“Memory” is a poem of thirty-six lines expressing a woman’s voluntary renunciation of love, which, remembered with wrenching self-abnegation in life, will be consummated with her beloved in an afterlife of perfect fulfillment.
Part 1 of the poem was written in 1857, and part 2 came into being in 1865, when Christina Rossetti was at the height of her creative powers. The sister of the two Pre-Raphaelite writer-artists, Dante Gabriel and William Michael Rossetti, Christina gave expression to some of the escapist Pre-Raphaelite tendencies in her own poetry. She had, however, a uniquely religious sensibility, influenced by her intense involvement with the Anglo-Catholic movement within the Victorian Church of England. One of the greatest English religious poets of the nineteenth century, she strove for a disciplined purity in her daily life, giving up not only theater, opera, and chess, but even two suitors for her hand in marriage because of her scruples about the beliefs of one man and the lukewarm piety of the other.
“Memory” is a striking testimony to a woman’s conscious rejection of love in her life, a courageous choice alleviated only by remembrance of her love and by the hope that the relationship will be renewed in paradise. The five stanzas of part 1 stress the woman’s loneliness and courage in her choice to renounce love and yet to hide it in her hollow heart where it once gave joy. She has always kept her love a secret,...
(The entire section is 402 words.)