Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Christina Rossetti’s relatable Heartbreak

Christina Rossetti’s poem “A Pause of Thought” explores the hope of the narrator that an unrequited love might return one day. Assuming the narrator is a woman, she takes us on an emotional journey of love and heartache. In the first stanza, she is expressing the heartbreak one has when the love they give to another person is not reciprocated. In the second line she says, “And hope deferred made my heart sick…” which is an example of personification (32). The narrator gives the heart, an inanimate object, a human characteristic and places it with the word ‘sick’ to emphasize the pain and discomfort she is going through. Next, in the second stanza she describes that her faith has not died, and she has hope that one day her love will come back. The narrator says in the eighth line how she “watched and waited,” and the repetition in the words allows the reader to relate to the repetitive action of longing for a love one to return (32). Following, in the third stanza the narrator is starting to give up on love, she states in lines ten and eleven, “My expectation wearies and shall cease; I will resign it now and be at peace” (32). No matter male or female, the pain of loving someone and waiting for them to love you back becomes exhausting. In the fourth stanza, the narrator fantasizes about what it would like to be married and be loved by the person she loves, but is beginning to come to understand the reality of the situation. There comes a point where enough is enough, and although one might want to hold on, the truth will eventually be seen. Lastly, in the fifth and final stanza the narrator has come to the realization that it is not healthy to be in the position she is in. She should not have to wait for a man to confess his love her for, and instead she should move on and find the love she truly deserves from someone else.

I think this poem is easily relatable to any individual who has been broken up with by someone they were still in love with or someone who is in love with someone but knows the other feelings are not reciprocated. It is a tough journey, and ones’ emotions are usually all over the place. This poem of Christina Rossetti’s is speaking to a wide audience, even though at the time it was written it was probably meant to be relatable to only women, since women were longing to be loved and get married.

Rossetti, Christina. “A Pause of Thought.” Goblin Market and Other Poems. Ed. Candace   Ward. New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 2004. Print.


  1. This post reminds me of a film I recently saw on break called The Holiday. One of the main characters, Iris played by actress Kate Winslet experiences unrequited love in the film. She is in love with her co-worker Jasper played by actor Rufus Sewell, but he is not in love with her. He then announces his engagement with another woman at an office holiday party, which crushes her.

    “And then, there’s another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. Its called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert” said Iris.

    I agree with you, this feeling is relatable, especially since it is viewed in pop-culture films. Similarly to the poem, the film also depicts a character realization towards the end- that she should move on to someone more deserving. I think this urgency and desire to be loved by someone stems from insecure individuals who want to feel special by anyone who will give them immediate attention. I argue that desires are desperate calls for attention; in the end it’s better to wait for the more deserving individuals. Desire and time are closely linked.

    (“Quotes.” IMDb,,

  2. While this poem is easily relatable to women today, I think it is important to note how Rossetti goes against the norm of her time period. Throughout the whole poem, as Rossetti is expressing her grief, she seems just as any other woman of her time. However, the very end where she ends her grieving and feels that she is worthy of true love and doesn’t need a man right then is very different than the way women were supposed to feel about love. It was expected that a woman have a man and if she does not, she is not a proper woman, they are not supposed to have independence. Rossetti goes along with the theme of all of her other poems here that women can be in charge and on their own.

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