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Remember by Christina Rosetti

 

Christina Rosetti’s Remember is a lover’s plea to her beloved expressing her desire to be remembered after her death, thus depicting the common human need to survive death by being immortalized in a lover’s memory.

The poem starts with Rosetti talking about a time when she would no longer be able to be with her lover, when they are no longer able to hold hands and makes plans for their future together, when death would have taken her from him and she would have departed from this world. She wants her memory to live on in her lover’s heart and thus in some manner stay with him even when she physically cannot. She doesn’t want that time to draw near and she’s reluctant to leave him behind but she knows it is inevitable. So she tries to console him beforehand knowing that he would take her death very hard, she tells him that he did all he could and that no amount of seeking help or praying would be able to bring her back from the dead. She wants her lover to be able to think of her without dwelling on the ‘what if’s’ and she absolutely does not want him blaming himself.
In the third stanza the poet realizes the futility of her request: she is aware that the world is such that it is inexorable that her lover will one day look behind on the days they spend together and recall only the faults of their relationship. In his memory she would be reduced to a weak pathetic shadow of her former self, tarnished by the immoral and decadent world. Thus she alters her earlier request, preferring to be forgotten rather than be remembered in a way that would cause her lover anguish. She wants him to be happy and move on if her memory causes him sorrow.

Set in the structure of a sonnet, Remember follows an abba rhyming scheme in the starting octave with the third stanza and ending couplet having a cddece rhyme. Written in the first person narrative, the poem’s tone also varies with Rosetti’s request. In the beginning it is insistent when she’s appealing to her lover to keep her alive in his memory, then it turns consoling when she wants to comfort him and by the end it has turned somewhat dejected when she realizes that he cannot remember her faithfully and she chooses instead to be forgotten.

A straightforward poem which does not rely heavily on literary devices, the impact of ‘Remember’ is in its simple language. It’s heartfelt and genuine; like the love that the poet harbours for her beloved. Death is metaphorically described as the ‘silent land’ in contrast with the vitality and music of life. Other than that there are a few instances of alliteration in ‘When you can no more hold me by the hand,’ and ‘Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay,’ which lend an internal rhythm to the poem.

The poem showcases a common desire in all of us, that to escape death and oblivion by living on in the memory of those we love. But it is also a comment on society as the poet is aware of how the passing of time and the influence of the world would be such that her lover will not be able to protect her memory from being tarnished and blemished with time. She is aware of this, and she chooses to be forgotten, thus voluntarily choosing obscurity instead of being remembered in such a way. This final wish could be an expression of her absolute love that she does not want her lover to hold on to her if her memory is to cause him grief; or it could be taken as form of self-preservation: it is true that in remembering her, her lover will enable her to live on, but she would have no control over what happens to her fragile memory and thus instead of her memory being subjected to the ‘darkness and corruption’ of the world, she prefers to gracefully be forgotten.

Whichever it is I feel that the poem highlights the insecurity of the poet. Why does she have to insist to her lover and plead with him to remember her? If there love is true, then she really doesn’t need to be concerned about what time would do to her memory or whether he would remember her or not because then she would trust that he would. Not only is she devaluing the sincerity of his affection, she’s also convinced that the ‘world’ is such that he would only remember a ‘visage of the thoughts that once she had.’ Doesn’t the passing of time allow us to look at the past through rose coloured glasses instead of tarnishing the memories we cherish?

I feel that Remember gives an overtly negative view of the world, perhaps covering up the insecurities of the poet herself.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Once Upon a Time By Gabriel Okara

Gabriel Okara’s Once Upon A Time is a comment on society through a monologue from a father to a son which bemoans the loss of innocence in the transition from child to adult and a desire to revert back to that blissful childhood.

The father addresses his son telling him how he remembers that once people used to be open and expressive with their emotions with laughter that reached their eyes, but now they are aloof and distant with fake smiles. Overt displays of emotion are considered to be suspicious and looked down upon. He reiterates that there was a time when relationships were based on mutual respect and cordiality. Now, however, people form friendships and relationships for personal benefits only, leading to a cold world without any depth of feeling. The father laments how hospitability has vanished as people only say the expected welcoming phrases without meaning them and shy away from allowing anyone from getting too close, distancing themselves whenever someone threatens to break down the walls they have hidden themselves behind.
In the fourth stanza the father admits to his son that he too has adapted and learned to live amidst such false people. He has had to fit in and now he too has the ability to put on various facades, he behaves exactly how he is supposed to in different scenarios with all their niceties which are necessary for each situation. Moreover the father has learned to fake emotions and build relationships without any sincerity or depth of feeling. He has learned how to say expected phrases without any meaning behind them and fake emotions.
But in the seventh stanza, we find out that he does not want to be like this. He wants to revert back to the time when he was a child like his son; when he was an innocent person. He wants to forget all these stifling things which are dampening his emotions and are slowly strangling the life out of him. He is disgusted with himself as he himself now resembles what he detested most in society and he cannot look himself in the eye without witnessing the same hypocrisy which he had been scathing earlier. So in the last stanza the father pleads with the child to teach him how to express his emotions and return back to a time when he was young and carefree and naïve, and not aware of what apathy was required from him for him to survive.

The poem consists of seven stanzas with no definite rhyming scheme which emphasizes the fact that it is a monologue from a father to his son. The tone throughout is nostalgic as the father remembers what things used to be like once when he was a child. There is an undertone of bitterness throughout the poem whenever the father talks about how things have changed and how the world has progressively become more and more decadent.

Okara uses blunt metaphors to describe how the ‘ice block cold eyes’ of people now lack emotion, emphasising the harsh intrusiveness of such eyes scrutinizing the poet, looking for ways to exploit their ‘friendship.’ He has learned to pretend to feel whatever is expected of him at different events, using a simile to describe how he changes the masks he puts on like the dresses he is expected to wear on said events, each with their expected plethora of facial expressions and tones. He wears smiles like a portrait wears a smile, fixed and uncomfortable with no real meaning behind it. He detests looking at himself in the mirror for all he sees when he smiles is his teeth bared like a snake’s bare fangs, revolting and dripping with poison.
The repetition of the title both at the beginning and the ending of the poem suggests a sort of fairy tale like tone to the poem which raises the question of whether the past that the poet is remembering so fondly ever did exist, or if the lost time that he so desperately wants to return to is just something that he has thought up in his mind as a defence mechanism that once upon a time things were really not all that bad.

There is some very strong language used in the poem. The poet calls all the things that he has had to learn ‘muting things’ that stifle the emotion inside of him, not allowing him release. It seems to him that his voice has been taken and that he is slowly being suffocated. He wants to forget all these things, to ‘unlearn’ them and return back to a more innocent time.

Once Upon a Time is a comment on the hypocritical society that we live in today in which we are wary of emotion, distrustful of affection and guarded of laughter. Logical reasoning take precedence over emotions and relationships are formed with prudent aims in mind instead of affection and geniality. It is a false façade that everyone hides behind and as a reason we are alone and isolated despite being surrounded by people on all sides. There is a price on relationships, and an end date as soon as the purpose behind it is over. There is no place nor desire for empathy in the world of today.

The innocence of children is also a major theme in this poem as it is this state that the poet wants to go back to. It is his childhood that he remembers throughout the poem, the time when things seemed so much more real and sincere. Or maybe it is only that the poet is remembering his childhood through the eyes of a child, when he was too young to understand how people behave. Perhaps there was no such time when life was perfect, perhaps it is only a misconception induced by nostalgia but the poet does not care.

All he wants is to go back to when he could be free.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in Uncategorized