Christina Rossetti was a strong, passionate poet who put her deepest feelings of love and romance into her writing. Rossetti was born in London but her family were originally from Italy. Christina was the fourth and youngest child of Gabriele and Frances Rossetti. Both of Rossetti’s parents were especially poetic and enjoyed exploring the modern arts of the Victorian age. Rossetti was educated at home, in several ways this helped stimulate her poetic mind. Extraordinarily Christina started writing at an extremely young age but was first published in 1850 by ‘The Germ’.
Christina wrote countless love poems in her life but yet never married. Rossetti had two marriage offers, but turned them both down due to religious differences. Although Rossetti was never married she did of course experience love. Christina spent most of her life locked in a quiet room writing and died a recluse in 1894.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was older than Rossetti and lived a completely different lifestyle. Elizabeth was brought up by her wealthy, Catholic parents who she loved dearly. She, like Rossetti, was educated at home by her mother. Sadly in 1828 Elizabeth’s mother died and at twenty two Browning was left grieving, depressed and distraught. Life did not go smoothly for Elizabeth from then on. After the death of her mother, her father was worried he’d lose his children as well. Browning’s father was excessively over protective and Elizabeth spent the majority of her young adulthood alone with a small number of friends and no love.
Browning had and accident in 1821 she seriously damaged her spine. After a long time being an invalid her luck changed. Robert Browning was a well known poet and in 1845 Elizabeth met Robert for the first time. Time passed, they got to know each other and the pair began a secret relationship, without Elizabeth’s father knowing. Soon after they privately got married and eloped to Italy to escape Browning’s father. The couple were deeply in love and when Elizabeth died Robert was left heart broken.
During the two ladies lives they suffered injuries and sicknesses. Their physical problems did not stop them from finding love of good men. The experiences of love they had blossomed their poetic minds and imaginations. My essay will be comparing two controversial love poems, ‘Remember me and’ ‘How do I Love Thee.’
‘Remember me’ is a very unique love poem; it was written to express Rossetti’s love but is based around a depressing topic. The poem was written about Rossetti’s coming death. Although her poem is about death it is still incredibly powerful. Rossetti wrote it to send a message to her partner. The message is straightforwardly ‘remember me’. In any love poem death is a hard to topic to place in, yet Rossetti managed to write an outstanding piece of writing.
Browning’s poem has a contrasting theme to the poem written by Rossetti. Elizabeth’s poem portrays the more pleasant side of love. Throughout the poem she explains how her love is constantly growing. She must have loved her man dearly. The poem shows how overwhelmed with love she was. Browning’s poem shows how true, strong love can never be broken.
‘Remember me’ is a simple yet affective poem. It begins with the basic message of the whole poem, “Remember me when I’m gone away”, by gone away she meant dead. She then says that she’s going to “the silent land”, the silent land is fundamentally another way of saying heaven. Rossetti then explains her memories she had and how she would no longer be able to do certain things with her partner. “Nor I half turning to go yet half turning stay”, this means that she didn’t want to leave but in the end she’d have to.
In that time it was typical of the man to control his wife’s every move. This is shown when she writes “the future that you planned” which says she had nothing to do with planning their future. In the next two lines she explains how it’s too late to get help or advice she just wants him to remember her. After that she becomes dominant and commands her man by saying “do not grieve”; she didn’t want her lover to be upset. She then tells him that if “the darkness and corruption leave” and her illness worsen, her behaviour will change. She’s saying sorry if her mental state deteriorates. In the last three lines she comes to a tearful conclusion. “Better by far that you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad” she knew she was going to die and she didn’t want anyone to be miserable in life.
‘How do I love thee?’ is a beautiful poem that could be mistaken for a very poetic list. The poem starts with “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” she then goes on to answer the title question. “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height” there she is saying she is full of love for her husband. She truly loves her man and we know this because she says “I love thee to the level of every day’s” she obviously loves him to the ends of the earth. She then says “most quiet need, by sun and candle-light” in this she is saying that she loves him constantly in every second of every day.
“I love thee freely” “I love they purely” these two lines show how she is free to love him and there is nothing bad in her heart. In young life she lost her mother and two brothers and she shows this when she says “in my old grief’s” she did grieve a lot in her young life. She refers back to her family soon after “with my lost saints” her lost saints being her family. The final lines truly show how strong her love is. “I shall but love thee better after death” this sentence explains how true love can never be broken in any situation or predicament. ‘How do I love thee’ is a very powerful love poem written for Elizabeth’s true love.
All poems have different moods and these two poems have two controversial moods, which I will explain. Rossetti’s poem had a slightly morbid sense to it and is different to any other love poem. Although the poem has a bleak context it has an optimistic outlook on the future. ‘Remember me’ is telling Rossetti’s lover that he should rejoice and be pleased with the passionate, sensual relationship they had together. Browning’s poem is more lustful and uplifting explaining her ever growing love for her husband. Elizabeth’s poem is a lot more detailed about her unconditional love. Sympathy and loss are the feelings evoked in Rossetti’s poem. In Browning’s poem feelings of desire and infatuation are evoked. Both poems are very calm and subtle in mood but yet they are controversial.
Both poems use a variety of poetic devices. They both use superb emotive language and I will show where they have been used. Throughout ‘Remember me’ the word remember was repeated numerous times to reinforce the basic message. A euphemism is used when it say’s gone away, meaning dead. Personification is used once at the beginning of the poem and once at the end. Personification always puts power into writing, doing so divinely in this poem. Some strong loaded words are used to build up a climax in the poem. The climax in this poem is very moving and doesn’t make you loose interest. The sonnet structure of ‘Remember me’ is very flowing and the rhyming scheme is A, B, B, A, A, B, B, A, C, D, D, E, C, E. This scheme reminds me of gentle waves lapping calmly on a sandy shore of a beach.
‘How do I love thee’ is the poem title but is also a rhetorical question, although the question is answered by Browning later on in the poem. The poem uses personification to express her love in an abstract way. A capital letter twice in mid sentence is used to indicate the importance to Elizabeth. Strangely the first eight lines of the poem refer to the present where as the last six lines refer to her past. Flowing loaded words are used to highlight significant points in the poem. This sonnet structure is also fluid with two half rhymes to make it different. The rhyming scheme for this poem is A, B, B, C, A, B, B, A, D, E, D, E, D, E. This rhyming scheme reminds me of rain falling gracefully down a wide open road because of the calmness of the poem. This poem is extremely full of love and joy.
In conclusion, Browning’s poem is successful because it used powerful emotive language and had an advanced use of detail in it. Rossetti’s poem is successful because it uses death in a love poem which can be exceedingly difficult to do. Rossetti’s poem is very morbid but has a joyful outlook to the future. Browning’s poem is very cheerful and expresses love to the maximum of levels. Both poems are very good in quality and description and both have a great use of rhetorical devices. Rossetti and Browning were fantastic writers and the world is lucky to of had them walk the planet.