decorated initial 'C'hristina Rossetti's poem "After Death" (1862) speaks from the viewpoint of a woman already dead. Her beloved leans over where she lays in a dark, shadowed room, his manner pitying and solicitous. Although he did not love her when she lived, he says "Poor child, poor child" and weeps, believing that she cannot hear him. He never appears to consider the speaker to be his equal, calling her a "child" and not mourning her, but pitying her instead. Interestingly, despite his apparent grief,

He did not touch the shroud, or raise the fold
That hid my face, or take my hand in his,
Or ruffle the smooth pillows for my head.

Questions

1. The speaker's statement that "very sweet it is/To know he still is warm though I am cold" seems unexpectedly forgiving considering the fact that the man did not love the deceased in life. Were these last words meant literally, or were they meant to mock the ideal of the all-forgiving, always gracious woman?

2. Rossetti uses floral imagery multiple times as she sets the scene in "After Death". Rosemary traditionally symbolized remembrance, while ivy represented fidelity. Did Rossetti choose these plants purposefully for their traditional connotations, or were they chosen for mere aesthetic value? What might the other plants represent, if at all?

3. The line "he still is warm though I am cold" can be taken literally, as in that her lover is warm and alive while she lies in the cold of death. However, the descriptions of "warm" and "cold" can also describe the state of a person's emotions. Do Rossetti's words also describe the change in the speaker's beloved's feelings versus her own?

4. What social commentary did Rossetti insert in this poem, considering the man's attitude toward the deceased woman, the symbolism, and other literary techniques?

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Last modified 20 October 2003