The poet uses very simple language throughout, making this poem one of Rossetti’s easiest to read. It speaks on an easy-to-relate-to topic as well—the changing of the seasons and the importance of rain. The nine-stanza poem uses a great deal of lyrical language that focuses on beautiful natural images and helps convey the speaker’s peaceful and grateful tone.
Winter Rain Christina Rossetti Every valley drinks, Every dell and hollow; Where the kind rain sinks and sinks, Green of Spring will follow. Yet a lapse of weeks Buds will burst their edges, Strip their wool—coats, glue—coats, streaks, In the woods and hedges; Weave a bower of love For birds to meet each other, Weave a canopy above Nest and egg and mother. But for fattening rain We should have no flowers, Never a bud or leaf again But for soaking showers; Never a mated bird In the rocking tree—tops, Never indeed a flock or herd To graze upon the lea—crops. Lambs so woolly white, Sheep the sun—bright leas on, They could have no grass to bite But for rain in season. We should find no moss In the shadiest places, Find no waving meadow grass Pied with broad—eyed daisies: But miles of barren sand, With never a son or daughter, Not a lily on the land, Or lily on the water.
Explore Winter Rain
‘Winter Rain’ by Christina Rossetti celebrates winter rain and how it stimulates growth in spring.
In the first part of this nine-stanza poem, the poet scribes how all parts of the world drink the rain when it comes in the winter. It is this rain that inspires the green of spring to follow. Throughout the bulk of the poem, the poet describes how rain benefits flowers, birds, flocks of animals like sheep, and then human beings. She conveys the very important message that without rain, the world would fall apart.
Message of the Poem
The message of this poem is that nature depends on rain, especially seasonal rain in winter, to thrive. Without rain, the world would fall into disrepair. This is true for all living things, including human beings, the poet adds. She takes the reader through a series of images showing how all different types of life and beauty rely on the rain.
Structure and Form
‘Winter Rain’ by Christina Rossetti is a nine-stanza poem that is divided into quatrains or sets of four lines. These lines follow a simple, alternate rhyme scheme of ABAB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. The poet uses very simple-sounding language throughout that makes each image she presents very easy to visualize. She also employs literary techniques like half rhyme and enjambment to add to the poem’s overall rhythm.
Rossetti uses the following literary devices, and more, in her ‘Winter Rain.’
- Personification: occurs when the poet imbues something non-human with human characteristics. For example, “Every valley drinks.”
- Alliteration: the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “Not a lily on the land, / or lily…”
- Sibilance: the repetition of the same “s” sound in multiple words. For example, “soaking showers” and “sheep the sun-bright.”
- Onomatopoeia: a word that imitates the sound of a thing. For example, “Buds will burst their edges.”
Stanzas One and Two
Every valley drinks,
Every dell and hollow;
Where the kind rain sinks and sinks,
Green of Spring will follow.
Yet a lapse of weeks
Buds will burst their edges,
Strip their wool-coats, glue-coats, streaks,
In the woods and hedges;
In the first lines of ‘Winter Rain,’ the speaker begins by describing (through personification) how the world is hydrated by the rain. Rain sinks into the ground, allowing “Every valley” and “dell and hollow” to drink their fill. It penetrates layers into the Earth and allows “Green of Spring” to follow.”
The poet is setting up an image of simple cause and effect. The rain allows spring to come, and therefore winter rain should be appreciated for what it brings.
The second stanza elaborates, describing how in only a few weeks, the flowers will bloom. They’ll take off their winter clothes and show their beauty in the woods.
Stanzas Three and Four
Weave a bower of love
For birds to meet each other,
Weave a canopy above
Nest and egg and mother.
But for fattening rain
We should have no flowers,
Never a bud or leaf again
But for soaking showers;
The poet goes on to say that the rain is responsible for all life on Earth. If it wasn’t for the rain, the birds couldn’t “Weave a bower of love” to have their eggs and protect themselves. Rain brings life with it.
The poet describes rain as “fattening” in stanza four, alluding to the way that rain makes the world flourish. It metaphorically feeds the world what it needs to fatten up and move from winter to spring.
If we didn’t have rain, she adds, there would be “no flowers / Never a bud or leaf again.” The “soaking showers” are responsible for all life and all beauty in the world.
Stanzas Five and Six
Never a mated bird
In the rocking tree-tops,
Never indeed a flock or herd
To graze upon the lea-crops.
Lambs so woolly white,
Sheep the sun-bright leas on,
They could have no grass to bite
But for rain in season.
The fifth and sixth stanzas repeat much of what the poet already described in the previous stanza. She mentions the birds further, describing them alongside a “flock or herd” that needs the rain so that their food sources will grow.
The “Lambs so woolly white” also need the rain as much as the plants and birds do. They’d have no “grass to bite / But for rain in season.” It’s important that the rain comes at the right time, too, she’s suggesting in these lines. Rain in winter is critical for a healthy spring.
Stanzas Eight and Nine
We should find no moss
In the shadiest places,
Find no waving meadow grass
Pied with broad-eyed daisies:
But miles of barren sand,
With never a son or daughter,
Not a lily on the land,
Or lily on the water.
The final two stanzas say that if there was no rain, we’d find “no moss / In the shadiest place” and no “weaving meadow grass.” The simple beauty of the world would disappear, as would the critical plants and food sources humans need to survive. There would only be “barren sand” on Earth and no life to fill it.
The purpose is to celebrate the winter rains and how they contribute to all life on Earth. Without the seasonal rain, the spring season would be non-existent, and plants and animals (including humans) around the world wouldn’t be able to live.
The main theme of this poem is nature. The poet is particularly interested in the rain. She wants to show its good qualities rather than dwelling on the darkness it can bring.
The speaker is unnamed and unknown in Rossetti’s ‘Winter Rain.’ It’s very possible that Rossetti was sharing her personal thoughts about winter/spring rain, but she could be using a persona.
The poem ‘Winter Rain’ is about the rain that the world experiences in winter and how it is responsible for rehydrating and fueling the world. From sheep to plants to birds, all living things depend on the rain.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Christina Rossetti poems. For example:
- ‘A Bird Song’ – describes how much a specific speaker needs companionship in their life.
- ‘After Death’ – a sonnet that explores the themes of death and loss.
- ‘An Apple Gathering’ – is a poem that uses an extended metaphor to describe a woman whose life is ruined after she loses her virginity.