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The Up-hill Road

The Theosophy of a Poem by Christina Rossetti
 
 
Carlos Cardoso Aveline
 
 
 
 
Christina Rossetti, a drawing by her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti
 
 
 
In the third and  final part of the book “The Voice of the Silence”,  we see a  reference to a Path  which is -
 
“…Steep and winds up hill; yea, to its rocky top.” [1]
 
The same image appears in several places in the theosophical literature. In the closing paragraphs of a Letter, a Master of the Wisdom writes to a lay disciple about how to obtain a correct understanding of theosophical views of the cosmos. And the Master says:
 
“It is a life long task you have chosen, and somehow instead of generalizing you manage always to rest upon those details that prove the most difficult to a beginner. Take warning, my good Sahib.  The task is difficult and […here we see the initials of another Master’s name…] in remembrance of old times, when he loved to quote poetry, asks me to close my letter with the following to your address:
 
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
     Yes to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
     From morn to night, my friend.” [2]
 
Since the Mahatma wrote this letter, in 1882, these lines of a poem have been quoted a number of times in theosophical literature. Helena P. Blavatsky uses them in the opening of her remarkable article entitled “Spiritual Progress”.[3] 
 
The author of the verses, Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), was one of the most popular poets in England in the 19th century.
 
Christina’s poem is far from being a vain literary exercise. She “came to see her life as a test of her power to renounce: to live on very little as the world sees it, in the hope and expectation of a fuller reward.  (…..) At the age of 24 during the Crimean War, she volunteered to nurse (…..); rejected, she worked among the London poor. (…..) After 1873 her health declined and she devoted herself more and more to religious writing.” [4]
 
The whole poem quoted by the Mahatma deserves study and consideration. It’s entitled “Up-Hill”, and it says:
 
 
“Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
     Yes, to the very end.
Will the day’s journey take the whole long day?
     From morn to night, my friend.
 
But is there for the night a resting-place?
     A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
     You cannot miss that inn.
 
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
     Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
     They will not keep you standing at that door.
 
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
     Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
     Yeah, beds for all who come.” [5]
 
The inn, the roof and the resting-place are symbols for the good karma and merits of everyone who tries to walk the Path. 
 
 
NOTES:
 
[1] “The Voice of the Silence”, translated and annotated by H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 110 pp., 1987, p. 58.
 
[2] “The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett”, Theosophical University Press, Pasadena, California, see Letter XLIII (43), p. 262.  In the Chronological Edition of the Mahatma Letters, see Letter 42.
 
[3] “Spiritual Progress”, an article by H.P.B. published at “Theosophical Articles”, Helena P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, three volumes, volume II, p. 110. It was initially published at “The Theosophist”, May 1885.
 
[4] Martin Corner, of the Kingston University,  in the introduction to the volume “The Works of Christina Rossetti”, The Wordsworth Poetry Library, Wordsworth Editions Limited, Kent, Great Britain, 450 pp., 1995,  pp. V and VI.  
 
[5] “The Works of Christina Rossetti”, The Wordsworth Poetry Library, p. 194.
 
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The Up-hill Road




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