by Christina Georgina Rossetti
The first stanza of the poem describes the world of the living people. The poet addresses her dearest one and asks him not to sing sad sons for her when she is dead. She does not want others to plant roses or shady cypress tree at her tomb. She likes her tomb with green grass associated with showers and dewdrops.
Normally, we find that after the death people express their grief by singing sad songs and by planting roses and cypress tree. But the poet thinks that they are just showing off. She does not like showy behavior. She rather thinks that if people are really sorry at the death of their loving person they should be humble like grass and only few drops of tears will be sufficient. As the showers and dewdrops make the grass green for ever, so the tears will make their love eternal. Afterwards she does not force him to remember. If he likes he will remember and if he does not like he will forget.
After her death she will be buried in the grave, and she will go into the world of the dead. She will not see the shadows of the cypress planted by her dearest one. She will not feel the rain or tears. However, sadly one may sing, but she will not hear it. The sweet and sad song of the nightingale will not touch her. She will pass the rest of her time dreaming through the never-ending evening when the sun neither rises nor sets. Perhaps she will remember it. Perhaps she will forget it.
The entire poem consists of two stanzas and of two varying significance. The first stanza deals with the world of living and the second with the poets experience in the grave. The poet may be trying to be realistic regarding her death. She is against any short of mourning that sings like of showing off. When she is dead, she won’t be able to hear any songs, see any roses, or feel the Cypress shade. Therefore, the better way to mourn someone’s death is by expressing the love as immortal as the green grass through the drops of tears as pure as the dew drops. It is also equally meaningless to insist someone to remember him/her after his/her death. Therefore, she gives her dearest one the freedom to remember of forgets as he/she wishes. The poem also suggests us that no one can escape from the torturous grip of the death. If reflects a quite melancholic and inflicted heart of the speaker.
By questioning the mourning ritual a poet had criticized the showing of behavior and suggested some more sincere ways to express one’s sadness. Similarly, she also seems to be giving more importance to life than after death rituals. Many people neglect their loved one when they are alive, but try to show their grief by spending lot of time and money, when they are dead. The poet seems to be against such attitude and conduct. Rather people should be humble in expressing their love and their sadness for the departed ones.
The poem is published under the title ‘song’ elsewhere. It can be sung to the accompaniment of some musical instrument. It has expressed the feelings and thoughts of the poet in a very personal and subjective way. The rhymes, me and tree, and rain and pain please us. Similarly, the rhymes wet and forget, and set and forget have the harsh sound‘t’ which reminds us the harsh reality in life. The repetition of ‘s’, ‘w’ and ‘sh’ sound makes this song perfect. The music of the stanzas of this poem rises like a gesture of the hand.
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 I may forget.