Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 569
Barrett Browning’s first statement (“I think of thee!”) is, in part, the subject of the poem, for the entire sonnet attempts to imitate, through its imagery and sound, the dynamics of her mind dwelling on Browning, her fond yet absent lover. (Though readers customarily use the term “speaker” to note the difference between a poet and the voice behind his or her work, in the case of “Sonnet XXIX” one can speak of Barrett Browning as the speaker, since the poems are deliberate and undisguised addresses to her husband.) Barrett Browning compares her thoughts of Browning to “wild vines” that “twine and bud” about a tree— here, the “tree” is Browning. Like vines, Barrett Browning’s thoughts of Browning grow more profuse with the passing of time; eventually, they grow to such length and density (as they “Put out broad leaves”) that they cover the tree that gives them a place to flourish. “Soon there’s naught to see,” she explains, except for the “straggling green” of the vines; in a metaphorical sense, Barrett Browning is suggesting that her thoughts eventually seem to overpower in intensity the thing that allows them to grow in the first place. Her longing for Browning seems to overshadow Browning himself, as eventually the “straggling green” on a tree “hides the wood.”
Lest her words her be mistaken for an expression of romantic delight with her current situation, Barrett Browning immediately qualifies her previous idea. Calling Browning “my palm tree” as a sign of playful affection, Barrett Browning insists that she could never regard her thoughts (however “wild” and “broad”) as a substitute for Browning himself. He is “dearer, better” than any thoughts about him, regardless of how beautifully expressed in verse those thoughts may be.
Barrett Browning’s thinking about Browning has (naturally) increased her desire to see him, so she asks him to “Renew thy presence” and face her. Extending the metaphor offered in lines 1–4, she commands Browning to act like a “strong tree” and “Rustle” his “boughs.” Doing so will “set thy trunk all bare” and cause her thoughts of him (the “bands of greenery”) to “Drop heavily down.” The image of a tree shaking its own boughs in an effort to free itself of the vines that “insphere” it reflects Barrett Browning’s opinion of Browning as a strong, masculine figure who, when “all bare,” is beautiful in his simplicity and freedom from her encumbering thoughts. Indeed, Barrett Browning seems to hold little regard for her own thoughts, since she wishes these to be “burst, shattered, everywhere” once Browning appears before her.
Barrett Browning concludes the poem expressing the hope that she will soon be in the “deep joy” of Browning’s presence and find herself under his “shadow”; as the shade of a tree provides comfort to those who sit under it, so will Browning’s overpowering self provide comfort for Barrett Browning, who even describes the “air” under her “palm tree” as “new.” Her world is a better place when Browning is in it, and she is willing to remain overshadowed by the force and power of her beloved. Finally, she tells Browning that she is willing to sit in his shadow because doing so will free her from constantly thinking of him; she longs for the time when she will be “too near” him and where thoughts of him will be unnecessary.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support