Introduction to the Poet:
Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems.
Of all Victorian women poets, posterity has been kindest to Christina Rossetti. Her poetry has never disappeared from view. In Rossetti’s lifetime opinion was divided over whether she or Elizabeth Barrett Browning was the greatest female poet of the era; in any case, after Browning’s death in 1861 readers saw Rossetti as the older poet’s rightful successor.
Christina Rossetti was born in Charlotte Street (now 105 Hallam Street), London, to Gabriele Rossetti, and John William Polidori. She had two brothers and a sister: Dante Gabriel became an influential artist and poet, and William Michael and Maria both became writers. Christina, the youngest, was a lively child.
Rossetti was educated at home by her mother and father, who had her study religious works, classics, fairy tales and novels. Rossetti delighted in the works of Keats, Scott, Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis.
In the later decades of her life, Rossetti suffered from Graves’ Disease, diagnosed in 1872 suffering a nearly fatal attack in the early 1870s. She died in Bloomsbury on 29 December 1894 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery.
About My Dream:
The poem describes the dream that Rosetti had, and it cleverly portrays the deep and philosophical meaning of life. It symbolises the various aspects of life and a wonderfully woven piece.
Summary of My Dream:
“”Hear now a curious dream I dreamed last night
Each word whereof is weighed and sifted truth.”
In the first stanza, the poet tells the reader about a dream she had. She Goes On to say that every part of the dream is” weighed and sifted truth “meaning she has analysed and found a symbolic relation or meaning of the dream.I stood beside
“I stood beside Euphrates while it swelled
Like overflowing Jordan in its youth:
It waxed and coloured sensibly to sight;
Till out of myriad pregnant waves there welled
Young crocodiles, a gaunt blunt-featured crew,
Fresh-hatched perhaps and daubed with birthday dew.
The rest if I should tell, I fear my friend
My closest friend would deem the facts untrue;
And therefore it were wisely left untold;
Yet if you will, why, hear it to the end.”
In the second stanza she starts to describe a dream she is standing beside river Euphrates which is beginning to overflow but still is come, “sensibly to sight”. Then the Waves become unstable and is ” myriad pregnant “giving rise to baby crocodiles. Euphrates is associated to garden of Eden that is period purity or Innocence but that purity is disturbed by rocking waves which give rise to desires which are like ugly baby crocodiles that is there deemed in in pure and are still small and dormant. She then says that what she is going to tell next may not even be known by your closest friends as her desires are hidden and kept from other people.
In the third stanza she says that the crocodiles blue and white girdled with cold and police distance that is slowly the desires were becoming attractive full stop but there was one crocodile who was majestic and King Lear then the rest and was adorned with kingly crown and obs and skepta full stop this may mean that this particular Desire of the poet was dominant and more attractive than the others full stop the crocodile had beautiful shining armour and its dominance was quickly established as the other crocodile started fearing its lashing, swinging enormous weapon, its tail. This means that even though the desire is attractive than the rest it is also scary since it may not be seen as pure by the society.
“Each crocodile was girt with massive gold
And polished stones that with their wearers grew:
But one there was who waxed beyond the rest,
Wore kinglier girdle and a kingly crown,
Whilst crowns and orbs and sceptres starred his breast.
All gleamed compact and green with scale on scale,
But special burnishment adorned his mail
And special terror weighed upon his frown;
His punier brethren quaked before his tail,
Broad as a rafter, potent as a flail.
So he grew lord and master of his kin:
But who shall tell the tale of all their woes?
An execrable appetite arose,
He battened on them, crunched, and sucked them in.
He knew no law, he feared no binding law,
But ground them with inexorable jaw:
The luscious fat distilled upon his chin,
Exuded from his nostrils and his eyes,
While still like hungry death he fed his maw;
Till every minor crocodile being dead
And buried too, himself gorged to the full,
He slept with breath oppressed and unstrung claw.
