'Summer is Ended' - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

Red rose, photo by Hamachidori, available through Creative CommonsThe rose - The rose is traditionally perceived to be a symbol of love and passion. By describing the rose in Summer is Ended as ‘Scentless and colourless' (line 2), Rossetti hints at the fading of love, hope and life. Rossetti would have been familiar with the image of the rose that Dante used to depict Paradise. In his book, Paradiso, which forms a part of his The Divine Comedy, he imagines all those in heaven constituting a huge celestial white rose.

More on Dante and ‘The Divine Comedy': 

The lock - The speaker of Summer is Ended anticipates a time when the end will be ‘locked fast' (line 9). The idea of a lock suggests secrecy and concealment. In the context of looking towards end times, the image of the lock can also be seen to allude to the New Testament book of Revelation which uses the images of a door and keys to speak of the secrets of the Kingdom of God which will only be revealed to the righteous.

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • Is there anything that surprises you about the imagery and symbolism used in the poem?
  • What associations do you have with the idea of a rose?
    • How are these associations met in Summer is Ended?
  • What associations do you have with the idea of the end of summer?
    • How are these associations met in the poem?



In many of her poems, Rossetti presents life on earth to be a time of waiting. In Summer is Ended, she warns the reader not to ‘wait till the close' (line 5) to secure his or her ‘bliss'. At the close of an individual's life, or on the final Day of Judgement, she suggests, nothing will be able to be changed. The idea of a person being ‘bent' suggests that they are devious, out of place, or sinful. By suggesting that, at the point of judgement, ‘Bent we cannot re-bend', Rossetti highlights the idea that there is no turning back and that it is wrong to dismiss those who spend their lives waiting ‘for the end' to come. Although, the speaker suggests, ‘we care not to wait for the end' (line 6), she acknowledges that it will come ‘Sooner, later, at last' (line 7). She therefore emphasises the imperative need to be prepared.


In Summer is Ended, by using the image of a faded rose, the speaker points to a love that has ended although she does not immediately identify for whom this love was.

Investigating themes

  • Can you identify any significant lessons that are conveyed in the poem?
  • The speaker's use of the image of the faded rose is ambiguous. What do you think that s/he means by the word ‘bliss'?
    • Do you think that s/he is talking about the happiness to be enjoyed on earth, the pleasures of heaven, or both?
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.