Upon the Burning of Our House – Anne Bradstreet

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened 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 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 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 thy 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 e’er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e’er heard shall be.
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 mould’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 a house on high erect
Frameed 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.
 
While looking into Bradstreet’s life, her house actually did burn down. This poem describes her experience of this taking place. It is clear that she felt the inner conflicts. While she trusts God as her father and believes that all things are his and his alone, she has a hard time letting go of her earthly possessions. She conveys this feeling of conflict through her “tug of war” rhythm and conflicting statements. 
The poem is make up of many couplets, which make a poem very flowing and sing-song. There is a clear cadence throughout the whole piece. I believe that this indicates how fluidly all of her thoughts and feelings about her home burning down are running together.  This feeling also gives that “tug of war” feeling by making such a rhythmic cadence. 
The “tug of war” feeling also emphasizes that she can’t decide how she feels. She knows she’s supposed to be grateful and thanking God at all times, but as she passes the ashes, she can do nothing but stop and stare at what used to be and what could have been. She knows that her greater reward is in heaven, yet she also knows that there will never be anyone to sit at her table and hangout at her home ever again, because it is gone. 
Her punctuation isn’t too peculiar, and the repetition of the style helped to set the initial cadence that I discussed. The regularly used punctuation helped to establish the couplets, which also rhymed. It is interesting that she capitalizes some of her possessions and the word “Him” that refers to God. This symbolizes that in this moment, they are of equal importance. While she finishes the poem with a statement that lets readers know she values God over her possessions, it is very conflicting for a time period. 
This poem made me sad. I thought about what it would be like for me to lose my entire household and I can totally sympathize with Bradstreet’s feelings. That inner conflict would be very prevalent in that situation, no matter who you are. Bradstreet has an interesting style of conflicting feelings that are always flowing together. She does an awesome job at conveying that she feels a certain gray area about what is right and what is wrong. 
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