Christina Rossetti's poignant poem of loneliness and regret, "A Daughter of Eve," draws power from its vagueness. In this poem, the speaker laments her past choices without explicitly describing them and evokes a mood although no story is told. Rossetti's sentence structure and word choice underline the speaker's sorrow: her short, direct sentences recall the speaking pattern of depressed individuals—monosyllabic words and simple metaphors are all the self expression she can muster:
A fool I was to sleep at noon,
And wake when night is chilly
Beneath the comfortless cold moon;
A fool to pluck my rose too soon,
A fool to snap my lily.
My garden-plot I have not kept;
Faded and all-forsaken,
I weep as I have never wept:
Oh it was summer when I slept,
It's winter now I waken.
Talk what you please of future spring
And sun-warm'd sweet to-morrow:
Stripp'd bare of hope and everything,
No more to laugh, no more to sing,
I sit alone with sorrow.
Her repeated imagery also illustrates her melancholia; for example, in the first stanza "A fool I was to sleep at noon,/ And wake when night is chilly" and also in the second, "Oh it was summer when I slept,/ It's winter now I waken." These lines are yet another example of the Pre-Raphaelite tendencies to compare their interior state with the exterior world as seen in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "The Woodspurge." Here, though, this repeated comparison begins and ends the first part of the poem, thereby attaining a structural cohesiveness. Furthermore, her repeated use of the word "fool" and repeated tones due to the ABAAB rhyming pattern underscore the speaker's sadness.
Although the reader understands the speaker is upset, the speaker never specifically details the source of her regret as she only uses vague metaphors such as "A fool to pick my rose too soon,/ A fool to snap my lily./ My garden-plot I have not kept." Perhaps, the title can provide some clues. As a Daughter of Eve, the speaker must be reliving the punishment for Eve's transgression in the Garden of Eden. Maybe there is no need to articulate the causes of the speaker's depression because these feelings are innate within all women as daughters of eve, inheritors of sin.
1. Is this an image of a contemplative woman? If so, how does Rossetti re-work this traditional Pre Raphealite theme?
2. In Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem, "St. Mary," he describes in the inward mood of a contemplative woman. How do these two poems compare?
3. In dramatic monologues, the poet creates a speaker that is separate from his or herself. What is the relationship between Christina Rossetti and the speaker of this poem? Are there any clues?
4. Could one read the myth of Persephone into this poem? How does this change the interpretation of the poem?
Last modified 15 October 2006