Home they Brought her Warrior Dead by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Home they Brought her Warrior Dead tells the story of a woman who lost her husband in battle. The third person narrative allows the reader to see the widow’s reaction from an outside perspective. The reader, therefore, identifies with the rest of the crowd of gathered people, and experiences the same concern for the widow and confusion at her reaction. For the first few stanzas, the widow is seen only as a woman who has lost her husband. However, the last stanza reveals that she is not only a widow but also a mother. This insight sheds light onto her reaction, allowing the readers to understand what had been going through her mind as she realized that her husband was dead and she would have to raise the child alone.

 

Home they Brought her Warrior Dead Analysis

Stanza 1

Home they brought her warrior dead:
She nor swooned, nor uttered cry:
All her maidens, watching, said,
‘She must weep or she will die.’

The speaker describes the reaction of a woman when her dead husband was brought back to her. Her grief is so overwhelming, she cannot even cry. She didn’t faint or swoon or make even a noise. Her friends watched her, and they became worried about her because she seemed not to grieve properly. They thought she might die if she did not weep as she should. They believed that if this woman did not grieve, the pain she refused to let out would eventually kill her.

 

Stanza 2

Then they praised him, soft and low,
Called him worthy to be loved,
Truest friend and noblest foe;
Yet she neither spoke nor moved.

As in many instances of death, the people around the dead man praised him. They talked about his life, about the good that he did. They “called him worthy to be loved” and they talked about the kind of friend he was to them. They called him “true” and “noble”. Yet, as the people around her grieved and spoke memories, the wife of the dead man could not speak nor move. She remained still. No one knew what was going on in her mind, but she seemed to be in a state of shock. No amount of reminiscence seemed to bring tears to the widow’s eyes. She was yet unmoved. Perhaps she was unable to accept the death, even as those around her spoke of him and paid tribute to his memory. The people around her are not sure why the woman refuses to show emotion, but they surround her with words of praise for her husband, hoping to break her out of her shock so that they might be there to comfort her.

 

Stanza 3

Stole a maiden from her place,
Lightly to the warrior stepped,
Took the face-cloth from the face;
Yet she neither moved nor wept.

Because the woman still refuses to grieve, one of the young women present walks up to the dead man, and removes the cloth that was covering his face. Perhaps she thought that his wife was unable to grieve because she still could not believe or accept that this dead man was her husband. The people around the widow clearly believe that the woman ought to grieve. Thus, because she will not show any signs of grief when the people speak of him, this particular friend shows her the face of her late husband, hoping that this will help the woman to break out of her state of shock and be able to grieve properly.

 

Stanza 4

Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set his child upon her knee—
Like summer tempest came her tears—
‘Sweet my child, I live for thee.’

With this stanza, the speaker finally reveals to the readers the reason for the widow’s silence. She has not been unfeeling or careless of her husband’s death. She has not even been in shock or disbelief like the people around her thought. Rather, she has been paralyzed with fear. She did not think about her own pain at losing her husband. Rather, she thought of the poor child. It was not until she saw the child’s nurse sit the child “upon her knee” that she burst forth in uncontrollable tears that came “like a summer tempest”. She cried out, “Sweet my child, I live for thee”.

This poem truly reveals the heart of a mother. When the dead warrior was brought home, the people expected her to behave as they would expect a widow to behave. But the widow was also a mother, and her mothering instincts led her to think of of the child before she could think of herself. While she looked at the dead man before her, she was not in shock or disbelief. She was not unmoved or unfeeling. She was struck with fear for her child who would grow up fatherless. The widow turned to see her child, and cried out her promise that she would take care of the child and live for the child. It was at that moment that the widow was able to grieve for her own loss. Once she had determined herself to live for her child and to shield and protect the child even though the child no longer had a father, then she was able to think about her own loss and let out her grief in tears.

 

Alfred Lord Tennyson Background

Alfred Lord Tennyson remains one of the most renowned poets of all time. His most famous quote comes from his poem, “In Memoriam”. He says, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. This quote has stood the test of time, remaining a source of hope and comfort to everyone who had ever loved and lost someone. This quote also coincides with the poem, Home they Brought her Warrior Dead, for even though the widow had lost the love of her life and was left to raise a child alone, it was better that she had ever had the chance to love him at all. Having lost his father and close friend, Tennyson was well aware of the pain of losing someone, and yet he still claims that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. His personal experience with loss makes the words more real to the reader who has also suffered the loss of a loved one.

Though he never went to war himself, Tennyson experienced some of the tragedies of the Crimean war. His poetry offered much comfort to Queen Victoria when she lost her husband in 1861. Sometime after Tennyson wrote Home they Brought her Warrior Dead and “In Memoriam”, he and his wife’s child, Lionel, died on a ship on his way back from India. Tennyson was well acquainted with suffering, and his poetry offered comfort to many others because it revealed the losses that he had been through himself. Tennyson continued to write, and his works continued to touch the lives of those who read them. For this reason, Tennyson remains one of the most influential poets of all time.

Works Cited:

  • “Alfred Tennyson Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 29 Feb. 2016. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.

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  1. Vara February 12, 2018
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