ANNE BRADSTREET "UPON THE BURNING OF OUR HOUSE"
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,
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 passed
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sat 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 thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy table eat a bit.
No pleasant tale shall e'er be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No candle e'er shall shine in thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice e're heard shall be.
In silence ever shall 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 mold'ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast an house on high erect,
Framed 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.
As we discussed in class, Mark Strand claims that lyric poetry "assume[s] a connection between privacy and universality" (xxii). Here, "privacy" means the kind of individual, subjective "interior" experiences and feelings, while universality means experiences and feelings that everyone shares. Let's assume for the moment that Strand is correct. In a response of two to three pages, explain how does this link between privacy and universality emerge in Anne Bradstreet's "Upon the Burning of Our House" (178). How does the poem create a link between a particular event that happened to her and something that transcends that event? How does the poem make its subject matter accessible to the reader? In what ways does the poet use language to control and transform the event? Use direct evidence (quotes) from the poem in order to support your claims. Your response should have a thesis, introduction, and conclusion.
Remember that this is not a "subjective" response insofar as I am not asking you evaluate the poem - your response should not be about how the poem makes you feel, whether or not you like it, or whether or not it is a good poem.
Two to three double-spaced pages
Thesis statement, body, conclusion, use of direct evidence
“Upon the Burning of Our House” by Anne Bradstreet
The poem “Upon the Burning of Our House” by Anne Bradstreet is a sorrowful story of an eventful night when the narrator goes to bed hoping for nothing bad to happen. However, in the course of the night, she is awakened by the noise and screams of fire; her house was on fire, and she could do nothing but cry to God to intervene and help her. What follows are lines of lamentations by the narrator asserting that everything she owned was God’s and thus he has the right to give and take (Gale 4). The lyrics within the poem demonstrate a vivid connection between privacy and universality. This response paper explores Bradstreet’s poem to show how the relationship between privacy and universality has emerged in the poem.
How the poem has created a link between the burning house and something that transcends the event
Aspects of privacy and universality have been widely portrayed throughout the entire poem. The poem has created a link between privacy and universality by showing how the life of the narrator is suddenly changed by the fire that burns her house down and since she cannot stop the fire, she cries to God for help (Gale 6). Privacy has been depicted in how the author laments her fallen house. She is sad that all the wealth she had gathered God took it suddenly through the burning fire. The narrator portrays a somber mood throughout the poem. Some of the instances can be seen in line 8 “And to my God my heart did cry” and line 22 “My sorrowing eyes aside did cast.” These lines depict the feelings and experienced by the narrator on seeing her house and possessions reduced to dust. According to mark strand, Privacy entails the inner feelings and experiences that are portrayed in poetry (Strand xxii). Therefore, line 8 and 22 show the feelings that the narrator has towards her possessions that have been burnt (Gale 12). On the other hand, the link between the event and universality can be seen when the narrator realizes she is helpless and turns to God for help in line 8. Usually, when human beings find challenges that are beyond their control, people turn to God for help believing that he is the one giving and taking as depicted in the line; “I blest His name that gave and took” (line 14).
How the poem make its subject matter accessible to the reader
There is a strong connection between the poem and daily lives within the contemporary society. Many people within the contemporary society lose their possessions and become sorrowful because they cannot control accidents. When such kinds of accidents happen, people usually become sad and cry to God to help them as depicted in the following lines;
And to my God my heart did cry,
To straighten me in my Distress,
And not to leave me succourless. (8-10).
The use of language to control and transform the event in the poem
The poet has used narrative prose to unveil the thoughts in her mind as she watched her house burn. She has also used simple language rhymes in the poem to make it easy to understand and memorable. Furthermore, the poet has ignored grammatical rules to make the poem rhyme. Also, the choice of words is crucial as they have helped in transforming the event into a sorrowful one (Gale 13).
In conclusion, the poem “Upon the Burning of Our House” has depicted instances of privacy and universality through how the narrator connects her feelings for personal possessions and lamentations to God for help. The poem relates to daily experiences of people’s personal experience and their universal relationship with God.
Gale, Cengage L. A Study Guide for Anne Bradstreet's ""upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th,1666"". Farmington Hills: Gale, Cengage Learning, 2016. Internet resource.
Strand, Mark. The Weather of Words: Poetic Invention. New York: Knopf, 2001. Print.
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