Silence, rhyme, and motherhood in Christina Rossetti's Sing-Song

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Abstract

In Sing-Song: A Nursery Rhyme Book (1872), Christina Rossetti uses abruptly shortened lines to enforce intrapoetic pausing, thus creating ambiguous memorial spaces for dead children. On the one hand, these spaces call for devastated remembrance; on the other, they cue readers to imagine the life of the world to come. Just as the speechlessness imposed by truncated lines can signal both heartbroken deprivation and fullness of possibility, so the silences of small children in Sing-Song both ennoble mothers and underscore maternal isolation, resentment, and even rage. Moreover, Rossetti’s treatment of rhyme—which associates the dead or silent child with the first half of a couplet, encoding the promise of redemptive futurity—hints that a seemingly restricted domestic position lends mothers powerful authority. Deploying a decorous feminized aesthetic, this volume subtly confounds expectations related both to maternity and to the formal conventionality that links Rossetti’s work to humble verse rather than ambitious poetry.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVictorian verse
Subtitle of host publicationthe poetics of everyday life
EditorsLee Behlman, Olivia Loksing Moy
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Chapter11
Pages207-228
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783031296963
ISBN (Print)9783031296956
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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