One Art
One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop
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Homes, Places

Symbol Analysis

The poet’s brief discussion of homes and places that she’s loved provides a smooth segue into the final stanza, in which she reveals that the poem is actually about the loss of a loved one. The idea of possession and lose-able things is greatly expanded by her inclusion of "three loved houses" (4.11), and in the following stanza, "two cities" (5.13) and "some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent" (5.14). All of a sudden, we’re not just talking about misplaced material goods. Now we’re thinking more abstractly about the things of emotional value that we lose.

  • Lines 10-11: The ante is upped by the introduction of a new idea: the loss of a home. The poet mentions that she lost "[her] last, or/ next-to-last, of three loved houses" (4.10-11).
  • Lines 13-14: The poet takes this abstraction one step further, mentioning not only specific homes, but also beloved cities and a continent that she’s lost. This makes us wonder exactly how she "owned" (5.14) these places; these mentions of place are perhaps symbolic of the memories she had of them, or of the relationships she once had there.