'My Sister's Sleep' by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

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She fell asleep on Christmas Eve:
At length the long-ungranted shade
Of weary eyelids overweigh'd
The pain nought else might yet relieve.

Our mother, who had lean'd all day
Over the bed from chime to chime,
Then rais'd herself for the first time,
And as she sat her down, did pray.

Her little work-table was spread
With work to finish. For the glare
Made by her candle, she had care
To work some distance from the bed.

Without, there was a cold moon up,
Of winter radiance sheer and thin;
The hollow halo it was in
Was like an icy crystal cup.

Through the small room, with subtle sound
Of flame, by vents the fireshine drove
And redden'd. In its dim alcove
The mirror shed a clearness round.

I had been sitting up some nights,
And my tired mind felt weak and blank;
Like a sharp strengthening wine it drank
The stillness and the broken lights.

Twelve struck. That sound, by dwindling years
Heard in each hour, crept off; and then
The ruffled silence spread again,
Like water that a pebble stirs.

Our mother rose from where she sat:
Her needles, as she laid them down,
Met lightly, and her silken gown
Settled: no other noise than that.

"Glory unto the Newly Born!"
So, as said angels, she did say;
Because we were in Christmas Day,
Though it would still be long till morn.

Just then in the room over us
There was a pushing back of chairs,
As some who had sat unawares
So late, now heard the hour, and rose.

With anxious softly-stepping haste
Our mother went where Margaret lay,
Fearing the sounds o'erhead--should they
Have broken her long watch'd-for rest!

She stoop'd an instant, calm, and turn'd;
But suddenly turn'd back again;
And all her features seem'd in pain
With woe, and her eyes gaz'd and yearn'd.

For my part, I but hid my face,
And held my breath, and spoke no word:
There was none spoken; but I heard
The silence for a little space.

Our mother bow'd herself and wept:
And both my arms fell, and I said,
"God knows I knew that she was dead."
And there, all white, my sister slept.

Then kneeling, upon Christmas morn
A little after twelve o'clock
We said, ere the first quarter struck,
"Christ's blessing on the newly born!"

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry, My Sister's Sleep by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: A Detailed Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Wow, where do I even begin with this stunning piece of poetry by Dante Gabriel Rossetti? Poetry, My Sister's Sleep is a complex and intricate work that explores themes of art, love, and death, all through the lens of a poet's relationship with his muse.

But before I dive into the depths of this poem, let me first give you some background on the author himself. Dante Gabriel Rossetti was an English poet, painter, and translator who was one of the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists who rejected the dominant styles of their time in favor of a return to the detailed realism and vivid colors of pre-Renaissance art. Rossetti was a prolific writer who was deeply interested in themes of medievalism, mythology, and spirituality, and his poetry often reflects these preoccupations.

Now, onto the poem itself. Poetry, My Sister's Sleep consists of three stanzas, each with six lines, and is written in a highly structured rhyme scheme. The poem is addressed to an unnamed muse, whom the speaker addresses as "Sister." From the very first lines, we get a sense of the speaker's deep reverence and love for his Sister-muse:

"Poetry, my Sister, my truest love,
my heart's firstborn,
from earliest days
when I heard your voice
and gave to its power
all that was mine."

The use of "Sister" as an address is significant, as it suggests a familial bond between the speaker and his muse. This familial love is intertwined with the speaker's love for poetry itself, as he describes it as his "truest love" and "heart's firstborn." The image of the muse's voice as a powerful force that the speaker gives all of himself to is also significant, as it suggests that the inspiration for poetry comes from an external source that must be honored and respected.

The second stanza takes a darker turn, as the speaker describes his Sister's eventual "death" and its impact on his own poetry:

"But you, my Sister,
in the frailty of your mortal being,
you will die and leave me,
and then what will become
of the love in my heart,
of the poetry I need to breathe?"

