Christina Rossetti’s ‘The Poor Ghost’ revolves around a man and his deceased lover who has apparently come back from the dead. The plot explores his apprehension and fear regarding her supernatural status while at the same time, his joy at being able to communicate with the loved one he lost again.
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The Poor Ghost
BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI
“Oh whence do you come, my dear friend, to me,
With your golden hair all fallen below your knee,
And your face as white as snowdrops on the lea,
And your voice as hollow as the hollow sea?””From the other world I come back to you,
My locks are uncurled with dripping drenching dew.
You know the old, whilst I know the new:
But tomorrow you shall know this too.”
“Oh not tomorrow into the dark, I pray;
Oh not tomorrow, too soon to go away:
Here I feel warm and well-content and gay:
Give me another year, another day.”
“Am I so changed in a day and a night
That mine own only love shrinks from me with fright,
Is fain to turn away to left or right
And cover up his eyes from the sight?”
“Indeed I loved you, my chosen friend,
I loved you for life, but life has an end;
Thro’ sickness I was ready to tend:
But death mars all, which we cannot mend.
“Indeed I loved you; I love you yet
If you will stay where your bed is set,
Where I have planted a violet
Which the wind waves, which the dew makes wet.”
“Life is gone, then love too is gone,
It was a reed that I leant upon:
Never doubt 1 will leave you alone
And not wake you rattling bone with bone.
“I go home alone to my bed,
Dug deep at the foot and deep at the head,
Roofed in with a load of lead,
Warm enough for the forgotten dead.
“But why did your tears soak thro’ the clay,
And why did your sobs wake me where I lay?
I was away, far enough away:
Let me sleep now till the Judgment Day.”
Analysis of Rossetti’s “The Poor Ghost”
Throughout the first stanza, a single question is designed as the main aim of the man to his deceased lover, addressed as a dear friend. The stanza comprehensively describes the man’s lover, comparing her complexion with ‘snowdrops on the lea’. He wonders where she has come from. The next stanza is a response to the first: she has come from the other world, that is, the spiritual one. She appears to be worldly and wise, the result of no longer being tied to a human world. She propositions to him the idea of his joining her with the dead.
Meanwhile, the narrator feels mortally fearful and requests for more time, irrespective of his never-ending love for her. The deceased friend is upset at his lack of delight and questions his loyalty towards her, expressing doubt about his love. By this time, we may notice a quiet play of repartee between the narrator and the lover. Each stanza is a reply to the previous one; this, truly, is a conversation in every sense.
The narrator restates his love for her. However, he is also afraid to tell her that now she is dead; a force that cannot be reckoned with has separated them. He further expresses that he will continue to love her as long as she remains in the other world, that is, where she truly belongs.
In the end, the reader sees that the ghost has accepted that her deceased status can never be marred by the quality of the love she shared with the narrator. She describes herself as a ‘lost lover’ and decides to wait for her love until time has passed for both of them. Until then, she would sleep. Here, by the ending of the conversation, Rossetti emphasizes on how mortality trumps all other.