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In “Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th, 1666” Anne Bradstreet delves into the topic of a tragic fire in her home. In the poem, her house is represented as a keepsake for all of her memories made within it and now the fire has seemingly turned it all to ash. She expresses her ambivalence between her devastation and her Puritan beliefs by displaying both initial sorrow and eventual acceptance. Various aspects of this poem are used to show Bradstreet’s momentary quivering faith in her providential beliefs. The poem’s changing mood, few instances of enjambment, shifts in tone of diction, and use of rhetorical devices express the theme of acceptance.
The content of this poem is focused around the despair and damage caused by the fire in Bradstreet’s home. The author is awoken by loud noises and voices, which alert her to the calamity happening around her. The first half of the poem explores the damage caused by the fire and all the tangible items the author has lost. However, due to Bradstreet’s Puritan beliefs, the poem shifts into a more providential theme as opposed to the theme of loss shown in the beginning. She believes that the fire, the loss of her home and all the memories made within it, is done by God’s divine intervention and has purpose. The transition between her mourning of her loss and then her acceptance due to her providential beliefs is clearly shown in the poem. This is especially displayed in lines 14-17 where Bradstreet writes: I blest His name 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 This excerpt from the poem shows the acceptance Bradstreet holds for the fire because of her providential beliefs that everything is predestined. The poem is written in iambic tetrameter and consists of only rhyming couplets. The majority of the poem is written with enjambment and this causes the sequence of the fire and the destruction to seem more chaotic and despairing. The enjambment between lines 3-4: “I wakened was with thund’ring noise/ And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice,” creates a faster paced rhythm in the poem, emulating the rapid pace of the fire.
Throughout the poem, Bradstreet appears to be more reconciled toward the fire once she reminds herself that it is because of God’s doing and it has happened for a reason. Of course, it cannot be expected that Bradstreet is utterly accepting of the fact that her home and all of her dearest belongings have been turned to ash. This uncertainty of faith is shown through her difference in language from the beginning to the end of the poem. The mood of the poem seems to swiftly switch from despair to acceptance as she trusts her faith in her Puritan beliefs. This change in mood is shown through Bradstreet’s choice of emotional diction. The beginning of the poem is laced with deeply negative diction such as “sorrow,” (line 2) “piteous,” (line 4) and “succourless” (line 10). The tone of the poem changes significantly when her providential belief is mentioned. The author uses more positive diction such as “mighty Architect,” (line 44) “glory richly furnished,” (line 45) “hope and treasure,” (line 54). The language used and the mood of the poem are very closely related in this instance.
The meaning of the poem is largely affected by Bradstreet’s use of metaphors and similes. One extended metaphor in particular, in lines 49-51, enforces the author’s Puritan worldview as well as the theme of the poem. The metaphor is in reference to Bradstreet’s faith that though her home on earth has been destroyed, God has an even lovelier home waiting for her in heaven. Bradstreet expresses this belief in the lines: “A price so vast as is unknown,/ Yet by His gift is made thine own;/ There’s wealth enough, I need no more,” (lines 49-51). The author creates an extended metaphor of a “…house on high erect/ Frameed by that mighty Architect,” (lines 43-44) which represents the home in heaven created by God. It is in this way Bradstreet is saying that though she is in despair over her loss, she knows that it is all in God’s predestined plan. This is difficult to fully believe, however, because Bradstreet does remark on the memories that can no longer be made in this home and the memories she is leaving behind in the lines: “Under thy roof no guest shall sit,/ Nor at thy Table eat a bit.” (lines 29-30). These lines show that though she has accepted the tragedy as providential, it is still a great loss of both the tangible and intangible parts of her life.
“Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666,” shows the muddled tension between natural emotions and the theology of the Puritans. The fire in Anne Bradstreet’s house causes her to feel conflict between her basic human emotion and what her Puritan theology tells her she should feel. This is expressed throughout the poem with selectively ambivalent diction, extended metaphors, and two conflicting moods of despair and acceptance. The fire is essentially a spark to her uncertain faithfulness toward the Puritan beliefs of providence, resulting in her conflicting tones within the poem. The poem ends with Bradstreet accepting her loss and remaining loyal to her Puritan beliefs, despite her loss of everything else.
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