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Uphill- Christina Rossetti Poetry Appreciation

In: English and Literature

Submitted By MCMD
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Uphill – Appreciation
“Uphill” was written by Christina Rossetti, a member of the well-known Pre-Raphalite brotherhood of the late 19th century, an avant-garde movement in art literature. The Pre-Raphalite brotherhood tended to focus its art and writings on medieval stories and mostly adaptations of nature. Rossetti adapted these art forms to suit her poetry mostly about broken hearts and unhappiness in love.

The poem is a dialogue between two characters, one who is asking questions and a wiser voice who answers all these questions in a sure and convincing manor. The title alone warns us of a struggle to come, an uphill challenge faced by the persona who turns to the wiser character for answers.
“Does the road wind uphill all the way? Yes, to the very end.”
This uphill struggle is an embodiment of obstacles that one must overcome in ones lifetime.

The questions seem to come from a traveller, we can tell this from the nature of the questions, also from the fact that they are being asked we already get the idea that the second character who answers her is wiser. This is then emphasized by the sureness of the answer completely absent of doubt or hesitation. The persona finds comfort and reassurance in these straight forward answers, this could be because Rossetti lived at a time were such answers to difficult questions were a rarity. This is all supported in the question and answer:
“Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?”
“From morn to the night, my friend.”
Here we have an answer that is reasonable yet difficult to answer, and yet we are given the simple straight forward answer, ending in the encouraging phrase “My friend”. If one takes the poem so far spiritually then day is now representing life and night represents the end, death. “A roof for when the slow dark hours begin” to show us that we slow down at night so we search for shelter as we are nearing the end.

The poet never seems to fear death in the slightest, it is no longer the morbid fearful end to life dreaded by all it is however a silent end that ignites a new beginning, and nearing this end we seek the inn for shelter again mirroring the roof mentioned earlier. The persona is now convinced that the inn is there however she feels compelled to ask the question “May not the darkness hide it from my face?” and she is answered: “You cannot miss that inn”.
Her question poses fear that evil may stop her from reaching the inn which represents her shelter from the night, whether it is the evil of others or evil from her past we are not sure, but she is assured that there is no way that evil will stop her from reaching her destination.
The traveller wants to know “shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?”
And the answer is “of labour you shall find the sum” This is the traveller’s way of asking whether the journey to the inn is too difficult and whether there is enough comfort to make it worth the journey. The wiser character responds by saying that every ounce of work taken in the journey will be repaid in comfort at the inn.

Finally the persona asks the question “will there be beds for me, and all who seek?” To which the answer is “Yea, beds for all”. This is very encouraging for all readers, that her belief is that all who seek shelter shall find therefore all that seek forgiveness shall be forgiven.

There is no particular rhythm in the poem for the simple fact that there isn’t the need for one, there are plenty of pauses and the diction is chosen carefully for the right effect however there isn’t the slightest hint of a musical rhythm or beat to the poem making it all the more serious and this is how we know that Rossetti truly believed in all the beliefs expressed in the poem.
There is however an alternate rhyming scheme and this way both characters never finish each other’s rhyme. The rhymes are separate showing a difference between the two characters, a distance in the sense that they are not on the same level.

In my humble opinion this poem is nothing short of a master-piece. Rossetti captured an amazing effect by putting two characters into the poem turning it into a dialogue between the traveller and wise character who in my opinion represents God. Although this isn’t proved it seems to have been what Rossetti was referring to. Being a Catholic there must have been a strong religious sense in this poem to her as it is almost completely about death. This is probably why she first thought of the inn imagery. To me the inn represents heaven and the wise character God. The traveller is just a normal person who is searching for shelter for the night. In my interpretation daytime represents a lifetime and night time represents the afterlife and this is why at the end of the day the persona is seeking shelter like a person seeking forgiveness and salvation nearing the end of their life.

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