Oh marvel passing strange which next I saw:
In sleep he dwindled to the common size,
And all the empire faded from his coat.
Then from far off a wingèd vessel came,
Swift as a swallow, subtle as a flame:
I know not what it bore of freight or host,
But white it was as an avenging ghost.
It levelled strong Euphrates in its course;
Supreme yet weightless as an idle mote
It seemed to tame the waters without force
Till not a murmur swelled or billow beat:
Lo, as the purple shadow swept the sands,
The prudent crocodile rose on his feet
And shed appropriate tears and wrung his hands.”
Here the poet starts to describe the activity of the crocodile as it starts to grow and becomes lord and master of his kin. It’s hunger increased so much that he ate all other crocodiles trenching and sucking them in. This means that the unhealthy desire of the poet grew so much that she became restless and all other small desires of her where gone leaving only one prominent desire which may be lust. She also tells that the crocodile new no fear and was not afraid of the law meaning of Desire was unlawful or illegal. The crocodile eat so much that luscious fat exuded from his nostrils and his eyes . The crocodile new no fear and was not afraid of the law meaning at desire was unlawful or illegal. This means that the desire of the poet gave extreme pleasure. This might suggest that she was her body last. Explosion of passion takes place killing all other desires event conscience. Afterer feeling the crocodiles is out of breath and oppressed while sleeping and became weak.
It slowly came back to its normal size and its grandeur royalty and attractiveness decreased I.e. the desire of the poet which once fulfilled started to seem less and less attractive now as all the excitement was lost. Then a winged vessel(maybe a heavenly body) comes to punish the crocodile and the tame the water of the Euphrates i.e. calms the desires of the poet. We find that the poets desire were impure as she feels guilty and becomes apologetic shedding tears and clasping her hands. This is shown here by “The prudent crocodile rose to his feet and wrung his hands”.
“What can it mean? you ask. I answer not
For meaning, but myself must echo, What?
And tell it as I saw it on the spot.”
In the last stanza the poet poses a question to the reader ” What can this mean?”. The poet sounds confused but it may mean that she is subtly trying to confess her harbouring of unhealthy desires as a dream.
Critical Analysis of My Dream:
The poem my dream is written by Christina rossetti she cleverly uses context of the dream to pass a different message all together full stop the poem is filled with symbolism dealing with lust, sex, infidelity and other unhealthy desires. It also poses a contradiction because at the start of the poem the poet clearly mentioned that this dream was completely analysed by her as she says “weighed and sifted truth”. But later in the last stanza she ask the question ” What can this mean?”. The Clever use of symbolism to convey secret unfaithfull, unlawful desires of a woman is a major part of the poem. The poem contains appropriate use of crocodiles to symbolise secret infidelity or unhealthy desires. The growing phase of such desires is appropriately all shown here by first describing the baby crocodile to be wearing an ugly and later describing them as wearing beautiful ornaments and being majestic. Overall this poem does a wonderful job at shortly passing a sort of confession.
The Tone of My Dream:
The poem starts in a narrative tone as the poet starts to talk about her dream. Later as we progress the poem becomes more and more intense as excitement and interest grows. Them later after the desire has been fulfilled the poet starts feeling guilty and apologetic. She has to suppress Euphrates. At the end again the tone becomes innocent as the poet asks us about the meaning of the dream.
Central Theme of My Dream:
The theme of the poem is unhealthy desires in woman. This is shown again and again using crocodiles and Euphrates. The use of sexual imagery is occurs in the poem. The unhealthy desires are shown by using crocodiles. The baby crocodiles are dormant or newborn desires. Thus the poem speaks about impure desires harboured by the speaker.
The Setting of My Dream:
The poem is basically a dream the poet had. It is set on the river Euphrates. The river is calm at first and then later becomes unstable and baby crocodiles are born. They slowly grow in size and become attractive. Thus the entire poem remains set on the river Euphrates from the beginning till the end.
Contributor: Bidisha Das
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