Explain "The Woodspurge" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dante Rossetti’s poem “The Woodspurge” describes a man who has undergone some kind of trauma.  He seems inconsolable as he walks out in nature. Rossetti uses the first person point of view with the man as his speaker. His surroundings are not really the kind of comfort that he needs. On the hill it is very windy. The wind blows and then stops, blows and stops. The natural world serves as a backdrop for the man’s misery.  

The wind flapp’d loose, the wind was still
Shaken out dead from tree and hill
I had walked on at the wind’s will
I sat now, for the wind was still.

As he walks along, the man is blown forward as though the wind was pushing him at will. He seems to have no will of his seeming aimless and passive. When the wind stops blowing, he sits down miserable and absorbed in his thoughts.

He gets down on his knees and bends over with his head touching the grass. His lips were pursed but he said nothing. When his ears touched the ground, he could hear the sounds of the world going by. The man’s posture as he leans forward on his head indicates his deep depression and mental state.  He does not say anything because he was too miserable to even groan.

His ears are described as naked as he touches the ground.  What he has heard has given him the sense of having no protection from the world’s hurts.  As he listens to the sounds of nature, the reader can almost feel his pain. 

The narrator looks around where he lay and saw some weeds.  He fixes his eyes on a flower that grew  out of the middle of the weeds: a woodspurge.  This flower is unusual because it has three cups, standing tall growing toward the sun. The narrator notices the woodspurge amongst the other weeds, and remarks that it flowers as “three cups in one”. 

The man suffered from a described “perfect grief.”  He does not have to have intelligence or even recollection to understand how miserable he is. 

His focus turns to the woodspurge which helps him not to think about his sorrow. Sometimes it is the most insignicant things that a person remembers when sadness overtakes him. 

Finally, the man connects to his surrounding by looking at the woodspurge. The man seems to change his attitude slightly because hopefully he will recall the strange flower and let go of his grief in the future.