‘Winter: My Secret’ (Poetry Analysis) Poetry Workshop: The Poem
After consulting the statistics for this blog, I am delighted to report that my faith in the reading public’s enthusiasm for poetry has been repaid. The most frequently visited entries are my close interpretations of poems. So a big nanny nanny boo boo followed by a hearty nyuk-nyuk to those who discouraged me from starting a blog on the grounds that no one cares about poetry these days. People do care, and I can use google analytics to prove it. A very big thank you to readers who have written in about (or simply quietly enjoyed) close-reading poetry along with me.
In gratitude, my Christmas offering to you is a seasonally appropriate Christina Rossetti poem called ‘Winter: My Secret’. I hope you will join me in reading, thinking about, and delighting in this poem.
Coming to a poem for the first time can be difficult and disorienting. Read slowly; this is not a race. Cast your mind back to what it was like to read for pleasure as a child, before you were aware that people expected something measurable to come out of the process. Put no pressure on yourself to form conclusions, find connections, or indulge in analytical pyrotechnics.
Let Rossetti’s words (150 years old now) literally speak to you. Remember to listen as well as to look. Words are not just visual; they are aural and oral. Poetry is a sensual art, and we need to involve as many senses as possible in our appreciation of this form. Read the words, hear them, and speak them out loud. Don’t be self-conscious about doing this. Talking to yourself in public is perfectly acceptable these days. Just put in an earpiece, adopt a self-important look and pretend you’re on your mobile phone.
Or, if this is too embarrassing a prospect, have a listen to Yours Truly reading the poem outloud HERE:
Please visit again for the analysis, which will be posted soon.
Winter: My Secret
(by Christina Rossetti)
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.