Poetry, and art in general, is often about paying attention to items and aspects that might otherwise be deemed to small to be otherwise noteworthy. A painting of a single flower can evoke more emotion than might be thought possible over something so simple. The same can be true of poetry. A poem does not have to be complex or technically challenging to be a powerful source of emotional output, but only needs to focus on one simple thing — or, in the case of Robert Service’s Home and Love, two simple things. For Service, appreciating simplicity was a crucial part of being alive, and is a theme that often resounds through his artistic displays of talent.
Home and Love Analysis
Home and Love is written in a simple verse style, wherein each line is eight syllables long, and each verse comprised of eight lines rhyming in an alternating pattern as a set of independent quatrains (ABABCDCD). The exception to this pattern exists at the end of each verse, which all conclude with a single line of four syllables that completes the rhyming pattern while breaking the syllable pattern. It is likely intentional that the breakage of the syllable pattern is done by exactly halving the number of syllables from the preceding lines, sharply cutting off the flow of each verse, while still making some sense in the context of the pattern.
The atmosphere of this poem, which can be read in full here, can be immediately described in a few simple words: optimistic, perhaps; light for sure; and happy as well. The language used is dominated by words such as “love,” “gracious,” “tenderly,” “angels,” and “sweet.” The insertion of an exclamation point in the first line, and the perfect pattern that adds an almost sing-song like aspect to the reading of the verse also help in this regard. It is undeniable that this is meant to be read in an almost exuberant manner, and the joy of the speaker is not masked at all.
The meaning contained within the verse is fairly straightforward. The narrator spends this time musing on the power of two simple words, and wonders whether or not there are any words in the English language to convey more happiness than “home” and “love.” Throughout the verse, the words “Heaven,” “Home.” and “Love” are all capitalized whenever they appear. The capitalization of Heaven makes sense — it is, depending on the speaker’s definition, a place, and therefore arguably a proper noun — but the capitalization of “Home and Love” is a bit more vague. The inclusion of angels in Heaven brings an element of religion and faith into the poem. These are references to Abrahamic religions, wherein as a sign of respect to the divine, words associated with God are capitalized (“Him” being a very common example). It may be that the speaker is suggesting that “Home and Love” are wonderful and joyous enough to be considered godly in nature. Another potential reason for this would be to signify that, contrary to the description of these “simple words,” they are complicated enough in meaning that they can be capitalized as proper nouns, implying that “Love” can be a place or a person, and as important or complex in the life of someone who has it.
The philosophical musings of the whimsical speaker continue into the second verse, this time contemplating the need of the two concepts to fulfill each other. The speaker suggests that there is very little purpose in having a home without love, or the other way around. To have one or the other alone would “seldom do” — and for some people, one or the other is all that’s needed. But generally speaking, a home without any love in it is just an empty place, and love without a home is just an emotion without stability. While it’s difficult to say “just” a home or “just” love — both things are crucial aspects of life, after all — the idea that the two are worth more than the sum of their parts is a powerful one that drives the poem and maintains its optimistic atmosphere. The idea of both home and love together is nothing especially groundbreaking, but the speaker’s view, still embodied by the language and beat of the piece.
The poem concludes its musing by pointing out that the concepts of Home and Love can be enough on their own to make a life joyous. The optimistic imagery and language makes a return to form in this verse, with words like “sing,” “divine,” “song,” and “prasefully” — not actually a word, but “praise” is clear enough. Neither home nor love are physical concepts, but according to the speaker, they transcend physical needs. A person with a home and love to fill it needs little else. The poem concludes by reiterating a concept from the first verse, that even the angels in Heaven probably have no words more more beautiful than those two simple words, with more meaning than can accurately be summarized with four letters.
The idea that some words have meanings that are simply too much to easily summarize is an interesting one that can create notable issues for writers in general. Presumably when Service wanted to write a poem about home and love, it was initially difficult to summarize in writing the depth of the emotional power of those ideas. The first five lines of the poem point this out:
Just Home and Love! the words are small
Four little letters unto each;
And yet you will not find in all
The wide and gracious range of speech
Two more so tenderly complete:
In the entire English language, Robert Service could come up with no better words to communicate “home and love,” but even these words have meanings that are uniquely formed from person to person. The potential inadequacies of language to express powerful emotions is an interesting secondary meaning to draw from Home and Love, because the poem relies on its optimistic atmosphere and introspective musing to relay concepts embodied within two simple words. To simply define “home” and “love” would not be enough — and arguably, a twenty-four line poem isn’t enough either. The power contained in even simple words is what brings the art form of poetry to life in beautiful fashion, something made wonderful by poems like Robert Service’s Home and Love, and around a million other poems as well.