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A Letter to Her Husband Analysis

Author: Poetry of Anne Bradstreet Type: Poetry Views: 613

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Absent upon Public Employment

My head, my heart, mine eyes, my life, nay more,

My joy, my magazine, of earthly store,

If two be one, as surely thou and I,

How stayest thou there, whilst I at Ipswich lie?

So many steps, head from the heart to sever,

If but a neck, soon should we be together.

I, like the Earth this season, mourn in black,

My Sun is gone so far in's zodiac,

Whom whilst I 'joyed, nor storms, nor frost I felt,

His warmth such fridged colds did cause to melt.

My chilled limbs now numbed lie forlorn;

Return; return, sweet Sol, from Capricorn;

In this dead time, alas, what can I more

Than view those fruits which through thy heart I bore?

Which sweet contentment yield me for a space,

True living pictures of their father's face.

O strange effect! now thou art southward gone,

I weary grow the tedious day so long;

But when thou northward to me shalt return,

I wish my Sun may never set, but burn

Within the Cancer of my glowing breast,

The welcome house of him my dearest guest.

Where ever, ever stay, and go not thence,

Till nature's sad decree shall call thee hence;

Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone,

I here, thou there, yet both but one.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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“A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment” is one of two Bradstreet poems on this subject. She must have been familiar with the classical epistle, or verse letter, which English poets had begun imitating in the sixteenth century. She addresses her husband by a series of metaphors, the main one being the sun. She likens herself to the earth in winter, lamenting “in black” the receding light and feeling “chilled” without him to warm her. She is home with only “those fruits which through thy heat I bore”—her children—as reminders. With her husband “southward gone,” she finds the short winter days ironically long and tedious.
She continues to project her sun metaphor into the future. When he returns, the season will be summer figuratively and perhaps literally: “I wish my Sun may never set, but burn/ Within the Cancer of my glowing breast,” a zodiacal allusion to early summer. She closes by reaffirming their married oneness: “Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone,/ I here, thou there, yet both but one.”
Though neither so intricate in form nor elaborate in imagery as John Donne\'s famous “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,” published in 1633, this poem on the same theme shows Bradstreet\'s resourcefulness with imagery and able handling of her favorite pentameter couplets. While exhibiting great devotion to Simon, this poem succeeds because it also reflects devotion to the art of lyric verse.

| Posted on 2011-06-15 | by a guest

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