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Sister Maude and Brothers
'Brothers' explores the relationship between siblings and the way in which time inevitably - and regrettably -
separates them. There is affection between the brothers, particularly in the adoration of the younger boy.
This poem is about a boy spending an afternoon with his younger brother and his friend, and explores the
relationship between siblings. It is written from an adult perspective but considers the feelings of the older
brother who thinks of his younger brother as an inconvenience.
In 'Sister Maude' a much more destructive relationship between siblings is presented. Like 'Brothers', this
poem hints at the way in which the move towards adulthood brings a distance between siblings.
Christina Rossetti begins her poem "Sister Maude" with two similar rhetorical 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. Andrew Foster
begins his poem in first person perspective indicating that the narrator is narrating a tale to the audience
however the poem is actually aimed at the narrators' younger brother and is written in free verse making
the poem sound like a story being told in spoken English. The narrator starts off with the tone which the
metaphor `Saddled with you' set suggesting the negative feelings the speaker has for his brother, as if he
is an inconvenience, restricting the freedom of the speaker. With the third stanza makes it clear that the
older boys are still children, despite how they would like to be seen by the world: they 'chased Olympic
Gold' when running for the bus, a metaphor for competitive natures that they cannot help but reveal.
However even though they are children, the poet uses irony as the two elder brothers think they're mature
but ironically this just makes it clear that they're children: 'I was nine and he was ten/ and we must stroll
the town, doing what grown-ups do.' The voice of the speaker suggests throughout that he is feeling
resentment towards the 'ridiculous tank-top' of the younger brother and his 'six-year-old views'. The
childhood feeling of superiority is later regretted by the speaker, however. "Looking back" is used both
literally to refer to the older boy checking on the progress of his younger brother to find his bus fare, as
well as metaphorically suggesting a look back through time.
In Sister Maude, the poem's structure is regular in that all but the final stanza are quatrains; the last stanza
has six lines, allowing Rossetti to comment on the fate of her parents, her lover, herself and finally her
sister. The rhyme scheme is ABCB for the quatrains, and ABCBDB for the final stanza. The fact that the first
and third lines have no rhymes gives Rossetti more freedom in her choice of vocabulary. However in
Brothers the poem does not use rhyme or have a strict pattern to its rhythm. This is typical of modern
poetry. There are three stanzas; they recount three stages of the afternoon. The first stanza sets the
scene, showing the relationship between the speaker and his brother as well as the speaker and his friend.
The second stanza presents the disruption to plans for the afternoon (because the younger brother
doesn't have his bus fare). The final stanza concludes the story, revealing the separation of the brothers.
In Sister Maude, 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
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Maude. However in Brothers' the use of first person to speak directly to his brother adds more of an
impact as the guilt the narrator feels at having run off and left his six year old sibling is shared directly with
the reader, even though he actually talks to the youngster: 'while you skipped...'. The poet reveals his
feelings of frustration directly: 'I sighed.…read more