You are on page 1of 4

Poetry Criticism Remember By Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,


Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plannd:
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of thoughts that I once had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

The sonnet Remember by Christina Rossetti.


It was written in 1849 when Rossetti was just 19 years old.
She is considered to be one of the foremost women poets of the 19th century Victorian
period.
In this sonnet the themes of love, death, and reaction to death are introduced.
Christina Rossetti was born in London in 1830. She was the product of a wealthy
family and was raised a pious Anglican.
She wrote about many themes ranging from love to the seasons of the year.
She used little visual detail in her poetry. She let her ideas speak for themselves.
She is sometimes incorrectly associated with the womens suffrage movement but she
was happy with her place in life and furthermore said that Christianity and womens
rights were at odds. She spent the last 15 years of her life in seclusion and died in
1894 a well-known poet.

This sonnet, Remember, is written to a lover and is about their love, her death,
and how she wants him to react to her death.
The themes are alluded to throughout the poem.
Lines 1-3 deal with the element of death.
Lines 5 and 6 hint that Rossetti and her lover were to be married, showing their love
for each other.
Lines 9-14 are Rossettis instructions that her lover move on with his life and not
dwell on her death because she would rather he forget and smilethan remember
and be sad.
Rossetti uses a euphemism in line 1 when she states, Remember me when I am gone
away.
The euphemism is of course referring to the poets death.
It could also be seen as a metaphor making a comparison between death and that
notion of undertaking a journey.
This journey involves passing from one world into the next, which of course ties in
with the main theme of the poem.
She uses another metaphor in line 2 where she writes, Gone far away into the silent
land. The notion of eternal life is portrayed here as a silent land hinting at the lost
contact between the living and the dead, preserved only in the memory which is
transient, fluid and insubstantial.

1
The third euphemism is found in line 11,
For if the darkness and corruption leave
Death is here seen as darkness and corruption is the body decaying. The poet at this
point of the poem is keen that her death and therefore his subsequent memory of her
should not become a burden to him, that it would be better if he should forget and
smile.
Rossetti does not use many symbols in her poetry but in this poem when she uses the
term silent land for eternal life she may be referring to her Calvinist belief in
pre-destination which John Calvin himself summarized by saying, We call
predestination God's eternal decree, by which he determined within himself what
he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition;
rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others
(Institutes 3. 21. 5). .
She may have said silent land instead of heaven or hell because she did not know
which eternal life she was going to reside in.
The theme and simple language work together with the rhyme scheme, abba abba cdd
ece, making the sonnet pleasant-sounding.
The beauty of this sonnet is that it is both simple in its choice of language yet still
retaining a somewhat complex idea. It is not too overwhelming to the reader.
The reader finds this sonnet easily applicable to his or her own lives, making it a
universally likable reading.
The message lying behind this sonnet lies in the teaching that death is inevitable, but
it should not consume the lives of those who are left living.
She wrote this sonnet to her lover that he should not be upset if, after she died, he
forgot about her because she would rather know that he is happy than that he is, in a
sense, dead while alive. We should all apply this message to our lives because it is
truly the best way to deal with the death of one we love.

2
Remember

The poem Remember by Christina Rossetti tackles those themes of love, life, death
and forgetting. The speaker imagines her to be the departed and is speaking to the
loved one she has left behind. The power behind the poem lies in its simplicity of
language combined with its complexity of theme. Easily accessible, it is a poem with
which the reader can identify. The poem is perfectly balanced, written in the form of
the Italian sonnet where she conveys a single thought without irrelevant detail.

The first quatrain abba introduces the subject of the speakers death and the painful
parting of the two lovers. Written as a monologue addressed directly to the lover she
urges him to remember her when she is gone away,/Gone far away into the silent
land; The poet uses a euphemism for death with the words gone away with the
repetition onto the second line emphasizing the finality of death. The distance placed
between them by her death and entry into the world beyond the grave is highlighted in
the metaphor of the silent land. The speaker is aware of the distance placed between
them through death and the fact that the parting has a very physical sense of distance
where he can no longer hold [her] by the hand. This first quatrain is brought to a
close in a manner very typical of Rossetti where she concludes with

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Like the lines in many of her poems there is ambivalence, an uncertainty in whether
she should depart or not. This ambivalence is echoed throughout the poem as the poet
changes the theme from one of remembrance to her desire that her lover should forget
her.

The second quatrain sees the theme of remembrance developed to a certain point with
the rhyme scheme of abba still following the rules of the Italian sonnet. The first line
of this second quatrain echoes the first line of the opening quatrain where the lover is
once more urged to Remember [her] when no more day by day/ You tell me of our
future that you did plannd This quatrain emphasises the loss of the two, that there
will no longer be any future between them and that that companionship of mind will
be gone. The hint of a marriage and the fact that they have advised and prayed
together alludes to the closeness of their relationship. Once more there is a tension in
Rossettis poetry where we are presented with this notion of the closeness of the
lovers in life and the irretrievable distance in death.

The sonnet then enters a sestet made up of two tercets, skilfully balanced with a cdd
eff rime. The first tercet takes the theme and the speakers thoughts in a new direction.
The word Remember is repeated four times during the two opening quatrains,
suggesting that the poet is keen to maintain the bond forged during their lives on into
death. There is a consciousness in the mind of the speaker, however, that this memory
may be a burden to the lover and so she deliberately changes her direction in an effort
to comfort and console him in his grief. This change of direction is heralded by the
use of the first word of the sestet Yet. This change of heart by the speaker urges her
lover through an imperative, that if he should forget me for a while/and afterwards
remember, do not grieve.

3
Rossetti cleverly counterpoints the three/ three pattern of tercets with a two/four
pattern to use the closing four lines as a way of taking control of the lovers emotions
and attempting to reassure him that she no longer expects him to grieve for ever.
There is once more that tension between her original desire, which was for him to
remember and her change of allowing him to forget.

The poem concludes with her assurance that it is much better to forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad. The erosion of the body in the lines
For in the darkness and corruption leave/A vestige of the thoughts that once I had is
mirrored by the erosion of memories in those still living. The way it is expressed,
however, leaves the reader with the sense that this is the natural way of life and death.
There is a harmony in this cycle where the body returns to the earth and there is for a
time a vestige of memory in the minds of those remaining. The speaker reassures
her lover that as life goes on, it is both natural and right that those memories fade and
there is a sense of hope in her acknowledgement of what she sees as an inevitability,
bringing the poem to a satisfactory ending.