Christina Rossetti

Echo by Christina Rossetti

A second analysis: Christina Rossetti is touted to be one of the leading women poets of the 19th century. She is, in fact, well-known to have a huge influence in the areas of children’s poetry, devotional verse, and fantasy. Though her popularity faded in the early 20th century with the arrival of Modernism, interest in her work was revived in the 1970s, especially among feminist scholars, who regarded her as an icon of suppressed female genius. Rossetti’s quiet humility and spirituality concealed an intense and passionate nature, and the success of her poetry lies in her ability to reconcile these seemingly conflicting aspects of her personality through her verse. Much of Rossetti’s poetry is quite melancholic in nature. Common themes she generally returned to were the transience of material objects and the desperate passion of ill-fated love.


Echo Analysis

In the poem, Echo by Christina Rossetti, which appeared in Rossetti’s 1862 Goblin Market and Other Poems, the speaker ( who is now metaphorically, if not actually, dead) is shown calling a lost love to come back to her in his/her dreams in order that he/she can remember the times they both once spent and enjoyed together. Though there is no mention of the term ‘echo’ anywhere in the entire poem, the notion of an echoing voice is made clear through several repetitions. The entire poem is directed towards the speaker’s dead loved one. She speaks to him and tells him to come back. Necromancy, or talking to the dead, is a Gothic element that adds a supernatural feel to the poem. When the speaker talks to her dead loved one, an atmosphere of insecurity is felt, and this adds to the supernatural tone of the poem.

Come to me in the silence of the night;

Come in the speaking silence of a dream;

Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright

As sunlight on a stream;

Come back in tears,

O memory, hope, love of finished years.

The poet elaborates a divine scenario; hinting at the wee hours, when we experience solitude backed up with quietness of the night. Here, the poet is reflecting the poem with the actual title i.e. Echo with “Speaking  Silence”. As in dreams, we may visualize, but we fail to echo our voices within. The third line depicts a radiant face with shimmering eyes along with puffy cheeks. Assume it as a face with a stress-free grin and a heavenly smile. The poet narrates further: “as sunlight on a stream”, when the road we are headed towards is crystal clear by the sunbeams, don’t forget to cherish these moments and burst into the tears of happiness. Christina Rossetti has brilliantly reflected at the title of the poem Echo. The last line of the first stanza manifests a memory filled with hope, love, and happiness: which eventually ends the stanza for the poet.

Oh dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,

Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,

Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;

Where thirsting longing eyes

Watch the slow door

That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

This is a deeply haunting lyric poem that brings out the innermost feelings of the speaker. It is such a beautiful expression of grief and longing to find a loved one who has either died or gone to heaven. Such a lovely poem describes the everlasting pain of the lover so beautifully that you actually feel it. Throughout this poem, there is a strong feeling of longing and a strong desire to meet again.

The door in the poem represents the door in paradise, the entrance to heavens where all the souls are free from all pain, living a happy, contented life. The eyes are not thirsting indicates that there is no longing in their eyes because they are happy here. So thirst here does not mean any physical thirst but refers to the emotional aspect. It can be about the speaker also whose eyes are thirsty and desire to behold the image of the loved one.

So here thirsting eyes can also mean the hope of a person to ultimately find his/her lost love in heaven. Rossetti has written many religious poems that’s why this aspect shows in all her poems. What powerful imagery, the slow door opening, letting in, lets out no more? Of course when someone dies and goes to heaven, so no matter how much you wish them to come back, but this will never happen.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live

My very life again tho’ cold in death:

Come back to me in dreams, that I may give

Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:

Speak low, lean low,

As long ago, my love, how long ago.

In this third and final stanza of the poem, the poet tries to get rid of the pain of her sorrow. She wishes to get lost in dreams about her love. She feels dead without him and wants to feel his love as she used to do before. The speaker knows that this wishful dreaming will only give her momentary joy, and that in the end, it will cause her much more anguish. ‘Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live my very life again though cold in death’. The speaker feels so profuse desire to get united with her love that she is ready to deal with this pain.

In the poem, Rossetti also makes the speaker look to feel cheated that her love died. She talks about how life should have been, ‘Whose wakening should have been in Paradise, where souls’ brim-full of love abide and meet.’ The speaker feels cheated out of enjoying life with her love. She should have been allowed to stay with her love forever, and not have to desire anything more, but death took this chance away from her.


Rhymes in Echo

Christina Rossetti employs rhyme in this three-stanza lyric poem to say that one might regain in dreams a love that he/she has lost in reality. As the dream of love is to the real love, so is an echo to an original sound.  From the comparison comes the title of the poem and also Rossetti’s distinctive use of rhyme.  Aspects of her rhyme are the lyric pattern, the qualities and forms of the rhyming words, and the special use of repetition.

The rhyme pattern is simple, and, like rhyme generally, it can be considered to be a pattern of echoes.  Each stanza in the poem consists of four lines of alternating rhymes that end with a couplet: a b a b c c.  There are nine different rhymes all through the poem, three in each stanza. The poet uses only two words for each rhyme; there is no twice of any rhyme.  Of the eighteen rhyming words, sixteen — almost all — are of one syllable.  The rest two words contain two and three syllables.  With such a huge number of single-syllable words, the rhymes are all rising ones, on the accented halves of iambic feet, and the end-of-line stress is on simple words.

The grammatical positions and forms of the rhyming words support inward, introspective subject matter.  While there is variety, more than half the rhyming words are nouns.  There are ten in all, and eight are positioned as the objects of prepositions.  Such enclosure abets the speaker to give emphasis to her yearning to relive her love within dreams.  Besides, the use of the repeated verb “come” in the first and fourteenth lines of the poem is giving commands to the absent lover.

Want to read the first analysis again?

We liked Christina Rossetti’s so much, we made sure two of our team of poetry experts analyzed it, for two different interpretations.
Read the first analysis

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Andrew Walker Poetry Expert
Andrew joined the team back in November 2015 and has a passion for poetry. He has an Honours in the Bachelor of Arts, consisting of a Major in Communication, Culture and Information Technology, a Major in Professional Writing and a Minor in Historical Studies.
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