Last Updated on February 2, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 763
In the first line, the speaker begs her lover to remember her. "Remember me when I am gone away," she says, giving the reader no clear indication of exactly when or how she is going to die. In fact, she never directly states that she is dying, instead referring to a "silent land," which the reader assumes is a metaphor for death. This land doesn't seem to correlate to a specific place, and the word "silent" in this context precludes the possibility of the silent land being Heaven or Hell, which in their myriad, sometimes contradictory descriptions, have rarely been called "silent." Readers are left with no means of interpreting "silent land" as anything other than a cemetery, a grave, or death itself. The speaker further emphasizes her death in the line "When you can no more hold me by the hand." Her death will destroy the intimacy between them, breaking their physical connection and separating her spirit from her body. This distinction between the physical and the spiritual self is important. For the speaker to travel to that "silent land" without her body, she must have a soul or spiritual self that can transcend death. This spiritual self will not stop her from dying, however, nor will it prevent the two lovers from being separated. In the fourth line, the speaker suggests that death isn't the only thing working to part them. The words "half turn to go yet turning to stay" indicate that the speaker had doubts about the relationship and that when she tried to leave, her beloved stopped her.
In line five, the speaker repeats the first words of the poem: "Remember me." This time, she wants her beloved to remember her even when the "future that [he] plann'd" doesn't happen. From this line, we learn just how serious the lovers are; they have already planned a future together that probably includes marriage (if they aren't married already). There is some indication, however, that their relationship is unequal, as evidenced in the line "You tell me of our future that you plann'd." This suggests that the speaker's beloved has all the power in the relationship, being the man and therefore having the right to make decisions for the both of them. It is clear that the speaker has consented to this arrangement, and the gender dynamics don't appear to bother her. She is more concerned with whether or not her lover will remember her. In line seven, she modifies her request, saying "only remember me" in the hopes of staving off her lover's grief. As she states in line eight, "it will be late to counsel then or pray" after she is already dead.
In line nine, the speaker admits that her beloved will inevitably forget her sometimes. She preemptively forgives him for this, saying "Yet if you should forget me for a while / And afterwards remember, do not grieve," because the process of forgetting is natural. One could argue that the mere suggestion of the speaker's beloved forgetting her is a slight to his character, but it is better interpreted as a moment of pragmatism on the part of the speaker. She is being realistic about the relationship, acknowledging that at some point he will have to move on and forget her in order to be happy again. In lines eleven and twelve, the poem takes a stark turn, with the speaker alluding to the "darkness and corruption" her death will cause. This corruption stems less from the fact of her death than from the possibility that it will stir up memories of how she once tried to leave the relationship. She urges her beloved not to dwell on these thoughts, lest they bring him grief.
In the final lines, the speaker reverses her previous position on memory. She says, "Better by far you should forget and smile / Than that you should remember and be sad." This would seem to contradict her previous statements but may simply provide a new layer of meaning to the poem. In light of the last two lines, it appears that the speaker only wants her beloved to remember her under a set of very specific conditions. In other words, if remembering her is going to make him sad or angry, then she doesn't want him to remember her. One could argue that this setting of conditions, in addition to her repeated commands to remember her, constitutes an attempt to assert control in their relationship. If she dictates how and when he remembers her, then she has the power.
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