Monday, 24 October 2011

Christina Rossetti's Uphill Analysis

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In Uphill, Christina Rossetti writes of lifes never ending struggles. She does this by comparing life to a long uphill journey, in a metaphor that spans the entire poem. Ostensibly, the poem is about a traveler asking another person about the journey to come. But to look deeper into the poem is to see a completely different yet parallel subject.

In the first two stanzas, the questioner asks the second man about the length and hardness of the journey. The traveler is being told that the road to his destination is a long, arduous journey that will wind uphill all the way. This gives the impression that there is no rest for the weary pilgrim. But he is told that there is an inn which you cannot miss, that will give him a resting place for when the slow dark hours begin.This inn symbolizes heaven, a place where the speaker may take his rest once the darkness closes in upon him. The second speaker also tells the questioner that he cannot miss that inn. One would imagine that it is quite impossible to miss heaven.

In the second two stanzas, the traveler learns that he will not be alone upon this long journey. He will meet those who have gone before, who will welcome him. This is a disguised way of saying that one is never alone on the journey of life, because there are always those who have had the same experience. The traveler will find rest and comfort in the sum of the labor he expends. Thus, if the traveler is too lazy to make the journey walking, he will never find comfort, because he has not attempted anything. The author is saying, as the cliche goes, no pain, no gain. For all those who could complete the journey and not collapse or give up there is a reward at the end of their voyage with soft beds for all. Symbolically, this means that if one works for ones gains in life, there is time to rest peacefully when one is dead and in heaven.

The poem has many clues that suggest that it has a symbolic meaning. It repeatedly mentions the words associated with life (morning, come) and death (night, end, slow dark hours, darkness, weak), which is the theme of the poem. Each stanza employs its own mini-metaphors within the large one of the poem. The first contains the long and winding journeys description, the second, the inn, the third, the fellow travelers, and the fourth, the final rest at the end of the journey. Using symbolism such as this to express a point is more effective, than saying something like Life is a long journey. It makes the poem much more interesting, and tends to grab the readers attention more.

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This is a dramatic poem, employing a dialogue involving two people. The author shows this fact by indenting every other line, those of the second speaker. Christina Rossetti represents the questioner as inquisitive and worried a bit about his upcoming journey. The answerer, on the other hand, seems to be reassuring the questioner that their journey/life will pass well. The author also uses question marks to indicate when the questioner asks something of the other person. Each speakers lines rhyme throughout the poem, following a rhyme scheme of abab. The rhyme scheme also adds to the attractiveness of the poem. The bright rhymes catch the readers attention immediately. The poem employs no regular meter, yet it has a very definite rhythm, simply letting the lines flow from one to another, at a brisk, yet not hurried pace. This makes the poem seem more real, since people most definitely do not talk in a strict anapestic trimeter - in fact, no meter at all anapestic tri or otherwise.

The poem Uphill employs metaphors, rhyme, rhythm to show its theme of lifes being a long journey. These aspects add to the attention catching-ness of the poem and its smooth movement. The author uses phrases to indicate, yet not quite state, the theme of the poem. If one thinks about the way that the author has phrased the poem, and that it seems as if the journey has yet to take place, it is quite possible that the author, being a devout Catholic, might have tried to imagine what an angel might say to an unborn baby to ease its mind. In fact, it is likely, since the author spent the last years of her life in isolated and in prayer.

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