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Up-Hill by Christina Rossetti

“Up-Hill,” a scintillating poem of spiritual depth, is written by Victorian English poet Christina Georgina Rossetti. She was one of the foremost women poets of the 19th-century, along with Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Rossetti’s inspiring poem focuses on the difficulties of human life that temporarily blind the spirit, triggering doubt and confusion that cloud one’s decision-making abilities. It’s about the inner struggles humans face on an everyday basis. Thus, this poem establishes solidarity between all human beings and their common “uphill” battle against their own mind. Rossetti also talks about the oneness in humanity – how people support each other to keep going through life’s adversities.

Up-Hill Poem by Christina Rossetti x
Up-Hill Poem by Christina Rossetti
  • Read the full poem “Up-Hill” below:
Up-Hill
by Christina Rossetti

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
  Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
  From morn to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting-place?
  A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
  You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
  Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
  They will not keep you standing at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
  Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
  Yea, beds for all who come.

- from Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862)
Analysis of Up-Hill by Christina Rossetti


Summary

Rossetti brings forth a simple, clear message through “Up-Hill”: human life is adverse and full of hardships. She compares life to an uphill journey that makes one weary and weak at mind and spirit. However, the speaker points out that moments of respite in such a life of hardships are essential to keep up resilience and the fighting spirit. The poem, written in a question-answer format, presents an omniscient voice answering the speaker’s questions about the difficulties in the journey ahead. This exchange can be seen as taking place within the speaker’s mind as she tries to encourage herself to continue the uphill battle of life.

The speaker has a number of anxieties about the length of the journey, a possible resting place for when the weariness begins to set in, how she can access the resting place or the “inn”, and if there would be other people there going through the same situation. All of these questions are answered positively and concisely by the omniscient speaker, providing relief to the speaker’s concerns about achieving success in the journey.

The poem, therefore, provides hope to humanity in general – no matter how hard the journey seems, by taking small steps towards the destination, one would eventually triumph over every adversity.

Meaning

“Up-Hill” champions human resilience and the ultimate triumph over hardships. Rossetti talks about the bleaker aspects of human nature – how it is not always possible for the weary human mind to keep going undeterred when faced with continuous struggles. She points out how important it is to take care of one’s tired spirits in order to regain resilience. Her persona brings out how life is not always a bed of roses; seemingly impossible hardships often trouble humans. It is natural for the human mind to have doubts about goals and wishes to be fulfilled. How people deal with these doubts by taking care of their minds and spirits becomes essential.

Rossetti, therefore, points out how being still and calm is equally necessary as relentless toil in order to achieve one’s goals. Even though the companion’s response doesn’t stop the relentless worries emerging in her mind, the speaker seems to comfort herself by finding solace in rest and looking forward to regaining her strength to keep fighting. The consolation that there are many others, just like the speaker, who also go through the same fears and worries, serves as an additional consolation to her restlessness. In the end, however, she knows that her hard work will be rewarded by a life of fulfilment and comfort.

Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter

Structure & Form

The poem “Up-Hill” is written in a unique style. Questions are being asked and answered, and both of these roles can be seen to be embodied in the speaker herself. The relentless worries that bother the speaker regarding the difficult journey are representative of the human mind. This can be assumed to be the speaker’s anxieties casting doubt over her abilities to go on in the journey uphill. However, even the all-knowing voice that provides answers can be assumed to be the speaker’s own. The speaker, deep down, objectively knows that she can emerge victorious over the battles that she will have to fight in life.

“Up-Hill” is a narrative lyric poem. It is written in a conversational style, where one voice asks questions, and the other provides the answers. The dual narration keeps readers’ interests sustained and makes the flow of the poem very smooth and consistent. The difference in the two voices also becomes important to note. Since the voice asking the questions seems more doubtful, Rossetti uses longer lines to communicate this uncertainty. The voice providing the answers shows clarity, and so these lines are shorter and more concise. Rossetti maintains a consistent rhyme scheme as well as syllabic length throughout the poem. It is composed of four quatrains (stanzas having four rhyming lines each) of equal length.

