This week I began my journey into American poetry. We studied Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley. I find both of these women to be admirable simply in the sense that they’ve figured this poetry thing out! I know that as a newbie to this kind of thing, my analysis will be pretty basic and not as deep as others, but I really hope that through our forum conversation, I will gain a better understanding of what I am doing and how to appreciate the form of poetry.
That being said, my favorite poem this week was written by Anne Bradstreet. Many of her poems I didn’t connect to. I am not an overly mushy person so her poem entitled “To My Dear and Loving Husband” was just not appealing to me at all. Also, I felt her poem “Before the Birth of One of Her Children” to be sweet, but too melancholy at the same time.
However, all that aside, her poem “Verses upon the Burning of Our House” was poignant for me because of the personal attachment I have to the topic. I think that is important for me. I need to have an emotional investment in the first few lines or I am really lost. If I don’t have that, I begin to feel like I have selective dyslexia and I can’t get any of the lines to really make sense or sink in.
It’s funny, my house burned down when I was in first grade so I was six years old. I’m thirty-four now and this poem still helped me feel at peace with what happened. I have this picture in my mind of the day after our house burnt down. My mother had to drive down the road to get some things a neighbor was donating to us. She told me to cover my eyes and to not peek but I did and almost thirty years later, I still see these lonely, charred beams silhouetted against the winter sky. I saw them as I read this poem. It was the most emotional response I’ve ever had to a poem, but the thing is, by the end I could still see those beams, but they weren’t these scary, foreboding teeth jutting into the air, they were just a part of my past. How amazing that a few lines of words can help heal so much! I feel like I should print this poem out and have my mother read it. She still clings melted lumps of quarters from my piggy bank and to photos that are mostly burnt. Have you ever smelled burnt photographs? I have. The smell never leaves you and it never leaves the photos either. It’s a constant reminder of what’s been lost. We aren’t religious people, but I don’t think you have to be to take comfort in this poem. The overall message is that true worth and love isn’t found in your possessions. One only needs to look around you to find the true worth of your life.
Verses upon the Burning of our House
In silent night when rest I took, For sorrow near I did not look, I waken’d was with thund’ring noise And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice. That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire," Let no man know is my Desire. I starting up, the light did spy, And to my God my heart did cry To straighten me in my Distress And not to leave me succourless. Then coming out, behold a space The flame consume my dwelling place. And when I could no longer look, I blest his grace that gave and took, That laid my goods now in the dust. Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just. It was his own; it was not mine. Far be it that I should repine, He might of all justly bereft But yet sufficient for us left. When by the Ruins oft I past My sorrowing eyes aside did cast And here and there the places spy Where oft I sate and long did lie. Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest, There lay that store I counted best, My pleasant things in ashes lie And them behold no more shall I. Under the roof no guest shall sit, Nor at thy Table eat a bit. No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told Nor things recounted done of old. No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee, Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee. In silence ever shalt thou lie. Adieu, Adieu, All’s Vanity. Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide: And did thy wealth on earth abide, Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust, The arm of flesh didst make thy trust? Raise up thy thoughts above the sky That dunghill mists away may fly. Thou hast a house on high erect Fram’d by that mighty Architect, With glory richly furnished Stands permanent, though this be fled. It’s purchased and paid for too By him who hath enough to do. A price so vast as is unknown, Yet by his gift is made thine own. There’s wealth enough; I need no more. Farewell, my pelf; farewell, my store. The world no longer let me love; My hope and Treasure lies above.