Verses upon Burning of our House, 1666

Here, as in the late elegies, we see Bradstreet exemplifying Puritan fortitude and resignation in the face of great trial and anguish. Here house and possessions are destroyed and she feels the pain of that destruction quite forcefully. But is she going to despair and curse God? Does she complain about “fairness,” etc? No—she accepts God’s hand in her life and willingly turns her lost possessions over to Him.

She follows here the same pattern she would follow in the elegies. First she recollects the loss in all its physical reality, its pleasures once afforded, the pain now that the loss creates; then she recognizes the fact that as a child of God these possessions were not hers anyway but God’s, and that He has chosen to take them. She may not understand this, but she recognizes the reality of it (“I blest His name that gave and took”). But that recognition doesn’t magically alleviate pain and memory, but it does provide a means of dealing with that pain and loss. She finally must resign her loss to God, knowing however that as a Christian she has a better home awaiting her, one that is permanent, not temporal. Her resignation leads not to despair but to hope and joy.

Is all this a meaningless acquiescing to religious dogma that her emotions constantly undercut and debunk? Or is she sincere, and her position a very tough-minded approach to the reality she and her fellow Puritans faced in the New World in the 1600s and belief in the sovereignty of God?

19th century painting of the Bradstreet home in Andover, Massachusetts.

Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of

Our House July 10th, 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,”

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.

Then coming out, behold a space

The flame consume my dwelling place.

And when I could no longer look,

I blest his grace 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,

He might of all justly bereft

But yet sufficient for us left.

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,

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.

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.

Adieu, Adieu, All’s Vanity.

Then straight 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 sky

That dunghill mists away may fly.

Thou hast a house on high erect

Fram’d by that mighty Architect,

With glory richly furnished

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.

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.