“Forget Me Not,” a poem written by Fitz-Greene Halleck, is a piece centered around the loss of a loved-one and the grief that follows in its wake. In the beginning lines of the first stanza, the memory of the deceased, personified in the flower, is pretty, peaceful, and sweet; a gentle reminder of what once was. The first and second stanzas detail the mild beauty of the flower, with the blossom granting the poem’s protagonist a soft reminder of their lover. However, by the final stanza the flower, and therefore the memories associated with it, find themselves abandoned. With nobody left to cultivate and care for the forget-me-not, the grief consumes it, eventually causing it to wilt– as if the flower realized that their lover had finally moved on. Through the use of figurative language, Halleck is able to explore the beauty of furthering one’s memory after the end in the image of a forget-me-not flower– as well as the eventual loss and wilting, both literal and metaphorical, of these memories.
The first four lines of the poem introduce the subject, the forget-me-not flower, as one that is “pure” and “of loveliest and serenest blue” (3-4). This use of imagery already begins to develop the intended meaning of the flower. According to common color psychology, blue is “non-confrontational; it promotes peace and tranquility,” promoting the ideas of “...calmness and serenity,” being seen as “...peaceful, tranquil, and even orderly.” But, while also being a calming color, blue is also often associated with the feelings of sadness, grief, and depression– this characterizes the emotions the protagonist of the poem elicits from the blue flower as both emotionally upsetting and peaceful, almost functioning as the dichotomy of passing away (seen as calm and tranquil as one goes to heaven) and being left to deal with the grief (a saddening and distressing thing). The flower, then, is a representation for the death of someone important in the protagonist’s life. This image of the flower is further developed in the third line, as it is described in simile as being “pure as the ether in its' hour,” with ether functioning as a double-meaning, both as a description of a pure cloudless sky, and that of the untainted, sweet-smelling drug that is used for inducing feelings of euphoria and hallucinations. This helps to show the impermanence of the flower’s beauty and how it is, inevitably, not going to survive, just as the feelings of the ether drug, as well as one’s grief, don’t last forever either. The stanza continues by using the imagery of a streamlet flowing through “the silent fount, the shaded grot;” continuing that peaceful mental image first elicited by the blueness of the flower, and now personified in the gentle trickle of a blue stream through beautiful spots in nature, until “sweetly to the heart it speaks, / Forget-me-not, forget-me-not!” (3-5). Just as a streamlet is something small, calming, and still beautiful, so too is the reminder it and the flower give to the protagonist of their lost loved one. The grief they experience doesn’t wash over them like a wave, or soak them in a downpour, or drown them in high tides– it functions as a gentle trickle of water that they can see and hear, but are still separate from and physically unaffected by.
The next stanza opens with a reaffirming of the flowers’ nature as a small and soft, the first two lines using a pair of similes describing it as “mild as the azure of thine eyes, / Soft as the halo beam above” (9-10). The gentleness of the flower is compared to the color azure, which is a particularly soft shade of blue– with the image of a loved one’s eyes almost humanizing the flower and tying it further to the protagonist’s lost love. Halleck then elevates the status of his muse, describing the flower as something almost angelic and intangible like holy light, as if the dead lover was sending a symbol down from heaven after their death. The flower is further humanized in the next lines as it speaks to the protagonist again through “tender whispers'' to remind them of the memories associated with their loved ones' loss, before crying out to passersby at the end of the stanza to be remembered: “Forget! Ah no! Forget-me-not!” (11-16). Planted in the ground “where thy [the lost love’s] last steps turned away,” the flower appears to function not just as a representation of memory of the person who died, but almost like a grave where their memories are buried in the mind of the protagonist, as that was the last spot they saw them (13). The previous concept of the forget-me-not as a gentle reminder, one lacking the weight and depression associated with grief and sadness, is furthered through the second stanza’s use of figurative language and imagery.
The final stanza, then, moves into the wilting of the forget-me-not, with both the flower and the memories it represents beginning to fade away. The forget-me-not begins to fall ill, with “the blighting hue of care” begins to wear the flower petal’s hue into the leaves, with the blight functioning both literally as a disease killing the plant, as well as figuratively with the memories and grief consuming the beauty it once represented (18). As the grief begins to fade, it causes the flower to have a “drooping stem,” the need for comfort beginning to die with it (20). As the blossom wilts, so too does the grief over the memories of their relationship in the protagonist’s mind. This leads to a shift in the imagery used with descriptions of water; now, instead of being a gentle and calm stream of thought, it has degraded into a small, sad gesture, as the “dew-drop in its’ [the flower] leaves are tears” (21). Unable to withstand its own grief at their happy memories being forgotten, the flower begins to wilt away with worry, tying the metaphor of the forget-me-not flower to its’ representation of the protagonists’ mourning and desire for comfort after the loss of their love.
In Fitz-Greene Halleck’s poem “Forget Me Not,” he uses the idea of a forget-me-not flower to function as a personification of one’s idealized mental image of a person that has passed away. This flower, calming and beautiful, functions as a gentle reminder for the poem’s protagonist of who they lost and what they shared. This idea is the primary focus throughout the piece’s three stanzas, functioning as an example of conceit, which is a form of figurative language where a metaphor is referenced more than once. Halleck personifies the flower by having it call out to its lover both verbally and through the gentle streamlets in its surroundings, granting the protagonist peace of mind and comfort in their memory. However, as time passes and the grief, along with their memories, begins to fade, so too does the forget-me-not. The blossom begins to wilt and wither, its purpose for the protagonist as an aid to move on fulfilled. The last stanza, in describing how the flower is withering away, helps solidify the metaphor of the forget-me-not flower as a representation of not just beauty and comfort in memories after the loss of a loved one, but indeed the grief and mourning over them as well.
“Meaning of the Color Blue: Psychology, Symbolism, and Personal Traits.” Color Psychology, 2021. https://www.colorpsychology.org/blue/