‘Let Me Go’ is a touching poem in which the speaker uses clear imagery and recognizable metaphors to allude to her death. She’s going to walking down a new path, one that can only be walked alone, and she’s completely okay with that. She sees death as setting her soul free, not destroying the life she had.
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Summary of Let Me Go
The speaker in this piece is near death, and she spends the four stanzas telling someone close to her what she wants her death to be like, and how she’d like them to handle it. She doesn’t want them to mourn for her, cry, or get lost in their grief. She’d like them to celebrate their time together, remember her for a time, and then happily forget and move on. She notes that she’s going to do the same. She had a wonderful life, but now she’s on her way home, to heaven, and to the next one. She isn’t going to fear the rain or the loss of experiences she loved while she was alive. She has a new world to go to.
In ‘Let Me Go,’ Rossetti engages with the theme of death. This is accompanied by the themes of grief and memory. She knows that her listener or listeners are going to feel grief once her speaker is dead, but she wants to try to convince them that this isn’t necessary. She’d rather they didn’t mourn for her. She doesn’t see death as something to be feared but something to be loved and accepted. Her soul is going to be set free, and that’s something to be celebrated. She also suggests that the memories she and her listener/s had together are special, but that they too will fade, and that’s okay.
Structure and Form
‘Let Me Go’ by Christina Rossetti is a thirty-two line poem divided into four stanzas of eight lines, known as octaves. The lines follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABCB, changing end sounds every four lines. The majority of these lines contain either nine or seven syllables, changing depending on whether the line is odd-numbered or even-numbered, but there are several exemptions to that rule.
Rossetti makes use of several literary devices in ‘Let Me Go.’ These include but are not limited to repetition, alliteration, and enjambment. The first of these refers to any time that something, a literary device, word, or phrase, is used more than once. In this case, the poet repeats a refrain: “Miss me, but let me go.” These words appear as the last line of every stanza.
Alliteration is another kind of repetition. This occurs when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “sun” and “set” in line two of the first stanza and “part” and “plan” in line three of the second stanza.
Enjambment is another common feature of ‘Let Me Go.’ For example, the transitions between the first three lines of the first stanza.
Analysis of Let Me Go
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not for long
And not with your head bowed low
Remember the love that once we shared
Miss me, but let me go.
In the first stanza of ‘Let Me Go,’ the speaker begins by alluding to her own death. She uses the common metaphor of coming to the “end of the road” and the setting sun” to represent the end of her life. She declares that she doesn’t want everyone sitting around mourning for her. She imagines herself not lost, but as a “soul set free.” This is something beautiful that should be celebrated.
Despite this, she knows that people will miss her. So, she gives them leave to do so, but only for a short period of time. She wants to make sure that they spend this period of mourning remember their time together and the love they shared, not with their “head bowed low.” The stanza ends with the first repetition of the refrain that ends the first two stanzas, “Miss me, but let me go.”
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all part of the master plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go the friends we know.
Laugh at all the things we used to do
Miss me, but let me go.
In the second stanza of ‘Let Me Go,’ the speaker tries to remind anyone listening that everyone dies. Her death is just one more departure on the “journey we all must take.” No one can walk this path with anyone else, it’s a path walked alone, and that’s part of the masterplan. This is a clear allusion to God, who the speaker suggests put all this into motion and is ensuring it all goes smoothly.
The road imagery is continued into the next line when she suggests that the path through death is the true path to “home,” or Heaven. The stanza concludes with the speaker once more asking her listeners to celebrate her life, not mourn it.
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.
In the third stanza of ‘Let Me Go,’ the speaker addresses the listener as “my dearest.” This might mean she’s talking to a lover or to someone whose dear to her in life. She reiterates what she’s said before, asking them not to sing sad songs for her or “plant…roses at” her head. She wants the grass to grow on her grace and for it to be covered with showers and “dewdrops wet.”
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not fear 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.
It’s at this point in ‘Let Me Go’ that the poet’s use of repetition is made even more obvious. She uses the same phrase “I shall not” at the beginning of the first three lines of this last stanza. This is an example of anaphora. These statements are declarations of intent on the part of the speaker as she moves into this next phase of her life. SHe’s not going to fear, she’s not going to “see the shadows” and she’s not going to “hear the nightingale / Sing on as if in pain.” These things won’t touch her.
She will happily remember her time on earth and then happily forget it, just as she hopes her listener will do in regard to her life and their time together.
Readers who enjoyed ’Let Me Go’ should also consider reading some of Christina Rossetti’s other best-known poems. For example:
- ‘Goblin Market’ – Rossetti’s best-known poem, and one that has inspired many different interpretations. It follows two sisters into the world of Goblin men and its consequences.
- ‘Remember’ – was written when Rossetti was only nineteen years old. It addresses her future with her partner and her desire to be remembered but not cause her listener sorrow.
- ‘Memory’ – addresses the speaker’s difficulties as she struggles with a connection between heaven and earth. She loves the earth and her human nature but decides she loves God more.