Compare and contrast Christina Rossetti's poems: "Remember" and "Song."

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Death fascinated Christina Rossetti.  Much of her poetry dealt with the concept of death and the transition between life and death.  Writing in the nineteenth century, death then as it does today holds court over mankind. Rossetti’s poems “Song” and “Remember” illustrate two of the poet’s views of death.

“Song” is written in two, eight line stanzas.  Within each stanza, every four lines rhyme. The poem appears to be narrated from the first person point of view and by the poet.

The first verse of the poem describes things that the speaker does not want when the she dies. There are particular rules that she expects to be followed. The speaker advises the reader not to be sad or grieve for her because she starting a new life. Her belief is clear: a person should accept death as a necessary part of life.  

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:

The poem does not seem spiritual since no mention is made of the afterlife or of God.  The second stanza points out the specific things of nature that she will no longer see when she dies.  In the last two lines, she indicates that she will miss some things but apparently not others.  

“Remember,” written in sonnet form, also begins with a request for someone that is left behind:  she asks the person to not forget her when she dies.  The poem speaks  of the love between the speaker and listener.

She directly asserts that, once she is gone, she and the listener will no longer be able to do the intimate things they once shared—holding hands --- indicating that the characters indeed shared a romantic relationship. In fact, the two had planned a future together.

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;

To prove her love for the one left behind, the speaker wants the other one to go on with his/her life. All she asks is that the listener remembers her, the person, and not any negative actions.

The first two stanzas ask for the person to recall the speaker when she dies.  Both verses begin with Remember.

The third stanza begins with the word Yet.  This is the expected turning point or volta in a sonnet. The change in thought by the speaker frees the one left behind.  Realizing that her memory might give  the listener or lover pain or sadness,  she would rather that he/she not think of her.

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

Lovingly, the speaker does not want the one left behind to feel guilty if he/she does not remember her.