What is the theme of the poem "When I Am Dead, My Dearest"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This simple two stanza poem is actually quite a powerful evocation of the state of death and the kind of peace and tranquility that it gives those that die. The biggest emphasis that is placed on the thoughts of the speaker is the way that she will not be bothered by what happens in the world after she leaves it. She urges her audience to "Sing no sad songs for me" and then tells them at the end of the first stanza that they may remember or forget her as they like:

And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

Just as she tells those she leaves behind that they are free to remember her or not, so she too is able to do the same, as the last stanza makes clear:

And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Note the deliberate repetition of the same ideas and structure to the previous quote. Death is looked upon as some kind of resolution of peace where the troubles of this world pass and humans are unaffected by them and also they are beyond being hurt by other humans, and whether they are remembered or not. In this poem, death is looked upon positively, as suggested by the adverb "haply," which indicates the speaker has reached a position of acceptance of her imminent death and she is almost looking forward to the peace it will give her.

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