Rhyme Scheme

Rossetti maintains a consistent rhyme scheme throughout the poem “Up-Hill”. The deviations in the metrical structure are made up for by employing a fixed rhyme scheme. This also enhances the story-like sing-song feel of the poem and keeps the course smooth throughout. The rhyme scheme is a consistent ABAB. Rossetti uses perfect end rhymes in alternative lines. It means the first, third, second, and fourth lines rhyme, creating an interlocking closed rhyming pattern. Let’s have a look at the rhyming pair of words from each stanza:

  • Stanza One: “way” and “day”; “end” and “friend”
  • Stanza Two: “place” and “face”; “begin” and “inn”
  • Stanza Three: “night” and “sight”; “before” and “door”
  • Stanza Four: “weak” and “seek”; “sum” and “come”

Also, she makes use of internal rhymes; for example, it can be seen in the following line. “Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?” The words “must” and “just” are rhymed to create an additional musical effect.

Meter

In “Up-Hill”, Rossetti uses a regular meter throughout. The lines which are spoken by the voice asking questions are in iambic pentameter, with 10 syllables in each line forming five iambs (unstressed-stressed). The lines which are spoken by the other voice are mostly in iambic trimeter, so they contain 6 syllables or three iambs. However, Rossetti introduces iambic pentameter and iambic tetrameter variations in this pattern, which become apparent when the poem is metrically scanned. Scansion not only helps to chalk out the meter of the poem but also helps in how to read the text with proper stress on intended words/syllables. The following scansion of the poem will definitely make the reading exciting. Let’s start the uphill journey metrically:

Does/ the road/ wind up/-hill all/ the way?

    Yes, to/ the ve/-ry end.

Will the/ day’s jour/-ney take/ the whole/ long day?

    From morn/ to night,/ my friend.

But is/ there for/ the night/ a rest/-ing-place?

    A roof/ for when/ the slow/ dark hours/ be-gin.

May not/ the dark/-ness hide/ it from/ my face?

    You can/-not miss/ that inn.

Shall I/ meet o/-ther way/-fa-rers/ at night?

    Those who/ have gone/ be-fore.

Then must/ I knock,/ or call/ when just/ in sight?

    They will/ not keep/ you stand/-ing at/ that door.

Shall I/ find com/-fort, tra/-vel-sore/ and weak?

    Of la/-bour you/ shall find/ the sum.

Will there/ be beds/ for me/ and all/ who seek?

    Yea, beds/ for all/ who come.

As readers can see, the very first line of the poem consists of 9 syllables rather than 10: “Does the road wind up-hill all the way?” Therefore, they have to stress the first syllable, “Does,” making it an acephalous foot. Rossetti also brings in the occasional trochee (stressed-unstressed) in an otherwise iambic line; for instance, in the line, “Yes, to/ the ve/-ry end.”; the word “Yes” is stressed, making it a trochaic foot. This variation is apparent in the third line as well: “Will the/ day’s jour/-ney take/ the whole/ long day?”

Rossetti breaks the monotony of a formal structure by doing this and makes the conversational style seem more natural. The falling rhythm and then following rapid rising rhythm depicts how the speaker’s confusion slowly fades hearing the advice of her companion.

Poetic Devices & Figures of Speech

Rossetti sprinkles a number of poetic devices throughout “Up-Hill” in order to widen the scope of interpretations. The simplicity and the underlying figures of speech enhance the meaning of the lines and take the poem to a spiritual level. Let’s explore some of the important devices from the poem:

Metaphor

This is one of the essential poetic devices used throughout the poem. Rossetti uses the idea of an “up-hill” journey as an extended metaphor to mean life in general. The lethargy and restlessness one feels during a long trip can also be applied to the journey of life, which is filled with challenges. Therefore, the “day’s journey” is a metaphor for the struggles humans face from birth, referred to as “morn,” to death or “night.”

The line, “Of labour you shall find the sum,” contains another metaphor. Here, the “sum” of one’s “labour” is a metaphorical reference to the spiritual reward.

Rhetorical Question

This poetic device is used throughout the poem. The anxious questions of the speaker are born out of genuine doubt and scepticism about her abilities to trudge along the difficult uphill journey of life. However, some of them also seem rhetorical. Since the speaker’s own subconscious mind or the companion seems to know the objective answers to her doubts, the questions appear as a way for the speaker to reassure herself about her abilities constantly.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?

    Those who have gone before.

Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?

    They will not keep you standing at that door.

The speaker’s questions about the journey itself in the first stanza are also rhetorical. She has embarked upon the journey only after knowing the nature and difficulty of it. But she still asks herself if the travel will be up-hill (demanding) the whole day and whether it will take the whole day. So, these can also be seen as rhetorical questions. Perhaps she hopes to get a different answer every time she asks the question, but the journey and the answer remain constant.

