decorated initial 'S'entimentalized depictions of the tragic death of women occupied many PRB poems and paintings. The familiar stories of Mariana and The Lady of Shalott make women into objects, manipulated and toyed with. They place women at the mercy of the men in their lives. These works come from a male vantage point. Christina Rossetti provides a unique rebuttal to these works in her poem, "Song". Here, Rossetti voices the inner thoughts of a dead Victorian woman. As though in response to her brother's poem, "The Blessed Damozel" (text) in which a woman, tortured by her feelings of loss for her lover, stirs in heaven, Christina Rossetti's woman in "Song" feels no pain or loss, but rather only peace. Christina Rossetti paints a picture of heaven devoid of human earthly desire, in fact characterized by ambivalence. Her woman does not pine for her lover; she states that she might actually forget him altogether in time. Rossetti's woman, not at the mercy of her lover, finds herself free of desire for him. She has moved onto another part of her life. Although her poems centered on the depiction of love, Rossetti's love translates from earthly passion to a peaceful, higher spirituality and comfort upon death. "Song", exposes the inadequacy of earthly love when compared with the peace and fulfillment experienced by the woman upon death.

Questions

1. Christina Rossetti describes heaven as a sort of void, where sunlight never rises or sets and there is no feeling. This is quite contrary to her brother's depiction of heaven in his painting, The Blessed Damozel where he shows lovers embracing, existing in a tangible space. Do these different images reflect their author's actual religious beliefs or their social visions?

2. Rossetti's woman asks her lover to "sing no sad songs" for her. Does Rossetti mean us to see the woman as unworthy of such attention?

3. Critics have analyzed the double meaning of the word "haply" in the last two lines of "Song" as hinting at both happily and also possibly. Which is it more likely that Rossetti intended or did she intend on such ambiguousness?

4. What does Rossetti tell us of what death will mean to her?

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Last modified 19 October 2003