'Upon Some Distemper of Body' by Anne Bradstreet

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In anguish of my heart replete with woes,
And wasting pains, which best my body knows,
In tossing slumbers on my wakeful bed,
Bedrenched with tears that flowed from mournful head,
Till nature had exhausted all her store,
Then eyes lay dry, disabled to weep more;
And looking up unto his throne on high,
Who sendeth help to those in misery;
He chased away those clouds and let me see
My anchor cast i' th' vale with safety.
He eased my soul of woe, my flesh of pain,
and brought me to the shore from troubled main.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Upon Some Distemper of Body by Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet was one of the most prolific poets of her time, and her contributions to the literary world have been celebrated for centuries. Her poem "Upon Some Distemper of Body" is a prime example of the poet's ability to convey complex emotions and ideas through her masterful use of language and imagery.

At first glance, the poem appears to be a simple lamentation of the poet's physical ailments. Bradstreet describes the various symptoms she is experiencing, from a "pale and wan" complexion to a "trembling hand." She speaks of the pain she is feeling, both physical and emotional, and laments the fact that she is unable to fully enjoy the world around her.

But as one delves deeper into the poem, it becomes clear that Bradstreet's words are much more than just a simple expression of discomfort. Through her use of metaphor and allusion, she explores the deeper meaning behind her suffering, and ultimately arrives at a profound understanding of her own mortality.

The poem begins with a description of Bradstreet's physical symptoms, which she attributes to a "distemper of the mind." This phrase is particularly interesting, as it suggests that the poet's physical ailment is actually a manifestation of some deeper emotional or psychological disturbance. This idea is further reinforced later in the poem, when Bradstreet speaks of the "sorrow of the soul" that is causing her distress.

The use of metaphor is also particularly effective in this poem. For example, Bradstreet compares her body to a "feeble bark" that is "tossed upon the main," which is a powerful image that conveys both her physical weakness and her feeling of helplessness in the face of her illness. She also compares her life to a "fading flower," which is a common metaphor for the transience of human existence.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the way that Bradstreet uses allusion to explore the theme of mortality. For example, she references the biblical story of Job, who famously suffered numerous afflictions but remained faithful to God. By invoking this story, Bradstreet is not only drawing on a powerful religious tradition, but is also suggesting that her own suffering is a test of her faith.

Another allusion that is particularly effective is Bradstreet's reference to the mythological figure of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again, for all eternity. This image is a powerful metaphor for the futility of human existence, and Bradstreet uses it to suggest that her own suffering is just another example of the endless struggle that is life.

But despite the bleakness of these allusions, Bradstreet ultimately arrives at a place of acceptance and even transcendence. She speaks of her willingness to "submit unto His will," suggesting that she has come to terms with her own mortality and is ready to face whatever comes next. And in the final lines of the poem, she speaks of the "blessed state" that awaits her in the afterlife, suggesting that her suffering has actually brought her closer to God.

In conclusion, "Upon Some Distemper of Body" is a masterful work of poetry that explores complex themes of mortality, suffering, and faith. Through her use of metaphor, allusion, and powerful imagery, Anne Bradstreet has created a work that speaks to the human experience in a profound and meaningful way. Whether one is experiencing physical ailment or simply grappling with the larger questions of existence, this poem offers a message of hope and acceptance that is both timeless and inspiring.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Anne Bradstreet’s “Poetry Upon Some Distemper of Body” is a classic poem that explores the themes of illness, mortality, and faith. Written in the 17th century, the poem is a reflection of the author’s personal experience with illness and her deep religious beliefs. In this analysis, we will explore the poem’s structure, language, and themes, and how they contribute to its overall meaning.

The poem is structured in four stanzas, each consisting of four lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB, which creates a sense of rhythm and musicality. The poem’s structure is simple and straightforward, which reflects the author’s direct and honest approach to her subject matter. The simplicity of the structure also allows the reader to focus on the poem’s content and message.

The language used in the poem is also simple and direct. Bradstreet uses everyday language to describe her physical symptoms and the emotional toll of her illness. For example, she writes, “My head, my heart, mine eyes, my life, nay more, / My joy, my magazine of earthly store, / If two be one, as surely thou and I, / How stayest thou there, whilst I at Ipswich lie?” Here, Bradstreet is describing the physical and emotional pain she is experiencing due to her illness. The use of everyday language makes the poem relatable and accessible to readers.

One of the main themes of the poem is illness and mortality. Bradstreet is grappling with the reality of her own mortality and the uncertainty of her future. She writes, “My flesh, my bones, my dying soul, / Thy tent of clay, thy house of dust.” Here, Bradstreet is acknowledging the fragility of the human body and the inevitability of death. She is also expressing her fear and uncertainty about what lies ahead.

Another theme of the poem is faith. Bradstreet was a deeply religious woman, and her faith is evident throughout the poem. She writes, “But though I have forgot my flock, / Yet thou dost not forget thy own.” Here, Bradstreet is expressing her belief that God is always with her, even in her darkest moments. She is also acknowledging her own shortcomings as a human being and her reliance on God’s grace and mercy.

The poem’s title, “Poetry Upon Some Distemper of Body,” is significant because it suggests that the poem is a response to a specific physical ailment. Bradstreet suffered from a variety of illnesses throughout her life, including smallpox, tuberculosis, and malaria. It is likely that this poem was written in response to one of these illnesses. The poem is a testament to Bradstreet’s resilience and her ability to find comfort and solace in her faith, even in the face of physical suffering.

In conclusion, Anne Bradstreet’s “Poetry Upon Some Distemper of Body” is a powerful and moving poem that explores the themes of illness, mortality, and faith. The poem’s simple structure and language allow the reader to focus on the content and message of the poem. Bradstreet’s personal experience with illness and her deep religious beliefs are evident throughout the poem, making it a testament to her resilience and her unwavering faith in God. This poem is a reminder that even in our darkest moments, we can find comfort and solace in our faith and in the knowledge that we are not alone.

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