Analysis of Promises Like Pie-Crust by Christina Rossetti

Promises Like Pie-Crust is the third Christina Rossetti poem and its really interesting poem. It's much more modern in style and it has a much more modern theme. The theme is still loved and it's still the role of men but I think it's a much more mature one.
Promise me no promises
So I will not promise you 
We may immediately be asked if this is a cynical introduction. The way to equality is to deny this gift that man has to give love to women and deny the love that women can give to men. It's almost as though relationships should not be based on this kind of love because that power relationship always disadvantages one side and in a gender-based society where men hold the power in a patriarchal society. It's always going to be the woman who suffers and so here the equality is where we both have less.
Keep we both our liberties,
Straight away we have a contrast perhaps we don't have less. Perhaps true Liberty is not to be bound by love but to be bound by affection to be bound by friendship.

And this is an interesting idea it's a modern idea that we have. We have this idea that there can be sex between friends although beneath the surface that does always cause anxiety, doesn't it.
Never false and never true 
So I might gain something because my lover will never be false to me. Because I don't ask him to I don't ask him to make me a promise. But on the other hand, he can never be true. It can never prove his love and so that seems like something I might not want.
Let us hold the die uncast
Is the line that follows it and again as so much with Christina Rossetti it has a double meaning.

The "die" here is uncashed and so the cloth is still white it's not been dyed it's pure. And the secondary level what neither of us are dead. Love binding us together with promises is a loss of freedom this is a kind of death. But here that death has not been cashed.
Free to come as free to go 
And the reason for this is quite odd. She talks about a past but I cannot know your past and of mine what can you know and this appears and to be a balanced sense of both pasts unknowable.

But when we come to the next verse we can see that the balance is equal.
You so warm may once have been
Warmer towards another one 
You'll remember how keen she is to portray a man as the Sunt the warmth give her, the love giver. But of course that gives us again a hierarchy the Sun rules over everything.
I so cold may once have seen
sunlight once have felt the Sun 
And again she picks up on that image. It's the male's job to bestow to bestow sunlight to bestow warmth. And she may have felt it but she hasn't had the power to give it has she whereas he has.

So now in the second verse, we see that inequality in the power relationship. And that wasn't a parent in the first.
Who shall show us if it was
Thus indeed in time of old? 
Interesting isn't it this focus on the old that we saw in her earlier poems. She's now deliberately rejecting. It's a deliberately modern voice that she's striving for.
Fade the image from the glass,
And the fortune is not told. 
Really I guess she's asking herself well if a woman hasn't got fairness? and what is attractive if she does not look good in the glass? What else is there? Is there a fortune?

And the third verse might answer that for us.
If you promised you might grieve
for lost Liberty again: 
So fortune isn't about tying your partner down because they might not feel free.
If I promised I believed,
I should fret to break the chain. 
So there is again equality here there's empathy perhaps women are the same as men. Perhaps she too doesn't want to be chained down by love. Perhaps this courtly love that she's been exploring and her other poems is actually something she doesn't want it's almost a device of poetry and through her poetry. She's now realizing she wants something else.
Let us be the friends we were, 
Well is this somehow less than love? Is it somehow second best? is it plan B?

Let's find out.

"Nothing more" It's nothing more but friend than friendship but actually it's also nothing less. Perhaps friendship is precious and perhaps that's the true way that men and women can survive by being first friends not seeing the man as somehow superior bestowing a love on a woman who must be grateful and cares for him.
Many thrive on frugal fare
Who would perish of excess.
So love is somehow impure. It's like gluttony it's like greed it's fine in small doses but of course it can't last whereas the frugal fare will last.


Well, his frugal fair disappointing is it something we should reject.

Let's return to the title:

Christina Rossetti offers us this wonderful joke that Promises Like Pie-Crusts are to be broken. But also the crust of the pie is the bit that really you don't want to eat do you want to get straight to the pie. The Pie-Crust itself is excess but the good bit the meat what you'd want to eat is actually the pie in between. And so we might read frugal fair as a joke that's how society would see this love where a woman and a man could become lovers but not husband and wife. And see themselves as friends connected that way for a long time.

But in her image that's the real meat that's what lies underneath and marriage is just a crust on top.


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