during the first 200 years of America’s history. After Bradstreet, one can list only Phillis Wheatley, the 18th century black female poet, Emma Lazarus, the 19th century poet whose famous words appear on the Statue of Liberty, and the 19th century Emily Dickinson, America’s most famous female poet.
Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley in 1612 in England. She married Simon Bradstreet when she was 16 and they both sailed with her family to America in 1630. The subject of Anne Bradstreet’s love poem is her professed love for her husband. She praises him and asks the heavens to reward him for his love. The poem is a touching display of love and affection and extraordinarily uncommon for the Puritan era of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in which Anne Bradstreet lived. Puritan women were expected to be reserved, domestic, and subservient to their husbands. They were not expected or allowed to exhibit their wit, charm, intelligence, or passion.
Both Anne's father and her husband became Massachusetts governors. Her husband, Simon, often traveled for weeks throughout the colony as its administrator. Anne’s poem, “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” was a response to her husband’s absence. Her poems about her love for her husband were private and personal, meant to be shared with her family and friends only. She was highly intelligent and largely self-educated, and she took herself seriously as an intellectual and a poet, reading widely in history, science, art, and literature. However, as a good Puritan woman, Bradstreet did not make her accomplishments public.
She wrote poetry for herself, family, and friends, never meaning to publish them. Her friend, Anne Hutchinson, who was intellectual, educated and led women’s prayer meetings where alternative religious beliefs were discussed. was labeled a heretic and banished from the colony. Is it any wonder that Anne Bradstreet was hesitant to publish her poetry and call attention to herself.
Anne Bradstreet’s early poems were secretly taken by her brother-in-law to England and published in a small volume when she was 38. The volume sold well in England, but the poems were not nearly as accomplished as her later works. Bradstreet’s later works were not published during her lifetime. Though her health was frequently a concern, especially during childbirth, Anne Bradstreet lived until 60 years of age.
Source: Garry Gamber
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