Remember me when I am gone away,
euphemism for death
Gone far away into the silent land;
euphemism for the grave or afterlife - it is silent because no one comes back and tells us anything about it, not even Elijah, but also because you cannot speak from the grave
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
physical connection between the two
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
If I turned you would ask me to stay and I would with pleasure
Remember me when no more day by day
who do you do you share exciting news with?
You tell me of our future that you planned:
you will feel a pang when you realise you can’t
Only remember me; you understand
you can only think of her, not conjure her up
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
it will be too late to ask advice or help/prayer
Yet if you should forget me for a while
inevitably the loss will become easier with time
"Yet" indicates the change of tone and the first line of the sestet
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
until, again, a pang when you remember
For if the darkness and corruption leave
For if the darkness and corruption leave rather forget her death and the darkness of the grave and the decaying flesh and corruption of memory which follows death as you start to forget – leads more to happier thoughts, move on and smile
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
vestige: remnant – just remember a little of her
Better by far you should forget and smile
it is better to forget and not suffer
Than you should remember and be sad.
than remember and live with the pain
Form and Meter
This poem is a Petrarchan sonnet with an octave and a sestet. Note the rhyme scheme and meter.
ABBA ABBA CDD ECE is unusual but still Petrarchan in form. The octave follows convention, but the sestet is slightly unusual as the pattern is not regular.
Remember the change, or volta, is usually on line 9. In this poem the first part is asking not to be forgotten in the octave, whilst the sestet (from line 9 onwards) seems to concede that forgetting is less painful.
This poem is written in strict iambic pentameter.
An iamb is a foot made up of an unstressed syllable, followed by a stressed one (2 beats): baBOOM
Pentameter means it has a meter of five, which is multiplied by two because an iamb has two syllables, thus every line has ten syllables. Check for yourself.
You are familiar with this meter because William Shakespeare used it in his plays and Shakespearean sonnets (which have a different form).
If the speaker seems self indulgent in the octave, the sestet becomes more selfless as the speaker acknowledges that forgetting is easier for the living.
Even though the title seems to be a command, "Remember", the sestet contradicts this, and so the title becomes ironic as the command to remember changes to a plea to forget.
Schmoop states that the the rhyme scheme is deliberately cyclical in form, going full circle from A to B, back to A, and C to D, back to C and then E. Perhaps there is some merit to this idea that we can be brought back to life through memory.
Repetition is used effectively, particularly the repetition of words like "remember", "gone away" and later "forget. These words emphasize the speaker's concern with death and being remembered, and later with the soothing balm of forgetfulness.
Note the soft "h" alliteration in the first stanza seem to make the plea more wistful and less commanding.
Note the other instances of alliteration and determine their effectiveness.
Christina Rossetti wrote this poem when she was just 19 years old. This might seem morbid for such a young girl, but people did not live long as their were no antibiotics then, so the mortality rate was high.
Mourning was very fashionable during the Romantic period. Queen Victoria wore black for forty years:
Perhaps the most significant turning point in Queen Victoria's life was the death of Prince Albert in December 1861. His death sent Victoria into a deep depression, and she stayed in seclusion for many years, rarely appearing in public. She mourned him by wearing black for the remaining forty years of her life.