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Anne Bradstreet Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 18, 1666 In silent night when rest I took, For sorrow near I did not look, I waken'd was with thund'ring noise And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice. That fearful sound of "fire" and "fire," 5 Let no man know is my Desire. I starting up, the light did spy, And to my God my heart did cry To straighten me in my Distress And not to leave me succourless. 10 succorless: without help Then coming out, behold a space or aif The flame consume my dwelling place. And when I could no longer look, I blest his grace that gave and took, gave and took: Job 1:21, The That laid my goods now in the dust. 15 Lord gave and the Lord hath Yea, so it was, and so 'twas just. taken away… It was his own; it was not mine. Far be it that I should repine, repine: complain. She says it’s God’s will He might of all justly bereft bereft: deprived of the use But yet sufficient for us left. 20 or possession of a thing When by the Ruins oft I past My sorrowing eyes aside did cast And here and there the places spy Where oft I sate and long did lie. Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest, 25 There lay that store I counted best, My pleasant things in ashes lie And them behold no more shall I. Under the roof no guest shall sit, Nor at thy Table eat a bit. 30 No pleasant talk 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 lie. 35 Adieu, Adieu, All's Vanity. Adieu: French, good-bye All’s vanity: allusion to Ecclesiastes 1:2 and 12:8, “All is Vanity,” meaning all is temporary and meaningless Then straight I 'gin my heart to chide, chide: mildly scold And did thy wealth on earth abide, Didst fix thy hope on mould’ring dust, The arm of flesh didst make thy trust? 40 Raise up thy thoughts above the sky That dunghill mists away may fly. Thou hast a house on high erect Fram'd by that mighty Architect, With glory richly furnished 45 Stands permanent, though this be fled. It's purchased and paid for too By him who hath enough to do. A price so vast as is unknown, Yet by his gift is made thine own. 50 There's wealth enough; I need no more. Farewell, my pelf; farewell, my store. pelf: money or wealth, The world no longer let me love; regarded with scorn My hope and Treasure lies above. store: belongings Discussion questions. On separate paper, write the title and author of this poem, and write complete answers to the following prompts using details from the poem to support your responses. 1) Overall, how did the speaker in this poem feel about her possessions before the fire? After? To what does she attribute the change? 2) Lines 21-36: Bradstreet details what she misses about her house. What was her life like? What are her personal feelings about her house? 3) Lines 43-45: Explain the metaphor Bradstreet uses heaven for, and discuss how she contrasts the spiritual from the materials. 4) Some critics have suggested that Bradstreet was utterly devastated by losing her home and possessions, but that Puritan beliefs demanded that she accept it as God’s will even though she didn’t really feel that way. The central conflict is between her sadness over what she’s lost and faith in God. What evidence do you see in her poem that supports or refutes that interpretation?
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