Love, time, and death are themes that weave in and out of Christina Rossetti's poems, and she frequently explores the relationship between them, and their collective significance. As she incorporates other elements around that core mix, Rossetti's gentle realism seems to move closer to truth than any of her contemporaries. She tends not to romanticize, and explores instead the more practical aspects of love. The poem "Remember" is a good example of this tendency.

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day.
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

These first two stanzas seem rather innocuous in the world of love sonnets — she is asking her love to remember her when she's gone. However the final lines take an unexpected turn. After having begged for remembrance, she then acknowledges the humanity of her love. If he does forget her, she will not be angry. She places his happiness before her own ("better by far you should forget and smile"). Rossetti is a less visual writer than those we've seen so far. She spends her time in this poem exploring the emotional and the intangible, neglecting any specific narrative or even hint of who is speaking, to whom they speak, and what exactly has passed. In doing this she holds the readers focus on the abstract concepts at work.

Questions

1. Compare this poem to Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "The Blessed Damozel" (both poem and painting). What are some fundamental differences in the presentation of love after death?

2. The transition between what the speaker wants and what she will accept for the well-being of her lover is rather abrubt. She goes from using a command "Remember me", to issuing an uncertainty "if you should forget me" without pause. What effect does this have on the work as a whole?

3. How do her love/death/time themes come into play in this poem? Think along the lines of memory (i.e. forgetting love as a consequence of time)


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Last modified 5 March 2008