Anne Bradstreet, considered the first American woman poet, wrote about “her conversion to the joys and suffering of ordinary life,” according to Emily Warn of the Poetry Foundation. Among her best-known works is “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” in which she uses Biblical allusion and deeply felt theological language to express her otherwise-secular love for her husband, Simon Bradstreet.
The 14-line poem uses a variation of one of the most enduring poetic forms: the sonnet, specifically the “English” sonnet. Unlike the more elaborate rhyme scheme of the Italian sonnet, English sonnets rely on a series of three quatrains, or four-line sections, with a couplet at the end. Bradstreet adapts the standard rhyme scheme to use couplets throughout, creating this pattern: AA, BB, CC, DD, EE, FF, GG. Like traditional sonnet-writers, she groups the first 12 lines into quatrains, though they work together thematically rather than through rhyme.
Bradstreet uses this rhyme scheme to underscore the poem’s meaning and to lend it what Alison Fincher Solove calls “a beautiful sense of ageless devotion,” because couplets are typical of children’s verse. Bradstreet tweaks her regular rhyme scheme in the eighth line, which ends on an unstressed rhyme: “recompense,” paired with the preceding “quench.” Warn asserts that this “hesitancy ... musically emphasizes the inadequacy she feels” about her inability to repay her husband’s love.