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Poetry has always been a specific form of art because it was written to address differing life and social issues in a different tone, rhyme, and rhythm. According to Michael Meyer, poetry is more appealing to reader’s feelings and emotions compared to other literary forms, such as novels or dramas, due to the fact that it can be written unusually and perceived in a varying manner, especially when read responsively. The aim of the paper at hand is to prove the abovementioned statement by reviewing one of the poems written by Anne Bradstreet – “Before the Birth of One of Her Children” dated 1678. Written long ago, it is still relevant in the modern world because it highlights that everything eventually comes to an end – death, – but no ending is powerful enough to outplay love and memories.
Description of the Poem
This poem is a discussion on human relationships – friendship and love. It is written in a way to point to the fact that no feelings in the world or relations between people are strong enough to stand before the power of death that is able to divide people. The author states that regardless of the strength of feelings and beauties of life, everything comes to an end, and this end is in death that commonly comes suddenly and unexpectedly. Still, even though death is almighty and can easily destroy lives, it is not powerful enough to take away the freshness and liveliness of memories. In this way, as long as people remember an individual, regardless of their role in a family or community and goodness or evilness of deeds, this person will be alive, even if they died long ago or were not even born to this world.
Formal Aspects of the Poem
The poem is written as a letter to a husband of a pregnant woman – a narrator. This poetry form is referred to as epistolary. This choice makes the poem emotional because it is subconsciously associated with the desire to leave one’s message and wisdom to other people, especially if one thinks of death. It is especially appropriate taking into consideration the overall mood of the poem and narrator’s uncertainty in her future wellbeing, “How soon, my Dear, death may my step attend” (line 7).
The poem is written as a couplet because most of the lines are of the same length that makes it melodic, pleasant to read, and easy to perceive. Except for the criticality of choosing an appropriate form for writing the poem, it is as well essential to point to the significance of the title. Reading the poem without being aware of the title does not reveal the actual motivation for sharing the message. Instead, when viewing the title of the poem first, it becomes obvious that the story is told from the perspective of a pregnant woman who feels concerned about the future of herself and her unborn child as well as the life of her husband in case of undesirable pregnancy outcomes – the death of a mother, child or both (J. M. Volo and D. D. Volo 126).
The poem is written in a straightforward manner, so there is no imagery except for the symbol of memory and love – “And kiss this paper for thy love’s dear sake” (line 27). There is a metaphor – “oblivious grave” – that points out that graves (symbols of death) erase everything as well as a simile, – “And when thou feel’ st no grief, as I no harm,” (line 19) – that highlights that if the pregnant woman’s husband feels nothing about his wife’s death, just like she feels nothing because of being dead, then she is forgotten and does not live any longer. There are as well alliterations – “With some sad signs honor my absent hearse” (line 26). As for the rhythm, the poem is written in iamb with an “aa, bb, cc,…” rhyme scheme. Due to the specificities of iamb, the stress is constantly changed within the poem that makes it melodic and heroic, pointing to the desire to leave her message to the future generations.
Based on all the formal aspects of the poem, it is evident that they benefit the perception of the author’s message because the title prepares a reader for the sad and melancholic tone of the poem, while all of the literary devices are valuable for discussing focal issues raised in the artwork – fleetness of life and inevitability of ending as well as the criticality of always having hope for the better and preserving memories of freshness and liveliness (Earhardt and Cristaldi). All in all, these devices are helpful for making the reader engaged in the reading process and valuable for preparing them to life because the image of a husband, as well as that of an unborn child, can be transferred to an ordinary person, as these two are the symbols of each person who is left in the world after the death of their beloved ones (a symbol of a husband) or those who come to this world without knowing how to live (an image of a child).
Earhardt, Ainsley, and Kathryn Cristaldi. Take Heart, My Child: A Mother’s Dream. Simon and Schuster, 2016. Google Books.
Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. 10th ed., Bedford Books, 2014. Google Books,
Volo, James M, and Dorothy D. Volo. Daily Life on the Old Colonial Frontier. Greenwood Press, 2002.