First, read the poem. As you read, ask yourself the following questions:
"Love from the North" (1862) by Christina Rossetti
I had a love in soft south land,
Beloved through April far in May;
He waited on my lightest breath,
And never dared to say me nay.
He saddened if my cheer was sad,
But gay he grew if I was gay;
We never differed on a hair,
My yes his yes, my nay his nay.
The wedding hour was come, the aisles
Were flushed with sun and flowers that day;
I pacing balanced in my thoughts:
'It's quite too late to think of nay.' —
My bridegroom answered in his turn,
Myself had almost answered 'yea':
When through the flashing nave I heard
A struggle and resounding 'nay'.
Bridesmaids and bridegroom shrank in fear,
But I stood high who stood at bay:
'And if I answer yea, fair Sir,
What man art thou to bar with nay?'
He was a strong man from the north,
Light-locked, with eyes of dangerous grey:
'Put yea by for another time
In which I will not say thee nay.'
He took me in his strong white arms,
He bore me on his horse away
O'er crag, morass, and hairbreadth pass,
But never asked me yea or nay.
He made me fast with book and bell,
With links of love he makes me stay;
Till now I've neither heart nor power
Nor will nor wish to say him nay.
(Sisson, 1984, p. 62)
"Love From the North" seems to tell a simple story: A woman about to marry one man is whisked away by another, just as she is about to exchange vows.
The rhyme scheme also seems very simple: the second and fourth lines of each of the eight four-line stanzas rhyme. More significantly, because the last word of each stanza is "nay," there is only one rhyme sound throughout. If you read closely though, you'll notice that the same rhyme sound also occurs internally, or within the lines. This gives the poem a steady rhythm, which is maintained throughout each four-line stanza.
This particular structure is called the ballad form. A ballad tells a story, but it does so only to recount events— part of the convention is that ballads don’t go into psychological complexities. Still, it seems that Rossetti's story is hinting at something deeper. It's thus important to look at multiple elements of analysis together in order to try to piece together the meaning.
Source: This content has been adapted from Lumen Learning's "Approaching Poetry" tutorial.