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Echo

We often find ourselves replaying and reliving the best and worst moments of our lives in our heads. In 'Echo,' Christina Rossetti tries to express the longing for the past and her desire to remain connected to it.

'Echo': at a glance

Let's look at a table summary of the poem 'Echo'.

Written InGoblin Market and Other Poems (1862)
Written ByChristina Rossetti (1830-1894)
Form / StyleSextilla
MeterIambic dimeter, iambic trimeter, iambic tetrameter and iambic pentameter, trochaic trimeter
Rhyme SchemeABABCC
Literary DevicesAlliteration, anaphora, personification, simile, synecdoche
ToneLonging, melancholic
Key themesMemory and the past, dreaming, and death
SummaryThe speaker recalls a memory that is fading away and finds relief in her dreams. She then falls into a deep slumber to relive the memory and remain in the past.

'Echo': context

Christina Rossetti's familial and financial situation took a drastic turn when she was a teenager. Her father's health deteriorated significantly and he became chronically ill. Since he was no longer able to work, the family struggled to make ends meet. This led to Christina Rossetti falling into a state of depression and great emotional turmoil. She turned towards religion to find solace.

The poem 'Echo' is a sextilla from the Spanish tradition of poetry. In the poem, the speaker seemingly addresses herself and her memory of the past. The introspective melancholy that Rossetti experienced in her life during this tumultuous period is reflected in the tone of the poem.

'Echo': analysis

For an in-depth analysis of the poem, it is recommended that you read the poem twice. On the first read, pay attention to every word to identify the patterns of meaning that emerge. When you read the poem the second time, 'zoom out' to consider the broad strokes of the poem such as its themes and mood.

'Echo': the poem

Come to me in the silence of the night;Come in the speaking silence of a dream;Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as brightAs sunlight on a stream;Come back in tears,O memory, hope, love of finished years.

O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;Where thirsting longing eyesWatch the slow doorThat opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may liveMy very life again though cold in death:Come back to me in dreams, that I may givePulse for pulse, breath for breath:Speak low, lean lowAs long ago, my love, how long ago.

'Echo': summary

Pro Tip: A brief summary of the poem is a good way to begin an essay about a poem. Without going into too much detail, write 4-5 sentences that outline the basic meaning or purpose of the poem. The details and the complexities of the poem can be elaborated upon later in your essay.

In the poem 'Echo,' the speaker tries to recall a fading memory. By directly addressing her memories, she dreams of them and falls into a death-like slumber so that she can remain immersed in the past she desperately longs for.

Christina Rosetti's 'Echo': structure

Pro Tip: When elaborating the form or structure of a poem, think of the following:1. What is the meter and the rhyme scheme of the poem? Is it consistent? If there is a change, is it gradual or sudden? How does this change affect the way the poem reads?

2. Read the poem in its entirety. Do you notice any repetitions? Is a pattern emerging?

3. How does the form affect the reading of the poem? Does it influence the main subject or theme of the poem?

The poem 'Echo' is written in the Spanish poetry tradition of a sextilla.

A sextilla is a poem containing stanzas that are six lines long. Traditionally, the sextilla has eight syllables in each line, with the rhyme scheme of either ABABCC or AABCBC.

Through assonance, or the repetition of vowel sounds, the poet gives the impression of an 'echo.' This is also done through the heavy use of alliteration, which not only 'echoes' certain sounds but also gives a pleasing effect when the poem is read out loud. In this way, the poem seems to progress at a leisurely pace, without any tension in its lines.

'Echo': rhyme and meter

In keeping with the sextilla tradition, the rhyme scheme of the poem 'Echo' is ABABCC. While a sextilla follows the strict structure of 8 syllables per line, Rossetti juggles between four, six, eight, and ten syllabic lines to establish the tone of longing and enhance the effect of a fading memory. The meter switches between the iambic dimeter (two iambic feet), the iambic trimeter (three iambic feet), trochaic trimeter (three trochaic feet), the iambic tetrameter (four iambic feet), and the iambic pentameter (five iambic feet).

An iamb is a metric foot containing two syllables - an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, e.g., destroy; belong.

Trochee is a foot that contains two syllables, with a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. In this sense, it is the opposite of the iamb, the most commonly used foot in poetry. Examples of trochee are garden; never; raven; poet.

'Echo': literary and poetic devices

Alliteration

Alliteration refers to the repetition of certain sounds and stressed syllables, mostly used to add emphasis and also sonic pleasure when the poem is read out loud.

The phrase 'speaking silence of a dream' repeats the 's' sound, giving the impression as if she is whispering into the silence. Can you spot other instances of alliteration in the poem? What effect do these have on the reader? (Hint: Check lines 4, 9, 17, and 18)

'Echo': anaphora

Anaphora refers to the repetition of words, phrases, or lines at the beginning of a neighbouring clause. This repetition at the beginning lends emphasis to the words that are repeated.

