“Some verses upon the burning of our house”
a poem by Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)
The Puritans wrote beautiful poetry and Anne Bradstreet, a faithful Puritan wife and mother of several children, wrote some of the most compelling.
Several recent events — a garage and vehicle destroyed in the fire of close family members, Baylor University’s Roger Olson and his now infamous comments, the recent collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis, flooding here in Minnesota and a personal reading through Job – have brought this poem to mind.
On July 18, 1666, at the age of 54, Bradstreet’s home burned to the ground. She recounts the horrors and her godly, humble, Calvinistic response.
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken’d was with thundring noise
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse [helpless].
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd 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 [complain].
He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.
Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.
No pleasant tale shall ‘ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle ‘ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adeiu, Adeiu; All’s vanity.
Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.
Thou hast an house on high erect,
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though: this bee fled.
It’s purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.
A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther’s wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf [money], farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.
The poem originates from The Puritans: A Sourcebook of Their Writings edited by Perry Miller (pp. 577-579).