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Themes in To My Dear and Loving Husband
Themes Examples in To My Dear and Loving Husband:
Text of the Poem
"That when we live..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
Notice that the final couplet features alliteration, similar to that of the poem’s opening. The speaker uses the consonant sounds th, w, and l when she says “then while we live” and “that when we live.” The repetition of these sounds gives the poem a somewhat cyclical nature; the start of the poem mimics the structure of the ending. This suggests a kind of fluidity of time that brings us from the past, to the eternal future, and back again. Bradstreet’s careful use of alliteration here thus underscores the theme that love transcends the boundaries of time.
"persever..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
The speaker appeals to her husband in this line, telling him to help make certain that they “persever” (persevere) in love as long as they live. This line emphasizes the mutual work and support that marriage entails.
"Thy love..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
Notice that “my love” in line seven is reciprocated by “thy love” in this line, subtly emphasizing the idea that there must be mutual reciprocity and balance in marriage. Consider though, that the speaker here somewhat contradicts her previous line, by suggesting that actually, she cannot repay her husband for his incredible love for her, only God can.
"recompense..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
“Recompense” means to “compensate,” which signals a return to the idea of love and marriage as a monetary transaction. Note however, that this exchange between the lovers implies their equality, because the line can be loosely paraphrased as “my love for you can only be compensated by your love for me.”
"Rivers cannot quench..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
The speaker values her husband’s love above the most valuable things on earth, but note that the metaphors of thirst and water remind the reader that the speaker’s love for her husband cannot be measured or stopped in the way that gold and riches can. Her love for him thus transcends earthly confines, giving the poem a more divine and holy tone that suggests once again the Puritan influence on the poem.
"gold..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
Gold is rare and solid, which contrasts the broad, flowing rivers that she describes in line seven. Bradstreet’s use of conflicting imagery contributes to the theme of balance, further emphasizing the importance of maintaining harmony and balance in partnerships.
"happy..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
Bradstreet’s word choice here is interesting. The previous line emphasized the speaker’s deep love for her husband, but this line emphasizes how “happy” he makes her. The fact that the speaker’s husband makes her happy suggests reciprocity but does not evidence it because his love is for her is not yet mentioned. This imbalance is short-lasting though, and the speaker tells us of her husband’s own love for her in line five.
"we..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
The rhyme scheme of the poem is AA BB CC DD EE FF with a few slant rhymes on lines six and seven and lines eleven and twelve. The entire poem is composed of rhyming couplets, which gives it a feeling of symmetry similar to what the iambic pentameter achieves. This detail foreshadows the theme of balance and equality that will pervade throughout the poem. Bradstreet describes a marriage of balance and mutual connection.
"If ever..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
The repetition of the words “if ever” in the first three lines of the poem are an example of anaphora, a literary device in which a word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of successive clauses. The phrase “if ever” could read today as something like “if there ever was,” which alludes to the past. Thus, opening with this particular anaphora introduces one of the poem’s central themes: the passage of time and how love can be affected by it.