The three poems by Anne Bradstreet, namely: In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory, To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who deceased, July 31, and of his age 71, and Contemplations have a number of elements in common. On the same note, there are other aspects that set these poems apart. Themes that are discussed in these poems as well as the styles that are used in the delivery of the message regarding these themes all have these features of differences and similarities as far as these three poems are concerned. This essay will describe and compare the themes in these three poems followed by a description and comparison of stylistic devices.
There are themes that are common to some of the poems as well as those that are common to all the three poems. There are also themes that are unique to each poem.
In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory
The major themes in this poem are as follows:
The theme of death or loss of life is a dominant one in this poem. In a clear and mainly direct language, Anne informs us that the Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth is dead. In line twelve of the first stanza, Anne states that, “mine bleating stands before thy royal Herse” meaning that the persona in the poem is standing close to the dead body of the queen. The remainder of the poem is dedicated to the achievements made by the Queen while she was in power. It is evident that she achieved much, and for this reason, the persona is thrilled for the reign of the queen but saddened by her death.
The Glory of heaven and the value of good actions on earth
This is a very important theme in this poem in that it provides the consoling grace for the loss of the queen through death. The grief created by the loss of a valuable person, the Queen, is reduced by the fact that Queen Elizabeth is still comfortable and in a high position in the world above. In line 104 to line 107, Anne states that, “ But happiness lyes in a higher sphere, Then wonder not Eliza moves not here. Full fraught with honour, riches and with dayes She set, she set, like Titan in his rayes. No more shall rise or set so glorious sun.” These lines point out the significance of the world above where the dead Queen will still be happy. The explanation for this happiness is that she will be paid for her good actions while she was alive on earth.
In To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who deceased, July 31, and of his age 71.
In this poem, the father to the voice in the poem is dead. This poem is a celebration of his life. All that he did while he was alive is recounted by the persona in a nostalgic way showing how lonely the persona feels for losing the father through death.
The Glorious Hereafter and the value of good deeds
This is also a major theme in this poem in that the persona brings out the hope that is present regarding the final destination of the dead father. He will be with angels in heaven where there will be maximum comfort. This presents a cathartic effect on the pressure and sadness felt by the loss. It is god to know that albeit he is dead, he has gone to a place where he will be comfortable and happy. The main reason as to why there is hope for entry to this blissful kingdom are the good deeds the father engaged in while he was alive.
Themes in Contemplations
The power of the sun
Anne points out the marvelous actions of the sun. She makes it clear that at some point it was worshipped as a deity due to its power. Its ability to support life is unrivaled and the seasons depend on it.
The value of good deeds
This is a theme that is prominent towards the end of the poem. Anne points out that what will determine the time one is remembered is not the gold or any other expensive possession, but having his or her name attributed to good deeds and therefore gaining entry to the heavenly kingdom.
Comparison of themes in the three poems
The theme of death is present in two of the three poems. These are In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory and To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who deceased, July 31, and of his age 71. The theme of good deeds and the hereafter appears in all the three poems as shown in the discussion above. The theme of the powers of the sun is only in the poem entitled contemplations.
Anne has made use of a number of styles that are present in all the three poems. These are rhetorical questions and rhyme.
Rhetorical questions do not need answers due to their straight forward nature. They are normally used for emphasis. In To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who deceased, July 31, and of his age 71, the persona asks who has more reason to boast than “I”, referring to the persona. Rhetorical questions are also present in contemplations whereby the persona asks how excellent it’s for the sun that lives high above, which can easily be mistaken for heaven. The other poem, In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory, is also full of rhetorical questions whereby the persona uses them to emphasize the good deeds done by the Queen who is now dead.
The rhyme that is employed in both the three poems gives the poems musicality. The first six lines of In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory have the rhyme scheme of aa, bb, cc. The first six lines of To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who deceased, July 31, and of his age 71 have the rhyme scheme aa, bb, cc and the first five lines of Contemplation have the rhyme scheme a b a b c. Thus the two poems, In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory and To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father Thomas Dudley Esq. Who deceased, July 31, and of his age 71 have a higher degree of resemblance in the rhyme scheme while Contemplations has a slightly different rhyme scheme. But the most important element is that both these poems make use of rhyme.
In conclusion, the theme of death is prominent in two of the poems while the theme of good deeds appears in all the three poems. Rhyme and rhetorical questions as styles are present in all the three poems.