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?

    Yes, to the very end.

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

    From morn to night, my friend.


Alliteration

Though alliteration is not the most used literary device in “Up-Hill,” its variation consonance occur more frequently. However, the recurrence of similar sounds at the beginning of neighbouring words can be found in the last stanza:

  • “shall find the sum” (line 14)
  • “be beds” (line 15)

Consonance

The recurrence of consonant sounds in closely placed words can be found in a number of instances. In the first stanza, Rossetti uses the hard “d” sound frequently:

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?

    Yes, to the very end.

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

    From morn to night, my friend.

There is also a repetition of the “l” sound in “whole long” (line 3) and the “m” sound in “From morn to night, my friend.”

Similarly, readers can find consonance of the “s” sound throughout the second stanza:

But is there for the night a resting-place?

    A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.

May not the darkness hide it from my face?

    You cannot miss that inn.

The “k” sound recurs in the last two lines of the third stanza:

Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?

    They will not keep you standing at that door.

In the last stanza, there is a repetition of the “r” sound in the first two lines and the “b” sound in the final lines:

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?

    Of labour you shall find the sum.

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?

    Yea, beds for all who come.


Repetition

The use of repetition can be found in a number of instances. The recurrence of the word “day” emphasises the tedious nature of the journey to be embarked upon: “Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?” Similarly, the speaker’s lack of confidence and certainty is depicted through the repetition of “dark” in the following lines: “A roof for when the slow dark hours begin./ May not the dark-ness hide it from my face?”

Juxtaposition

The opposite ideas of day and night are placed together for emphatic effect in the following lines:

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

    From morn to night, my friend.

This also highlights the long and weary journey that the speaker has to undertake. The usage of juxtaposition is also seen through the following lines of the last stanza:

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?

    Of labour you shall find the sum.

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?

    Yea, beds for all who come.

In these lines, Rossetti contrasts the speaker’s uncertainty concerning getting comfort at the journey’s end with the other speaker’s conviction. In this way, she draws attention to the speaker’s pessimism which is in stark contrast with the optimism of the second speaker.

Line-by-Line Explanation & Critical Analysis

Lines 1-4

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?

    Yes, to the very end.

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

    From morn to night, my friend.

In the first quatrain, Rossetti establishes the central allegorical idea that she continues throughout the poem. Here, the “up-hill” winding road is symbolic of the journey of life, filled with hurdles and adversities. The terse reply, “Yes, to the very end,” signifies that there is little respite in life due to the many difficulties and the tedious nature of the journey the speaker has to undertake. Additionally, Rossetti also puts forth the idea that the journey will take the “whole long day, from morn to night.” This again symbolises the hardships the speaker will constantly have to face. One cannot get through all of life’s challenges within a blink and then never have to face them again.

The journey will definitely take a long time, just as life will, and to live, is to face this fact headfirst. This also brings forth how vital resilience is in undertaking the journey. The speaker seems fearful and anxious; she asks many questions which seem to be rhetorical as the answers are implied. And yet, the all-knowing voice answers them patiently.

Lines 5-8

But is there for the night a resting-place?

    A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.

May not the darkness hide it from my face?

    You cannot miss that inn.

In these lines, the speaker continues asking questions filled with doubt and uncertainty. The idea of the difficult journey overwhelms her so much that she asks if she will be able to find some respite while travelling day and night. The “slow dark hours” are symbolic of the times in life when doubt and fears creep into the mind. When the impossibility and tedium of life bogs one down, the mind wavers and is frightened. Rossetti points out how this is a normal human response. She says that one must do everything possible to take care of their spirit in such situations rather than aimlessly powering through the journey.

The “inn” stands for calm and peace, both mental and physical. The “roof” that the speaker seeks in the form of much-needed comfort to assure her that she will be able to complete this journey is the same “roof” that Rossetti extends to every human being through the poem.

Lines 9-12

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?

    Those who have gone before.

Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?

    They will not keep you standing at that door.

In the third stanza, Rossetti brings in other characters to the poem. The “other wayfarers” stand for those who are going through adversities on the same level as the speaker. This idea of collective effort becomes important; it reassures the speaker that she is not the only one who is going through this difficult path. The idea that other human beings who have dealt with the same toils have emerged victorious in the past is comforting to the speaker as it then reduces the impossibility of the task at hand.

