The world

A combination of contradictions forms the basis of the poem “The world” by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894). He message is simple: in this world, there is good and bad.

About "The world"

About “The world”

There are light and darkness. These are opposite of each other and in some way, you can see them as extremes. If you read this poem, you may think that light (day) is the liar and darkness (night) is the truth. Not everyone would agree to this. Darkness is often seen as something that isn’t good. So this should be the side that’s all about lying.

At the beginning of this poem, the poetess claims that the world during daytime ‘woos’ her. The day seems to flirt with her. It’s the softness and fairness that gets a hold of her. The beauty impresses her. When the night comes, there is a change. The landscape changes into something else and she is now confronted with everything that weighs heavy on the soul. Until the next day, she doesn’t feel safe. But when the new day breaks, it’s filled (again) with beauty.

In the next part, she feels the same. The day is again filled with beauty (“sweet flowers”, “ripe fruits”). The night brings nothingness.

In the last part of the poem, she (finally) realises that the world she sees during the daytime is nothing more than an illusion. Thus making daytime a lie. This time is nothing more than a façade, made up by darkness and to draw her into temptation.

In a way, Rossetti fears for mankind. People don’t see it this way. It could also be a confession. Is the life she leads during daytime different from the life she leads at night?

The world

The world

By day she woos me, soft, exceeding fair: But all night as the moon so changeth she;
Loathsome and foul with hideous leprosy And subtle serpents gliding in her hair. By day she woos me to the outer air,
Ripe fruits, sweet flowers, and full satiety:
But through the night, a beast she grins at me,
A very monster void of love and prayer.
By day she stands a lie: by night she stands
In all the naked horror of the truth
With pushing horns and clawed and clutching hands.
Is this a friend indeed; that I should sell
My soul to her, give her my life and youth,
Till my feet, cloven too, take hold on hell?

— Christina Rossetti

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