"Before The Birth of One Of Her Children" by Anne Dudley is a beautiful, heartfelt poem that reflects on the very real possibility of death. At the time she lived, women often died in childbirth, and in writing this poem, Dudley takes a moment to consider what that means for her and (especially) for her children. She writes as if speaking to her husband, pleading with him to take care and raise their children well if she dies.
The poem is structured as a series of rhyming couplets. This means that every two lines rhyme together, and a new rhyme starts after that. For example:
We are both ignorant, yet love bids me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when that knot’s untied that made us one,
I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
The last words "me" and "thee" rhyme together, as do "one" and "none." This rhyming pattern is attentively followed by the poet throughout her poem.
Dudley also stays on the theme of her impeding death, which is another important poetic element. She does not seem anguished about this idea but instead wishes to convey her love to her husband and beseeches him to think of her and care of their children. She ends with a final plea and the suggestion (to us, the readers) that this poem was never intended to be read except in the event of her actual death:
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
With some sad sighs honour my absent Herse;
And kiss this paper for thy loves dear sake,
Who with salt tears this last Farewel did take.
We should all be grateful that Anne Dudley lived long after the birth of her many children, as she contributed many notable poems throughout her lifetime.