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English Literature

Christina Georgina Rossetti: Sister Maude

Subject matter

Sister Maude

Who told my mother of my shame,Who told my father of my dear?Oh who but Maude, my sister Maude,Who lurked to spy and peer.

Cold he lies, as cold as stone,With his clotted curls about his face:The comeliest corpse in all the worldAnd worthy of a queen's embrace.

You might have spared his soul, sister,Have spared my soul, your own soul too:Though I had not been born at all,He'd never have looked at you.

My father may sleep in Paradise,My mother at Heaven-gate:But sister Maude shall get no sleepEither early or late.

My father may wear a golden gown,My mother a crown may win;If my dear and I knocked at Heaven-gatePerhaps they'd let us in:But sister Maude, oh sister Maude,Bide you with death and sin.

young girl peering over another's shoulder

Sister Maude describes the death of a loved one caused by the actions of a jealous sister. The poem is ambiguous but hints strongly that jealousy and betrayal led to the death of a sister's lover. The poem is written from the point of view of the betrayed sister, left alone without her loved one, who was coveted by Maude. The speaker believes that even if she hadn't been born her dead lover would "never have looked at" Maude, and perhaps this provided motivation for Maude to destroy the lovers' relationship.

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