What are some of the poetic elements in Anne Bradstreet's "To My Dear and Loving Husband"?

Expert Answers
James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first poetic element (I’m more used to the term “poetic device”) appears in the repetition of the phrase “If ever..., then...” in the first three lines and, in a different form, in the final two lines. This repetition is called anaphora.

A second poetic element that you might point out is the fixed rhyme scheme. The poem is organized around rhyming couplets, and there are a total of twelve lines.

A third poetic element is the regular meter of the poem. This meter is called iambic pentameter. It’s pentameter because there are five stressed syllables per line. It’s iambic because of the alternating unstressed and stressed syllables: “If EV-er TWO were ONE, then SURE-ly WE.”

I like this poem as an example of Early Modern English, a stage of the English language in which people were still using forms like "thou" and "doth" and were capitalizing words seemingly at random.

lit24 | Student

Anne Bradstreet's poem "To My Dear and Loving Husband" is a moving and tender tribute to her affectionate husband.

Some of the important poetic devices used by her are:

1. Hyperbole, or exaggeration:

"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."

Anne Bradstreet's heart is so overflowing with love for her husband that she exaggeratedly claims that she values the love of her husband more than all the gold mines or the wealth of the Orient. Similarly, she claims that she loves her husband so much that all the rivers of the world will not be able to put out the fiery and passionate love which she has for her husband.

2. The anaphora of the opening lines "if ever" foreground the happy union of her married life and how much she values and treasures this union.

3. Balanced Antithesis:

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.

Anne Bradstreet contrasts the passionate love which she has for her husband with the love which her husband has for her. Although she claims exaggeratedly that she loves her husband so passionately that all the rivers in the world cannot quench the fiery passion of her love for her husband, she remarks that his love for her is so great that she will never be able to repay it and prays that only God can repay his love for her.

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