To My Dear and Loving Husband Summary
"To My Dear and Loving Husband" begins by describing the compatibility between the speaker and her husband (and boy do we mean compatibility!). The speaker then describes how much she values her husband's love, how strong her love is, and how she will never be able to repay her husband for his love. Aww. The poem concludes with the speaker urging herself and her husband to "persevere" in their love for another so that they can live forever. Wouldn't that be nice?
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.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
- Now our lady takes a turn from wealth to nature, and describes her love in more elaborate terms.
- It is so great that not even a river can "quench" it, and the only thing that can give her "recompense" is love from her husband.
- The word "quench" means lots of things, which makes it tough to suss out the meaning of this line. It usually means to extinguish, put out, or satisfy. We often say, for example, "I need to quench my thirst with a glass of water." So does she mean that her love is like a giant fireball that not even a river could put out? Or does she mean that her love for her husband is so powerful that it (and she) can never be satisfied, no matter what? Of course no river is about to pour down on her sitting at her writing desk, so we'll take this to be a metaphor for anything that might (but can't) satisfy her love.
- "Recompense," on the other hand, has only one meaning: compensation, or payment for something, often as payback for a wrongdoing. Based on this, it's safe to assume the speaker is suggesting that she will only be satisfied if her husband loves her in return. So at least we know there's one thing that can quench her thirsty love – her husband's reciprocation. It takes two to tango.
- And before we forget, "ought" is an old word for "anything."
Thy love is such I can no way repay.
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
- The speaker now shifts gears and starts to talk about her husband's love for her. She says she has no way of repaying him for his love, and she prays that the "heavens reward" him. This chick means business.
- First, the phrase "thy love is such I can no way repay" is a way of saying "your love is so awesome that I don't know how I can ever repay you for it." You're lucky if you know that feeling!
- And "Manifold" means "in many ways" or "many times." So she's hoping that, while she can't ever repay her husband, the heavens – that is, God – will.
- One thing you might want to note is that the second line is in reverse order. She means "I pray [that] the heavens reward thee manifold." It makes the sentence a little wonky to read, but poets who are working in rhyme and meter often rearrange their sentences to make them fit the form they've chosen. Tricky!
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
- The speaker concludes the poem by saying that she and her husband should love each other so strongly while they're alive that they will live forever.
- (The icing on the cake is the lovely alliteration of "live, in love let's." Beautiful sounds for a beautiful idea.)
- Okay, that's romantic and all, but how exactly are they going to live forever just by "persevering" in their love? Well, it's possible that the speaker means they're love will be so strong and admirable that other people will remember them and speak about them. In this way, they will "live ever." But she could also be suggesting that immortality – a life in heaven – is somehow dependent on how strongly one loves while alive.
- The word "persevere" is interesting here. It's a strong word, and we tend to use it more when talking about striving against difficulties to reach a goal. So is her marriage difficult? Or does she just mean that she and her husband will stick together through whatever hardships they might face in their lives, and that as long as they remain in love, they'll be fine?
- Some versions of the poem spell "persevere" as "persever." This is because, in the seventeenth century, many people pronounced the word that way. Note how that pronunciation makes the word "sever" (a word that means to break or cut off) much more audible (just like in the name Severus Snape). Plus, pronouncing it this way makes it rhyme with "ever," which is a shortened form of "forever."
- What's so great about these last two lines is that they are, in a way, a new version of the first stanza's "if/then" statements. Her final "if/then"? If we love each other steadily for our whole lives, then we will be rewarded with eternal life after death. Sounds like a good deal to Shmoop.