The poem “Uphill” (sometimes titled “Up-Hill”), by the English poet Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), might be called an allegorical dialogue about life, death, and heaven. The poem, which is Christian in emphasis, is consoling and encouraging, suggesting that although life may be a long, hard, sometimes dark and difficult journey, peaceful rest in heaven lies at its end.
Appropriately enough, the phrasing of the poem is extremely simple and clear. Rossetti is not interested in creating the kind of stylistic fireworks one might find, for instance, in one of the “Holy Sonnets” by John Donne. Instead, her poem is closer in style to the Biblical parables that Jesus often used when teaching. Every question raised in this poem has an immediate and simple answer. Clearly the poem was designed to reaffirm the faith of the faithful and to encourage faith in anyone who may have worries or doubts.
The opening lines of the poem might at first seem to refer to a literal, physical journey. The first hint that something more may be implied appears, perhaps, with the reference to “the very end” in line 2. Neither one of the speakers in the conversation is identified, making them seem generic rather than individualized persons. The brevity of the reply given in line 2 suggests the authority and self-assurance of the speaker who answers. This is a person who seems to have firm knowledge and who willingly shares it in order to help others, motivated by a spirit of amity and even love.
In line 3, Rossetti especially reveals her skill in using sound effects when the question-asker refers to “the whole long day.” All three of the final words here are strongly emphasized by the meter, so that they drag out and (appropriately) take time to pronounce. This effect is enhanced by the fact that each word is built around emphatic vowel sounds that slow down the pace of the line. The effect would have been different if Rossetti had emphasized...
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