Today, Anne Bradstreet is best known as the first poet to ever publish a collection of verses in America. This poem will likely remind readers of some of Bradstreet’s other dedication pieces. A few of these are explored below in the “Similar Poetry” section.
To Her Father with Some Verses Anne BradstreetMost truly honoured, and as truly dear,If worth in me or ought I do appear,Who can of right better demand the sameThan may your worthy self from whom it came?The principal might yield a greater sum,Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;My stock's so small I know not how to pay,My bond remains in force unto this day;Yet for part payment take this simple mite,Where nothing's to be had, kings loose their right.Such is my debt I may not say forgive,But as I can, I'll pay it while I live;Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,Yet paying is not paid until I die.
Explore To Her Father with Some Verses
In the first lines of this poem, the speaker begins by referring to her father as “Most truly honoured, and as truly dear.” She tells her father that she knows everything he’s done for her and doesn’t have much to give him in return. She only has “crumbs” or a “mite” compared to what he gave her. But, this poem is all she can provide at this time. She’s going to work, she says, paying off her debt for as long as it takes. Likely until the day she dies.
The poem asserts that a child should do whatever they can to pay back their parents for the care and love they’ve received throughout their life. Bradstreet, who is usually considered to be the speaker, declares that she’s going to do anything she can to repay her debt to her father.
The poet engages with themes of expectations and father/daughter relationships within this piece. Throughout, Bradstreet dedicates her words to her father, someone she loves and honors. She knows that she owes a great deal to the man who brought her into the world and supported her. Throughout the fourteen lines, she commits to working until the day she dies to pay him back. Whether or not her father has the same expectations for her, she puts the responsibility upon herself.
Structure and Form
‘To Her Father with Some Verses’ by Anne Bradstreet is a sonnet. This means that it has fourteen lines and is written in iambic pentameter. The poem’s meter can be seen through the number of stressed syllables in each line. The lines contain ten syllables, each of which can be divided into five sets of two. With a few exceptions, each metrical foot has one unstressed syllable and one stressed syllable.
Unlike Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets, this poem follows the rhyme scheme of AABBCCDDEEFFGG. It uses elements of both most common forms, including a “turn” or transition, also known as a volta, towards the end.
Throughout this poem, Bradstreet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Anaphora: the repetition of the same word or words at the beginning of lines. For example, “My” at the beginning of lines seven and eight.
- Enjambment: a halting transition between two lines that requires readers to move down into the following line in order to conclude a phrase. For example, the transition between lines three and four.
- Caesura: an intentional pause inserted into the middle of a line. This can occur through punctuation or a natural break in the meter.
- Volta: a turn or transition that is used in sonnet writing. In this particular poem, the turn occurs between the eighth and ninth lines.
Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
In the first lines of the poem, the speaker, Bradstreet herself, speaks directly to her father. He is referred to as “Most truly honored” and “truly dear.” Not only does she honor and respect her father, she truly loves him.
Bradstreet knows that she owes her father a great deal. He brought her into the world, supported her, and cared for her. She feels this burden immensely. It is a debt that she knows is incredibly important. Throughout the following lines, she emphasizes how hard it is going to be (impossible, in fact) for her to pay that debt off.
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
In the second quatrain of this sonnet, the poet notes that the only thing she can offer is “this crumb.” The word “crumb” is one of several adjectives that Bradstreet uses to describe what she can offer in the way of repayment to her father. “Mite,” which appears in the next section, is another. Thanks and gratitude are not enough for her honored father. Her “stock’s so small I know not how to pay,” she says.
The poet believes that she doesn’t have enough worth, metaphorically and literally, to pay her father back. She feels her father’s care and importance as a responsibility that she’s always beholden to.
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die.
In the last six lines of the sonnet, commonly known as at the sestet, the poet continues to draw on metaphorical language related to money, stocks, and bonds. Her payment is a “simple mite,” that is, this poem. She can only write short verses, like this one, to honor her father, and she knows they aren’t worth very much.
The poet is going to quest for her father’s approval until the day she dies, she knows. She’d never think to ask her father to “forgive” her debt.
The final lines remind the reader of what they are already likely aware of. That the poet does not feel as though she’s living up to what her father gave her and will not “discharge” her debt until she dies. Repaying her father, in some way, is going to be her singular purpose throughout her life.
The purpose is to express the poet’s admiration for and dedication to her father. She tells him that she’s going to spend the rest of her life trying to get his approval and make him proud. She is continually searching for a way to pay him back for bringing her into the world and supporting her.
The tone is reverential and dedicated. The speaker knows, unreservedly, that she is going to spend the rest of her life trying to pay her father back for what he did for her. This isn’t something she’s upset about, or that drags her down. Instead, it inspires her to do better.
The poem is about a child’s quest to win her father’s approval and make him proud. The speaker, Bradstreet herself, is trying to explain that she knows she owes her father an outstanding debt but is willing to spend the rest of her life paying it off.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Anne Bradstreet poems. For example:
- ‘Before the Birth of One of Her Children’ – is a moving poem about a woman’s opinion on death. Inspired by her pregnancy, the speaker pens this epistolary to her husband.
- ‘To My Dear and Loving Husband’ – expresses the poet’s deep and genuine love for her husband.
- ‘A Letter to her Husband, absent upon Publick employment’ – tells of a speaker’s longing for the return of her long-absent husband.