Christina Rossetti: ‘When I Am dead, My Dearest’

CHRISTINA ROSSETTI (1830-1894)

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.

VIDEO   :   57 seconds

38 thoughts to “Christina Rossetti: ‘When I Am dead, My Dearest’”

  1. Exquisite. Christina Rossetti is arguably the best female poet ever. She is certainly among the the most mystical poets writing in the English language, utterly steeped in Christian mysticism and drawing heavily on Plato and Dante as her main influences.

    The poem above touches on the universal themes of love and death, the two themes that interested Christina most , and which form the basis of the best lyrical poems in the English language.

    Christina fell passionately in love like other women, but rejected all her suitors on religious grounds. She remained a reclusive spinster all her life, living under the shadow of her elder brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, founder of the pre-Raphaelite art movement and himself a brilliant poet as well as painter. The portrait of Christina which you see above was painted by her talented brother.

    1. Dear Mr Saki, Mr The Realist, Mr Sardonicus and Dear Madame Butterfly

      I have never heard of Miss Rossetti until today. I am no judge of poetry. I have read the Ancient Greeks, Dante….no expert I am.
      What I thought of the poem ( did not watch the video) was that it was from deep feelings of a sad spirit. It reminded me of Core N Grato. That piece makes me go deep in my spirit to find my feelings. Miss Rossetti suffered a great deal in life I imagine.
      The third paragraph of Mr Sardonicus’ comment stated that she fell deeply in love. But, my dear people, she could not express that love. How painful. She denied herself the love that Christ gifted her. I know that she did it for religious reasons. It also said that she became a recluse and a spinster. My heart of compassion went out to her. I do not believe that a woman with such great spiritual depth can be happy if she denies the love that Christ put in her. I have to tell you that I have tears flowing down my face as I write this. Someday when I meet her in Heaven I will know. I tell you this, I would give just about anything to have that great love. That is why God is Love.

      At one time in my life I was a mindless seeker.
      Now that I know a little bit, I will not condemn those who are seeking and do not know.

      May Christ Bless You All

      PS. Madama Butterfly is a great opera which expresses that deep love.

    2. @ Saki – “Christina fell passionately in love like other women, but rejected all her suitors on religious grounds. She remained a reclusive spinster all her life….”
      When being in love with God, only then “life” can be lived and understood to the fullest. To “die” as a spinster – for many a term to ridicule – does not mean a sad life full of human sacrifices at all. How can love, life or death ever be understood in the human mind if it is constantly conditioned in mortal human theories that have an end that never was nor is? Superiority of man is nothing but a sad dream dreamt in loneliness and despair and with a longing heart that has been greedily drained of love through idealistic selfishness.
      When a dream ends one should take on Christina’s poetic advise: “Haply I may remember, and haply may forget”.

      1. Yes, I agree with all you say in praise of Christian Rossetti and her beautiful poem. Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word “spinster” to describe her unmarried state which you feel is a “term of ridicule”. I didn’t mean it in this negative way.

        I just meant to indicate that Christina was a single woman, an unmarried female like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Like many unmarried females of the educated middle classes in straitened circumstances, she was thinking at one stage of being a governess — like Jane Eyre, the heroine of the Charlotte Bronte novel. Her circumstances then improved, which made this unnecessary.

        Christina lived a “nunnish” life. If she’d been a Catholic, I feel sure she would have entered a convent. She had a very deep devotion to Jesus Christ and was obsessed with heaven and the after life. Many of her poems are full of this yearning for the life after death. A very strange lady indeed: broody, melancholy, reclusive and otherworldly. A bit like the Lady of Shalott who lived in a high tower and sometimes peeped out of her tall window at all the strange people passing below in the street.

    3. “Spinster” is just another word. No negativity at all.

      Being obsessed with the heavens and the after life comes “naturally” once the human condition has become derailed through “life” itself. Melancholy, reclusiveness and otherworldly longings (home sickness) are constant companions riding the swinging pendulum that seems to enter and exit “both worlds at once”. The realm where poems are composed that carry more than words. All very strange indeed without having to judge “normality”.

      In the end it will be the start of a new beginning after all.

  2. First time I’ve ever heard of Cristina Rosetti, but I’ll say one thing:
    No-one’s ever gonna accuse her of being a “barrel of laughs”

    1. Maybe you should refrain from commenting on a poet you know nothing about. You have never heard of her and can’t even be bothered to spell her name correctly. So whatever you have to say on Christina Rossetti (not ‘Cristina Rosetti’) is utterly worthless.