In the first stanza of the poem, the word 'come' is repeated, hinting at the repressed eagerness of the speaker as they invite the memory, and with it hope and love, to come to them. The second stanza makes repeated use of the word 'where' to convey the speaker's confusion and loss. Repetition in the poem 'Echo' is particularly important to lend the poem the feeling of echoing in the minds of the readers.

Personification

A personification is a figure of speech where an idea or an object is given the qualities of a person. For example, when one says, 'Death rode into the battle on his pale horse' - death here is personified and given the human quality of being able to ride into battle on a horse. It has a layered meaning of death claiming the lives of the soldiers in a battle.

In the poem, Christina Rossetti directly addresses a memory from the past by using the second person pronoun 'you.' She personifies the memory and invites it to her, and wishes for it to come to her with 'soft rounded cheeks' and bright eyes.

Identify the lines in the poem where she directly addresses the memory. What other human qualities does she attribute to it? How do you think the speaker understands the concept of memory?

Simile

A simile is a figure of speech when two objects, persons, or ideas are compared to show the similarity between them. For example: 'He is as cool as a cucumber' indicates the calm temperament of the person.

In the poem, the speaker bids the fading memory to come to her with bright eyes 'As sunlight on a stream' (Line 4). She compares the 'eyes' of the memory to sunlight, indicating not only that they are bright, but also intense. It gives the reader the impression that the memory she is trying to recall is of great intensity and importance to the speaker.

Synecdoche

Pronounced as 'suh-nek-duh-kee,' this is a figure of speech where a part of some object is substituted for the whole object. For example, 'a helping hand' indicates a person who is going to be helping with some task, and does not only refer to the 'hand.'

In stanza 3, the phrase 'pulse for pulse, breath for breath' indicates the body, and all that it senses and experiences.

'Echo': themes

Memory and the Past

Christina Rossetti romanticizes the past in her poem 'Echo' by imbuing it with positive attributes and adopting a longing tone while inviting the memory to encapsulate her. She is willing to fall into a death-like slumber to relive the memory that means so much to her. The fading nature of the memory can be indicative of her tumultuous state of mind, wherein the memory itself may serve as an anchor for her to recall a time when she was happier.

Dreaming and Death

The link between dream and death is very strong in the poem 'Echo,' particularly when the speaker in stanza 2 claims that she awoke from her dream and returned to her life rather than waking up in paradise (afterlife). The death-like slumber to remain immersed in the memory also subtly hints at drinking a strong sleeping potion to be able to dream of the memory and thus remain in the past.

Echo - Key takeaways

  • The poem 'Echo' is written by Christina Rossetti and published in the collection Goblin Market and Other Poems.
  • The poem 'Echo' is written in the Spanish poetry tradition of the sextilla, where each stanza consists of six lines, and follows the rhyme scheme ABABCC.
  • The meter of the poem is inconsistent and lends the effect of an 'echo' and fading voice to the poem.
  • The main themes of the poem are memory and the past, and dreaming and death.

Frequently Asked Questions about Echo

In 'Echo,' Rossetti recalls a fading memory and bids it to come to her. She wishes for a deep slumber to remain immersed in that memory.

The mood of the poem 'Echo' is one of a deep longing. The speaker is also melancholic as she desires to remain in the past.

The poem 'Echo' is a sextilla.

The main themes of the poem 'Echo' are memory and the past, and dreaming and death.

The desire for the past is reflected in the speaker's musings about memory, and how memory and dreams can fade over time. The speaker also desires to return to a dream state, where they feel more alive in their memories. 

Final Echo Quiz

Question

Who wrote the poem 'Echo'?

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Answer

Christina Rossetti

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Question

What is the name of the poetry collection in which the poem 'Echo' was published in 1862?

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Answer

Goblin Market and Other Poems

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Question

What is the form of the poem 'Echo'?

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Answer

Sextilla

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Question

Which of the following is NOT a meter employed in the poem 'Echo'?

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Answer

Spondaic dimeter

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Question

What is the rhyme scheme of the poem 'Echo'?

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Answer

ABABCC

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Question

Which of the following is NOT a theme of the poem 'Echo'?

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Answer

Marriage

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Question

Which figure of speech is NOT evident in the following line of the poem 'Echo':
As sunlight on a stream

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Answer

Apostrophe

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Question

What is personified in the poem 'Echo'?

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Answer

Memory

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Question

The form of the poem 'Echo' hails from the poetic tradition of...?

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Answer

Spanish poetry

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Question

Which of the following is NOT the mood/tone of the poem 'Echo?

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Answer

Argumentative

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