Christina Rossetti, selected poems Contents
- A Better Resurrection
- A Birthday
- A Royal Princess
- At Home
- Cousin Kate
- Despised and Rejected
- Goblin Market
- Good Friday
- Jessie Cameron
- Maude Clare
- Shut Out
- Song (When I am dead, my dearest)
- Summer is Ended
- The Convent Threshold
- The Lowest Place
- To Lalla, reading my verses topsy-turvy
- Winter: My Secret
'Remember' - Synopsis and commentary
The poem's speaker appears to be approaching death and addresses the beloved who remains, telling him/her to remember the speaker. If, however, the beloved momentarily forgets the speaker, s/he should not feel guilty – the speaker would rather that the beloved was happy in forgetting than made sad by remembering.
- What are your expectations of a love poem?
- Do you consider Remember to be a love poem?
- What different emotions does it express?
- What indications of comfort do you find in the poem?
- Is there anything you find disturbing or unexpected on a first reading of the poem?
Rossetti composed Remember in 1849 and published it in the first, non-devotional, half of her volume Goblin Market and Other Poems in 1862. It is a sonnet that subsequently appeared in numerous poetry anthologies and even today is often read at times of bereavement.
The sonnet form
A sonnet is a poem with a special structure. It has fourteen lines which are organised in a particular manner, usually characterised by the pattern of rhyming, which changes as the ideas in the poem evolve.
More on sonnets:
Sonnets originated in Italy in the 14th century and some are called Petrarchan sonnets as the famous poet, Petrarch, used this form (see A Pageant and Other Poems, 1881 > More on Petrarch). These are divided into an octave (8 lines), rhyming abba abba and a sestet (6 lines) rhyming cde cde. The ideas in the octave sometimes change or develop in the sestet and this change is called a volta or leap.
Shakespeare developed the sonnet form, organising his into three groups of four lines (rhyming abab, cdcd, efef) and ending with a rhyming couplet (gg) which often twists, or gives a new attitude to, the thoughts developed in the rest of the sonnet. Later writers have further adapted both the sonnet form and its rhyme scheme.
Rossetti wrote hundreds of sonnets during her lifetime. Remember was among the first she published and introduces some techniques that she develops in her later poetry. Whereas traditional sonnets focus on the development of human love, many of Rossetti's sonnets look beyond the experience of falling in love and speak instead of death or highlight certain aspects of eternity.
As with Remember, Rossetti's sonnets are based on the Petrarchan structure with an octet and a sestet.
A ‘moment's monument'.
In his 1881 sonnet sequence, The House of Life, Rossetti's brother Dante Gabriel calls the sonnet a ‘moment's monument'. In the introductory sonnet to this sequence, he outlines the function and the value of the sonnet form and suggests how its form might retain a memory and reveal hidden meanings to those who look hard enough.
Memorial from the Soul's eternity
To one dead, deathless hour. Look that it be,
Whether for lustral rite or dire portent,
Of its own arduous fullness reverent:
Carve it in ivory or in ebony,
As Day or Night may rule; and let Time see
Its flowering crest impearl'd and orient.
A Sonnet is a coin: its face reveals
The soul,—its converse, to what power 't is due:—
Whether for tribute to the august appeals
Of Life, or dower in Love's high retinue,
It serve; or, 'mid the dark wharf's cavernous breath,
In Charon's palm it pay the toll to Death.
- Considering Remember, how appropriate do you think Dante Gabriel's description of the sonnet as a ‘coin' is?
- What are the implications of this image?
- Both sonnets are concerned with ideas of memory
- How are these ideas figured differently in each?
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