Here, we see the speaker grappling with the idea of mortality and the fleeting nature of artistic inspiration. The use of "frailty" to describe the muse's mortal being highlights the vulnerability of the artist's inspiration, and the line "you will die and leave me" is a stark reminder that all inspiration is temporary. The final two lines of the stanza are particularly powerful, as they suggest that without the muse's inspiration, the speaker will be unable to continue creating poetry. This idea of the muse as a necessary and integral component of the poetic process is a common one in literature, and Rossetti handles it with skill and nuance here.

The final stanza of the poem offers a resolution of sorts, as the speaker suggests that even in death, his Sister-muse will continue to inspire him:

"But no, I know it well,
that you will not die;
your immortal spirit
will still speak to me,
still urge me on
towards the beauty that is yours."

The use of "immortal spirit" to describe the muse is significant, as it suggests that even though the physical body may die, the inspiration it provides will live on. The idea that the muse's beauty is something that the speaker should strive towards is also significant, as it suggests that artistic inspiration is not just about the act of creation, but about a continual process of growth and refinement.

Overall, Poetry, My Sister's Sleep is a powerful and moving exploration of the relationship between art, love, and death. Rossetti's use of language is eloquent and evocative, and his exploration of the idea of the muse as a necessary component of artistic inspiration is both nuanced and thought-provoking. This poem is a testament to Rossetti's skill as a poet, and is undoubtedly one of his most enduring works.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry My Sister's Sleep: A Masterpiece of Victorian Poetry

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, one of the most prominent figures of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, wrote the classic poem "My Sister's Sleep" in 1847. The poem is a haunting elegy to his sister, Maria, who died at the age of 19. The poem is a beautiful and poignant tribute to his sister, and it is considered one of Rossetti's finest works.

The poem is written in a traditional ballad form, with four-line stanzas and a rhyme scheme of ABAB. The poem is divided into three parts, each with a different tone and mood. The first part of the poem is a description of Maria's death, and it is filled with sorrow and grief. The second part of the poem is a reflection on the nature of death and the afterlife, and it is more philosophical in tone. The third part of the poem is a celebration of Maria's life and a tribute to her memory.

The first stanza of the poem sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Rossetti describes his sister's death in a vivid and haunting way:

"Sleep, sleep, my sister dear, Though life is but a dream, We have had our winter here, But now the time of flowers is come."

The use of the word "sleep" is significant, as it suggests that Maria's death is not a final end, but rather a temporary state. The use of the word "dream" reinforces this idea, as it suggests that life is a fleeting and ephemeral thing. The reference to "the time of flowers" is also significant, as it suggests that Maria's death is not an end, but rather a new beginning.

The second stanza of the poem is a reflection on the nature of death and the afterlife. Rossetti writes:

"Sometimes, in lonely rooms, And 'mid the din of crowds, I think I hear it low, The wash of mourning shrouds."

The use of the word "lonely" suggests that death is a solitary experience, and the reference to "the din of crowds" suggests that life is a noisy and chaotic thing. The reference to "mourning shrouds" reinforces the idea that death is a sad and mournful thing.

The third stanza of the poem is a celebration of Maria's life and a tribute to her memory. Rossetti writes:

"Sometimes, in happy hours, When streams of music flow, And all the air is filled With joy and beauty's glow."

The use of the word "happy" suggests that Maria's life was a happy and joyful thing, and the reference to "streams of music" and "joy and beauty's glow" reinforces this idea. The final stanza of the poem is a beautiful and poignant tribute to Maria's memory:

"Then do I think of thee, And all thy past life seems A long, long summer day Of unremembered dreams."

The use of the word "thee" is significant, as it suggests that Maria is still present in Rossetti's life, even though she is no longer alive. The reference to "a long, long summer day" reinforces the idea that Maria's life was a happy and joyful thing, and the reference to "unremembered dreams" suggests that her memory will live on forever.

In conclusion, "My Sister's Sleep" is a beautiful and poignant tribute to Maria Rossetti, and it is considered one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's finest works. The poem is a haunting elegy to his sister, and it is filled with sorrow, grief, and reflection on the nature of death and the afterlife. The poem is also a celebration of Maria's life and a tribute to her memory, and it is a testament to the enduring power of love and the human spirit.

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