My first impression was that this poem is a satire, and Anne Bradstreet is making fun of everyone who claims to be so deeply in love that they are “one”, and that they are equally happy with each other. The repetition in the first three lines of “If ever…” seems to undermine the validity of her argument, because it is such an extreme phrase and puts this particular couple ahead of everyone else. Since it is difficult to compare your own relationship to others and conclude that yours is better somehow, I figured Ms. Bradstreet was being extreme on purpose to show how flawed the argument is.
However, after taking the time period it was written into consideration, and the ideology of the time, I realize that the author is completely serious. The first piece of evidence refuting the original thoughts was that of equality. At first glance it seems like the husband loves the wife a lot, and she is so happy with him and prizes his love. However, in the seventh line she beings to speak of repaying this love. She feels like she should do something to thank him for his love, as if her love in return is not enough, even though she is giving as much as much as possible (“If ever man were loved by wife, then thee…”). Today, we have an emphasis on equality in relationships and having basic rights in a relationship from both parties. We think now that the husband loving her is standard, a base line, and not really something to be celebrated or repaid.
The other striking feature of this poem was the disjunction between spiritual and physical wealth. Throughout there is a theme of emotional connection, and an emphasis on the spiritual aspect. The author prays to the heavens to repay her husband, and speaks of their love continuing in the afterlife. However, when discussing how much she cherishes his love she compares it to gold and the riches.
This poem is a reflection of the time period and society the author lived in. She plays the part of the wife, who spends her time being thankful that her husband loves her. It seems like she does not necessarily feel like she deserves the love in her allusions to being unable to “repay” it. The poem is directed to her husband, and her choice to use monetary wealth as her description of how much she “prizes” his love also reflects her society. The man is the breadwinner and has the financial capacities, while the woman is more in touch with her emotional and spiritual side.