by Christina Rossetti
Stanza 1 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
- Our poem starts off with a question about a road: does the path go up-hill the whole way
- This seems like a pretty straightforward question, so it makes sense that in line 2, we get an equally straightforward answer: why yes, it does.
- In spite of the straight answer in line 2, however, we are far from having all the answers: Who is speaking? Where are they going? Where did they start out? What's the deal with this windy, uphill path?
- The whole question-answer format we see in the first two lines is super-interesting because it implies that there are two different voices present in the poem. We're going to refer to them as Speaker #1 (the voice asking the questions) and Speaker #2 (the voice answering them), but think about whether or not two voices has to equal two separate people.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
- Line 3 opens with another question, and line 4 gives another answer.
- The wording in line 3 is a little awkward—what does it mean for something to take "the whole long day" as opposed to just "the day"?
- After taking a look at the answer provided in line 4, our best guess is that a journey that takes "the day" is kind of like an afternoon outing—driving a couple towns over to see a cool art exhibit or something—whereas a journey that takes "the whole long day" is more like a sunrise-to-sunset, driving from Florida to Rhode Island kind of experience.
- Once again, for every question Speaker #2 answers, several more are raised. Just how long is this journey? Are we seeing questions about one day of what could be weeks, months, or years of travel? Will Speaker #2 get a whole new set of questions tomorrow? Or is the journey mentioned in the poem the whole shebang? Plus, we still don't know anything about the relationship between the two speakers, where Speaker #1 is going, or how Speaker #2 knows how to get there. So many questions…
- Line 4 also marks the end of the first quatrain, or four-line stanza, of the poem, so it's the perfect time to see what we've learned so far about the rhyme, tone, format, and meter of the poem.
- The rhyme scheme in the first four lines is pretty easy; it's ABAB which means that both of Speaker #1's lines rhyme with each other, as do Speaker #2's.
- Don't be thrown off by the simple vocabulary and uncomplicated tone used in "Up-Hill," though, we promise you this poem is anything but simple. In fact, Rossetti's use of such generic vocabulary and standard images should be a big heads up that there are a lot of potential ways in which this poem can and should be interpreted.
- The meter is trickier—a lot trickier. In fact, it's so stinking tricky that scholars actually don't always agree on what kind of meter is being used in the poem. Shmoop's not lying, y'all—"Up-Hill" can be correctly (if somewhat complexly) scanned for beats in a number of different ways.
- For now, though, let's just count the syllables in each line and see what we've got to work with.
- You'll probably notice that line 1 has 9 syllables, line 2 has 6, line 3 has 10, and line 4 also has 6.
- See how the lines kind of pair up: even numbers have 6 syllables per line, where odd numbered lines have more? Does this remind you of the way anything else in the poem seems to be working?
- If you said, "Hey Shmoop, that's how the rhyme scheme works," then start coming up with a celebration dance because you are spot on. Speaker #1's lines all have around 10 syllables per line, whereas Speaker #2's lines are generally shorter, closer to 6.
- Tempting though it may be to start slapping feet and meter labels in various places, we're going to ask you to hold off for just a little bit longer. Don't worry, if iambs are your jam, you can always hop on over to the "Form and Meter" section, where we give this aspect of "Up-Hill" all the love and attention it deserves.