Below, you can find the full poem and part of a breakdown of the ideas in ‘Remember’ by Christina Rossetti, tailored towards GCSE / IGCSE students but also useful for those studying at a higher level.
For a full breakdown of the poem, click here.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
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; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
The speaker first asks the addressee to remember her when she’s gone ‘away’, in other words when she has died and is in the afterlife – when it’s no longer possible for her to hold his hand, or to choose to leave or stay with him.
In lines 4-8 she says also to remember her after they stop planning their future together – and to only remember (nothing more), because praying or trying to help her will do no good after she’s dead.
Lines 9-14 shift in a tone slightly, and contradict the earlier ideas in the poem – the speaker now says for the addressee not to worry or grieve over forgetting her, and if her memory ever causes him pain, she would prefer that he forgets her and is happy, instead of remembering her and being sad.
- Rossetti came from a family of writers and artists, her brother Dante Gabriel was also a famous poet and Pre-Raphaelite painter. She spent many years caring for their mother, remaining unmarried in later life and staying at home where she read a lot and wrote poetry.
- Rossetti was highly religious, and dedicated her life to her Anglo-Catholic (Christian) faith – she refused three marriage proposals for religious reasons. She would have believed in an afterlife, so her poem ‘Remember’ should be analysed from the point of view of someone who believes in life after death.
- She was only 19 years old when she wrote the poem in 1849 – but she had experienced caring for her dying father who suffered from tuberculosis and depression, so perhaps the poem reflects this experience – she may be using the poem to explore her attitude to death and how to cope with grief, or she may be fantasising about her own death in the future and how she’ll be remembered.
- Rossetti is thought of as a typically Victorian poet, her view often represents the traditional Victorian attitude of the time. In ‘Remember’, however, she is slightly challenging the traditional Victorian ritual of mourning – typically, people at this time were supposed to spend a long time ‘in mourning’ – a state of sadness and serious reflection where after a loved one died they were not allowed to participate in enjoyable social activities and instead reflect on death. They wore black mourning clothes to demonstrate to others in society that they were remembering their dead, these clothes were also a symbol of spiritual darkness.
- Emotions vs Reason