      1. It’s a beautiful poem. I don’t know why Admin allows animals like this guy “The Realist” to pollute this website with his pukey presence. They manage to uglify even the beautiful and sully the sublime.

        Saki, thank you for your informative and uplifting introductory comment .

  3. One of the most chillingly sad poems I have read. (I cannot decide if I am chilled, sad or both)

    We have a tendency to either forget, or ignore, the fact that all things pass away, making this life one of illusion. It is the youthful delusion of immortality that makes the world the way it is. If man had the image of death constantly visible by his side from birth, the world would be a much different place. Thus, I have long surrounded myself with images of death, lest I forget the outcome of my journey here.

    1. Death is something I’d rather not contemplate, but we all have to face it. Whenever I reluctantly attend a funeral, I can never escape the thought of how awful it must be to be buried six feet under, with no air or sunlight! It’s good the dead “know nothing” (so said Solomon), I met a preacher on the driveway, this morning, who had been hunting on this place, and he started telling me about his sermon, yesterday, and how he was SURE he was “saved” and would enjoy heaven. I really wish I KNEW…

      1. A preacher that hunts must know surely he is “saved”. Maybe if you KNEW Gilbert, Gilbert Huntley would be a very different man. One that may wishes that he never knew.

      2. About a week before I moved to Florida [ from California ] a woman I knew in the neighborhood [ from walking my dog around the neighborhood, she walked her dog around the neighborhood also. She was an elderly woman. There was also a joo woman with a dog in my neighborhood in California but that’s a whole other story. This one I’m talking about is not the joo woman. This one I’m talking about is a NON-joo woman ] she said “I heard you’re moving to Florida, Joe. Florida is where people go to sit around and wait to die”. 🙂 I did not take umbrage, I thought it was a Hoot what she said! I’m tellin’ ya’, Lasha belongs in Florida!

      3. I’ve gone thru all the requisite motions, Jo. I certainly believe enough for THAT. IT’s just that I feel that dying NEVER comes at a convenient time. So much is left undone, and I have experienced the frustration of getting older and more physically limited. Putting ones self completely “in God’s Hands” requires more humility than that to which I am accustomed. Humility and submission is really difficult to achieve – but I believe it would make life easier!

    2. @ Arch Stanton,

      I respect you as a person and enjoy reading your brilliant comments, but please note the following points:

      There’s no proof that there’s NO AFTERLIFE, as you glibly assume, so it is NOT a “youthful delusion” to believe in immortality. How can you prove there’s no afterlife since you would need to die to find out? And if you were right, how would you know for sure? 🙂

      Christina Rossetti was no deluded youngster when she longed for heaven, a heaven she believed in passionately all her life. She died at the age of 64 still longing for heaven, preferring it to life on earth.

      You are really in no position to assume that your skepticism — no god, no afterlife — is a proven fact. A scientific fact. It is simply an opinion, a doubt rooted in existential angst which is a product of your personal psychology.

      You assume falsely that those who believe fervently in God and in an afterlife have been brainwashed and indoctrinated by religion. Consider the possibility that YOU are the brainwashed one, indoctrinated by decades of liberal existentialism and Frankfurt School Cultural Marxism that is in the very air we breathe — as an “ideological pollutant”. A toxic influence we must do all we can to resist.

      Every movie you see, produced by the Jews you hate, has helped to form your mind and character and inculcate the godless values of the Jews you despise. Only you are unable to see this: that YOU are in a sense a victim of the age’s promoted godlessness and existential despair, not the people who believe in higher things because they have experienced them personally in mystical experiences called “epiphanies”, i.e. in “born-again” experiences such as form the basic of William James’ great classic, “The Varieties of Religious experience”.

      It may interest you to know three things, dear Arch:

      (1) The greatest minds of the ages — scientists, philosophers, musicians, mathematicians — have believed strongly in God and in an afterlife, based on PERSONAL EPIPHANIES (mystical experiences) or CONTACT with the divine or the paranormal.

