“Remember” by Christina Georgina Rossetti

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.

Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894) was a poet of English-Italian descent whose primary focus centered around romantic, devotional, and children’s poetry. She started writing poetry as a young child, composing and reciting her own original poetry as early as age six. Rosetti’s first published poem, “To My Mother,” was written when she was only 11 years old (although it was not published for several years). In her teens, Rossetti began writing for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood literary magazine The Germ, which was operated and edited by her brothers. Although she wrote under the pen name Ellen Alleyne during this period, it is nonetheless generally considered to be the beginning of Rossetti’s public career. Rossetti published her first collection of poems, “Goblin Market” and Other Poems, in 1862 under her own name. The collection was praised highly by reviewers, but produced disappointing sales figures. Three more collections—“The Prince’s Progress” and Other Poems, Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book, and Collected Poems—were published in 1886, 1872, and 1875, respectively. After the death of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1861, Rossetti was looked to as Browning’s successor, and her reputation remained strong following her own death from cancer in 1894.

Common themes in Rossetti’s poetry include death, gender and sexuality, the sublime, tragic love, and religious doubt. A number of twentieth-century scholars have also analyzed Rossetti’s poetry through a Freudian lens, looking for signs of guilt and repressed sexuality.

The poem “Remember” was published by Rossetti in 1862 as a part of her collection “Goblin Market” and Other Poems. It is a Petrarchan sonnet with a rhyme scheme of ABBA ABBA CDE CDE and is one of her better known poems. The word “remember” is repeated five times within the poem, which expresses the desire of a (presumably female) speaker whose hope is that her beloved will keep her memory alive beyond death. The repeated use of “remember” and “remember me” indicate the strength of the speaker’s desire to not be forgotten, although this forceful plea is relaxed at the end of the poem when the speaker acknowledges that the happiness of her beloved is ultimately the most important thing. While most of the poem is spent trying to ensure that she will be remembered after she dies, the speaker realizes that keeping her memory alive must not occur at the price of another’s happiness. She does not want her beloved to be sad that she is gone, but wants him instead to understand that the afterlife and a physical existence are two separate realms, and, moreover, to rejoice in the memories of the good times they have spent together.