Christina Rossetti: The Greatest Victorian Female Poet

Before the Victorian era, there were very few famous female poets. However, during this era, many important female poets were born, such as Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Browning and Christina Rossetti. Christina Rossetti was one of the most important female poets in the nineteenth century. She was viewed as a typical Victorian poet, who frequently wrote about love and faith. This poet wrote many excellent poems such as “Remember” which is a sonnet that reflects her beliefs on love, death and remembrance.

Firstly, Christina Georgina Rossetti was born in 1830 in London and died of cancer in 1894, at the age of 64. In her childhood, her mom made her study religious works, classics, fairytales and novels. She seemed to have a happy life, until her father, Gabriel Rossetti, got sick. Gabriel Rossetti was a professor at King’s College. However, he had to give up his career because of his failing mental and physical health. As a result, her family faced a lot of financial difficulties.  At the age of 14, Christina had to give up school because of her nervous breakdowns. During this period, she became interested in the Anglo-Catholic movement. Since then, Christina’s life was mostly devoted to her religion (Anglican). When Christina became an adult, she was engaged to three people. However, she could not marry them for religious reasons. Christina Rossetti began to write poems in 1842, and published her first poem, in 1848, when she was 18. A few years later, in 1850, she started her career by contributing to a literary magazine, “The Germ”, which was edited by her brother. In 1862, she published her most famous poem collection, “Goblin Market and Other Poems”, which established her fame in Victorian poetry. After her death, Christina Rossetti was recognized as a major Victorian poet and as “the greatest woman poet in the 19th century”.

Goblin Market

Secondly, Christina Rossetti was a poet who wrote a variety of poems with different themes. Some of these themes included: religion, feminism, romance and death. Her poems are very songlike and they tend to have short and irregular rhyme schemes. Furthermore, Christina was viewed as a typical Victorian poet because her poetry reflected her profound Anglican faith and her thoughts about love and religion.

Queen Victoria

Many of Christina’s poems were widely recognized. One of her most famous works was poem titled “Remember”. It goes as follows:

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 planned:

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 I once had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

“Remember” is a sonnet about love and death. Through this poem, Christina Rossetti conveys the idea that the death of a loved one is not something to mourn, but that it is something to remember. This is demonstrated when the narrator says things such as “Only remember me” and “[…] afterwards remember, do not grieve” (line 7, 10). In the poem, it is evident that the narrator is dying because of the metaphor “the silent land” (line 2), which signifies heaven. While the narrator acknowledges her coming death, she asks her lover to remember her even after she dies. However, she also says “Better by far you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad (line 13-14)”. Through this quotation, the narrator subtly states that she would rather be forgotten if the remembrance of her negatively affects her lover. This is ironic, because the narrator clearly stated many times previously that she wanted to be remembered. This idea, along with the other expressions used by the narrator creates a very emotional mood and an indirect tone. In terms of the form of the poem, the author used envelope rhyme in the first quatrain: line 1 rhymes with line 4, line 2 rhymes with line 3, line 5 rhymes with line 8 and line 6 rhymes with line 7. However, in the second stanza, the lines rhyme irregularly: line 9 rhymes with line 13, line 10 rhymes with line 11 and line 12 rhymes with line 14.  Also, we can notice that some lines are tabbed according to the arrangement of the rhymes.

In conclusion, Christina Rossetti was a great female poet in the 19th century who wrote many interesting poems on various topics. Her poem “Remember” is a very deep and ironical poem that has ideas of love, death and remembrance. By reading and analyzing Christina Rossetti’s poems, one can understand her past and also her beliefs about life.

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