The view of life after death in this poem is of a twilight where there may or may not be memory. In spite of Christina Rossetti's avowed religion this is not a Christian view of the after-life. The paradox in the poem is that she's able to summon up the pleasure of life so intensely and, at the same time, she turns aside. The poem has a song-like dreamy intimacy of address.

When I am Dead, my dearest

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

 

 

Recording commissioned by the Poetry Archive, shared here with kind permission of the reader.

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