The comfort that Rossetti points out in the “inn,” then, is not just limited to the self but also extends to others. The very knowledge that there is a brotherhood among humans, in general, is so powerful that people can find the strength to live their own lives by looking at them. Mental strength as being tied to witnessing lived experiences of triumph is what Rossetti highlights in this quatrain. Even though everyone’s journeys are not the same, the fact that they will all eventually reach their respective goals is significant.

Lines 13-16

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?

    Of labour you shall find the sum.

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?

    Yea, beds for all who come.

The last stanza enhances the idea laid down in the third one. The idea of “comfort” signifies the contentment that will follow a life of hard work and effort. The line, “Of labour you shall find the sum”, indicates Rossetti’s belief that the reward of a life lived through painstaking labour and honesty will definitely be positive. The last two lines also point out that the “inn” that the speaker wishes to find respite in does not discriminate on any grounds. Everyone, irrespective of their social position, will find comfort in this metaphorical inn.

The “inn” then becomes the destination that the speaker looks forward to more than the actual journey, as the immediate calm and peace that it brings are satisfying to her. Rossetti is possibly trying to say that it is impossible to know what the destination at the end of one’s life will be like if one’s soul will transcend to the afterlife or not. However, the knowledge of a life well-lived is just as comforting to the soul; and the “inn” perhaps becomes a metaphor for the contentment of the soul at the end of life’s uphill journey.

Theme

The Journey of Life

The most significant theme of Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” is the idea of life as a journey. Rossetti establishes the whole poem to communicate the fact that life, in its essence, is like an uphill path that requires a lot of will and effort, both physical and mental, to conquer. While going through this challenging journey, one may find the shadows of uncertainty clouding one’s strong spirit. In such situations, bogged down by weariness and doubt on this long path, it becomes crucial to understand that while it is definitely tedious and difficult, it is not impossible to conquer these challenges.

Rossetti communicates this very idea effectively by pointing out that there are other individuals who have gone through the same uphill path and emerged victorious over its tough terrain. The legacy of such people, who conquered their fears and triumphed in the life, serves as an inspiration to the speaker, and by extension, to the readers, to find strength and comfort. This can be seen in the following line of the poem:

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?

    Those who have gone before.

An important idea brought out through the poem is at the end of the journey, one finds their destination and experiences joy. Similarly, one will find bliss and mental satisfaction at the end of a long life filled with toil and pain. The end will definitely be filled with the “sum” of one’s labour, which will undo all of the pain and suffering one has gone through their whole life. This seems to suggest the quietude of the soul on achieving eternal peace after salvation.

Symbolism

The Up-Hill Road

The use of symbolism in “Up-Hill” is deliberate and skilful. Rossetti crafts the whole poem on one crucial symbol, the comparison of an agonising uphill journey with the idea of life itself. This is a common idea in literature, and Rossetti uses it very effectively to talk about the doubts that surface when powering through the hardships of life.

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?

    Yes, to the very end.

Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?

    From morn to night, my friend.

The first few lines of the poem itself establish this symbol. The uphill winding road from beginning to end suggests that life is full of adversities and often will be so. It is by no means easy to keep going through this difficult path when everything seems so filled with pain and toil.

The Inn

The idea of a resting place or “inn” becomes a symbol of peace. It suggests how people need to find calm amongst all the hardships that life presents.

But is there for the night a resting-place?

    A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.

May not the darkness hide it from my face?

    You cannot miss that inn.

Simply dragging one’s feet along the hairpin bends of life will not reap any good – it will only increase one’s anxieties and worries. Rather, taking time to rest and recoup one’s spirits in order to live life with a new vigour is emphasised through the symbol of the “inn.” She suggests that while life is difficult to live, it must still be a desirable journey that one wishes to undertake with effort and struggle. But simply going through the motions without taking time to pause will soon lead to exhaustion. This is a very revolutionary thought presented by Rossetti that goes against the materialistic idea of simply working oneself to death. She presents hard work and rest as equally important in life.

Imagery

Rossetti uses a lot of evocative imagery to enhance the main idea of “Up-Hill.” This can be ascribed to her writing of children’s and devotional poetry. The simple yet profound images highlight the effectiveness of the themes to a great extent. She deliberately makes them complement the story-like aspects of the poem, and this highlights the conversational style she incorporates, too.

