An essay on perspective, tone, and effect in Anne Bradstreet's classic poem.
“To My Dear and Loving Husband”: Perspective, Tone, and Effect in Anne Bradstreet's Poem
"To My Dear and Loving Husband"
by Anne Bradstreet
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare me with ye women if you can.
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 aught but love from thee give recompense.
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.
Perspective, Tone, and Effect in Anne Bradstreet's Poem by Ngoc Nguyen
Anne Bradstreet's poem is decidedly elegant and sublimely beautiful because of its subject, perspective, and tone. The subject is about love; the perspective is that of a wife to her husband; and the tone is one of eternal love and steadfastly-affectionate devotion (to the spouse).
Anne Bradstreet's elegantly-expressed love for her husband is admirable, heartwarming, and inspiring. The poem itself inspires one to be a similar kind of spouse for one's wife. But, in a more fundamental way, the poem moves one to be a similar kind of man for any woman in his life with whom he has a relationship, especially relationships of the romantic or loving kind.
Because some are un-married, it is always interesting to see the perspective of a wife to her husband, especially one that is so inspiring, so exalting, and just so plain and awesomely encouraging as the one in Anne Bradstreet's poem. Her words and lines to the beloved are supremely encouraging and ennobling because we live in an era and culture where more marriages fail than survive (according to contemporary statistics) and because we all by and large seek love and potential, life-long mates in an ultra post-modern ethos where wedding vows are semi-casually entered into like a legal contract that can be easily dissolved (shortly thereafter) through divorce at the slightest sign of marital difficulty or trouble. Granted, Bradstreet's poem was written in 1678, in a time bygone and very much different from ours: but her uxorial feelings and sentiments of undying love and devotion are heartening (to us) nevertheless. Perhaps, if more men today were more like Anne Bradstreet's beloved spouse, they would find more similar evocations and expressions of timeless love and affection from their wives and women, as well.
The tone of Anne Bradstreet's poem successfully conveys her unalloyed love and devotion to her spouse. Even the poem's title conveys these emotions from the very beginning: the words "dear" and "loving" are used to describe the beloved, the recipient of Bradstreet's poem. Throughout her poem she uses beautiful, poetic language to convey and express the fullness and robustness of her love and faithfulness to him, as in the lines: "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 aught but love from thee give recompense./ Thy love is such I can no way repay;/ The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray." Without doubt, whatever love the beloved may have had for Bradstreet before reading this poem, his love for her would be fervidly stronger and greater after reading it!
The combined effect of Anne Bradstreet's poem on the reader is one of sublime encouragement, warmth, and inspiration. Whether Bradstreet intended this effect in other men who might read her poem is unknown. Granted, her poem is directed at her husband. But one can with a fair amount of certainty believe that Bradstreet's beloved spouse would feel what the reader is feeling now—from reading and contemplating her poem—if he were him. In a word, he would grow to love Anne Bradstreet even more for her poem of imperishable love and fidelity (towards him).