English Literature


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Contemplating Immortality: A Critical Analysis of Christina Rossetti's 'Remember'

As human beings, we often ponder over our legacy and the lasting impact of our existence after we pass away. This curious quest for the unknown beyond our lives has led countless individuals, including renowned poet Christina Rossetti, to question these profound thoughts in her renowned work, 'Remember'. In this essay, we will delve into the poem to unravel the poet's purpose and message.

A Synopsis of 'Remember'

To fully comprehend 'Remember', we must first immerse ourselves in the poem to grasp its form and meter. Then, we will examine the various literary and poetic devices employed by Rossetti. Lastly, we will delve into the poem's central themes. It is essential to read the poem twice - once to meticulously examine its details and a second time to contemplate the bigger picture and the poet's intention.

The Poem: 'Remember'

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 understandIt 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.

In 'Remember', the poet addresses a beloved and implores them to remember her after her demise, as she journeys to 'the silent land'. The speaker is deep in thought and reflects on the things they will no longer be able to do together, such as making future plans or holding hands. The speaker then consoles their beloved, reassuring them that it is acceptable if they cannot hold onto her memory. In fact, the speaker encourages their beloved to find joy rather than dwelling on her memory and experiencing sorrow.

Structure and Form of 'Remember'

'Remember', penned by Christina Rossetti, is a Petrarchan sonnet. It follows the traditional structure of a sonnet, consisting of 14 lines, with the volta - the turning point in thought - occurring at line 9, after the octave. In this poem, the volta is marked after the end of line 8, and emphasized through the use of 'Yet' at the beginning of line 9.

A Petrarchan sonnet is divided into an octave (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines). It is named after and popularized by Italian poet Francesco Petrarca. There is a shift in the idea, thought, or sentiment after the octave, commonly referred to as 'volta'.

Rhythm and Rhyme in 'Remember'

As a sonnet, 'Remember' is composed in iambic pentameter. This implies that the poem has five feet of iambs, comprising an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, per line.

The rhyme scheme in the octave is ABBA ABBA, a simpler scheme compared to the more complex CDD ECE rhyme scheme in the sestet. This change in rhyme scheme mirrors the shift in the speaker's mood, from persuasive in the octave to conciliatory in the sestet. The simpler rhyme scheme in the octave symbolizes the speaker's uncomplicated request for their beloved to remember them after their passing. The more intricate rhyme scheme in the sestet represents the deeper emotions of the speaker, who seeks solace in the idea of their beloved finding happiness after they are gone, rather than being consumed by grief and melancholy.

Moreover, the words used to create the rhyme in the sestet are of low diction, portraying the poignant yet touching nature of the speaker. In poetry, low diction refers to the use of uncomplicated language without grammatical complexity, representing humble ideas arising from a humble mind.

Literary and Poetic Devices in 'Remember'

Below are some of the literary and poetic devices employed in 'Remember'.

  • Alliteration: Refers to the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of words in quick succession to emphasize or create a melodious sound. Examples of alliteration in 'Remember' can be seen in lines 9 and 13: 'Yet if you should forget me for a while' and 'Better by far you should forget and smile'.
  • Apostrophe: A figure of speech addressing an absent entity, such as God, an abstract idea, or a person who is not physically present. In 'Remember', the beloved person addressed by the speaker, who we do not encounter in the poem, except through the use of 'you'.Decoding the Structure, Rhyme, and Devices in Christina Rossetti's "Remember"
  • In her renowned poem "Remember," Christina Rossetti delves into the themes of mortality, memory, and love while urging her beloved to find solace in their legacy. By closely examining the poetic elements of structure, rhyme, and literary devices used in the poem, we can unravel the deeper meanings behind the speaker's contemplation of their impending death.Metaphor: As a metaphor is used to substitute one object or idea with another, it adds depth and vivid imagery to the poem. In line 2, the phrase "silent land" is used to represent the afterlife, portraying the speaker's realization that they will no longer be able to communicate with their beloved in the physical realm. This metaphor creates a sense of finality and separation between the speaker and their beloved.Paradox: The sestet in the poem presents a paradox in the form of contradictory requests from the speaker. After the volta, the speaker urges their beloved to remember them, but also reassures them that if they forget for a while, they should not feel sorrowful. This paradox highlights the speaker's inner conflict of wanting to be remembered but not wanting their beloved to be consumed by grief.Vestige: The word "vestige" is used to symbolize a trace or hint of something from the past. In this poem, it represents the speaker's longing to be remembered and their lasting presence in the memories of their beloved. This adds a poignant and melancholic tone to the poem.Refrain: Throughout the poem, the words "remember" and "you" are repeated, emphasizing the speaker's strong desire to be remembered by their beloved. This repetition also creates a sense of urgency in the speaker's plea and highlights the importance of their beloved in their life.
  • The Key Themes in "Remember"
  • Death and Grief
  • Memory
  • Love
  • The poem "Remember" is pervaded by the themes of death, grief, memory, and love. The underlying tone is one of mourning and sorrow, as the speaker reflects on the things they will never be able to do with their beloved after their death. However, the speaker also implores their beloved not to be consumed by grief but instead to find joy in life.
  • Death is a prominent thought for the speaker, as they talk about going to the "silent land." This symbolizes a final and permanent separation from their beloved, as they come to terms with the fact that they will not be able to physically be with them. The theme of memory is also deeply ingrained in the poem, as the speaker hopes to live on in the memories of their beloved. This sentiment is reiterated throughout the poem and is highlighted by the title "Remember."The speaker also addresses someone they love, and it is evident that the type of relationship does not matter to them. The speaker longs for physical presence with their beloved, but when that is no longer possible, they hope to be remembered and loved in their memory.
  • Key Takeaways from "Remember" by Christina Rossetti
  • "Remember" is a part of Rossetti's renowned collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, and follows a Petrarchan sonnet structure with 14 lines written in iambic pentameter. The octave and sestet follow ABBA and CDD ECE rhyme schemes, respectively. The volta occurs in line 9, marking a shift in the speaker's thoughts and emotions.
  • The speaker's persuasive and conciliatory tone in the poem "Remember" is a heartfelt attempt to convince their beloved to keep their memory alive even after they pass. This poignant and melancholic piece explores themes of death, grief, memory, and love, evoking powerful emotions in its readers.
  • The Form and Techniques of "Remember"
  • Published in 1862, "Remember" is a sonnet, a traditional poetic form with 14 lines. It follows the typical sonnet structure, with an octave and a sestet. The octave urges the beloved to remember the speaker, while the sestet reveals their paradoxical desire to be forgotten in order to ease their loved one's grief.
  • To enhance the meaning of the poem, various poetic techniques are employed. The use of alliteration, such as the repetition of the letter "m" in words like "memory" and "me," creates a melodic quality. The poem also utilizes apostrophe, directly addressing the absent beloved as if they were present. Metaphors convey the speaker's longing for their memory to be cherished, while a paradox captures their conflicting emotions of wanting to be remembered but also wanting to be forgotten. The recurring refrain of "Remember" emphasizes the speaker's plea to their beloved.
  • The Meter and Author of "Remember"
  • The poem's meter is iambic pentameter, with a rhythmic pattern of 10 syllables per line and emphasis on every other syllable. This rhythmic consistent adds to the poem's overall tone and mood, creating a musical flow.
  • The renowned Victorian poet Christina Rossetti wrote "Remember." Known for her exploration of themes such as love, death, and spirituality, Rossetti's use of vivid imagery and poetic techniques in "Remember" make it a timeless and impactful piece of literature.

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