In "The Woodspurge" Dante Gabriel Rossetti uses plain and forceful language to recreate a moment of contemplation and grief. He narrates a basic scene from the perspective of an unknown person in which the individual wanders in a natural setting, sits down, and, in an emotional state, observes the details of a particular woodspurge — a European herb with greenish yellow flowers. The first stanza focuses on the wind and the narrator's movement, which mimics the wind patterns. As Rossetti writes, "I had walked on at the wind's will/ — I sat now, for the wind was still." The remainder of the poem echoes this stillness, focusing on the narrator's stationary features and inner emotions. In the second and third stanzas, Rossetti highlights his subject's physical characteristics, including his or her lips, hair, ears, and eyes: 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;
His inclusion of such sensory detail helps place the reader in the scene. Not until the final stanza, however, does the reader recognize the narrator's true inner sadness, when Rossetti writes, "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." Lending such great importance to the woodspurge in the poem's final line, Rossetti emphasizes the mundane details that people remember in times of acute emotional pain.
‘The Woodspurge’, written in 1856 when the poet was twenty-eight, shows a man in deep grief and isolation. Like Christina’s poem, this one also uses images of nature, and ends with focus upon a simple wild plant, the woodspurge. But is the speaker really seeing this plant? It is worth looking in some detail at the first stanza, to see how Rossetti is able, in a simple and almost unemotional way, to express his mood, and the way that it has swung from pain (‘the wind flapped loose’, but...
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