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How will you be remembered after your death? For how long? The unknown that stretches beyond our lives has prompted many to ask such questions. In her poem, 'Remember', Christina Rossetti muses over these questions, too. Read on to find out how the poet intends to leave her mark.
|Written In||Goblin Market and Other Poems (1862)|
|Written by||Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)|
|Form||Victorian poetry; sonnet|
|Rhyme Scheme||ABBA (octave); CDD ECE (sestet)|
|Literary and poetic devices||Alliteration; apostrophe; metaphor; paradox; refrain|
|Frequently noted imagery||The afterlife|
|Key themes||Death and grief; memory; love|
|Meaning||The speaker is musing over whether they will be remembered after they are dead. The speaker requests their beloved to remember them, but they console them if they forget the speaker. The speaker tells their beloved not to feel guilty about forgetting them and urges them to find happiness.|
To analyse 'Remember', we will begin by reading through the poem to better pin down its form and meter. We will then identify the literary and poetic devices employed by the poet. Finally, we will work with the key themes of the poem. Before analysing the poem, make sure to read through it twice, dedicating one reading to closely examine all the details of the poem, and the other to zoom out and consider the broader context of the poem and the poet.
The poet addresses a beloved, asking them to remember the speaker after they have died and gone to 'the silent land'. The speaker is contemplative and reflects on the things they will no longer be able to do together, such as make future plans or hold each others' hands. The speaker then consoles their beloved and urges them to not feel guilty if they cannot remember the speaker. Instead, the speaker encourages them to find happiness rather than remember the speaker and be sad.
The poem 'Remember' by Christina Rossetti is a Petrarchan sonnet. It consists of 14 lines as is typical of sonnets, and the volta is at line 9 after the octave. In 'Remember,' this volta is marked after the end-stopped line 8 and the use of 'Yet' at the beginning of line 9.
A Petrarchan sonnet is divided up into an octave (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines). It is named after and was popularised by the Italian poet, Francesco Petrarca. There is usually a change in idea, thought, or expression after the octave. This change or turn in thought is called 'volta.'
Being a sonnet, 'Remember' is written in the iambic pentameter.
An iambic pentameter is when the iambic foot (an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable) is repeated 5 times.
The rhyme scheme of the octave is ABBA ABBA, which is simpler than the more complex rhyme scheme of the sestet, CDD ECE. The sestet marks the change in the speaker's mood which, in this poem, goes from persuasive to conciliatory.
The octave's simpler rhyme mirrors the simplicity of the speaker's request for their beloved to remember the speaker after their death. The complexity of the sestet gives way to the deeper feelings of the speaker, who finds peace in the idea that their beloved should be happy after they is gone, rather than grieve them and remain melancholic. While the rhyme scheme of the sestet is complex, the words used to create the rhyme are low diction and show the sorrowful yet touching demeanour of the speaker.
Low diction, in poetry, refers to the use of simple language, without grammatical complexity. It is suggestive of humble ideas stemming from an unassuming mind.
Below are the Literary device and Poetic devices used in the poem
Alliteration: when words begin with the same letter in rapid succession to lay emphasis on them or to sound pleasurable
Can you spot the alliteration in lines 9 and 13 of 'Remember' below?
In these lines, the 'f' sound is repeated. We can see this in the words 'forget' and 'for' in line 9, and 'far' and 'forget' in line 13. Can you find more instances of alliteration in the poem?
Apostrophe: an absent entity such as God, an abstract notion, or a person that is absent.
The apostrophe in 'Remember' is the beloved person that the speaker addresses. We do not hear or perceive this person in any way other than through the speaker's use of the word, 'you', which alerts us to the existence of the beloved.
Metaphor: the substitution of an object or idea for another. For example, 'laughter is the best medicine' substitutes the notion of laughter being a positive, healing act for medicine.
