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Song - A poem by Christina Rossetti - Analysis

Updated on March 8, 2011

Analysis of the poem Song by Christina Georgine Rossetti

This poem was written by Christina Georgina Rossetti, sister of Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood founder Dante Rossetti. She was born in 1830 and dieD in 1894, aged 64. This poem is often studied for GCSE and A level English. I thought I would give my insight into this poem as it is written by one of my favourite poet's. It deals with death and someone coming to terms with their or mortality.

Analysis of Song a poem by Christina Geogina Rossetti

Analysis of the poem Song

This poem was written by Christina Georgina Rossetti, sister of Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood founder Dante Rossetti. She was born in 1830 and dies in 1894, aged 64.

This lyric poem has a regular rhyme scheme that is divided into two stanzas, both consisting of eight lines. In the first stanza the poet is telling her loved one what she does not want them to do after her death, asking them not to mark her death in the usual way that the dead are mourned. During the second stanza, the poet is addressing what she thinks death will be like for her. She does not want sad songs or flowers at her grave. She does not want a tree planted in her memory and she does not even mind if her loved one forgets her. She is saying that she will not be able to see, feel or hear the gestures, so nothing her loved one will do will matter to her. It is her ‘dearest’ that the gestures and memories will matter to.

The poem is written in the present tense and is presented in the first person which both give the poem a personal feel and I believe it is the poets’ personal feelings that are being portrayed. The poem creates a mood that is sombre but calming. The poet talks of death in a way that is caring of their loved one. It could be seen as cold and final but I think it is thoughtful of the poet not to concentrate on all the things she will miss and hope that she will be missed, she is setting her lover free.

“And if thou wilt remember,

And if thou wilt, forget,”

This quote is a good example the parallelism present in Rossetti’s poem. The two lines are exactly the same except for their last words, which are opposites of each other. This creates a rhythmic flow but also gets the poets message across that she does not care about being remembered. The archaic word ‘thou’ is used here which is a more informal version of ‘you’ and shows that the audience is someone the poet is close to, her lover. This makes the poem seem quite intimate, as does the word ‘dearest’, used in the opening line of the poem as a way to address the intended audience.

The first stanza of this poem contains words that have the connotation of life such as ‘roses’, ‘cypress tree’, ‘green grass’, ‘showers’ and ‘dew drops’ which can be linked to spring, life or seen as things of beauty. In the second stanza there are connotations of darkness with the words ‘shadows’ ‘twilight’ and ‘nightingale’, showing that the poet is discussing what death will be like for herself. The line

“I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on as if in pain”

Could be a metaphor her lovers’ grief. Male nightingales are thought to sing during the night to attract a mate. The nightingale symbolises her lovers pain, the connotations of ‘night’ symbolise that she will not be able to hear or recognise that pain in the ‘darkness’ or the nothingness of death. These two lines also have enjambment, which the poet uses several times in the poem, which gives the lines a feel significant importance and urgency.

The parallelism in the end lines

“Haply I may remember,

And haply may forget”

Is used to show the indifference that the poet has for remembering or forgetting. The archaic word ‘haply’ means perhaps but could also be twisted to mean happily has it looks like a shortened version. Sibilance occurs a lot throughout the poem as the soft soothing ‘S’ and ‘SH’ sounds make the poem feel whispered and calm.

I enjoyed this poem. I t was straight forward to read and interpret. I found the poets preparations for death to be quite calming and also caring. She does not want to be a burden on those she leaves behind, she would like them to get on with their lives. She only wants to be remembered if it makes things easier for her loved ones. Many people wish to leave a legacy so that their memory will carry on but this poet is basically saying that when she is gone, she is gone. There is no talk of ‘heaven’ or any afterlife, this could by why the poem is called Song and not Hymn. It seems like quite a modern, scientific or even atheist way to look at death and also quite an unfeminine viewpoint for women of the time.

Find out more about Christina Rossetti and her famous family and friends at Amazon - Rossetti

I found a great deal of information about the pre Raphaelite Brotherhood from books available on Amazon. From the poetry and art of its members to their background and biographies and information about the era in which they lived and where influenced by. The vast array of material available led me to the discovery of wonderful female poets such as Elizabeth Siddal and Christina Rossetti.

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      Ridhi 12 months ago

      forgetting and remembering is a choice made by the living,about thier dead ones,does christina set those alive free from tyranny of mourning?