Rossetti uses a number of contrasting images in the poem. The images that depict hardships and rest are laced side by side to show their co-existence in life. She possibly implies that both of these aspects are essential for a fruitful life, so they must both be practised. For instance, the last stanza embodies this antithesis to a great extent:

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?

    Of labour you shall find the sum.

Will there be beds for me and all who seek?

    Yea, beds for all who come.

The ideas of day and night are also used as important images. While day symbolises the new hardships people face in their everyday lives, the night symbolises doubt and worry. “Day” may also stand for resilience and optimism in the face of adversity. In order to combat her doubts, the speaker asks if they can find comfort and hope somewhere so that she can begin another day’s journey with a renewed vigour.

Another important image used in the poem is when Rossetti depicts the inn as a “resting-place” for human beings to ease their doubts and find calm after a long day of work. This image becomes very important, as the inn is a place typically associated with relaxation and diversion. The additional image of “beds” in the resting place also becomes significant. It is clear that Rossetti is talking about a metaphorical inn, and the relaxation is more mental rather than physical. However, the image of the “inn” as a place for everyone to find comfort forges a kind of common solidarity that every human being is going through similar difficulties in life. This also combines the physical with the mental and enhances the allegorical effect of the poem greatly.

Tone & Mood

Rossetti uses a very elusive tone and mood throughout the poem. She was known for the obscure nature of her writing, and that becomes apparent in “Up-Hill”, too. At first glance, the tone of the poem is extremely simple, as if it is a children’s poem. This is because Rossetti was a very renowned children’s poet as well, and she wrote many memorable poems that were meant for children. The simple style of “Up-hill”, however, is deceptive – Rossetti deals with deep, complex, existential themes under this seemingly simple tone.

There is also the tussle between the conscious and the subconscious mind that gets represented through the conflicting tones of the poem. The speaker’s anxious mind is misty and unclear, constantly worrying about the journey that needs to be completed and stressing over the little things. This is seen through the questioning and doubtful tone that persists throughout when the speaker asks questions.

However, the objective, rational mind of the speaker or the co-traveller knows that they can overcome the obstacles. This is seen through the clarity and concise nature of the answers provided. Therefore, Rossetti juxtaposes the two opposite tones, doubtful and confident, pessimistic and optimistic, to point out the duality of the human mind.

“Up-Hill” as an Allegorical Poem

Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” is a poem that is meaningful on two different levels. On the surface level, it is a poem about a traveller who is embarking upon a strenuous uphill journey, like a trek and is anxious about the difficulties it will unfold. She, however, reassures herself that even though the journey is difficult, there will be an “inn” to rest and people just like her who are also travelling on the adverse path.

On a much deeper level, the poem is an allegorical representation of life in general. An allegory puts forth a moral or life lesson by depicting it through a different situation. In this poem, the idea of the uphill journey becomes synonymous with the gruelling aspects of life that people face on a daily basis. Life, as Rossetti sees it, is equated with a constantly strenuous journey with many obstacles along the way. It is not easy to conquer, and the difficulties it presents are both physical and mental.

Just as an uphill path requires great physical effort as well as mental strength to keep going, the challenges of life are identical. People may feel like giving up often during this strenuous course, but Rossetti reminds them, “Of labour you shall find the sum.” In this line, the speaker again talks about the rest and relaxation that she will find after physically completing the day’s journey. But the allegorical meaning can be interpreted as the fruits of labour in the form of mental peace and satisfaction when one has completed the goals charted out in life. The gratification of the soul that follows vigorous efforts is what Rossetti is hinting at through the poem.

Indeed, the poem has a spiritual interpretation. The rest at the inn can represent the ultimate “rest” – peaceful death at the end of a fruitful life. Rossetti possibly suggests that the reward of a life lived through honesty and hard work will definitely be satisfying. While the hardships of life may seem towering and impossible to get past, she points out that upon overcoming them, the spiritual strength and satisfaction one achieves will be worthwhile.

Historical Context

Christina Rossetti was a very renowned poet of the Victorian Age. She belonged to an Italian family of creative artists. One of her brothers was the famous poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti became acquainted with the well-known Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood through Dante Rossetti, who was one of the seven members of the group. Many of Rossetti’s poems were published in The Germ, the official publication of the Brotherhood. Christina and Dante, along with other poets, were known for their highly obscure poetry that communicated complex spiritual themes. They moved away from the strict Victorian focus on society and focused instead on the “self,” as well as the conflicts between the human mind and soul.

