A few years ago Joanna Goddard from A Cup of Jo put out an interesting challenge – memorize a poem. It struck me as such an ingenious idea and an almost lost art. I have always loved poetry and never read it anymore. I have two small books, one of the works of Edgar Allen Poe and another “Great Sonnets” edited by Paul Negri that I used to read and recite (to myself in my room) as an outlet to all my teenage angst. And as I’m obviously very into furniture, I love how one of Jo’s readers said memorized poetry is like “mental furniture” and I can just picture beautiful chairs representing each memorized verse populating a gorgeous sitting room in my brain.
Imagine my surprise when Downton Abbey characters Isobel and Violet begin discussing one of my oft-read poems on the opening show of this latest season.
(Image via Vision TV)
I love when Mrs. Crawley and the Dowager Countess get all feisty on each other but this discussion about Christina Rossetti’s poem Remember was not an argument about flower arranging or who to hire for their wait staff. They were talking about Mrs. Crawley and her grief for her lost son Matthew (um belated spoiler alert, he died).
Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the passing of my father. He was 51, I was 23. Had I been writing this blog ten years ago, I don’t know that I could have written anything legible about this topic. I was devastated and dropped deep into a gulf of grief. I remembered Rossetti’s poem and I looked to it for comfort. Not much was to be had – it was too soon. I shared it with my mother hoping it could help her in some small way. Today I’m sharing it with you.
Remember by Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894)
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more, day by day,
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far that you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
(An old-school selfie back from the days of film cameras when you were never quite sure how much if any of your face was going to be in the picture.)
My dad was quiet to those who didn’t know him and such a goof to his family and friends. While it is so easy to be sad for the time I didn’t get with him, I instead choose to think about what an amazing time we did have. I find that now, ten years on, I don’t have to forget to smile. Often times my memories can make me laugh out loud.