Poems You Should Know: ‘Remember Me’ by Christina Rossetti

Written during the Victorian period, the combination of realism (death is sometimes described as the ultimate reality), intellect (‘remember’, ‘tell’, ‘counsel’, ‘pray’, ‘thoughts’), emotion (the poem is permeated by the melancholy which accompanies the death of a loved one), and symbolism (referring to death as ‘the silent land’) in ‘Remember Me’ is all characteristic of the writing of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, of which Christina Rossetti (1830-1864) was arguably one of the foremost poets. ‘Remember Me’ speaks from the point of view of a person contemplating their own death and exhorting their loved one to remember them after death – but not at the cost of their own continued life and happiness. It’s apparently a favourite at funerals.

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.

Poet Profile: Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

It’s hardly applicable to a New Zealand Christmas (as I type this, the sun is shining, the strawberries and raspberries are ripening, and I’m planning a Christmas dinner which includes fresh cherries and salad straight from the garden) but, with its haunting melody and evocative portrayal of the contrast between the lowly circumstances of Christ’s Incarnation and the glories of His heavenly kingdom and coming reign, this is nonetheless one of my favourite carols. Written by Rossetti some time before 1872 in response to a request from ‘Scribner’s Monthly’ magazine for a Christmas poem, ‘In the Bleak Mid-Winter’ gained fame only after her death, when it appeared in the 1906 English Hymnal with a setting by Gustav Holst (1874-1934, most famous for his ‘Planets’ Suite). Continue reading “Poet Profile: Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)”