Rossetti wrote many of her poems in first-person narrative, including the bulk of her devotional work. In these instances, it is difficult to separate the poet’s voice from the narrator's. In this particular collection of poems, there are three categories of narrator: the narrator who represents Rossetti’s own opinions, the occasional narrator, and the narrator who is separate from the poet. The first type of narrator appears in Rossetti’s religious writing, while the second appears in her narrative tales.
The narrator who serves as a mouthpiece for the poet herself is often in dialogue with an absent companion or lover, except in “Love Came Down at Christmas," “In the Bleak Midwinter," “Bird Raptures," “De Profundis,” and “A Birthday." These poems instead extol the wonders of Christ’s love and the beauty of the natural world. “De Profundis” poses questions to a void, while the narrator of “A Birthday” addresses no one in particular.
“Remember," “The Convent Threshold,” and “Up-Hill” all have strong narrators who participate in active dialogue with unseen characters. The third category of narrator, as seen in “Goblin Market” and “Maude Clare," only enters the poem to add useful information, but does not control the outcome of the narrative.
The Young Woman (“Death’s Chill Between”)
The narrator is a grieving woman who is a character separate from Rossetti herself. Her bereavement is compounded by visions of her beloved, whose death she must learn to accept.
The Young Woman’s Mother (“Death’s Chill Between”)
She never speaks in the poem, but Rossetti implies her presence in through the young woman's responses. The mother wants to soothe her daughter’s broken heart and put an end her excessive grief.
The Deceased Young Man (“Death’s Chill Between”)
The young man's ghost returns to haunt his beloved in the form of footfall, a voice, and a knock.
Maude Clare (“Maude Clare”)
She is a queen-like beauty with a broken heart. She brazenly disrupts the wedding between her former lover, Thomas, and Nell, the girl he left Maude for. Maude Clare believes that she should have been the bride. She represents the Victorian archetype of the spurned woman whose dangerous and unruly behavior places her outside social standards.
Sir Thomas (“Maude Clare”)
Thomas is Nell's bashful and blushing groom. He broke Maude Clare’s heart in the past and now cannot stand up to her rebukes.
Thomas’ Mother (“Maude Clare”)
Thomas's mother tells her son that she and his father experienced a similar situation to the incident with Maude Clare at the wedding.
Nell (“Maude Clare”)
Nell looks like a common village maid compared to Maude Clare, but Thomas thinks that Nell is ideal because of her love and devotion.
The Traveler (“Up-Hill”)
The narrator is a weary traveler on a difficult road. She asks her guide questions about the journey ahead and ponders her life.
The Guide (“Up-Hill”)
The guide is a source of comfort, and answers all of the narrator’s questions about resting spots and the journey ahead.
Lizzie (“Goblin Market”)
Lizzie represents the Christ figure in this poem because she saves her sister, Laura, from death. Lizzie's heroic feat proves that she is brave and selfless. Lizzie is beautiful and golden-haired as well as prudent and wise.
Laura (“Goblin Market”)
Laura is Lizzie’s foolish sister who eats the goblin men's forbidden fruit. Lizzie saves her by obtaining the juice from the goblins’ fruit.
Goblins (“Goblin Market”)
The goblins are demonic creatures who sell tantalizing fruit. They resemble cats, rats, snails, wombats, and other unseemly creatures. They are also violent, and force their wares upon those, like Lizzie, who do not immediately fall into their trap.
Jeanie (“Goblin Market”)
Lizzie and Laura’s young friend who ate the goblin men's fruit and gradually pined away into nothingness. Lizzie tells Jeanie’s story as a cautionary tale to her curious sister, Laura.
Narrator (“The Convent Threshold”)
The narrator is contemplating giving her life to God, and struggles with the sins of her past.
The Lover and the Friend (“The Convent Threshold”)
The narrator directs her spiritual musings to these two abstract personae.
God (“The Convent Threshold”)
At the end of the poem, the narrator gives her life to God.
Mother (“Baby Lies So Fast Asleep”)
She is dealing with the death of her infant child and trying to comfort her surviving child.
Younger Child (“Baby Lies So Fast Asleep”)
The younger child asks his/her mother about the baby's death.
Christina Rossetti: Poems Questions and Answers
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This is largely a matriarchal world. There are no male characters: the only sign of males is near the end when we are told Lizzie and Laura have become "wives". It seems that males are not a part of female development and, especially artistically,...
Christina Rossetti: Poems study guide contains a biography of poet Christina Rossetti, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of select poems.