Yes, this is a death poem. But, as it is June and I am ready to watch my 8th graders graduate and move on to high school in a few weeks, much of the sentiment holds true for them and the parents who are watching their little babies grow up and move out.
A task might be to create parallels between moving on to new stages in life and Rossetti’s view of moving on from life (i.e, death). Rossetti, and the practitioners of many religions, do not see death as an end, but a passing. How can this view of one, biologically final thing influence our awareness of a less dramatic, but very real passage?
All very deep, and possibly a bit depressing. Be aware of students who have had tragedy in their lives, as I always have a student who has lived through the passing of a parent. What has proven interesting is that they find comfort in seeing, through such poems, it as more of a stage than an end. They get much more from this than the average kid.
As for the rest, this poem sets up a reflective week leading up to the end of the year. Many students feel this, but do not have the words to articulate and make sense of it. This is what art does. Use Rossetti.
From there, we talk about how students want to be remembered. Most want to be seen in a good light, and so discussions of last-day food fights and other pranks quickly are dismissed in favor of positive outings and t-shirt and yearbook signings.
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 planned:
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 you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.