Analysis of Upon the Burning of Our House by Anne Bradstreet
Anne Bradstreet, whom most critics consider America’s first “authentic poet”, was born and raised as a Puritan. Bradstreet married her husband Simon at the tender age of eighteen. She wrote her poems while rearing eight children and performing other domestic duties. In her poem “Upon The Burning Of Our House, July 10th, 1666”, Bradstreet tells of three valuable lessons she learned from the fire that destroyed her home.
The first lesson Bradstreet learns from the fire occurs when she decides to thank God in the midst of her house burning:
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;
She explains that everything that was on fire she did not actually own, for they belonged to God’s. Therefore, she could not mourn the lost because He had the right to take them away.
Another lesson Bradstreet learns from the fire is earthly pleasures are fleeting. In Stanzas
31-36, she realizes material possessions
are easy to gain as well as loose.
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’er heard
In silence ever shall thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
She continues to reminisce on the things that might have taken place in the house but will no longer since it now consist mainly of ashes.
Bradstreet’s last learned lesson is her wealth does not come from the things she gains on earth but her true wealth lies in heaven. She begins Stanzas 37-42 rebuking her thoughts of what will no longer take place in her ash filled home. Furthermore, Bradstreet gives her depiction of the “heavenly” place in Stanzas 43-48; which is built on permanent grounds and consist of expensive furniture all financed by God. In the last Stanzas of the poem Bradstreet begins focusing on the place where wealth is defined:
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.
Bradstreet’s strong Puritan background often influenced her writing, which is evident in this particular poem. Although she often questioned the harsh concept of a judgmental God, Bradstreet never doubted the actual existence of a higher being. Her acknowledgement of God through out this poem shows her respect and devotion to her Puritan beliefs as well as her love for the spiritual world.