Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Library of America has published an inclusive anthology of American poetry from the 17th and 18th centuries -- poetry written by English colonists before there was a United States, and by citizens of the new republic shortly after its founding. Fascinating for historical perspective, some of the poems are also admirable works of art. Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), the best-known and probably the best poet of the earlier period, achieves emotional force with the simple means of parallelism:


If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee;

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me ye women if you can.

I prize thy love more then whole Mines of gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.

Thy love is such I can no way repay,

The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.

Then while we live, in love lets so persever,

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company