Analysis of ‘The Woodspurge’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Do you guys need some references?
I myself did notreally do it well but I tried my best in finishing this assignment.
I hope it can help you.

The Woodspurge
By Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 – 1882)

The wind flapp’d loose, the wind was still,
Shaken out dead from tree and hill:
I had walk’d on at the wind’s will,—
I sat now, for the wind was still.

Between my knees my forehead was,—
My lips, drawn in, said not Alas!
My hair was over in the grass,
My naked ears heard the day pass.

My eyes, wide open, had the run
Of some ten weeds to fix upon;
Among those few, out of the sun,
The woodspurge flower’d, three cups in one.

From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom or even memory:
One thing then learnt remains to me,—
The woodspurge has a cup of three.

A. Illustration
The poem illustrates about the nature’s condition where the wind blows as if it shakes out the poet or the speaker. The speaker walks as if he is following the wind’s direction. He walks when the wind blows and stops for taking a sit when the wind stops. As the speaker sits down, he placed his forehead down between his knees. His lips were drawn in, possibly mumbling, as it wished to be able saying Alas but could not. The speaker’s hair is long until it touches the grass while he keeps listening around, as if he could see the day passes by. Suddenly, the speaker noticed and gazed at ten weeds which uncared. Among those ten weeds, there is one attracted the speaker’s attention, that is the woodspurge flower which each flower consists of three cupped-petals. As the speaker keeps looking at the woodspurge flower, he states that wisdom and memory are not necessary to be thought as he is seriously and so badly grieving over something. According to the speaker, all that left is only the woodspurge which has three-cupped petals.
B. General meaning
The speaker seems deeply grief over something and he wants to get away from it by walking through the forest of a hill, but he stopped and sat as he recalled what made him feel sad. He was contemplated but suddenly the appearance of the woodspurge flower made he realized that the unbearable grief, sorrow and sadness he had, made everything flew away except the fact that he cannot change his fate for feeling the grief, as he stated that the woodspurge flower will always has three cups in one.

