'Winter: My Secret' - Synopsis and commentary


A female speaker (determined by the female clothing she alludes to) is addressing an auditor who has asked her to tell her ‘secret'. She refuses on the grounds that the day is too cold, that perhaps there is nothing to tell and that she does not want to reveal herself, just as she does not want to be exposed to the cold.

The speaker does not trust the assurances of the auditor that it will be alright, explaining that she is cautious even as springtime progresses. She may open up in the warmth of summer but otherwise the auditor will have to guess the secret.

Investigating Winter: My secret

  • What do you associate with the idea of secrets?
    • How does this poem meet these associations?
  • What do you associate with the idea of winter?
    • How does the poem meet these associations?
  • Describe how the poem links the idea of secrets to the idea of winter.


Rossetti composed Winter: My Secret in 1857 and first published among the non-devotional poetry in her first volume, Goblin Market and Other Poems.

The ‘secret' to which the title refers is not specified in the poem. The teasing tone of the speaker as she threatens to reveal a secret and then decides to keep it concealed from the reader has puzzled readers and critics since the poem's first publication.

Different interpretations

Various theories have arisen as to what the secret refers:

  • Some critics perform a biographical reading of the poem (see Critical approaches) and argue that the secret to which the poem refers is concerned with Rossetti's own relationships with men. These theories often rely on unsubstantial evidence and ignore the complex linguistic details of the poem
  • Other critics, more fruitfully, have understood the poem to offer a commentary on the power of art, language, play and poetic practice
  • In an article exploring Rossetti's engagement with the Tractarian doctrine of Reserve (see Literary context: Tractarian poetry), critic Emma Mason has argued that the narrator of the poem can be associated with God himself, declaring to the believer that he may have secrets that are yet to be revealed.

Investigating Winter: My secret

  • What difficulties could potentially arise from reading the poem in a purely biographical context?
  • What suggestions can you find which could be seen to identify the speaker as God?
    • What are the difficulties with this interpretation?
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