Rossetti was a very well-known children’s poet as well. Her poem, “Goblin Market”, is known as one of the most exemplary instances of her verse. A number of her poems communicate deeper themes through symbolic imagery and a story-like format. Apart from “Goblin Market”, her other best-loved poems include “Echo”, “The Princes Progress”, and “Remember”. She composed “Up-Hill” on June 29, 1858, and submitted the poem to Macmillan’s Magazine in 1861. The founder, Alexander Macmillan, accepted the poem enthusiastically and published it in the magazine in February 1861. In the following year (1862), Macmillan published Rossetti’s first collection of poetry, Goblin Market and Other Poems, and it contained the poem “Up-Hill.”

It is important to note that the poem appeared as the last poem of the group of 45 poems in the collection Goblin Market, separated from the section “Devotional Pieces.” Therefore, the editors and Rossetti herself believed this piece explored the broad theme of human life other than the spiritual journey towards salvation. To some extent, the poem can be interpreted in devotional light; however, it mainly captures the upward journey of life.

Questions and Answers

Describe “Up-hill” as an allegorical poem.

An allegory is a moralistic lesson put forth by another person or situation—an allegorical poem functions on two different levels; literal and symbolic. In “Up-Hill”, the speaker embarks on a literal, physical journey. All her questions and anxieties are about the nature of the physical uphill journey. However, this poem can also be understood as a lesson about life in general. The idea of life as an “up-hill” journey is a common literary motif, and Rossetti employs this to depict the hardships and obstacles one often has to face in life.

The worries about the journey also mirror the fears one faces when going through the path of life. Rossetti’s view that at the end of the journey, one will find the “sum” of their labour is also symbolic. While this may also refer to the literal journey, it definitely has a more profound existential meaning. She refers to the mental gratification at the end of life when one has triumphed over the obstacles and conquered the “uphill” journey of life.

Explain “Up-Hill” as a religious poem.

Christina Rossetti’s poem “Up-Hill” is typical of religious poetry, containing several symbols directly from the Bible. However, there is no explicit reference to the identity of the speaker or the guide or companion. The overall poem can be interpreted as a spiritual seeker’s quest for the “truth.” The path to salvation is not an easy one. It makes one’s faith tremble and determination fragile as the road ahead takes several turns, sometimes leading one to utter despair. No matter how long one has been on the journey, it seems the road is never going to end. This sense of doubt and hopelessness is present in the speaker’s voice.

Besides, there are some references that allude to some Biblical episodes. For instance, the phrase “my friend” in the first stanza is an allusion to the gospel of John where Christ addresses his followers as “my friends.” The “road” symbolises the path Christians have to follow dedicatedly. In the second stanza, the “inn” is a reference to where Jesus was born. Furthermore, the “door” in the fourth stanza is another Biblical reference hinting at heaven’s door. Thus, due to the use of Biblical symbolism, Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” can be considered a religious poem.

What is the central idea or theme of the poem “Up-hill”?

The most important theme of the poem “Up-Hill” is the idea of life as a journey. Rossetti throws light on the various physical and mental struggles that people have to face in life. Often, it can seem impossible to conquer them. But Rossetti points out that all human beings share this common struggle, and one can look up to others who have succeeded in the journey of life before as their inspiration. This poem also focuses on the idea of rest and mental happiness as being inseparable from attaining one’s goals.

What is the context of the poem “Up-hill”?

Christina Rossetti was a very renowned poet of the Victorian Age. Along with her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, she was known for writing poetry that focused on the internal self and the mind as being central. The poem “Up-Hill” reflects that to a great extent. Rossetti’s typical allegorical style also becomes significant in this poem. She compares the idea of a challenging, uphill climb to the journey of life. It serves as a poem of inspiration to individuals who may have worries or anxieties about getting through the obstacles of life. Rossetti brings forth that all humans share this concern for a difficult life, and a feeling of accomplishment and contentment will follow a life filled with dedication and determination.

Why is the poem called “Up-Hill”?

The poem “Up-Hill” revolves around a speaker’s confusion regarding the journey uphill. Her mind is clouded by several questions. She asks about the duration of the journey and whether she will get rest and comfort uphill. Thus, the main idea of the poem revolves around the winding “up-hill” road symbolising the journey of life. That’s why Rossetti titled the poem “Up-Hill”.

What is the poem “Up-Hill” about?