C. Detailed meaning
1) Kinds of imagery (figure of speech)
– Personification
In the first line of the first stanza, the word flapped as in ‘The wind flapp’d loose’ is one of the personifications within the poem. The verb ‘flap’ has always done by human, or at least, done by animates objects, such as birds, as they flap their wings. The use of the verb ‘flap’ is not without reason since it is similar to the verb ‘blow’ to describe the wind movements. The poet used the word ‘flap’ to portray the wind that blew hard and slowly stopped before started again to blow quickly. Quite similar to humans when they flap something, they do it more than once.
The second personification is still in the first stanza. In the third line, the poet demonstrates the wind has a will like human does. Wind is an inanimate object, so it is such nonsense for ‘wind’ having a will. The poet used the word ‘will’ referring to the wind, to make as if it is live. The speaker of the poem seems in a deep grief and likely he has no life inside; thus, the wind play role as another living creature that guide him walking through the forest.
In the first line of third stanza, the poet seems to use the verb ‘run’ in personifying the eyes’ movement. ‘Run’ is usually paired with feet instead of the other parts of human body. The poet may want to make it clear that the speaker of the poem suddenly noticed and looked at the object, in this case, the woodspurge, in no time or so quick, as quick as the feet when human uses them for running.
– For similes and metaphors are not included within the poem as it much more tells about sequences of one scene. A hyperbole seems implicitly put in the first stanza, ‘The wind flapp’d loose, the wind was still, Shaken out dead from tree and hill:’ it is actually a bit confusing whether the one who was shaken out was the speaker or the wind (Nield).
– Irony
The dictions used in the poem are all such to describe an ironic scene where somebody totally in a big mess, cannot go back or even face it forwards. From the first stanza, what the speaker does by only walking following the wind’s will is indicating how pessimist and weak the speaker was. Nield added that the speaker within the poem is weirdly passive for being pushed and pulled, hither and thither like a doll or puppet without trying to resist. The illustration also showed how depressed the speaker was until he let himself such uncontrolled and less life. The poet also used the phrase perfect grief to once again display what a big mess that occurred to the speaker. He might be lost something too dear for him. After all words described all melancholy symbols, in the end of the poem it is a bit surprised and unexpected since the speaker only said the woodspurge still has three cups in one. That kind of ending is quite difficult to understand, to catch the real meaning. The speaker was possibly referring the woodspurge flower as the representation of reality of life. The woodspurge has its fate as a plant. It normally will always have the shape or structure three cups in one. The reality of life, what happened cannot be changed or repeated.
2) Types of imagery
– Visual
The visual imagery that is caught from the poem first is the view of the setting of place in the first stanza. The poet used the word ‘hill’, ‘tree’ and ‘grass’ so that the reader can grasp that the setting is probably happened in a green scenery. The poet also gave the image of the speaker’s hair, eyes, forehead, the lips, naked ears and his knees. His hair is most likely long because as he sat down his hair reached over the grass. His forehead is between his knees, so his face is facing down to the ground. His lips want to say and scream Alas, an exclamation of sadness, but they are not able. He is in the position where his arms are also possibly wrapped his legs.
The other visual imageries in the poem are the images of ten weeds and the woodspurge flower which has three cups in one. The shape is clearly mentioned, so the readers can imagine a bit how the flower looks like though they will wonder about the colour. The speaker seems observing the details of a particular woodspurge, a European herb with greenish yellow flowers.
– Auditory
The imagery of hearing or auditory can also be grabbed from the description from the sounds of whistling wind in the very first line. The wind is an object which cannot be seen but to be felt or heard.
– Tactile
The tactile imagery may be shown in the phrase perfect grief as if it gives the internal sensation of deep sorrow that unthinkable or overwhelming.
3) Detail analysis related to the content
– Stanza 1
The first stanza gives the reader about the information or description of the condition and the setting of place. It focused in telling about the speaker’s movement as well as the wind’s movement. The psychological condition or the feeling of the speaker can be grasped in the line which says, ‘I had walk’d on at the wind’s will’. The speaker was moodless, has no intention or idea where will he go. The speaker wants the readers to know that he is controlled by the wind’s movement, like lifeless living creature. He is such a person who does not know what he is doing because of too much absorbed with his own mind.
– Stanza 2
In the second stanza, the poem starts to portray the gesture and posture of the speaker who sits on the grass and huddles by putting his head between his knees to show how depressed and insecure he is. The speaker is described himself as he is experiencing a big mental pain in which he even cannot say it aloud, or maybe he cannot find the suitable words to express his pain. The speaker stayed in that posture for unknown length of time, but possibly is quite long since he describe that his naked ears can hear the day passed by.
– Stanza 3
In this third stanza, the poem gives the reader an image that the speaker starts to aware of his surroundings. It is like that all of his senses are gradually coming back as he saw the ten weeds. His attention was attracted to the unique woodspurge flower that was among the ten weeds. The scene in the third scene is also describing how somebody will easily notice about small things around them when they are in the bad state of mental condition. Like the reality nowadays, when a teen, for instance, is broken heart, he or she will usually easy to aware of the leaves, flowers, stones and any other small things around to show that he or she is not himself or herself for having such a mental burden. The visual object ten weeds and the woodspurge flower may also be a comparison to the speaker’s own life. The plants condition may represent his condition which probably also among different people in which he was thrown or unnoticed when around them.

