To My Dear and Loving Husband
by Anne Bradstreet
Lines 1-6 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
- The poem opens with two "if/then" statements, which sets up quite a logical tone. Except the subject isn't logical at all: it's love.
- In the first statement, the speaker says that if ever two people were one person, then she and her husband surely are.
- In the second, she says that if ever any man has been loved by his wife, he (her husband) has been. He's quite the lucky guy.
- After "we" in the first line, you have to supply "are." The same is true with "thee" (an old word for "you") in the second line. (So it would read:"If ever two were one, then surely we [are].")
- What's all this "two were one" business? Sometimes people feel such a powerful connection to one another that they feel like they are one person. It works with dogs, too. In any case, from these two lines alone, we get the idea that these two lovebirds are the ultimate couple.
- And here's one more thing to remember. While "thee" sounds like an overly formal way of saying "you," in Bradstreet's day it actually implied familiarity or intimacy. It would be exactly the word to use in referring to a husband you love so darn much.
- We would be remiss if we didn't point out the rhyme. These first two lines are called a rhyming couplet, which means they are two lines that repeat the same sound at the end. As you'll soon see, this poem consists of six of these couplets, and it's as relentless with its rhyme as our speaker is with her love.
- Oh, and one last thing: these first couple lines (and maybe the ones that follow) make us think about the Book of Genesis and the creation of Adam and Eve. Do you agree? Do you think Bradstreet was thinking about this when she wrote her poem?
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
- In repeating the phrase "If ever," line 3 continues the anaphora Bradstreet began in lines 2 and 3. She says that, if there was ever a wife that was happy with a guy, it's her. And in this case, the anaphora underlines the idea that this couple is the perfect couple – they represent the ideal of love.
- The word "compare" here means something like "rival" or "compete with" (source). The speaker is telling other women to try to be as happy with their men as she is with hers. Good luck, ladies. She implies that nobody can "compare" with her, which means that she's totally sure that she, of all married women, is the happiest.
- What's so interesting about these lines is that in a poem that is for the most part addressed to the speaker's husband, she devotes a line to addressing other women, asking them if they measure up. Why do you think she does that? Why not keep the focus on her man?
- Oh, and the word "ye" is another old way of saying "you." It's actually the plural of "thou" and "thee."
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
- The speaker continues to speak about her love for her husband, and continues with comparisons to prove her point.
- She says she loves him more than gold mines and all the "riches" of the "East." Back in those days, when the rest of the world was first being explored by Europeans, the East (which most likely refers to Asia here) was seen as a place of unimaginable wealth and bounty.
- One word that jumps out to us here is "prize." It makes us think of winning things, or receiving a reward for something, which makes sense when you think of how much she values her husband and his love. But still, it's also a strange word to use because "prize" reminds us of precisely the things (money, gold, treasure) that the speaker says are less valuable than her husband's love. Hmmm, what do you make of that?
- And finally, just to continue building our old-school Bradstreet glossary, we'll tell you that the word "doth" is an old form of "does." But doesn't "doth" just sound better here? It has a grander, snappier ring to it. Try saying the line with "does" to see what we mean.