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"Winter my secret" by Christina Rossetti

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B Borain

on 31 March 2014

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Transcript of "Winter my secret" by Christina Rossetti

"Winter: My Secret"
by Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti
Victorian women
Traditionally, women from this period had to follow honour codes, which involved being pure and silent.

"Victorian society was preoccupied not only with legal and economic limitations for women's lives but with the very nature of women". (Carol T. Christ & Catherine Robson, 2006)

Most female Victorian poets were seeking liberty and wanted to voice their emotion through their writing.

"Winter: My Secret"
Teasing theme
The poem begins by the speaker teasing the listener with the idea that she has a secret.
"Only, my secret's mine, and I won't tell".
The language is flirtatious with an air of mystery. There are indications of playfulness and seduction.

"Suppose there is no secret after all/ But only just my fun"
The speaker appears active and in control of her flirtatious game as she lures the listener in, without giving much away.
The word "fun" depicts how the speaker is toying with the listener's mind.
Sensual language
The language in this dramatic monologue suggests how the speaker is guarding kiss-and-tell gossip.
These verbs have connotations of intimacy and/or violence.
They may correspond to kisses, suggesting a rebellion to the conventional pure Victorian norms.
There is continued innuendo involving food and consumption.
"golden fruit ripening to excess"
This could be sexual desire symbolised through the ripe fruit associated with eating/enjoyment.
There is an engagement with temptation but Rossetti's speaker is not revealing all of her thoughts because they are locked inside her mental interior space.
Desire for privacy
Rossetti promotes the power of the female mind.
The speaker takes ownership of her secret and never reveals what it is.
"a veil, a cloak, and other wraps"
These private thoughts are masked away, suggesting the secret is protected in her mind by a metaphorical veiled shield.

could be reinterpreted as society aggressively attempting to expose the truth.
By revealing the speaker has a secret, this causes the public's desire to chip away at her thoughts.

Rossetti's context
Rossetti operates the words in her poem as a barrier to the mind.

This could metaphorically represent that no matter how enclosed women's lives may be physically, they will always have a creative mental space.

The poem portrays the idea that Victorian women desired a private place of their own where they could have imaginative freedom from their contained lives.

Is "Rossetti's secretive subject matter a paradox of her own authorial desire, the impulse to write of what is lyrically private, countered by the sure knowledge that words do and do not reveal the poet's 'inward laughter'"? (Constance W. Hassett, 2005)
Rossetti was an English poet most famous for her works, "Goblin Market", "Remember" and "Winter: My Secret".

She was a governess, a poet, and ran a school for a while.

She lived a quiet life and never married. There were love interests - one she turned down because he reverted to Roman Catholicism, and the other she discovered was not a Christian.

Her friends were her brother's, one of whom was Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)

She was very conservative, however...
This poem was written in 1857.

It is a dramatic monologue which is a poetic form used to conceal the speaker's secret, acting as a mask.

There are four stanzas with varied rhyming schemes such as, internal rhyme, "blows and snows" and rhyming couplets, "A veil, a cloak, and other wraps:/ I cannot ope to every one who taps."
Desire for privacy
One interpretation of "Winter: My Secret" seems to portray a woman's sensual urge to protect her secret passions.

Consequently, this causes the speaker's desire for a private interior space from society.

Both forms of desire are secretly locked away inside her mind, displaying the speaker's powerful imaginative freedom.

In pairs, read the poem to each other and try to decide out what the intended tone should be.
"Goblin Market" deals with femininity, sensual/erotic language, addiction, sin and violence!
"One of nineteenth-century England's greatest 'Odd Women'". (Greenblatt & Abrams, 2006)
What kind of secrets are there?
Why do people have secrets?
Are secrets good, or bad, things?
What effect can secrets have?
What kind of secrets are there?
Why do people have secrets?
Are secrets good, or bad, things?
What effect can secrets have?

What might a woman have to keep secret?
Why might the narrator tell her secret in the summer? Try to work out the time that has elapsed from the beginning of the poem to the end.
What connotations can you think of for winter?
Highlight the sensual imagery. (Think about physical objects, things you can touch)
What do the uneven stanzas represent?
Highlight all the verbs (e.g. the –ings)
“Or, after all, perhaps there’s none: Suppose there is no secret after all,” (lines 7 &8). What does Rossetti mean by these lines?
“Or you may guess”- who might guess? Who is Rossetti speaking to?
Look at lines 20 – 24. What is happening in these lines? What is being described?
What is the benefit to be gained from keeping a secret?
How does the speaker treat the imagined addressee in this poem?
What purpose do the references to the seasons serve?
How is this poem about expression and concealment? What sorts of expression are alluded to?
What specific language and imagery indicates and reinforces the ‘secret’?
What do you think the secret is?
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
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 buffeting,
Nipping and clipping
thro' my wraps and all.
I wear my mask for warmth: who ever shows
His nose to Russian snows
To be
at by every wind that blows?
You would not
? I thank you for good will,
Believe, but leave the truth untested still

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

Perhaps some languid summer day,
When drowsy birds sing less and less,
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.

- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23251#sthash.1Lg9PC8z.dpuf
coy, teasing
internal rhyme - stresses cold, cold reception of secret perhaps?
now we are curious!
continues to be obtuse
nipping and biting - sensual and painful
a mask or barrier
imagine a breeze up your skirt -cheeky and invasive
internal rhyme again
buffeted contrasts with the more positive bounding, surrounding and astounding
Spring is about growth, but note the contrast between the good and bad - rainbow and showers, flowers and frost/wither/sunless hours - conditions not yet right
Summer the time may be ripe, ideal conditions neither too sunny or too cloudy
golden ripe fruit - the prize, sensual, juicy secret
ripe to excess - possibly almost rotten - the secret may already have been guessed...
I might tell you, but by then you may already have guessed
'peck' repetition: pun
to kiss
a painful bird peck
peck of dust - not much
Full transcript