“Heavenly wealth is not measured by precious materials, but by the overall feeling of safety from the angels…”

My student is discussing heaven as described by Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet. Heavenly wealth is not measured by streets of gold or gates of pearl, “precious materials,” but by something else.

“The overall feeling of safety from the angels” is an ambiguous phrase, though. Presumably he meant that in heaven one has an “overall feeling of safety” because of angelic protection, or perhaps because the angels emanate a feeling of safety; but “safety from the angels” says to me that “the angels” are dangerous but in heaven one is safe from them. Well, yes, we see plenty of dangerous angels in the Old Testament; they are generally dangerous to those who disobey God, though, and in heaven the disobeyers are likely to be in short supply anyway, if the example of Lucifer is anything to go by.

Well, we can take a look at the passage in its entirety:

“Heavenly wealth is not measured by precious materials, but by the overall feeling of safety from the angels and the overall feeling that someone has when they are in the Citi.”

Oh my. What do we learn here? Besides the overall feeling of safety, one has another “overall feeling” my student cannot describe, save to say it’s felt by residents of heaven—or at least, people who are in the Citi. If he has not yet been there—nor had Bradstreet at the time she wrote the poem, by the way, but poets are visionaries—we cannot demand a more specific description.

(I hope you notice how restrained I am, that I am not mentioning the disagreeable “someone” and “they.” No disagreement in the Citi.)

But I’m here to tell you that I am “in the Citi,” and the overall feeling I have can’t really be described as a kind of heavenly wealth. CitiMortgage has me in its clutches, and will for twenty more years (if I live that long), every month implacably demanding wealth I used to have before the investment banks and their cronies crashed the stock market….Actually, their demands tie me forever to the earthly bliss (but most certainly not wealth) of correcting student papers until my crabbed fingers can no longer clutch a pen and my bleary eyes no longer see….

Did Autocorrect helpfully change “City” (capitalized to betoken the Celestial City) to “Citi” (the only city that is not only capitalized but actually capitalized) when its computerly sensors sensed the capital letter? Or is it possible that my student believes “city” is spelled with two is?

The overall feeling that I have when I’m in the Citi is not safety, but angst (which has nothing to do with angels). But at least I’m safe from the angels. No sign of them anywhere, in fact.

This is most emphatically not what Bradstreet had in mind when she thought about heaven!

“Pilgrims in Sight of the Celestial City,” by Henry Dawson (1854).
Painted well after Bradstreet wrote (late 1600s), but obviously full of overall feelings!
Image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

4 responses to ““Heavenly wealth is not measured by precious materials, but by the overall feeling of safety from the angels…”

  • agomuocharles

    Reblogged this on lerry411.

  • philosophermouseofthehedge

    Oh, outstanding – if I’d been going upstairs, I would have stubbed my toe and rolled down laughing.
    Great. Now all I can think about are those songs “When the lights go down in the city” and “Summer in the City”
    I can just see John Travolta strutting down the street in Saturday Night Fever” smug he is safe from angels.
    (Oh, and now that song, too)
    Guess the city music is understandable…angels and celestial choirs singing….
    Thanks for the chuckles

  • RAB

    Now you’re doing it to me….but along the other lines: “It’s Christmas time in the Citi,” “Summer in the Citi,” “When you get lost between the moon and New York Citi….” Mortgages everywhere! But John Travolta may save this scenario too!

  • Mary Jane Schaefer

    “And, whatever you do, don’t Blink!”

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