In Christina Rossetti’s poem, Echo, the title alone attributes a variety of complementary meanings that enhance the poem’s meaning.
First, in exploring the intimate poem, it is concluded that the speaker dreams of a lover she has lost to death. Initially, the most striking things about the poem are that it is a lyrical piece and has many instances of alliteration. Together, these two literary tools offer a sense of strong emotions and suggest that the love that the speaker is talking about means a great deal to her. For instance, the speaker talks about “sunlight on a stream…soft rounded cheeks…how sweet, too sweet, too bittersweet.” (28, 1-7) The speaker’s use of alliteration in the first stanza creates the imagery of euphoric love that, at times, is too hard to remember and live without.
Additionally, the speaker uses anaphora to create a sense of longing. She says phrases such as “Come back to me in tears…come to me in dreams…come back to me.” (28, 5-18). This repetition creates desperation for the love of her life who is forever in all parts of her memory. The longing is so strong that the speaker uses exclamatory words such as “O” to convey the yearning in the first two stanzas.
Moreover, it is very apparent that there is the imagery of the divine and spirits. The speaker says that her love is in “paradise”, which can be translated to mean heaven, which also stands as a metaphor for death. In addition, the mentioning of words such as “soul”, “breath” and “pulse” are all spiritual descriptors that create the imagery for her only contact to be with her love in spirit, as he no longer exists in the flesh to breathe and have his loving heartbeat next to her.
Now, understanding the longing, the repetitive dreams, and the presence of spiritual references, the title offers so much more. In one instance, Echo quite literally means an echo. Her desire for him to come back to her is nothing more than an echo, something that will never change. In another instance, the title is a metaphor for the dreams that the speaker will continue to have, but there is nothing she can do to get any more comfort from her lover than to dream up sweet memories of him. Lastly, the title Echo may stand as a reference to the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo, where Echo is rejected by Narcissus and left to long for his love. This relates to the speaker’s soul which is situated in a state of eternal longing. Usually, the titles of poems tend to be referenced in the poem itself, however, this title is almost a part of the story. It is multidimensional and offers much meaning to the various messages the speaker relays throughout the poem.
2 thoughts on “An Echo for Love”
I enjoyed your analysis about how the alliteration adds to the atmosphere of euphoric love and the feeling it brought the narrator. I hadn’t thought of it in that way on first read, and looking back it is able to add that effect in the first stanza.
I really enjoyed this poem because of how Rossetti was able to compare a lost love and a lost soul to an echo. The raw emotion and honesty that can be felt through the poem really allows the reader to resonate with the reader. For me, your comment about the narrators eternal longing reminded me of George’s reaction upon coming back from Australia. When he has found out his wife “died” and follows Robert back to Audley Court, he is quite sensitive and moody and is having trouble dealing with the idea that he will never see Helen again. Similarly, in this poem the narrator is longing for the memories of the lost lover to come back to them in their because it is the only way they will see them. This longing and yearning for the lost love reminded me of George.
This reminds me of the Greek myth of Echo, and I would even go as far to say that the echoing nature, which is the resounding instance of a sound dying, further underscores the fact that not only their union has died, but as well as the lover.
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