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Christina Rossetti & A Need To Be Honest

Updated on January 10, 2010

What is your favorite poem by Christina Rossetti?

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So Many Secrets

I tell my secret? No indeed, not I:
Perhaps some day, who knows?
But not today; it froze, and blows and snows,
And you're too curious: fie!
You want to hear it? well:
Only, my secret's mine, and I won't tell.

Or, after all, perhaps there's none:
Suppose there is no secret after all,
But only just my fun.
Today's a nipping day, a biting day;
In which one wants a shawl,
A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:
I cannot ope to everyone who taps,
And let the draughts come whistling thro' my hall;
Come bounding and surrounding me,
Come buffeting, astounding me,
Nipping and clipping thro' my wraps and all.
I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows
His nose to Russian snows
To be pecked at by every wind that blows?
You would not peck? I thank you for good will,
Believe, but leave the truth untested still.

Spring's an expansive time: yet I don't trust
March with its peck of dust,
Nor April with its rainbow-crowned brief showers,
Nor even May, whose flowers
One frost may wither thro' the sunless hours.

Perhaps some languid summer day,
When drowsy birds sing less and less,
And golden fruit is ripening to excess,
If there's not too much sun nor too much cloud,
And the warm wind is neither still nor loud,
Perhaps my secret I may say,
Or you may guess.

-Christina Rossetti-

In the above poem, Winter: My Secret,by British poet Christina Rossetti, we are given a peek into the mind of the narrator. She has a secret and someone wants to know it. Yet, it is clear that no one will ever learn this secret. For many of us, we are the narrator.

Looking at the first stanza, we learn that the narrator has a secret. Someone wants to know it, but she tells them that today is not the day. From the title, we know that it is winter. The narrator believes the day to be too cold for open conversation. She knows that the other person wants to know everything. However, she knows her limits and realizes that she may never be able to divulge what the listener wants to hear.

In the second stanza, she tries to trick her listener into believing that there is in fact no secret, “Or, after all, perhaps there's none: Suppose there is no secret after all, But only just my fun.” Realizing that no one acts like they have a secret unless they have one, the other person won't fall for this line. The narrator now begins to talk about the weather. I take these lines to mean something deeper. True, the weather is bad and cold in the winter. However, when one feels insecure or like their secret is too heavy for them to share, their internal weather is always winter. The narrator feels she must protect her secret even more now. Presumably she has opened up to others before and it has backfired and “let the draughts come whistling thro' my hall” or left her feeling more unstable. As a result, she now must “wear my mask for warmth” or be someone she isn't as a means to protect herself. Though the other person promises to not do to her what others have done “You would not peck?” she still can’t let her guard down and says “I thank you for good will, Believe, but leave the truth untested still.”

She suggests in the third stanza that as she becomes more comfortable with this person she may allow some bits of the secret to come out. However, she is still on guard and basically suggests that even the most innocent people can turn on her and have in the past. It will take some time for her to feel truly comfortable.

In the closing stanza, we get the sense that she may never tell her secret. She describes a perfect day as the day that she may tell all “If there's not too much sun nor too much cloud, And the warm wind is neither still nor loud, Perhaps my secret I may say, Or you may guess.” In other words, on the day that she feels she knows this person very well and can let down her guard, she could possibly be honest with them. Still “perhaps” and “may” will never be “definitely” and “for certain.” Whatever secret the narrator is keeping is too important for her to risk having it spread around. Presumably, she will go to grave with it.

As stated before, many of us are the narrator. Every day, we walk around with a secret praying that it will never be found out. It is as small as a cookie eaten on a diet and as large as knowing where “lost” money went to. No matter what the secret is, it is evident to everyone that there is a secret. We don’t answer questions the way they expect us to and it sends up a red flag. We refrain from discussing a certain topic and that too sends up a red flag. For as long as people have been keeping secrets, there have been people who strive to find them out. Some people just can’t allow for privacy.

In the days following his death, we are finding out more and more secrets about Michael Jackson. If they are to be believed, many people could’ve predicted his demise. Some sources state he used prescription drugs as a crutch. Some sources go further to say that he was an addict. As his drug use was kept a secret, many of us are confused and shocked. Like Heath Ledger, Jackson is another lost icon who may have taken his own life without even realizing it. For these men (and other less famous people who died the same way), their secrets brought them down. If only they had been able to trust in others and know things would be okay after they told the trust, perhaps they would still be alive today.

It is often the people we love the most who we are forced to keep secrets from which is funny considering they are meant to be ones we are to be most comfortable around. So afraid of letting them down and having them think differently of us, we needlessly live with these secrets. One secret turns into another and then another until it becomes that we have a separate life/personality that our loved ones don’t know about. If we had only felt comfortable in the beginning to live honestly, we would not be burdened with a sack full of them now. So much of our lives are wasted keeping up appearances.

For certain, one day we will die. On this day as we won’t be holding them back anymore, all of our secrets will come to the surface. Our loved ones will deal with them (or deny them) in their own way. We will wonder why we didn’t just tell them (It’ll become clear to you that people who love you and want the best for you don’t force you to be the version of you that what they want you to be.) and save ourselves years of anguish. We will get in death the release we were never allowed in life. In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as secrets because we wouldn’t fear the truth or deny its existence. Sadly, our world is not like that. Still, let us strive to live each day honestly and encourage others to do the same. We cannot lose hope in a perfect tomorrow.

To read more poetry analysis by this writer, please click on the link below.


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      Frances Kay 7 years ago

      Lovely poem and insightful analysis. I would enjoy more poetry and poetry more if I had this kind of help with every poem.

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      nora 7 years ago

      thaaaank you so much actually i took this poem but i did not understand what she mean

      so thank you so much