Christina Rossetti - Winter : My Secret

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Winter: My Secret

1830 - 1894

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.

Synopsis :

A female speaker (determined by the female clothing she alludes to) is addressing an auditor who has asked her to tell her ‘secret'. She refuses on the grounds that the day is too cold, that perhaps there is nothing to tell and that she does not want to reveal herself, just as she does not want to be exposed to the cold.

The speaker does not trust the assurances of the auditor that it will be alright, explaining that she is cautious even as springtime progresses. She may open up in the warmth of summer but otherwise the auditor will have to guess the secret.

Investigating Winter: My secret

  • What do you associate with the idea of secrets?
    • How does this poem meet these associations?
  • What do you associate with the idea of winter?
    • How does the poem meet these associations?
  • Describe how the poem links the idea of secrets to the idea of winter.

Commentary :

Rossetti composed Winter: My Secret in 1857 and first published among the non-devotional poetry in her first volume, Goblin Market and Other Poems.

The ‘secret' to which the title refers is not specified in the poem. The teasing tone of the speaker as she threatens to reveal a secret and then decides to keep it concealed from the reader has puzzled readers and critics since the poem's first publication.

Different interpretations

Various theories have arisen as to what the secret refers:

  • Some critics perform a biographical reading of the poem (see Critical

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