Study Guide

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad Stanza 2

By Robert Browning

Stanza 2

Lines 9-13

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray's edge—

  • Our speaker is now fast-forwarding into next month. That would be… May, for those of you whose calendar apps are broken.
  • May is a time when the whitethroat builds its nest. The speaker doesn't mention a nest, but since the whitethroat is another small bird, we're assuming that he's not talking about building a muscle car.
  • This whitethroat has company, as it turns out: lots of swallows.
  • "Listen up," the speaker is saying ("Hark"). He directs our attention to a—still imagined—pear tree that's growing about of a row of bushes ("hedge").
  • Its branches are leaning over a field ("bent spray") and are covered in fruit blossoms that fall, with the dew, to the ground below.

Lines 14-20

That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

  • Here's what the speaker is telling us to listen to: a thrush.
  • This bird tends to repeat itself, which can be kind of annoying in a person, but seems cooler for a bird.
  • The speaker thinks so, anyway. He says that the thrush sings each song twice just to prove you wrong, if you thought that it couldn't repeat the carefree awesomeness ("careless rapture!") of song #1.
  • We get some added scenery now, which might look a bit rough in the morning. The speaker describes the fields as having some grayish-white ("hoary") dew over them.
  • Still, they look less run-down once the sun comes up and perks up all the buttercups.
  • The speaker busts out a metaphor to explain that these flowers are a children's "dower." A dower can be either the money a husband leaves to his wife when he dies, or what a wife's family gives as a wedding present to her husband.
  • In either case, the comparison doesn't really fit here when it comes to children. The idea more broadly, though, is that these buttercups are a gift to enjoy.
  • "Dower" also has the added benefit of rhyming with "flower," which is what the speaker is complaining about in the last line.
  • Specifically, he lets us know that those buttercups that he's imagining are way better than what he's got in front of him: "this gaudy melon-flower!" (20).
  • Now, "gaudy" means overly showy and tasteless. You can be the judge of that.
  • According to our speaker, things are way better in May, in England, than the melon flower scene where he is.
  • For some insights about where this might be—*cough*Italy*cough*—check out "In a Nutshell."
  • We do know that it takes a little more heat to bring out a melon flower than it does to bring out a buttercup (thank you, science), so the odds are here that the speaker's not really enjoying the kind of cool, but sunny, spring that England is known for. He's more likely sweating all over this lame melon flower.
  • With this last complaint, the speaker's done wishing to be somewhere else—for now at least.

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