This poem is about a speaker asking questions about an uphill road and a guide answering her queries. The speaker is doubtful whether she would undertake the uphill journey or not. But, the guide’s hopeful responses cheers her up, and she somehow reaches a point of conviction and regains confidence.

Why the journey in the poem “Up-Hill” is important?

This poem is all about the journey. Rossetti compares life’s journey to an uphill road. Her poetic persona goes on to present her doubts, and her companion clarifies them. All her questions revolve around the journey: the duration, a place to get rest, and acceptance by other travellers in the “resting-place.”

What kind of poem “Up-Hill” is?

This poem is written in a conversational form and employs the question-answer format of religious poetry. It is an epigrammatic poem about the journey of life and the struggles that ensue along the way.

What is the structure of the poem “Up-Hill”?

“Up-Hill” consists of four quatrains with an interlocking rhyming pattern and a regular meter. Each stanza has two units: one question followed by its answer.

What is the rhyme scheme of “Up-Hill”?

The rhyme scheme of “Up-Hill” is ABAB. In each quatrain, the first and third lines and the second and fourth lines end with similar rhymings words. For instance, “way” rhymes with “day”, and “end” rhymes with “friend” in the first stanza.

Who are the speakers in the poem “Up-Hill”?

There are two speakers in the poem: a doubtful and confused traveller and the other is a guide or an experienced traveller.

What is the tone and setting of the poem “Up-Hill”?

The tone of the first speaker is filled with doubt, confusion, and hopelessness. In contrast, the second speaker’s tone is confident, wise, compassionate, and optimistic. The poem is set against an uphill journey. Two travellers, one inexperienced and the other experienced, are on the road together.

What is the mood of the poem “Up-Hill”?

The mood of the poem is clouded with the speaker’s doubts, apparent pessimism, and confusion. In comparison, the second speaker’s responses create a contrasting mood. He lightens the mood of his fellow companion and fills this piece with optimism and clarity.

What does the “road” symbolise in the poem “Up-Hill”?

The “road” symbolises the uphill journey of life. It is also a symbol of the spiritual quest to know the truth.

What does “night” symbolise in the poem “Up-Hill”?

The “night” is a symbol of the dark phases in life. It stands for the moment when one faces dire challenges and setbacks.

What does the “roof” in “Up-Hill” represent?

The “roof” represents shelter, safety, and guidance. Rossetti’s speaker seeks a place where she can be safe or can get some guidance when the “dark hours” of life begin.

What message does the poet want to convey through the poem “Up-Hill”?

Through this poem, Rossetti conveys that no matter how long life’s journey is, it will definitely reward those who remain dedicated, faithful, and true to their goals. During the journey, they will not be alone as there will be others who have already reached there and faced the same challenges.

What happens at the end of the journey in “Up-Hill”?

At the end of the journey, the speaker will find comfort and rest. She will be provided adequately, and there will be a bed reserved for her in the metaphorical “inn.”

How long does the uphill journey take?

The uphill journey takes the whole day, from morning to night.

How does Rossetti describe the journey in the poem “Up-Hill”?

Rossetti describes the journey as a tedious and confusing one. It blinds one’s spirit momentarily and can even misguide the person. Therefore, one needs a guide who will be there to clear the doubts arising from a weary mind.

What is the meaning of the line “Does the road wind up-hill all the way”?

The poem begins with the rhetorical question, “Does the road wind up-hill all the way?” Through this line, the poet conveys a speaker’s doubt who is inexperienced and doubtful. She asks whether the road winds uphill throughout the rest of the journey.

Why does the traveller worry that he might miss the inn?

The traveller asks the guide whether the darkness of the night may hide the inn. In reply, the guide assures that she cannot miss the inn due to its light that guides fellow travellers from getting lost during the dark hours.

Who will not keep the traveller standing at the door in the poem “Up-Hill”?

The other travellers who have already undertaken the journey and reached the “inn” will not keep the traveller standing at the door.


Similar Poems about Journeys & Life

  • Night Journey” by Theodore Roethke — This poem is about the poet’s train journey at night, observing and appreciating the nocturnal beauty of nature.
  • Journey to the Interior” by Margaret Atwood — In this poem, a speaker undertakes a confusing journey into her own mind and fears getting lost.
  • Fear” by Khalil Gibran — This poem is about a river’s fear of getting lost in the ocean.
  • What is Life?” by John Clare — This poem is about finding the meaning and true happiness in life.


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