– Stanza 4
In this last stanza, the speaker wants to tell the readers about how big the pain or grief he had to hold back, by stating ‘From perfect grief there no need not be, Wisdom or even memory’. Something that perfect can refer to both positive and negative ways, totally good or totally messed. The speaker was also failed to gain the wisdom and memory of his life, since the grief make both of them unnecessary. The only thing that significant and importance as he state it in the last line ‘One thing then learnt remains to me, The woodspurge has a cup of three’. The woodspurge that he first noticed after his long contemplation seems give him a lesson, or at least make he realized something. Grieving over something will not bring you wisdom or bring back your memories. Nothing can be learnt from too much grieving. It should not be stayed too long in your mind and should not too overwhelming that make you burdened. The woodspurge will always be the woodspurge that has three cups in one. As what had been stated before, the speaker may want to tell us that the reality will always be what it is like, that what happened cannot be changed or repeated back. When you experienced that kind of situation and condition you should get up and must be able to face or get over it. At least, when the grief tries to take you down, you yourself must try to get rid of it so that your life will be meaningful again.
4) Aesthetics values
The aesthetics value can be seen from the portrayal of nature. The setting of where the scene in the poem took place is outside, in a forest of a hill. The view may similar to a beautiful green landscape. However, in the next line, the forest is described as if it is quiet since the sounds and movements of wind are clearly heard. The forest also seems dark and quite scary because in the poem, it is stated that the sound of flapping wind can shake out dead and when the speaker pointed out the location of the woodspurge flower which was out of sun.
The portrayal of the weeds and woodspurge also add more beautiful visual imagery. The portrayal of a grieving person actually does not bring any aesthetics value. However, Rossetti exclusively set out that from a grief can give a value of beauty art within an emotion. Aesthetics value is indeed a value of beauty and usually complex. However, Rossetti drawn it on a melancholy scene which full of simplicity yet full of vivid senses. The speaker or the narrator’s sadness may relate and represent the sadness that had been experienced by Dante Gabriel Rossetti himself.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti is one member of The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood along with William Holman Hunt, and John Everett Millais, that formed in 1848. Dante Gabriel Rossetti fluently spoke English and Italian, as well as his brothers and sisters, since his father was from Italy and his mother was a half Italian. His siblings are Maria, William Michael and Christina. Two of them, William Michael and Christina also worked in literacy. After joining The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Rossetti became a great artist, as painters and also a poet. Glenn Everett (1988) wrote that Rossetti had many affairs in his life that brought him to such a pessimistic and depression. He engaged to a model that had worked for many of his paintings and sketches, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal (Lizzie Siddal), but not get married until 1860 for some unknown reasons. After get married, Rossetti fell in love again with Index Burden, but the girl married to his artist’s mate, William Morris. Twenty months later his wife died from morphia’s overdose. Rossetti then employed Fanny Cornforth to be his model but unfortunately she is not his ideal type, unlike Lizzie Siddal or another his previous model, Jane Morris, whom rumoured to have a special relationship with him.
His works are mostly under the new Romanticism that differs with the English Romanticism, which stands on imagination in writing and extremely uses flowery or figurative languages. He wrote ‘The woodspurge’ in more denotative way. Rossetti still use the word play, as can be seen in some words’ structure in each stanza. He also used personifications and there is a possibility he used natural objects in this poem as a symbol or representation of something As a painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti loves to paint the beauty of women, yet in this poem he portrayed a person who was deeply in grief and wrote it in less flowery language (Everett). The time when Rossetti lost his wife might inspire him to write ‘The woodspurge’. He was assumed to experience such a distress until he attempted for suicide, but still able to recover back gradually. If we look again into the poem, in the last stanza it is also implied that the speaker or narrator has realize and learn something. It can possibly relate to the Rossetti’s story of life that after his recovery he started to paint and write again. Rossetti also wrote ‘My sister’s sleep’ to regard the death of his sister, Maria Francesca Rossetti, whom also an Anglican nun, similar with how Rossetti describe the sister in the poem ‘My sister’s sleep’. He was later dead because of kidney failure on April 9, 1882.
5) Physical characteristics of poetry
It is clearly noticed that all four stanzas that construct the poem has aaaa rhyme with different vocal endings in each quatrain. Each stanza also consists of four lines and using iambic pentameter in each line. Iambic means in each foot or line there is a pair of syllables in which one is stressed and the one after is unstressed. Pentameter is to show that in each line have four measures; hence, each line has eight syllables. The poem used figure of speech as well but there is no simile, metaphor or onomatopoeia. The repetition used in the poem is in the first stanza, ‘wind’ and ‘I’. The repetition continues in the second stanza with the recurring use of ‘my’.
6) Theme
The theme of the poem is the grief or regret will never able to scroll back what had already happened. The poem says more about the grief that experienced by the speaker and how he wants to recover and then finally resolve it. There is will always be renewal process in life. Grief will not solve or answer anything. The reality, no matter how it is, is there to be faced.
D. Conclusion
In conclusion, the poem entitled ‘The woodspurge’ written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti is more or less telling about someone who experiencing a great sorrow and mental distress. That someone in the end was able to get back his senses and tried to learn something after observing the woodspurge flower. The message that the poet wants to deliver is do not let the sadness failing you to reach happiness. Even though you were in a great grief and everything feels like all gone, the reality remains a reality. The poet may actually intend to tell the readers to be able facing the reality how hard it could be. To be too much depressed or pessimist will only bring you to regret and failure, or the worse, lead you to greater unending sorrow. The poet may want to say to the readers that life will always be renewed, that there is always a chance to start over again.


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