Some of the best poems are the ones with the most relatable concepts, and more often than not, these are the ones that are very simply put together. When Anne Brontë wrote Home, for instance, she crafted a poem using a universal concept that, for most people, resonates a sense of peace and belonging. And yet, home is an idea that is unique for each individual person; everyone associates different meanings, places, and ideas with their own homes. A home can be a place, it can be a person, or it can even be a particular thing — it all depends on the person. One way or the other, home is an easily understood concept, and this enables Brontë to properly relay her own idea of the title message — of home.
How brightly glistening in the sun
The woodland ivy plays!
While yonder beeches from their barks
Reflect his silver rays.
That sun surveys a lovely scene
From softly smiling skies;
And wildly through unnumbered trees
The wind of winter sighs:
In the first two verses, a repeating pattern is established; the poem is written in a series of quatrains, each one alternating in syllables and rhymes — 8-6-8-6 for syllables, and ABCB for the rhymes. As well, right away, it is established that there will be a strong sense of imagery used throughout. As the author describes the “woodland ivy” and “silver rays,” it becomes clear that nature and colour will comprise significant themes across the work, suggesting that the speaker’s sense of home is tied in with their admiration for the natural world. The observations recorded in the first two verses suggest that the setting for the scene is a winter forest, causing the sun’s rays to appear silver through the snow, and creating an almost romanticized vision of the cold landscape. Within the context of the title, it is as though the power of “home” is able to make even the cold winter winds seem friendly and relatable, as those winds “sigh,” rather than “blow” or “howl.”
That the scene is “lovely” says a lot about the perspective of the narrator, and the influence of the home described in the title. The influence of winter on the scene is almost negligible in its description, because the power of the home always keeps it pleasant.
Now loud, it thunders o’er my head,
And now in distance dies.
But give me back my barren hills
Where colder breezes rise;
Where scarce the scattered, stunted trees
Can yield an answering swell,
But where a wilderness of heath
Returns the sound as well.
The next two verses sees an intrusion appear in the scene, in the form of thundering wings that shatters the pleasant imagery; no longer sighing, the winter winds are turning cold, the trees are “stunted,” and that same wind dies in the distance, suggesting a storm (metaphorical or otherwise) on its way to the spot the speaker inhabits. This verse is especially notable for its sudden shift in atmosphere. The natural imagery continues to be a constant throughout, but now it is used with noticeably negative connotations, though this appears to be something the narrator desires — “Give me back my barren hills” is an especially odd line, contrasting the earlier, lighter descriptions, but positioning itself in the context of desire, rather than fear or anger. The description of a “wilderness of hearth” suggests that the warmth one would normally associate with an indoor fire is something the speaker finds outside, in the wintry wilderness.
For yonder garden, fair and wide,
With groves of evergreen,
Long winding walks, and borders trim,
And velvet lawns between;
Restore to me that little spot,
With gray walls compassed round,
Where knotted grass neglected lies,
And weeds usurp the ground.
The next two verses make clear that the idea of a perfect natural image — well-kept, green, lush, stereotypical natural beauty — is not what the narrator associates with home at all. When they express their desires and longings, they want weeds and neglect, a field of gray amidst a lush, green garden. The use of the word “restore” suggests that “home” is, in some ways, a memory for the speaker, something that they used to have that is now unattainable. Perhaps they have returned to this spot after a long time of absence, or maybe the entire poem is meant to be a metaphor for the process of growing up and losing touch with certain elements of safety and security as time passes by. Either way, the speaker is looking for something to be restored to them, embodied in one particular spot, in a way that no one else can appreciate in the same way. When they describe the unkept grass and the rampant weeds, they are describing something that most would find abhorrent or unwelcome, but to them is uniquely perfect for that place.
Though all around this mansion high
Invites the foot to roam,
And though its halls are fair within–
Oh, give me back my HOME!
In one final verse, the speaker is describing two separate entities: the house and the home. For most, there is little distinction here, but in this poem, the differences are vast. The house is described as being a “mansion” with “fair halls” and a lot of space, but these physical attributes are not what the poem is about. “Home” is the garden described earlier, that one spot with the unkept plant life and the gray walls surrounding it — the walls aren’t even a pleasant colour, but that doesn’t matter. The main point that seems to be made here is that home is not a mansion with beautiful halls, nor is it necessarily even an indoor haven, but is rather defined by each individual person based on something that they can’t even truly define. Throughout this poem, metaphors and images are used to describe winds and trees and ivy, all to relay the complex nature of what is a seemingly simple subject. After all, who doesn’t know how to define their own home?
Anne Brontë has captured an idea and truly made it her own. Her poem depicts a scene that is clear as day — the ivy, the winds, and the silver rays are all clear depictions of an entirely unambiguous scene. Despite this, the concept of the poem is so uniquely developed for the perspective of its author that it’s difficult to fully appreciate their idea of home. This poem is filled with emotions of longing, dissatisfaction, appreciation, and contentedness, and these are all relatable enough that the reader can appreciate the speaker’s longing for home, even as it likely differs entirely from their own.