A poem written by Christina Rossetti, this Pre-Raphaelite poem is an attempt to come to terms with the ending of love and life. The title, having Christian symbolence, comes from the Greek for 'so be it'. The religious significance of the title is suited to the author, whose poems often deal with religion.
Each stanza appears to have a theme of a season - autumn, winter and spring, respectively. This is shown in the language and imagery used within each. Beginning with the first stanza:
It is over. What is over?
Nay, now much is over truly! -
Harvest days we toiled to sow for;
Now the sheaves are gathered newly,
Now the wheat is garnered duly.
The use of imagery begins with the third line, "Havest days we toiled to sow for". Harvest brings up pictures of a collecting of crops, a bringing together of the things we have worked hard to obtain - the things we toiled for. Harvest also gives ideas of abundance, having plentiful supplies of that which has been grown that year (assuming the harvest was good, of course).
However, the first lines negate all this. "Nay, now much is over truly!" gives us the impression that there is no longer any chance of having this abundance, and that times have changed for the worse.
It is finished. What is finished?
Mush is finished known or unknown:
Lives are finished; time diminished;
Was the fallow field left unsown?
Will these buds be always unblown.
We move onto the 'winter' stanza with an opening line which repeats what was suggested in the first: that what we had strived for has finished, possibly not to resume. This stanza contains slightly less of the first's imagery, instead being more direct in the language used.
The closing two lines, though, see a return to this usage of imagery, using metaphors to express a feeling of loss of potential and regret: "Was the fallow field left unsown? / Will these buds be always unblown?"
It suffices. What suffices?
All suffices reckons rightly;
Spring shall bloom where now the ice is,
Roses make the bramble sightly,
And the quickening sun shine brightly,
And the latter wind blow lightly,
And my garden teem with spices.
Here we see a change in the tone of the poem, from pessimism to optimism. "Spring shall bloom where now the ice is" suggests that, although the situation may seem bleak now, with the passing of time more chances shall arise. Just as flowers die in winter and are reborn in spring, so might the poet's opportunities.
This stanza sees a continuation of the imagery used throughout, as well as introducing oxymorons to the piece. Rose and bramble are obvious examples of this. Other features used throughout the poem are the rhetorical questions at the beginning of each stanza, and the rhyming scheme. The third stanza adds a final line to conclude, summing up the poem. "And my garden teem with spices" suggests that the opportunities touched over earlier will not only return, but be numourous as well. Therefore the poem has changed in mood since the beginning, become the original stanza's opposite, just as spring is autumn's.
Sources: Amen, by Christina Rossetti, and Best Words (copyright The Associated Examining Board).