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(The entire poem may be found here:



When sorrows had begirt me round,

            And pains within and out

When in my flesh no part was sound

            Then didst thou rid me out.


My burning flesh in sweat did boil

            My aching head did break;

From side to side for ease I toil

            So faint I could not speak.


The poem uses a standard English ballad structure 8-6-8-6, A-B-A-A, iambic. An example of this same structure can be found here: http://www.bartleby.com/40/22.html

This is the same structure used commonly by Wordsworth in the Lyrical Ballads.

For more, see here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/f/forms-of-verse-ballad/


The poem itself follows in the model of complaint Psalms of the individual laments. Weiser, in his commentary on the Psalms (Herbert Hartwell, translator) notes that an individual lament “is simultaneously prayer and testimony” (69).


For example, the superscription of Psalm 102 reads:


A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint, before the Lord.


To hear Bradstreet rightly, one must understand that her poem follows in same general vein as such laments.  For example, consider the first verses of Psalm 102:


1 Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! 2 Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! 3 For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. 4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. 5 Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. 6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; 7 I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop. Psalm 102:1–7 (ESV)



As will become apparent later in the poem, the complaint is not merely a litany of physical ailments.  The physical circumstance (whether illness, enemies or both) matters to the theological relationship of the poet/psalmist and God.   The poet does not merely relief – although such relief may be requested. Rather, the poet/psalmist seek reconciliation with God. The physical circumstance becomes the occasion for seeking reconciliation.