Printed originally in a magazine in 1861, Christina Rossetti’s meaningful poem speaks to the passage of life. Using the metaphor of a road and journey for a person’s life, the poet tells the reader what to expect during the his trek into the next life.
Rossetti uses the device of an allegory which uses an abstract idea or "pictorial device" to represent "a deeper symbolic meaning." The first person narrator seems speak rhetorically to someone who might have questions about the road of life. Through these questions, the poet expresses her view of gaining a place in the next world.
Symbols in the poem
Journey = the path of life
Uphill= the difficulties encountered along the way
The dark hours=death
The Wayfarers=those who have died
The door=the gates of Heaven
Labor=what a person did during his life
The beds=a place in Heaven
Here is a paraphrase of the poem. The questions the speaker asks help to establish Rosetti's above symbols:
Is life always difficult and an uphill battle?
Yes, it is until the end of a person’s life.
Will it take all of life to travel this uphill road?
Yes, every waking moment will be spent on this journey.
When I get to summit, will there be rest.
Death is the night that encompasses as a slow darkness.
What if I cannot find this place because it is too dark?
You will be able to find it when you arrive.
Will there be other travelers there? [the dead]
The people who have passed on before you will be there.
Is it necessary to knock or call out to someone to be allowed to come inside?
No one will make you wait outside the door.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Will this place provide comfort and solace after the difficult journey?
How hard you worked in life will be reciprocated in Heaven.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labor you shall find the sum.
Will there be room for everyone?
For all who seek Heaven, there will be room for them.
Rossetti discusses the difficulties that a person faces in life. She is hopeful that after the hard travail there will be a place peace and solace when she gets to the end of her life. Life is an uphill battle with many hazards along the way. Her questions are those that many people ask about the journey toward Heaven. Where, when, who, how—all of these questions are answered in this lovely poem.