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Home Burial is a poem written by Robert Frost. It is one of the most anthologised poems of Frost. It was first published in ‘North of Boston’ in 1914. The poem deals with the marriage of a couple and the intricate way through which it may fall apart.
It expresses our feeling of loss which leads us to anger, denial and blame. It tells us of the relationship between the living and the dead.
The poem is a dramatic narrative. It is written in blank verse which has no rhyme but sticks to a meter. The poem is written in iambic pentameter. It is a lyric narrative that reads almost like a short story.
Lines 1 – 17
The poem begins as a narration of a story. The setting is rural. The husband and wife have buried their child recently. It was their only child. The husband is looking at his wife. She is coming down to leave for someplace.
There must have been a fight between these two. She is looking back over her shoulder at some fear. The husband is curious about this terrified behaviour of his wife. So, he asks that ‘what is it you see from up there always’ and he keeps insisting.
His wife’s silence must be bothering him too much. So, he insists again that he will find out now. She remains silent so the husband starts assuming. There is a clear sign of misinterpretation from both sides. Both are probably too sad to understand each other so they are always on the edge to blame each other.
The husband says that now he understands that what she might be looking at or why she must be feeling so. He starts referring to the child’s mound. This is when the wife starts bursting.
The mere mention of their child’s grave summons all her fear and sadness. She sits down and her whole-body posture changes. She has no control over her body in such grief. The husband is too rough while talking about their child so the wife thinks that he doesn’t feel anything.
She feels like grief is felt by her alone because her husband looks so objective while mentioning their child’s death. The husband replies that “can’t a man speak of his own child he’s lost?” and the wife replies that ‘not you.’
She is in complete mourning. Her state of grief doesn’t allow her to even listen about her child’s death from anyone, not even her husband. This is the denial part which human beings face after the death of their closed ones.
The husband requests her to stop going out of the house. He requests her to let him speak. She is questioning the tone of her husband which shows no grief the way her own voice does.
Both man and woman are unable to understand that their way of expressing grief is much different. A man suffers differently than a woman. So, she says that “you don’t know how to ask it.”
Line 47- 72
The husband is trying to understand so he asks her to help him express the way she wants him to. He is intrigued by this whole incident. He is unable to understand that how can everything he says to her sounds offensive to her.
He is willing to learn her way of speaking. Out of confusion, he says that a man must partly give up being a man with women-folk. He asks her to teach him so that he won’t say anything which she minds.
She is about to leave so the husband implores her again to not go. He also wants to share the grief the same way she does. He demands the chance. The husband is unable to empathize with her so he asks her again that what is it that makes her take her mother-loss of a first child so inconsolably—in the face of love.
The wife is again offended by the husband’s tone of contempt. He becomes desperate for why he can not talk about his own child. The wife accuses him of being indifferent to their child’s death.
She accuses him that he doesn’t feel anything. She describes how coldly he was digging the grave without any hint of grief on his face. She was surprised the way her husband could talk about their daily affairs even while digging the grave.
She could not understand why her husband was so feelingless. She repeats what the husband had said then regarding the best birch fence. She believes that he simply didn’t care about their child.
Line 101- 123
The wife starts talking about the nature of death and how people don’t feel the loss the way they pretend about it. Normal people who call themselves friends make a pretense of following to the grave when actually all they can think of is their own life.
She believes the world’s evil. She doesn’t want to suffer from such a world. The husband after listening to all this thinks that now that she has expressed her anger, she will be alright.
He says that now that you have said it all, you feel better. It infuriates his wife further. She shouts again that you think the talk is all. Both misinterpret each other further. She opens the door to leave without knowing where to go.
So, the husband asks her where exactly she is supposed to go. He shouts in the end that in case she leaves then he will follow and bring her back by force.
The poem dramatically describes the whole issue of human relationships where human beings are unable to understand each other, especially when they are under the pressure of some tremendous grief or disappointment.