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
'Song (When I am dead, my dearest)' - Language, tone and structure
Language and tone
There is a marked amount of repetition in Song:
- Whilst the first verse ends, ‘And if thou wilt, remember, / And if thou wilt, forget (lines 7-8), the second ends ‘Haply I remember, / And haply may forget (lines 15-16). By prefacing the words ‘remember' and ‘forget' in the same way in both instances, there is a blurring of the distinction between memory and forgetfulness
- The first three lines in the second verse begin, ‘I shall not' (lines 9-11). The repetition of this phrase highlights the transformation of the speaker's senses after death. S/he is no longer able to ‘see', ‘feel', or ‘hear' earthly phenomena. Rather, his/her concerns will shift away from the earthly environment.
- Phrases such as ‘sad songs' (line 2) highlight the melancholy voice of the speaker. The soft ‘sh' sounds in the words ‘shady' and ‘showers' reinforce his/her weary tone
- The description of ‘green grass' is sensuous and offers a comforting promise.
Investigating language and tone
- Think about the voice that emerges through the poem. Does this voice bring out any particular emotions?
- To what extent are you able to identify with the poetic speaker?
- Is there any evidence to suggest that the speaker is actually a woman?
- Would a difference in gender mean that you read the poem any differently?
- Do you consider that the speaker displays traits traditionally ascribed to a male or female voice?
Structure and versification
The first verse of Song is written in iambic tetrameter, with the first foot inverted in l. 1, 3 and 5. This creates a song-like rhythm. This is strengthened by the regularity of the second stanza, broken only by the trochee that starts the penultimate line.
In Song, the use of enjambement creates a sense of spontaneity and reinforces the idea that the speaker is freely expressing his/her ideas. In particular, the lines, ‘And dreaming through the twilight / That doth not rise nor set' (lines 13-14) demonstrate the free flow of thought that the poem expresses.
Investigating structure and versification
- Read the first verse again closely, thinking about its rhythm. Which other words does the poem emphasise through the rhythm of that the metre creates?
- Which words are linked to one another through the metre?
- Like A Birthday, the poem is written in a 16 line form, divided up into 2 stanzas
- Can you identify any further similarities in form?
- Can you identify any differences?
- How does the metre in each of Song (When I am dead, my dearest) and A Birthday differ?
- What does the structure contribute to the poems?
- Does it affect the tone in which the poems are read?
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