by Christina Rossetti
Where It All Goes Down
Rossetti isn't much on descriptive imagery in this poem, but as far as the setting for "Up-Hill" goes, we know a few things:
1. There's a road. It goes uphill for a long way, and it takes a fairly twisty path to get there.
2. There's a hill. For the road to go uphill, there must, of course, be a hill for it to go up.
3. There's an inn. The inn is not necessarily at the top of the hill, but it's definitely at the highest point that the road goes to. We also know the inn has a roof (hey, that's always promising), a door (equally beneficial), and that there are quite a few beds (they have a "there are always vacancies" policy).
Combine all these ingredients and you probably get something that looks like this, this, or this. Now, if you took one look at those images and said, "Excuse me, Shmoop, but those look nothing alike," then you are spot on. We've got such minimal description of the setting in "Up-Hill" that we really have no idea what kind of environment Rossetti is imagining. The thing is, though, that's exactly how Rossetti intended it to be. The setting of "Up-Hill" is designed to be generic and non-specific, because the theological and metaphorical message of the poem is timeless and applicable to the population in general. The more specific this poem gets, the less effective it becomes. On the flip side, we also know that everything she did include is pretty darn important, so be sure to check out our take on the road, the hill, and the inn in the "Symbols, Imagery, and Wordplay" section if you haven't already.