'Remember' - Imagery, symbolism and themes

Imagery and symbolism

The hand - The speaker anticipates a time when her lover will no longer be able to ‘hold' her ‘by the hand' (line 3). The image of holding hands is one which is employed throughout the poetry of Rossetti's brother, Dante Gabriel, and is often used to indicate the first manifestations of love between a man and woman. By using the image of hand-holding in Remember, Rossetti suggests a kind of possession. By indicating that her lover will no longer be able to hold her by the hand the speaker suggests that he will no longer have any part in her or be able to possess her in the same way as he was perhaps used to.

Darkness and corruption - The speaker foresees a time when, once the ‘darkness and corruption' that are associated with grief and death leave the beloved, only a ‘vestige' or trace of the speaker's presence will remain. S/he does not specify what constitutes this ‘darkness and corruption' but it may refer to the speaker's physical state after death – ‘corruption' was a term often used in the Bible to refer to the physical decay of death as well as moral decline (see Acts 13:36-37, Isaiah 38:17), whilst ‘darkness' was associated with hell (Matthew 8:12). In that sense, there is a cloud cast over the ‘vestige of ... thoughts'. See Darkness.

The word ‘vestige' indicates something (often material) which remains after the destruction or disappearance of the main portion of something. By applying the word to the memory of the speaker's thoughts in the mind of the beloved, the word is given a more abstract meaning. Thoughts and feelings will remain even after the speaker's presence is in ‘darkness' or no longer visible.

The ‘silent land' (l. 2) - The speaker anticipates entering the ‘silent land' which s/he perceives to be ‘far away' from life on earth. As well as indicating physical distance, the phrase ‘far away' is also suggestive of quite obvious differences. It is hinted that the land to which the speaker looks forward to going, is very different from the land the beloved is used to inhabiting. This has echoes of the classical concept of Hades.

The idea of silence can suggest both positive and negative associations:

  • Rest, sleep and tranquillity. The final book of the New Testament, Revelation, describes heaven as a place of rest for all who enter (Revelation 14:13)
  • Absence of life and communication. It is a place where there can be no more intimacy, talking of future dreams or holding hands.

More on Rossetti's attitude to death:

Investigating imagery and symbolism

  • What do you associate with the phase ‘darkness and corruption'?
    • How can you relate these associations to the meaning of the poem?
  • What do think that Rossetti means when speaking of ‘the silent land'?
    • What do you imagine this place to consist of?


The role of women

Remember can be read as highlighting the passive role expected of women in Victorian society. If the speaker is female, we see her as the recipient of the dominant male's actions, who:

  • Holds on to / possesses her
  • Talks at her (‘You tell me')
  • Lays down what the future is to hold for her (‘our future that you plann'd')
  • Advises her (‘counsel') and prays for her (assuming spiritual oversight).

In the light of this, perhaps the speaker's inner thoughts come from a ‘dark' place and are rebellious and resentful of this treatment. They may well trouble the beloved, who can only smile if he ignores them.


Considering the high mortality rate in Victorian Britain, it is fair to suppose that, like Rossetti herself, most of her early readers would have had some experience of death, whether of a parent, sibling, friend or lover. Although her devotional writings express a firm hope in the promises of heaven and eternal life that the Bible offers, many of Rossetti's non-devotional poems attempt to reconcile this hope with the emotion of grief that is natural when a person loses someone close to them through death.


The speaker suggests that, when she is dead, it will be too late to pray for her (line 8). Whilst Roman Catholic tradition teaches that prayers should be offered for people that have died, offering prayers for the dead is not encouraged in the Anglican Church.

By claiming that it will be too late to pray for her once she has ‘gone away', the speaker emphasises the urgency of prayers offered in the present day.

Investigating themes

  • Why do you think that the speaker uses the phrase ‘gone away' (line 1) rather than stating explicitly where she has gone?
    • What effect does this create?
  • Why do you think that the speaker changes her mind about being remembered in the last part of the poem?
  • Why would or wouldn't you recommend the poem to someone who is struggling with grief?
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