Study Guide

Up-Hill Quotes

By Christina Rossetti

  • Perseverance

    Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
     Yea, to the very end. (1-2)

    This passage emphasizes that the journey upward is not always an easy one. Concerns, doubts, and distractions can get in the way of one's spiritual quest, and a great deal of perseverance becomes necessary to reach the final destination.

    Will the day's journey take the whole-long day? (3)

    And, if so, can we at least stop somewhere yummy for lunch? Only after putting in a full day's work, though.

    May not the darkness hide it from my face?
     You cannot miss that inn. (7-8)

    You can almost imagine Speaker #1 as a runner in a race with all these questions about the track ahead and Speaker #2 as a coach, tirelessly running alongside him the whole way and providing the answers. In some ways, Speaker #2 seems almost more determined to get Speaker #1 to the finish than Speaker #1 seems determined to get there.

    Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
     Of labour you shall find the sum. (13-14)

    These two lines really drive home the idea that the effort you put into the journey has a direct influence on the reward you get upon completing the climb—which, at its core, is what makes perseverance so important to the poem.

    Will there be beds for me and all who seek? (15)

    Speaker #1's incessant questioning is seen by many as one sign that we are dealing with a seriously determined person.

  • Religion

    Does the road wind up-hill all the way? (1)

    A Christian's journey through life is often depicted as a road or path, particularly a difficult one. Lots of famous piece of literature make use of this metaphor, but a particularly influential oneJohn Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress—was a favorite of Rossetti's.

     From morn to night, my friend. (4)

    Introducing the dichotomy of morning and night brings a whole dark vs. light vibe into the poem, which is always useful for drawing out any good vs. evil tension that might be hiding under the surface.

    Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
     They will not leave you standing at that door. (11-12)

    When you're dealing with poems that have a clear religious tone, it's often really helpful to make use of a concordance, a super-useful book that tells you where and how many times a word is used in the Bible. "Knock," for instance, might seem innocuous (ha ha), but if you run it through an online concordance, it shows up in a Bible verse that is especially fitting: "For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:8).

    Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
     Yea, beds for all who come. (15-16)

    Rossetti's use of the word "seek" is not only Biblical (see Matthew 7:8), it serves as a useful reminder to readers that this inn is not something you're just going to stumble across in passing; finding it requires a sincere and pointed effort.

  • Truth

    But is there for the night a resting-place?
     A roof for when the slow dark hours begin. (5-6)

    As far as logistics go, Speaker #1 is getting minimal details here. It might be okay for Speaker #1, but Shmoop would want some more deets.

    May not the darkness hide it from my face?
     You cannot miss that inn. (7-8)

    Speaker #1 simply takes this statement for granted, never bothering to ask what it is about the inn that makes it so impossible to miss.

    Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
     They will not keep you standing at that door. (11-12)

    One reason we're inclined to trust Speaker #2 is because his answers are so spot-on. In this case, he doesn't specifically answer the question (we still don't know whether to knock or call), but he gives the answer that gets to the heart of what the question is asking: "Will I reach the inn only to be stranded outside?"

    Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
     Yea, beds for all who come. (15-16)

    Both speakers use fairly straightforward vocabulary, which minimizes the risk of equivocation (beating around the bush of some question you don't want to answer directly).

  • Doubt

    Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
     Yes, to the very end. (1-2)

    Right off the bat, Speaker #2 is giving us just as much information as is necessary to answer the question. This leaves lots of things unanswered, such as "Where does the road go?" "Exactly how long is it?" "How does Speaker #2 know about this road in the first place?"

    Will the day's journey take the whole-long day? (3)

    Generally speaking, if something is described as a "day's journey," you would likely assume that it would take a significant portion of "the whole-long day," but not Speaker #1. His excessive questioning is another way in which doubt factors into the poem because, as the questions indicate, he's starting to doubt his ability to make the journey.

    May not the darkness hide it from my face?
     You cannot miss that inn. (7-8)

    Both questions and answers are short and simple. This makes the questioning seem more incessant (increasing our perception of Speaker #1's doubts) and the answers more vague (since short answers can only resolve so much).

    Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
     Those who have gone before. (9-10)

    Take a look at this line and think, specifically, about exactly what question is answered here and what questions are raised by the reply.

    Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
     Yea, beds for all who come. (15-16)

    Refreshingly, the poem ends with on a beat of certainty (although we aren't even going to get into the feasibility of constructing an inn that has an infinite amount of rooms available).