Christina Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” explication

The poem by Christina Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” is an excellent, succinct yet at the same time profound allegorical dialogue about human life, death and the afterlife. The poem is both consoling and encouraging, suggesting the readers that even though life may be hard, long, difficult and full of hardships, at the end of the dark journey there is always peaceful rest for everyone. The essay analyzes and explicates Christina Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” for the readers to better understand it.
The poem starts with the comparison of life to the road, even though, it does not make any apparent comparisons. The first line “Does the road wind up-hill all the way? Yes, to the very end.”, somehow suggests that the poem is about life, and the need to constantly go up the hill. The subsequent statement “Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend” clearly draws parallels between life and the road that will take the whole day. The author suggests that during the adult life the person is supposed to make some efforts as necessary to move up the hill, and that can happen from the “morn” (early childhood) to “night” (old age).
When the readers only start to grasp the metaphor, the poem asks questions about some security and provision for the old age. It inquires about a resting place for the night and a roof above one’s head for when the “slow dark hours begin”. The narrator worries that the darkness may hide the resting place, thus providing no condolence for the old age, yet ultimately adds that “you cannot miss that inn”. The inn located on the top of the hill, standing out in the darkness and available to all those who climb all day represents a refuge, security and salvation (Rudman, 211).
The third paragraph involves the negotiation of the terms and conditions and the narrator asks if he would meet other “wayfarers at night”, such as those who went up the road before. Also he inquiries if he should knock on the door or call anyone or if someone would be standing at the door waiting or keep the narrator standing and waiting. This paragraph effectively shows the pragmatic human nature that people develop over the course of their lives. They want some assurance, some guarantee and some support even when one speaks about the eternal matters that the verse tries to explore. It appears that the narrator does not fully grasp the fact that at the end of the day, i.e. at the very old age and death, the person does not really need any guarantee, except, perhaps, those regarding eternal life. Even in that case, none of the major religions makes such promises, but only suggesting that certain behaviors, baptism and obedience make the person more likely to end up in heaven, yet in any case, it is God and the saints who decide who ends up where.
In the last paragraph of the poem, the narrator wonders, negotiates and asks “Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?” and gets the answer “Of labour you shall find the sum.” Ultimately, he asks directly “Will there be beds for me and all who seek?” and gets a both appeasing and reassuring answer “Yea, beds for all who come.”
Further analysis of Christina Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” shows the first thing that gets into mind is that the poet made all the profound and important information simple and clear. The author does not create any stylistic fireworks, no bells or whistles, no embellishments. In fact, given its simple structure, one can compare Christina Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” to the biblical verses and parables that Jesus used in his teachings(Kennedy, 102). The poem does not give the readers much time to wonder and ponder over questions, since all the asked questions, get immediate answers and explanation.
The poet draws the readers’ attention from the very first line to the fact that life is like a journey, but due to hardships is always an uphill. To make it more appealing and inclusive, the poem does not use names or genders, and does not identify those who answer important questions. Nevertheless, from some of the answers, such as the reassurance that there would be “beds for all who come” one can infer that it is God who converses with a common man. The respondent demonstrates authority and provides assurance for those who have doubts and ask questions about their journeys. The respondent appears to have firm knowledge of the information about the length of the journey/road, about the need to go uphill, about the inn that one cannot miss and about the beds for all who come (Jockers, 136).
Even though it may appear that the poem suggests that all people will end up in heaven, since the road constantly goes up the hill and heavens are also up above, there is no such promise. In fact, the reassurance about the “beds for all who come” may suggest only that no matter what kind of life a person led and what he did, she/he will still end up in a grave. The realization of such simple fact that all humans are mortal and the way from their cradle at birth goes to their graves after death, itself is rather reassuring, yet at the same time motivating. Indeed, if the lifelong journey ends up in a grave, then it makes perfect sense for the traveler to enjoy the journey to the maximum: to leave some legacy, to make good things, to help others, and to have fun (Probst, 152).
The poem suggests that there is only one journey from morn to night and the road winds up-hill all the way, so the longer one travels the more tired, exhausted, drained or worn-out one becomes. Indirectly, it promulgates the “carpe diem” (“seize the moment” or “seize the day”) concept that calls people to enjoy every moment of their lives because there will be no other day like this again. If, according to the poem life becomes harder with age, and each day a person becomes older, approaches these difficulties and gets closer to his grave, then certainly the day she/he has at present is the most valuable thing that one can only dream of. Before the night and the guaranteed beds for all who come, a person should focus on the making the present happy and meaningful.
In conclusion Christina Rossetti’s “Up-Hill” poem is a true literary masterpiece that in simple and succinct manner appeased and motivated readers to lead fuller, more fulfilling lives. The poem allegorically compared life to a road uphill and death to an inn with the beds available for all who come. Its simple and direct language appeased and encouraged people to focus on the present and not worry about the future. The poem was probably designed to reaffirm the Christian faith of the faithful and to encourage faith in anyone who may have worries, uncertainties or doubts. Furthermore, it reflected the concept of the “carpe diem” and suggested that although there is only one road that goes uphill till the end, a person should have an interesting and fulfilling present.

1. Probst, Robert. Response & Analysis, Second Edition: Teaching Literature in Secondary School. Wiley and sons press, 2006.
2. Jockers, Matthew. Text Analysis with R for Students of Literature (Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences). McGraw Hill, 2007.
3. Rudman, Jack. ANALYSIS & INTERPRETATION OF LITERATURE. Wiley and sons press, 2007.
4. Kennedy, X. , Dana Gioia. Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Barrons Books, 2006.

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