      (2) Even Darwin did not disbelieve in God but was an avowed agnostic who got on splendidly with his wife, a Unitarian Christian, and in whose arms he finally died. In the very last paragraph of all 5 editions of the Origin of Species published in his lifetime (except the first edition), there is a direct reference to God as the “Creator”. So how can Darwin possibly be an “atheist”, as is commonly supposed, if he refers to God in the last few words of his 1859 masterpiece?

      (3) The co-founder of the Theory of Evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, did not share the religious views of the more skeptical Darwin. He believed strongly, on scientific evidence, in DESIGN in nature, i.e., in a Designer God. His special brand of Darwinism is known as “teleological Darwinism”, i.e., that a Designer God made the universe and did so with a set PURPOSE. He called this Designer God the “Higher Intelligence”.

      See here:

      Wallace’s ‘Higher Intelligence’ was not the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator/Saviour God of the Bible, but some unidentified and unspecified ‘superior intelligence/power’. Wallace had become involved with spiritism and believed that departed souls could communicate through mediums with people living on Earth. In later life he ardently attended séances, where he believed he received messages from dead relatives.”

      https://creation.com/alfred-russel-wallace-co-inventor-of-darwinism

      1. Saki,

        This is a brilliant comment that deserves republishing as a short feature article. I am really impressed by the extent of your knowledge and vast erudition and by the depth of your perceptions. Are you male or female? Not that your gender is in any way relevant.

      2. My Dear Saki,

        You misunderstand my comment and have mistaken assumptions about my character. My reference to the youthful delusion of immortality refers to the idea we all have in our youth that we are invincible, that “it will never happen to me.” Young males are especially afflicted with this idea, one that invariably remains until they are either involved in combat or some other truly life threatening experience where they are confronted with death, or old age finally confronts them with their frail mortality. Until that point, death is something that happens to someone else.

        You make the assumption that I hate, I do not. As I have written many times, “One does not hate the termites gnawing away the foundations of their home. Nor does one one hate the cancer eating away their body.” However, I find people often find hate in those truths I state. But I am far from alone in this regard.

        I most certainly do not hate Jewish movies, I leave the hating of inanimate objects to fools. There are good Hollywood movies and there are bad ones, with the bad far outweighing the good. The fact is, I even enjoy some of the bad Hollywood movies Jews make. What’s more, these movies provide valuable insight into the Jewish mind.

        I am not anti-god, I’m anti-religion. The Sufis say, “God is closer than your jugular.” It’s the priest that do not want you to find that out. When it comes to “god,” I eschew the term. “God” for me is a Jewish god, a wrathful, judgmental, murderously vindictive parental figure that rewards one when they are good and punishes one when they are bad. How childishly absurd to think the intelligence behind the universal design and creation would be a figure that small in stature.

        You must have missed my many comments concerning the “Beloved,” intelligent design and the Sufis. As I have written previously, if one needs proof of intelligent design (and creation) all they have to do is walk out their front door and take a look at the intelligent life surrounding them. Intelligence doesn’t just happen, it isn’t a mistake; It takes intelligence to design and create intelligence. That intelligence is far, far beyond any primitive Jew’s description of it.

        As for the after life . . . There are countless stories throughout history, throughout all cultures, about the continual return to this life. I myself have experienced dim memories of my past existence that served to explain, and resolve, a number of mysteries in this life. I do not believe in an afterlife. In fact I do not believe anything. I simply have no faith in belief. Instead, I examine the evidence and shave daily with Occam’s razor.

        The idea of repeated return to this life to work out one’s “karma” was never something I wanted to discover. in fact, I set out to find the opposite and was horrified by what I found. The information changed my life’s path. Now I am brer’ rabbit not relishing the thought of actually returning to this briar patch.

        I am frequently amazed at how I misrepresent myself.

        As for personal epiphanies, you should have been there when I had lunch with Jesus, where he said to me, “Arch old boy, I want you to tell the real story of my life and my mission. I want you to sweep away the cobwebs of magic and mysticism religion has woven around my life. No one will listen and no one will believe it, but I want you to tell it anyway and let the chips fall where they may.”

        I stared in disbelief, asking, “why me Jesus? I’m nobody, I am nothing. I have no authority, no degrees or qualification that might bolster such a story. No one will listen to a nobody like me. I never cared about you or the religion they named after your assigned title. In fact I never really believed in you at all.”

