Remember by Christina Rossetti
The Poem | The Poet | A Question | Poem Analysis
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.
Have you seen those comedy movies, where a man is trying to think seriously and there are two ghosts sitting on each shoulder? The angel is dressed in a white cloak with wings and white circle hanging a few inches above the head, and the demon/Satan in a black cloak with red eyes and long teeth. I think I too have two sides to my brain. (I know some of you biology Nazis would say there are more, cerebrum, cerebellum, and so on…)
I have heard them say the best time for self-introspection is when you know it is the time to go. Recently, due to my illness, I was physically very weak. There were moments when I thought it is the time to say a final goodbye to everyone. A time to apologize and express gratitude to everyone for every moment they gave me. In my mind, I had penned my final letter too. But a voice from inside said, “not yet lady! Still, miles to go!”.
But that is not all. There was another debate that was going on. What, after I am gone?
Since childhood, we are made to believe that we should do something in life that everyone will remember. Maybe that is the reason we give our warmest smile to greet people when we meet because that is the face they will always remember, even when we are gone. Isn’t that the reason why we all want to leave a legacy? I have never been a scholar, or a painter, or an artist, or a person good at music. But I wanted to leave something that will make people cry after I am gone. So, I made an Iron Man styled ‘Arc Reactor’ from my Legos. On top of it, I wrote, “A Proof That <my name> Had a Heart”. I wanted this to hang on the wall and not my picture.
But the next day I locked the same into my cupboard. I did not want people to remember that and miss my toys. The other side of me did not want to leave any memories at all. If I could have a magic wand like Hermione Jean Granger, I would cast the spell “obliviate” and erase even the last atom carrying my memory information and escape just like that. The other side of me wanted to escape like I never existed in the first place. Wouldn’t that be much easier for those surviving me?
So, the main question is to be “remember” or “not to remember”. Though I survived, the question remains.
Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was an English poet who wrote various romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. “Goblin Market” and “Remember” remain famous. She wrote the words of two Christmas carols well known in the UK: “In the Bleak Midwinter”, later set by Gustav Holst and by Harold Darke, and “Love Came Down at Christmas”, set by Harold Darke and by other composers.
Although Rossetti’s popularity in her lifetime did not approach that of the contemporaneous Elizabeth Barrett Browning, her standing remained strong after her death. Her popularity faded in the early 20th century in the wake of Modernism, although scholars began to explore Freudian themes in her work, such as religious and sexual repression, reaching for personal, biographical interpretations of her poetry. In the 1970s academics began to study her work again, looking beyond the lyrical Romantic sweetness to her mastery of prosody and versification. Feminists held her as a symbol of constrained female genius, placed as a leader of 19th-century poets. Her writings strongly influenced the work of such writers as Ford Madox Ford, Virginia Woolf, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Jennings, and Philip Larkin. The critic Basil de Selincourt stated that she was “all but our greatest woman poet… incomparably our greatest craftswoman… probably in the first twelve of the masters of English verse.”
To read more about Christina Georgina Rossetti, click here.
“Remember” is a beautiful romantic poem that starts with the speaker’s biggest fear, the fear that her lover might not remember her when she is gone. This fear of her’s is bigger than the fear of death itself. But as the poem progresses, she accepts that it would be better if he accepts the even of her death and better “forget and smile”.
In the first four lines, she acknowledges her acceptance of the fact that she will die when it is time for her to go. And she wants her lover to remember her then.
In the next two lines, she again wants him to remember her even though he will not be able to follow the routine of discussing their future. Maybe she isn’t married and future planning refers to the marriage plans.
In the next four lines, she accepts that remembering her might be a burdensome task for him and would be heavy to his heart. So, she encourages him not to grieve. And she also discourages the heavy thinking as it is pointless now, it is too late now. She has also accepted the fact that he might forget her momentarily, but that is fine.
In the last four lines, she describes death as the process where “darkness and corruption leave”. And though that’s not what she wants, she accepts that it would be better if he forgets her and smiles. These lines especially emphasize the importance of moving on, rather than lingering on to the memories and mourning each moment.