Christina Rosetti’s poem “Up-hill” is a metaphor for the daunting, uphill climb that life can often feel like. The poem is a dialogue between the traveler and a mentor, though it can also be read as an internal dialogue within the traveler, questioning herself, and then telling herself that ultimately things will end up for the best. In the literal world of the poem, the traveler is worried they might miss the inn because of nightfall: “May not the darkness hide it from my face?” As a metaphor, the inn represents any number of calming and beneficial influences: respite, friendship, love, a moment to breathe.
The symbolism of the darkness also can take a number of different forms. The darkness might be ignorance or the sense of being overwhelmed. The darkness might be the fear of recognizing opportunity, or it might be the unknown. Any doubt that stops a person from feeling confident could be identified as the darkness. The beauty of the poem is the assurance that, once one starts up the path of life, “You cannot miss that inn.” The mentor voice is the poem is consistently reassuring, reminding the traveler how many other wayfarers have walked the same path and promising “beds for all who come” when the inn is eventually reached. The traveler fears missing the inn because fear is part of life, but the mentor assures her that this is alright and that fear, or the darkness, holds no real power.