        Jesus just smiled and replied, “He that fails to believeth in me shall not perish, but shall return repeatedly until he tells my story, if you get my drift. Arch, let’s just chalk it up to one of those “mysteries of god” they are always talking about. Besides, you have been provided all the talents required to tell my story. You have been given the information as well as, the technical ability to write and produce a book. You have been given the gift of the written word as well, such as it is. And you damn sure didn’t have that talent until I came along, now get to work! I’ll call on you in few decades to see how you are coming along with my story. Vaya con Díos, Arch. By the way, watch out for the branches on that withered fig tree on your way out.”

      3. @ Arch Stanton

        Brilliant comment, dear Arch! I certainly misunderstood you. I think LD should seriously consider republishing this comment as a feature article.

        We are talking here about things that transcend all other things and must take priority. Go in peace, dear fellow traveller! and may you find solace and a safe inn at the end of your journey!

      4. @ PAT, sister Monika
        What IF there is only “one sex” instead of 71 or the 2 opposing sexes you are after?

        “Because a woman brought death a bright Maiden overcame it, and so the highest blessing in all of creation lies in the form of a woman, since God has become man in a sweet and blessed Virgin.”
        Hildegard v. Bingen (1098 to 1179)

      5. Jo –

        “What if??”

        “What if” is far from facts.
        WHAT IF you could do better than that? 🙂

        BTW – I have always been surprised at the ‘so smart’ folks who spend thousands to mow their lawns… God’s Garden…. and thousands more on drugs and natural remedies!!

      6. PAT, for my part I am quite convinced that once the mortal body I pretend to own is shed gender will become utterly meaningless unfortunately there are no existing links that can be provided – instead “What IF” was used. Just some life experiences that can be shared with words or “close” examples – but no other means. To point to Rumi’s “No room for form” or Jesus “Born of water” only refers to a “translation” of a human but “unworldly experience” which is described also via a third party but not directed to the “texture or sex” of the roomless form/entity and the “living water/spirit” of which “Jesus” speaks. Though both of these divine messages contain universal truth that – as ALL OTHER THINGS ON EARTH – will be judged by the individual that has already established/copyrighted/confirmed his/her own personal truth through ones own life experiences and “education” which literally will be defended vigorously until death and it does not matter if this personal truth might be watered down or is changed into fiction through complete or partial denial of truth itself. It always will be in the eye of the beholder what to make of truth and how to “season” it. The gift of free will that is so free that it even can be reversed from ones own personal freedom into ones own prison of thorny limitations, shackles and wet moldy eternal prison cell walls – again a personal choice of the individual.
        The billions of $$$ spent at Geneva’s LHC in the search for “the God particle” might or might not provide an answer of the “particles substance” including its “gender” but in my own HO I doubt very much that this will be relevant for the grandeur of the formless and divine substance that can not be measured, seen, touched, smelled or tempered with but provides the basis for uncountable life forms in multiverses that will be far to complex for a conditioned, limited and utterly recycled and redirected human mind. And again I can only refer to “Hildegard” to explain the unexplainable in personal experiences but which again and again never will confirm with laws of Godless $cience which came up with most of the “helli$h” conditioning of the modern human mind in the first place:
        “These visions which I saw were not in sleep nor in dreams, nor in my imagination nor by bodily eyes or outward ears nor in a hidden place; but in watching, aware with the pure eyes of the mind and inner ear of the heart”.

      7. Jo –

        Animals & humans have no genders. They have sexes.

        ‘Gender’ is a classification used in language formation modifiers and applied there only.

        Again…. jews have changed the languages, narratives and definitions.

    3. Interesting comment about death, Mr. Stanton.
      I was looking at the leaves turning to their beautiful colors. We all know that to which I refer. It suddenly occurred to me. I had an epiphany. These beautiful fall colors are ‘death’. The leaves are dying and that is what I am in awe of without realizing it. Death. In the West, we are all afraid to die, generally speaking. But we can admire the journey of the leaves to their deaths. That revelation totally changed my perception of life.

      1. DEX –

        Thanks to you & Arch… I just realized death is colorful in the north. Not so much in South Florida…. where dead leaves turn grayish-brown. 🙂

  4. I like this and many other poems of Christina Rossetti as I like the poet Emily Dickinson.
    We must not forget that the talent of Christina is due to her italian origin, probably. Her parents, her father, could be considered as living in exile in England for having been a political dissident in Italy.
    There is a book of the former lawyer Victor Zammit who pleads for an afterlife with evidence ‘ ‘ a lawyer presents the case for the afterlife’. Also interesting is the book, ‘ 7 reasons to believe in the afterlife’ , by Jean Jacques Charbonier m.d.
    But we can’t be sure of this afterlife and that is maybe the mystery of death.