In 'Remember', line 2 consists of a metaphor and adds imagery to the poem. The 'silent land' refers to the afterlife and also implies that, after their death, the speaker will be silent and no longer be able to communicate with their beloved by holding their hands or discussing their future together.
Paradox: a contradiction. When someone says 'less is more', for example, the statement is, in itself, a contradiction. However, 'less is more' also suggests that less clutter leads to more freedom. Paradoxes, such as this example, tend to reveal a deeper meaning or truth.
The poem presents a paradox in the sestet, after the volta:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
The speaker asks their beloved to remember them and then states that, if they are forgotten for a while and then again remembered, the beloved should not feel mournful and melancholic. If there is even a 'vestige' of thoughts regarding the speaker, the beloved should forget them and try to focus on their own happiness.
This is a paradox in the sense that the speaker contradicts their own statement. On one hand, the speaker requests that they are remembered by their beloved. On the other hand, the speaker insists that, if their beloved remembers the speaker only to grieve their death, they should, in fact, forget them.
Vestige: a hint or trace of something from the past.
Refrain: in poetry, the refrain is the repetition of words or phrases in the lines of a stanza or the entire poem.
In 'Remember', the words 'remember' and 'you' make up the refrain as they are constantly repeated. The repetition of 'remember' emphasises the need the speaker feels to be remembered by their beloved and adds a sense of urgency to their request and persuasion. The repeated use of 'you,' addressing the beloved of the speaker, indicates the importance of this person in the life of the speaker.
The key themes of the poem are death, grief, memory, and love.
The undertone of grief and mourning runs throughout the poem. On one hand, the speaker mourns those things that they will never be able to do with their beloved after their death, such as holding hands or planning their future. The beloved is also expected to grieve the loss of the speaker, although the beloved will not be able to counsel the speaker, and it will be too late to pray for them. Also, the speaker insists that their beloved should not grieve them or mourn them to the point of being unhappy, but should, instead, forget the speaker and move on to find joy.
Death seems to be not far from the speaker's mind, as they talk about going far away into the 'silent land'. For the speaker, death represents a daunting permanence, as the speaker realises that they and their beloved will not be able to experience each other's presence in a tangible way.
While the speaker and their beloved may not be able to enjoy each other's physical presence after the speaker is dead, the speaker hopes to remain alive in the memory of their beloved, and requests their beloved to remember them after their death. This sentiment is crucial and runs throughout the poem. The title of the poem, 'Remember,' lays emphasis on how important it is for the speaker to live on in the memory of their beloved.
The speaker addresses someone they love – whether this is a member of their family, their partner, or simply someone they admire. The lack of clarification in this regard shows that it does not matter to the speaker what type of love it is, and that all forms of love are unconditional and equally important to them. The speaker wishes to hold the hands of their beloved and listen while they speak of their future. This implies that the speaker wishes to be in the physical presence of the one they love, and when this is no longer possible after death, the speaker wants to be remembered and loved in their memory.
The poem 'Remember' is written in the iambic pentameter.
The poem 'Remember' was written by Christina Rossetti. It was published in 1862.
The mood of the poem 'Remember' is melancholic and poignant. The tone of the speaker in the poem is persuasive and conciliatory.
The poem 'Remember' is a sonnet. It contains 14 lines divided up into an octave (8 lines) and a sestet (6 lines).
The poetic devices used in 'Remember' include alliteration, apostrophe, metaphor, paradox, and refrain.
What is the name of the collection that the poem 'Remember' is part of?
Goblin Market and Other Poems
Who wrote the poem 'Remember'?
What is the meter of the poem 'Remember'?
What is the tone of the poem 'Remember'?
What type of a poem is 'Remember'?
Which of the following is NOT a theme of the poem 'Remember'?
Who is the speaker addressing in the poem 'Remember'?
At what line can one find the volta in the poem 'Remember'?
Whose death is in question in the poem 'Remember'?
Which of the following lines of the poem contains a metaphor?
Gone far away into the silent land
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