Objective and subjective elements affect our daily motives and actions. Faith, a major concern, both subjective and objective, gives us the motivation to do right and live right. The poem ‘Household Gods’ explores the vulnerability of faith used in poetry in levels of its objectivity and subjectivity. Through the perspective of an objective God, the poem perceives faith as an element, a component in our daily lives. Faith is portrayed as a God idolizing our desires and needs. On a daily basis, one may notice commoners praying towards idols of ‘Gods’ for a better lifestyle, a better household or the fulfillment of a longing desire. This faith and trust represents subjective elements, whereas the idol represents God as an objective element. Hence, the faith turns into a value, a value that is brought ‘home’ along with our various problems and issues. The poem “Household Gods” represents this ideology through the eyes of an idol.Order now
Written in the form of a Heroic quatrain, the poem addresses the profound issue of faith in God. With its basic four line stanzas the poet manages to use grand and elevated style of writing to portray the literal remorse tonality of the narrator, the idol God. Lines 1 and 2
“I mirrored their breaking lives, I saw their pale
Distraught coming and going, lined despair,”
represent this as the narrator, the God, takes responsibility for foreshadowing the fate of two people changing due to a rift in their relationship. The tone of the poem suggests a wistful and pensive mentality where the God questions his purpose in society, and whether foreshadowing human actions will give them any meaning for existence. The poet’s attitude towards the theme is emotional and more on a personal level which allows the readers to come in contact with the intrapersonal attitude of God and of their faiths. The tonality of the poem is aided by the rhythm of the poem, which alternates between emphasized, self-contained, one-line statements such as line 33:
“I see no more. Their life gave our lives meaning,”
The irregular punctuation and awkward short phrases used in the poem suggest a slow pace for the poem. In line 10
“After a happy embrace, warmed my clay.”
the poet demonstrates an emotional sentiment of love and care through short phrasing where the sentence is divided into two parts breaking the flow of the idea. The attitude of the poem suggests a desire for valued attention, almost insecure of it’s presence as the poet appears to foreshadow circumstances that prove its insignificance in society. The last few lines contain a higher degree of remorse as its conclusive statement longs the presence of humans. The acceptance of their subjectivity at loss and the insecure attitude harmonizes with their lonely coexistence, decaying with the absence of human attention.
Written in first person narrative point of view, the poet perceives the idea of human actions dependent upon idols such as the narrator’s kind. The first few lines display a sense of pity, as sense of reversed emotions that back track its way to the faults of the idol. It concerns its emotions with the humans it associates with, the humans who consider it as a housed God. The idol identifies his presence and his role in a family he is at home with. The narrator uses emotions of guilt and repression by playing the role of a submissive mirror who reflected the shattered lives of a ‘once happy couple’. The behaviors and actions that brought the couple and their faith together were mirrored by this idyllic God. In the same way the breaking apart of this relationship between two human beings and their God has made a major impression on their faith. The voice sends a dismissive and a tone of regret out to personify the idol who now shows a sense of shame as he “mirrored” the “coming and going” human bond.
The poem also makes effective use in rhyme where a scheme of A-B-A-B is followed. Occasionally there are irregular rhyming words that elude the scheme. Feminine rhyme is used as the final syllable of the rhyme contains an unstressed syllable such as in ‘street/feet’ and in ‘ceiling/peeling’. As the final syllable is unstressed, the rhyme tends to produce a ‘falling away’ effect adding to the remorseful tone, as mentioned before. The rhyme affects the rhythm of the verse and this falling away effect is used the rhythm tends to have a sluggish flow. The rounded neatness in the rhyme scheme too adds to convey a sense of finality and atonement.
The contention of this poem is to remind us of the central fact of our human existence, which is faith and belief. The poem intends to indicate our ignorant selves. In moments of intensity or crisis we are each of us along, separate and isolated, in our personal catastrophe, as demonstrated by the couple who have left each other and their faith due to their fated circumstances. Whether this is because we are basically indifferent and uncaring, or whether it is because such moments cannot possibly be shared anyway, is, perhaps, left open. The fact that the poem is written from the point of view of an idol, a god that was once worshipped and respected, provides a third account of the nature of human beings. In the second stanza, the idol speaks of the respect it once received from the woman. Moving forth, the idol also speaks of the vulnerability of love. Almost accusing them of ‘breaking and sweeping away’ and leaving their faith without meaning. However, there is also a strong sense of inevitability in the poem that nothing can be done to change things, in the use of statements such as
“I gather myself to cough one cautious chime,
But the works are rusted. Henceforth I am dumb.”
Perhaps the idol is merely describing ‘the way things are’ in relation to its role in the society. Frequently, literature is effective when it contents itself with presenting issues rather than attempting glib or simplistic solutions. However, this piece of literature does present a conclusive argument where the connection between human and god is recognized. The poet concludes to say that the meaning of gods, faith, beliefs are all dependent on human beings. They are dependent on humans to give them meaning, to revive their existence as they coexist with our actions and emotions.
People tend to be constrained by their faith yet committing to other various actions that come across their lives. “Household Gods” being a character that represents that faith, intended to portray the responsibility it carries of all human actions, as humans passively dedicate their lives unto their faith. It then carries all responsibility of the actions. The poem starts out to represent this insight.
“I mirrored their breaking lives…
… I saw them. I was there.”
Hence it is evident that the first stanza claims responsibility of human actions. As the poem commences; first claiming responsibility then expressing selfish motives. The God mentions his presence in an emptied house, and the big impact it has left on it. The house where he was once worshipped, he once held power, is now dead without the presence of its followers. This is present in the line 24
“… Henceforth I am dumb.”
The line creates a return to the objective self of the idol. The idol was an object; it came alive with the coming together of two people, their beliefs, and their shelter that placed power upon the idol. This power was snatched away again by the human action of departure, that separated the bond between the two, leaving the idol an object once again. This cycle of our faith and values are portrayed through the selfish perspective of the idol.
The poet succeeds in conveying the poet’s thoughts about the nature of human existence. The use of powerful, predominantly visual imagery of the emptied house adds to the heavy tone of the poem. The constant effects of rhythm and the use of pensive words complement the theme. The entire poem is locked in a cold and heavy tone and atmosphere. The difficulties in the poem lie in trying to assess what the narrator feels towards the subject, especially when he relates his purpose in existence to the existence of mankind. At times the poet seems to be relating the two forms of life together, with the implication that all life comes to such a fate. Or perhaps he is merely concerned with pointing out two different forms of existence. The nature of existence in the god is not ‘condemned’, in spite of its lonely disillusions.
The detached phrasing manner of the poet’s presentation prevents the treatment from becoming completely sad or gloomy. In fact the poet pays tribute to the continuity and harmony of both their existence. This may be the key to the comparison with human life, and that of the gods, which struggles after illusions of progress and change and therefore loses the harmonious continuity of faith. Through such a piece of literature, one might need to confirm whether we are aware of our faith, or are they just bypasses to only mirror our actions. Self-indulged, we humans tend to forget the elements we believe in and put our faith upon? These are values that play an important role in our lives, yet are we are of it? The objectivity and the personification of the poem “Household Gods” bring about the sense of value and trust that we must all endure.