In Christina Rosetti’s “Promises Like Pie Crust,” she describes a fragile state of the human heart. I believe that this poem is a delightful, fun and happy relationship gone totally wrong in an important moment. An example of the feelings described here are similar to when a man gets down on one knee and dedicates the rest of his life to a woman and she denies this union. In this scenario, a woman might respond to such a proposal this way because she has doubt about their love and about their true feelings for one another.
She begins by asking him to “promise me no promises” – basically saying don’t promise me anything because “so I will not promise you” she will not make any promises to him. “Keep we both our liberties, never false and never true:” – this statement shows that if they make no promises, they have no strings attached to one another and they both keep their freedoms. The confusing comment made here is “never false and never true.” This implies that she is unsure of whether their freedom from promises or freedom to be together forever is truly better. She then goes into saying “let us hold the die uncast,” stating that they were not meant to be together and they were meant to die without bounds to one another, which is what marriage suggests, and that they are “free to come, and free to go.” She doesn’t want either of them to be tied down to the other because of the promise and convent of marriage. “For I cannot know your past, and of mine what can you know?” shows that maybe they were very close as lovers and as friends, but there is no way to be sure of their feelings for past lovers, one way or another. This whole first stanza shows signs of doubt and feelings of insecurity. She is portraying faithlessness in the relationship by asking questions and committing to not commit.
The second stanza has more of a bitter tone to it, but it still doubts. She describes his love as warm, but then bitterly reminds herself that he could’ve loved another warmer. She then describes how she doesn’t feel his warmth like she has in the past from another lover, and follows up with a question of whether their love is current and everlasting or a fling from the past. She remembers how they used to love and claims that it is no longer that same love. It is clear that she thinks it is a fling from the past and not everlasting.
Starting the third stanza similar to the first brings us out of this reminiscent scene of past love and back to the current moment. She warns him that he would grieve his promise of love to her and that if she had said “yes” to him, that she would not actually be committed and she’d “fret to break the chain.” She pulls the classic line of “we can still be friends” that everyone says post-breakup towards the ending. She believes that their friendship can survive even though their tale of love cannot. They were meant to be friends and nothing more – it just took her a bit of time to realize it.
As for the title, the conclusion that I have drawn is that when comparing the promise of marriage to a piecrust, it is critical to think of the qualities of piecrust. It is sweet, but thin and crumbling. Applying that to the promise of marriage, she believes that the love that they have is sweet and light and fun, but not lasting. It will fall apart and has no real value. She believes this promise to be like piecrust and therefore makes the smart decision to decline the offer that he has for her.
I believe that many people have had experiences similar to this! To put it in general terms, I’ll lay it out like a story.
Person is alone and/or bored.
Person meets another person or friends something to do.
Person persues this person/activity because they were lonely/bored before this new person/activity came around.
Person is staying busy and doesn’t realize that this person/activity is a quick fix for their lonely bored life.
Person gets confused.
Person is no longer fulfilled with new person/activity.
Person realized that this new thing wasn’t really fulfilling them and they must let it go and find something that they actually enjoy.
This is what this poem describes. A woman leaving a man because he wasn’t someone she wanted to marry, it just took her some time to realize it. It’s a UHE for sure!