Sister Maude

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Sister Maude
Christina Rossetti begins her poem “Sister Maude” with two similar questions, asking who told her parents about her 'shame'. We do not know at this point what the narrator's shame is, but it gradually becomes clear that she was having an affair with a handsome man. In Victorian times when Rossetti was writing, this would certainly have been considered shameful. The narrator answers the questions in the first quatrain, naming her sister Maude as the person who told her parents what was happening. The quatrain ends with the narrator's comment that Maude was spying on her sister; the word 'lurked' conveys the feeling of furtiveness and slyness. The fact that the narrator says 'who but Maude' when answering the questions shows that no-one else would have betrayed the narrator in this way, that Maude was a despicable sister. The second quatrain focuses on the narrator's lover. The word 'cold' is emphasised by its position as the initial word, and also by its repetition in the simile 'as cold as stone' in the first line. The phrase 'Cold he lies' tells us that he is now dead. In the second line of this quatrain, Rossetti uses alliteration in 'clotted curls', a phrase that also echoes the initial sound of 'cold'. The description suggests that his once beautiful hair is now possibly congealed with blood. Again in this quatrain's third line we find alliteration with the hard 'c' sound in the phrase 'comeliest corpse'. Even in death, the man is very handsome, so handsome that the final line of the quatrain tells us that he could be the lover of a queen. In the third quatrain the narrator speaks directly to her sister, wishing that Maude had spared the soul of the man as well as the two sisters. We now understand that it was Maude who murdered the man. She was obviously jealous, and it appears that the narrator was more attractive than Maude. The narrator conveys this idea in saying that even if she had never been born, the man would not have considered...
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