, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(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.


Begirt: to compass round about.

Rid me out:  This phrase sounds odd: to rid means to clear something out, to accomplish.


The phrase appears in Thomas Ravenscroft’s hymn, “My Lord, My God in all distresse:


My Lord my God in all distresse
my hope is all in thee:
Then let no shame my soule oppresse,
nor one take hold on mee.
As thou art just, defend me Lord,
and rid me out of dread:
Give eare and to my sute accord,
and send me helpe at need.




Where is means for God to deliver him from dread.


In the West-Country Damosel’s Complaint, it means to take someone’s life:

292A.1            ‘WHEN will your marry me, William,

             And make me your wedded wife?

             Or take you your keen bright sword

             And rid me out of my life.’



For background on the collection which contains this ballad, see here: http://www.colorado.edu/ArtsSciences/CCRH/Ballads/ballads.html

Some of the ballads with contemporary tunes can be found here:




However, such usage still sounds odd: “Thou didst rid me out” sounds almost like Bradstreet claims God killed her; yet, the poem is about deliverance.


This precise phrase appears in Sternhold and Hopkins, The Whole Book of Psalms Collected Into English Metre, published 1562. The background and usage of this book about Puritans can read here: http://www.cgmusic.org/library/oldver.htm


The 7th stanza of the metrical version of Psalm 32, an individual lament/complaint Psalm that holds much in common with Bradstreet’s poem read as follows:


7  When trouble and adversity

       do compass me about,

    Thou art my refuge and my joy,

       and thou didst rid me out.


Cloverdale (1535)  translates the verse as follows:

Thou art my defence in the trouble that is come aboute me, O copasse thou me aboute also with the ioye of delyueraunce.


The Geneva Bible (much used by the Puritans) has

Thou are my secret place: thou preservest me from trouble: thou compassest me about with joyful deliverance. Selah.


Thus, the phrase “rid me out” must mean that she has been delivered from her distress.  In fact, here poem sounds like an application of the 7th stanza of the metrical version of Psalm 32.  The Psalm speaks generally of “trouble and adversity”; Bradstreet speaks of the time of a particular illness.