Marriage is a blessing, proclaims Anne Bradstreet.
Marriage is a curse, warns Lady Mary Chudleigh.
Ladies, take your corners because it’s time to get ready to rum-b-l-e!
Up first, we have Puritan wife and mother of eight Anne Bradstreet with her sweet love note, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” (1678):
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
Thank you, Anne, for that sugar shot. Next, British writer and mother of six Lady Mary Chudleigh is coming out swinging with her poem, “To the Ladies”:
Wife and servant are the same,
But only differ in the name:
For when that fatal knot is tied,
Which nothing, nothing can divide:
When she the word obey has said,
And man by law supreme has made,
Then all that’s kind is laid aside,
And nothing left but state and pride:
Fierce as an Eastern prince he grows,
And all his innate rigour shows:
Then but to look, to laugh, or speak,
Will the nuptial contract break.
Like mutes she signs alone must make,
And never any freedom take:
But still be governed by a nod,
And fear her husband as a God:
Him still must serve, him still obey,
And nothing act, and nothing say,
But what her haughty lord thinks fit,
Who with the power, has all the wit.
Then shun, oh! shun that wretched state,
And all the fawning flatt’rers hate:
Value your selves, and men despise,
You must be proud, if you’ll be wise.
Oh no, she didn’t! Oh yes, Chudleigh did – and in 1703, no less.
My aim is to bring both works to our students and let them decide the winner. These two poems provide the foundation for a solid compare/contrast assignment or assessment, and we can use these texts to help students examine theme, poetic structure, and impact on the audience. Feel free to copy these poems and use them as you wish in your classroom or grab my set of print-and-teach materials here:
Teach on, everyone!
Wedding rings image licensed via CanvaPro.