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The text of the entire poem may be found here:



In my distress I sought the Lord

When nought on Earth could comfort give;

And when my soul these things abhor’d

Then, Lord, thou said’st unto me, Live.


Thou knowest the sorrows I felt,

My plaints and groans were heard of thee,

And how in sweat I seem’d to melt;

Thou help’st and thou regardest me.

 The general meter follows in regular iambs. However, when the topic shifts from the poet’s complaint to the Lord’s response, the meter changes: note the fourth line:

Then, Lord, thou said’st unto me, Live.


First, the line contains two or three caesura:  The first foot could be read as a spondee: two accents: Then – Lord or an iamb, Then Lord. The iamb requires one to ignore the comma as a serious pause. It is probably best to read the first foot as a spondee and take the comma as a pause: This interrupts the complaint:

            And when my soul these things abhor’d

Then, Lord    

In the lowest place, when she abhor’d life, at that place, the Lord intervenes.

By taking the first foot as a spondee, one would accent said’st , me and Live. The second foot is a an iamb. The third foot a Pyrrhus, two unaccented feet (“unto”) ; and the final foot a spondee.

The markedly different meter of the fourth line draws attention to the means of salvation.

In the background of the first stanza is the 73rd Psalm:

            Whom have I in heaven but you?

                        And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

            My flesh and my heart may fail,

                        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

(Psalm 73:25-26 ESV)

The contrast between one’s physical existence fading and the gain of good from God alone is a constant theme throughout the Bible:

            So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)

The physical pain experienced by Bradstreet becomes a basis for life, because God moves her beyond the scope of the curse which brought death (Gen. 3:19) and brings her to a true and abiding life. Notice that the opposite of her pain is not temporary relief but rather life:

            Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

(1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV)