Today’s poem is by Christina Rossetti. Although you cannot really tell from the body of the poem, I take the title to indicate that it is inspired by the Greek mythological tale of Echo, and her ill-fated love for Narcissus. But it could also stand for anyone, approaching death, thinking back to the loves of their youth and trying to capture a last glimpse or memory of long-lost feelings.
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.
O 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.
Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though 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.
The first stanza is striking by the repetition of “come” in the first, second, third and fifth lines – the fact that it is repeated so much reinforces the impression that it is a forlorn plea – what must come, memory, lost love, paradis perdu, will, of course, not appear.
In the second stanza, we have repetition again in the first line of the word “sweet”, each time reinforced by another adjective, and then repetition of words beginning with “w”, ” whose wakening”, “where”, “where”, “watch”, which bind the stanza together in a sense of wistful longing. Is it a dream, or is it the approach of death which is referred to here?
The third stanza gets to the heart of the longing for a dream or a hint of the long-lost lover, from many years ago, just as Echo might have wept remembering Narcissus. Again, there are several repetitions which reinforce the sense of almost desperation and longing in the poet’s feelings – “come to me in dreams”, “pulse for pulse”, “breath for breath”, ” speak low, lean low”, “long ago”. It is almost a hypnotic effect and feels like an inner voice, as in a dream or as in the final moments of a life.
A beautiful, haunting poem…
The Poetry Dude