Poetry Analysis of Sister Maude.

Who told my mother of my shame, 
This insinuates that the boy she is in love with is unsuitable for the 
girl and not an arranged marriage like most where in the Victorian Era. 
Who told my father of my dear?  This further backs up the first line and includes repetition.  
Oh who but Maude, my sister Maude,  This introduces Maude, the title of the 
poem. It also suggest that Maude may of done things like this before, 
or that Maude is the only one who would betray her.   
Who lurked to spy and peer. Conveys feeling of slyness about the sister.  

Cold he lies, as cold as stone,
This introduces the fact that the lover is now dead. It is not yet explained whether it was murder, suicide or natural causes. Since we’re assuming the girl is youngish natural causes seems to be off the plate which leaves suicide and murder.
With his clotted curls about his face:
Clotted can be associated with cream, clotted cream is very thick. It suggest that the curls are now matted, perhaps thick with blood? If this is the case that means it may of been hard to kill ones self with a bludgeoned object, which is why I find murder more likely.
The comeliest corpse in all the world
This has alliteration in it, using the harsh ‘c’ sound, it almost seems she is sobbing out the words. It is also an oxymoron saying that he is very beautiful even in death,
And worthy of a queen’s embrace.
This suggest that even a queen would want to be with the man, whether he was poor or rich.  

You might have spared his soul, sister,
This suggests that Maude murdered the man but could have spared his life, quite obviously an act of jealousy and wanted the man.
Have spared my soul, your own soul too:
It appears that Maude has lost her soul because she has murdered the man.
Though I had not been born at all, He’d never have looked at you.
These last to lines are said out of spite, the narrator must of been the more attractive sister out of the two as she says that if she had not been born the man would have never taken notice of her.  

My father may sleep in Paradise,
Suggests he did something good, perhaps approved of the relationship despite social class. This could also mean that he died quite early on in the girls childhood.
My mother at Heaven-gate:
Suggest she was acceptable but good enough to get into heaven. I think she might of said an off the mark comment about killing the man and that was Maudes motivation along with the jealousy to murder the man. As said before this could mean that she had recently died.
But sister Maude shall get no sleep
This would be because she murdered the man.Either early or late.
This suggests that she will literally not be able to sleep because her conscience wont let her but also when she dies she’ll go to hell.  

My father may wear a golden gown,
This suggest he lived an admirable life.
My mother a crown may win;
Suggest she may have recently died or lead a less admirable life.
If my dear and I knocked at Heaven-gate
Perhaps they’d let us in:
Suggest that she may of died along with the lover, whether it was murder or suicide it’s unknown. I find it more likely to be murder because suicide was a sin.
But sister Maude, oh sister Maude,
Bide you with death and sin.
The fact she says bide YOU with death and sin, shows how different Maude is from her family and that she shall stay in hell for eternity.  


19 thoughts on “Poetry Analysis of Sister Maude.

  1. I’m not so sure. Lots of young people died of natural causes in Victorian times. I don’t think it very likely that Maude herself could have physically murdered a fit young man, least of all with a “blunt object” .Perhaps her gossiping forced the lovers to separate and he wasted away and died or killed himself, such things had quite a hold on the Victorian imagination. In any case the Author holds Maude responsible for her lover’s death and for this wishes her eternal damnation (and I dare say Christina Rossetti believed in this in a way most modern people do not). I find it a fairly shocking poem; I’m not sure what a contemporary audience would have made of it. If Maude really had murdered the young man perhaps they would have thought eternal torment was no less than she deserved; but if she been guilty of nothing more than “lurking”, “spying” and “peering”?

    1. It seems the conventional view is that Maude really did kill her sister’s lover. Crinolines , ringlets and a strong right arm gripping a length of lead piping!

      1. I must admit while analysing the poem, I didn’t actually take into account the fact that Maude would of been a young Victorian women and facing up against a fit young gentlemen might be challenging, thanks for the insight. The one thing I’d say in retort would be in those days weren’t women generally underestimated? If that was the case he might of done slightly less to stop her thinking she wouldn’t be able to do any significant harm when in fact she could with the right amount of time and force?

  2. This was really helpful but at the part of explaining ‘you might have spared his soul, sister’ you have put ‘could of’ when it should be could have.

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