When the sonnet “Remember” first appeared in “Goblin Market” and Other Poems in 1862, it was both warmly and sadly received by readers. A mixture of happiness and depression tends to run throughout many of Christina Rossetti’s poems, and this one, which begins “Remember me when I am gone away,” implies immediately a loving, yet sad, request. How Rossetti resolves the conflict she presents in the poem reflects the way she handled similar dilemmas in her own life—emotionally and philosophically, always letting her devout Christian beliefs be the deciding factor.
Whether it was her struggle with debilitating illnesses or a desire to meet her maker, Rossetti appears to have been obsessed with her own pending death. “Remember” couples this persistent thought with an awkward love affair, one in which the speaker, presumably the poet herself, confesses that she may not be as passionately in love with her suitor as he is with her. But since she believes she is going to die anyway, her ambivalence toward him is not the most important issue. Instead, the dominant concern becomes how he will remember her when she is gone. Will he think of her and recall the pain of not knowing whether she truly loved him or will he remember, rightly or wrongly, that she adored him as much as he adored her?
In his book, Christina Rossetti in Context, author Antony H. Harrison discusses the poet’s work and the “dominant tensions upon which it is constructed: between beauty and death; between love of man and love of God; between the ephemeral and the eternal; between the sensory and the transcendent.” “Remember” is very much concerned with these tensions, especially those between the ephemeral, or short-lived, and the eternal and between beauty and death, which the poet seems often to confuse in her work as well as in her life.