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To die peacefully, release the world sincerely!: Major Message in Two Rosetti’s Poems
Christina Rossetti (1830-94) was one of the leading female Victorian
poets. Some of her best works are poems about death. This was probably caused
by the fact that her life was plagued with death. Tuberculosis caused high
infant mortality rates around her home in London. Her father passed away when
she was twenty-four. Her zealous devotion to the church during her adolescence
led her to accept death as a phase to enter the afterlife. Influenced by the
Pre-Raphaelite movement, Rosetti also refuted material wealth and earthly
connections, as shown by her rejection of physical bodies in “Remember” by
asking her lover to forget her so that he can be happy and her understanding
and accepting of her lover not touching the garment that covering her body, not
ruffling the pillows on her head, or taking her hand into his in “After Death”.
“Remember” and “After Death” are two of the most popular Rosetti’s poems
about death. Both are purposively selected to analyze because they view death
from two different perspectives. In former, death is shown through a living
speaker, while the latter ponders death through the view of dead people.
“Remember” is a sonnet in which the speaker addresses her lover and
initially encourages him to remember her after she died when he cannot hold her
hand any more for she will never return and stay with him. In the beginning,
she expects him to remember her although he will never interact with her
me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
I half turn to go yet turning stay.
me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
will be late to counsel then or pray.
However, the speaker begins to change her mind. She now permits her lover
to sometimes forget her and remember her again. Finally, when, in line with the
course of the time his recollection of her fades away, it is better for him to
"forget and smile" than to "remember and be sad."
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,
by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
In “Remember”, Rosetti shows her acceptance of death as a phase of life
through the metaphor “I’m gone away” which compares death with the conception
of a journey undertaking. This metaphor is strengthened by another metaphor,
“Gone far away into the silent land”, which depicts that the journey which
starts from one in the world to next eternal life. Death is accepted as a
natural phase in which “darkness and corruption leave”, i.e. the body is
decayed, and finally other people’s recollection of her is gone.
Since she accepts death as an inevitable phase to enter the afterlife,
she can serenely leave the world. In the beginning, she expects her lover to
keep on remembering her. But her awareness that she is going to “the silent
land” in which worldly love no longer exists, she finally asks her lover not to
grieve on her death. She means to say, “Forget me. To remember me will just be
a burden and makes you sad. Cheers! Return to your life, and try to be happy!”
Unlike “Remember” in which death is interpreted by a living speaker,
“After Death” depicts death by letting a deceased person (the speaker) that was
lying in her coffin reminisced her funeral. It starts with a vivid description
of her funeral setting, as suggested by the presence of shroud, a garment for
covering the corpse, the coldness of the speaker’s body, the melancholic
curtains were half drawn, the floor was swept
strewn with rushes, rosemary and may
thick upon the bed on which I lay,
thro’ the lattice ivy-shadows crept.
Line 5, “He leaned above me, thinking that I slept” clearly suggests that
the content of the poem was conveyed by the ‘deceased’ speaker. Then line 12,
“He did not love me living” indicates the speaker is a woman. After describing
her funeral setting, she recollected how her lover mourned her. According to
the speaker, he began by looking at her as if she was just sleeping, not dead.
Next, he murmured and pitied her. Then he turned away but wept for her loss in
the silence. The speaker seems disappointed because her lover didn’t touch the
garment covering her body, did not ruffle the pillows on her head, and did not
even take her hand into his to show a gesture of love.
leaned above me, thinking that I slept
could not hear him; but I heard him say:
child, poor child”: and as he turned away
a deep silence, and I knew he wept.
did not touch the shroud, or raise the fold
hid my face, or take my hand in his,
ruffle the smooth pillows for my head:
However, her disappointment turns to be a consolation after she realized
that although his lover did not love her, he had the feelings of pity for
her.In the end, the speaker even became
joyful after being aware that her lover was living.
did not love me living but once dead
pitied me; and very sweet it is
know he still is warm tho’ I am cold.
The transition from her disappointment caused by her knowing that her
lover did not love her to the joy resulting from her awareness that the man was
still alive and at least felt pity for her, indicate the speaker finally could
die in peace. In the beginning, she seemed to have died unwillingly because her
lover did not love him. But after realizing she was dead but her lover was
still alive and had the feelings of pity for her, she died sincerely. She
seemed meant to emphasize “What’s the use of insisting him to love a dead
woman? A deceased person does not need to be loved. It’s better to release it.
The most important thing is he showed his sympathy for her and could live
Different from “Remember” which explicitly shows the speaker’s acceptance
of death as an inevitable phase to enter the afterlife, “After Death” just
indicates it implicitly through the last lines when the speaker turned her
disappointment to happiness. Being aware that her lover showed sympathy for her
was still alive is “very sweet” or joyful. If one passed away joyfully, it
indicates she died sincerely. Isn’t it?
Both “Remember” and “After Death” indicates that death is an inevitable
phase to enter the “silent land” or afterlife. To enter the “silent land”, one
should go through ‘darkness’ in which the body (corruption) decayed and all
memories one ever had faded away. Those physical or material wealth and earthly
matter are not required in the afterlife. Thus, there is no need to ask your
beloved one to remember you or even to love you. Insisting somebody to remember
or to love you is a kind of possession. Release it. It’s much better to ask
your beloved one to arrange a happy life, although it might mean he needs to
find someone new to love! Doing this, one will find death unfrightening. He or
she can go to the “silent land” peacefully. Author: Parlindungan Pardede (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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