Upon the Burning of Our House
by Anne Bradstreet
LITERARY FOCUS: THE PLAIN STYLE
The Puritans favored “plainness” in all things: in dress, in the architecture and design of their churches, in their forms of worship, and in language. Unlike the ornate “high style” popular in England at the time, the Puritan plain style used simple sentences and common words from everyday speech. The plain style contained few or no classical allusions, Latin quotations, or elaborate figures of speech. The plain style, Puritans felt, was much more effective in revealing God’s truth than the ornate style. Despite the fact that the style used by Puritan writers now seems hard to read, it was considered simple and direct in the 1600s. Although Anne Bradstreet’s “Upon the Burning of Our House” contains some figurative language, it is a good example of the plain style. REVIEW SKILLS
As you read “Upon the Burning of Our House,” notice the way the following literary devices are used. RHYME The repetition of vowel sounds in accented syllables and all syllables following. METER A pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Make It Plain In the left column of the chart below are two descriptions of everyday objects written in an ornate style. Rewrite each description in plain style_as a Puritan might have.
Copyright © by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.
Ornate Style Shabby but beloved, my shoes house my feet as they carry me from place to place. The pen spills ink-blood as it brings words to life.
READING SKILLS: ANALYZING TEXT STRUCTURES
“Upon the Burning of Our House” is filled with inversions. In an inversion, sentences are not written in normal word order. For example, Bradstreet writes “I wakened was with thund’ring noise” instead of “I was wakened with thund’ring noise.” Inversion is often used to make a poem’s rhyme scheme work out or to maintain a fixed meter. Literary Skills Understand the characteristics of plain style. Reading Skills Understand the use of inversion. Review Skills Understand rhyme and meter.
Use the Skill As you read Anne Bradstreet’s poem, underline the places you find inversion.
Here Follow Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House, July 10, 1666
Here Follow Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House, July 10, 1666 Anne Bradstreet
In silent night when rest I took
Circle the inversions you find in lines 1-4.
For sorrow near I did not look I wakened was with thund’ring noise And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice. 5
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 strengthen me in my distress
What is the speaker doing in lines 11-12?
And not to leave me succorless.1 Then, coming out, beheld a space The flame consume my dwelling place. And when I could no longer look, I blest His name that gave and took,2 Copyright © by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. All rights reserved.
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
In lines 16-17, why does the speaker say that the fire was “just?”
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 sat and long did lie:
1. succorless (suk√¥r · lis) adj.: without aid or assistance; helpless. 2. that gave and took: allusion to Job 1:21, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Collection 1: Encounters and Foundations to 1800
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 thy roof no guest shall sit, What is the “house on high erect” described in lines 43-46?
Nor at thy table eat a bit. No pleasant tale shall e’er be...
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