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“Uphill” by Christina Rossetti is an allegory about life and death. Rossetti is considered one of the finest religious poets of her time and her many spiritual beliefs are conveyed in her poem “Uphill”. H.B. de Groot said, “Undeniably, her strong lyric gifts are often held in check by her moral and theological scruples” (Groot). The dialogue style Rossetti uses mimics the parables told by Jesus in The Bible. In “Overview of Christina (Georgina) Rossetti” one author stated that during her adult life, Rossetti turned down two marriage proposals, due to her strong religious convictions.
Instead of marrying, she used her convictions to script eloquent poetry that reaffirms faith for the faithful and provides faith for the hopeless. Rossetti’s use of metaphors, symbols, and biblical allusions in “Uphill” conveys the idea of life and death and represents the difficult journey to salvation and the promise of eternal life in heaven.
In “Uphill,” Rossetti uses metaphors to invite the reader to draw comparisons between one’s journey through life, death, and eternal rest.
The first question and answer the speaker mentions is a metaphor to depict the road being traveled, conveying that it is difficult and long, much like life: “Does the road wind up-hill all the way?/Yes, to the very end” (Rossetti 1-2). In lines five and seven the speaker develops the metaphor of night and darkness to mean death: “But is there for the night a resting-place?/May not the darkness hide it from my face” (5/7)? The speaker seems doubtful and unsure about the process of death and provokes the speaker to ask questions about the after-life.
Assurance of such a place is found in line eight when the inn is used as a metaphor to describe heave, a place that: “You cannot miss…” (8).
The author uses symbols to assist the reader by evoking a deeper subconscious meaning of one’s uphill trek towards heaven. The title of the poem “Uphill” serves as a symbol for the difficulties encountered along the speaker’s journey. In lines six and eight the words _roof_ and _inn_ are symbols for the security felt, “…when the slow dark hours begin./You cannot miss that inn” (6/8). Rossetti uses the word _bed_ in lines fifteen and sixteen to represent the final resting place for those seeking eternal life in heaven: “Will there be beds for me and all who seek?/Yea, beds for all who come (15-16). Beds invoke feelings of comfort and warmth and peace. The speaker hopes to find the same comfort and peace in heaven with an eternal place to sleep.
The Biblical allusions Rossetti uses in the poem help the reader understand what happens after death. Matthew 7:14 explains that the path to salvation will be difficult and long and is referenced in line three when the speaker asks how long the day’s journey will take: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (_New International Version_, Matthew. 7.14). In the Bible, Christ teaches that there are two ways; right and wrong, good and evil. The road to the narrow gate is not only constricted, but also uphill. It is a struggle and often not the easy way, which is why only few endure it. But it is the only path that will lead you to eternal life. All other ways may be easier, but lead to destruction. In lines eleven and twelve, the speaker receives assurance that by knocking, the doors will be open at the end of the journey, a Biblical allusion to Matthew 7:7.
This verse states that if one asks, seeks, and knocks that the door will be open: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7.7). In John 14:2 Jesus comforts his twelve disciples by saying: “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14.2). This verse serves as a point of reference to lines fifteen and sixteen in the poem: “Will there be beds for me and all who seek?/Yea, beds for all who come” (15-16). Christians believe that there is a dwelling-place in which devout believing souls would abide forever. Believers gain comfort in knowing that He has already prepared such a special place that is vast and sufficient in room for all his people.
Rossetti’s poem is a beautiful illustration of ones journey through life as illustrated by the questions the speaker asks throughout the poem. In the beginning the speaker is anxious about the journey that lies ahead and asks: “Does the road wind up-hill all the way” (1), but by the end of the poem the speaker is peaceful and assured about the final resting place: “Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak” (13)? Rossetti links one’s journey to life, death, and eternity by using metaphors throughout the text. Symbols are layered throughout the text to assist the reader with identifying heaven. Rossetti’s use of Biblical allusions allow the reader to grasps what eternity will be like for those that believe and stay the course of the _uphill_ journey. The difficult life and death decisions made along the journey towards salvation and eternity in heaven are made evident throughout the poem with the use of metaphors, symbols, and Biblical allusions.
“Christina Rossetti.” _Contemporary Authors Online_. Detroit: Gale, 2006. _Literature Resource_
_Center_. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.
_English Standard Version_. Bible Gateway. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Rossetti, Christina. “Uphill.” _Literature; An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing_. Seventh Edition. Ed. X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013.
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