    1. An excellent comment, but why do you keep demanding proof for things that cannot be proved scientifically and that skeptics will always doubt — because they feel happier to doubt everything than believe in mystical experiences and paranormal events? Those who have had mystical experiences and witnessed paranormal events (e.g., poltergeist phenomena, out-of-body experiences (OBE), and near-death experiences (NDE), have no difficulties believing in an afterlife.

      1. Sister,

        As you know, I have no problems believing in an afterlife, having experienced the miraculous and the supernormal more than once.

        My own mother was cured of an incurable disease instantaneously and she had psychic experiences that left me in no doubt that life continued after death in one form or other.

        The Doubters will always be with us. The blind need to step into the sea to know the sea is there.

      2. I’d be interested to know more about your mother’s incurable disease and its sudden miraculous cure. Also about your poltergeist experiences. Can you provide some more specific details? 

      3. I’ve no wish to discuss my poltergeist experience here for two reasons. Firstly, it’s an isolated experience that occurred only recently and I haven’t had time to assess it and figure out its ramifications yet; secondly, no one is likely to believe me, as there were no witnesses to the event apart from myself. To believe in the paranormal you need to experience the paranormal yourself. Hearing about someone else’s experience at second hand is seldom convincing, especially if you don’t know the person involved.

        As for my mother’s incurable disease and its miraculous cure,
        I’ve written about this at some length in an article about P.D. Ouspensky, the famous disciple of Gurdjieff. Scroll down to my comment here — the long passage in bold font beginning with my initials (LD).

        https://www.darkmoon.me/2016/in-search-of-the-miraculous-ouspensky-and-his-group/

        I hope this will suffice for the time being.

    2. “the talent of Christina is due to her Italian origin, probably.” Most likely probably not – Evelyn.
      Christina’s talents might have originated from similar universal thoughts as these ones of another “spirited and gifted” female below:

      “The marvels of God are not brought forth from one’s self. Rather, it is more like a chord, a sound that is played. The tone does not come out of the chord itself, but rather, through the touch of the musician. I am, of course, the lyre and harp of God’s kindness.”

      “Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation.”

      “We shall awaken from our dullness and rise vigorously toward justice. If we fall in love with creation deeper and deeper, we will respond to its endangerment with passion.”

      “Divinity is in its omniscience and omnipotence like a wheel, a circle, a whole, that can neither be understood, nor divided, nor begun nor ended.”

      Hildegard v. Bingen (1098 to 1179)
      https://www.azquotes.com/author/21274-Hildegard_of_Bingen?

      Since many thousands of years WE favor to dwell in dullness.

      1. Jo —

        Your quotes from Hildegard of Bingen brought tears to my eyes. We must never forget that without Christianity not only would the sublime music of Heldegarde von Bingen have been possible but also the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven would never have come into existence. Christianity was their lifeblood and inspiration.

        Here is a 2-minute video featuring the divine music of Hildegarde von Bingen:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMxBpPcoWf0

      2. Well Saki then it was already worth to have quoted them.
        One imagine during her lifetime in the 12th century what some of these (In)significant “little” men who ran the “church as authority of God” had to say about “the highest blessing in all of creation lies in the form of a woman”.
        Hildegard died as an “old spinster” but is still being present in so many different ways. All “my” medicinal herbs that grow here in the garden somewhere are just one of many examples of “her divine” presence in nature.
        Her work about “natural remedies and health of the body” are outstanding and timeless and will outlast big pharma anytime.

      3. And what more , pray tell, did Lasha and her aunt Moaner learn about Death last night, Halloween night, Halloween night spent in the local convent cemetery [ that just happens to be located on Lasha’s hereditary landed gentry baronial estate] among the tombstones dancing and frolicking and cavorting and communicating with The Dead? Any interesting informative conversations with the Zombies? I’m wondering if the Zombies told Lasha and Moaner anything new about death the TWO didn’t know before and would they like to share with us all the exciting new things about death they learned last night? Oh please do share! Preferably in Poem form!

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