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Poetry about Relationships: 'Sister Maude'

In this worksheet, students develop their understanding of poetry by studying Christina Rossetti's poem 'Sister Maude'.

'Poetry about Relationships: 'Sister Maude'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

Curriculum topic:  Reading

Curriculum subtopic:  Read a Wide Range of High-Quality Texts

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

In this worksheet you will develop your understanding of poetry by studying a poem about a bad relationship between two sisters. Read the following poem by Christina Rossetti (1830–1894) called 'Sister Maude' and then answer the questions.

 

 

******************

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 world

And 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 sleep

Either early or late.

 

My father may wear a golden gown,

My mother a crown may win;

If my dear and I knocked at Heaven-gate

Perhaps they'd let us in:

But sister Maude, oh sister Maude,

Bide you with death and sin.

 

Unhappy young female friends not talking after argument over white background - stock photo

******************

This poem is about love and betrayal. Maude has betrayed her sister.

What has Maude done?

had an affair with her sister's husband

told their parents about her sister's affair

killed her sister's husband

The narrator is very angry with her sister Maude for telling their parents about her secret affair.

What has happened to her lover?

He has gone back to his wife.

He has gone missing.

He is dead.

This dramatic monologue in the form of a ballad has a very clear rhyme scheme.

Which sequence of letters below best describes the rhyme scheme?

ABAB

ABBA

ABCB

The rhyme scheme and the end-stopped lines (punctuation at the end of the lines) make the poem very rhythmic. This helps to express the emotion the narrator is feeling.

What is this emotion?

excitement

anger

guilt

Now we will study each stanza in more detail. Reread stanza one:

 

*******************

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.

 

*******************

 

 

Why does the poet use a rhetorical question at the start, and why does she repeat Maude's name?

Select two correct answers.

The rhetorical question draws in the reader as we want to know the answer and find out who told her parents about her lover.

The rhetorical question makes the reader think that it is unclear who told her parents.

The repetition of Maude's name makes it clear to the reader exactly who did tell her parents.

The repetition of Maude's name tells the reader that the narrator is convincing herself that it was Maude.

What do the emotive words 'lurked to spy and peer' make the reader feel?

sympathetic towards Maude

sympathetic towards the narrator

Now reread stanza two:

 

*******************

Cold he lies, as cold as stone,

With his clotted curls about his face:

The comeliest corpse in all the world

And worthy of a queen's embrace.

 

*******************

 

 

What is the effect of the alliteration of the harsh 'C' sound in this stanza?

a powerful image of her lover which shows how much she loved him

a strong rhythm which adds to the angry tone

What technique does the poet use to describe the fact that the lover is dead?

metaphor

simile

personification

Reread stanza four:

 

*******************

My father may sleep in Paradise,

My mother at Heaven-gate:

But sister Maude shall get no sleep

Either early or late.

 

*******************

 

 

What does the narrator suggest will happen to Maude because of what she has done?

nothing

She will go to Heaven.

She will never escape her feelings of guilt.

In the final stanza, why do you think the poet repeats the word 'sister'?

 

*******************

My father may wear a golden gown,

My mother a crown may win;

If my dear and I knocked at Heaven-gate

Perhaps they'd let us in:

But sister Maude, oh sister Maude,

Bide you with death and sin.

 

*******************

to emphasise the seriousness of the betrayal because of their close relationship

to show how the narrator misses her sister

to create a sarcastic tone

  • Question 1

This poem is about love and betrayal. Maude has betrayed her sister.

What has Maude done?

CORRECT ANSWER
told their parents about her sister's affair
EDDIE SAYS
Maude has told their parents about her sister's affair. This is revealed in the second line of the poem: 'Who told my father of my dear?'
  • Question 2

The narrator is very angry with her sister Maude for telling their parents about her secret affair.

What has happened to her lover?

CORRECT ANSWER
He is dead.
EDDIE SAYS
Her lover is dead. At the beginning of stanza two it says 'Cold he lies, as cold as stone.'
  • Question 3

This dramatic monologue in the form of a ballad has a very clear rhyme scheme.

Which sequence of letters below best describes the rhyme scheme?

CORRECT ANSWER
ABCB
EDDIE SAYS
The correct sequence is: ABCB:

Who told my mother of my shame, = A
Who told my father of my dear? = B
Oh who but Maude, my sister Maude, = C
Who lurked to spy and peer. = B
  • Question 4

The rhyme scheme and the end-stopped lines (punctuation at the end of the lines) make the poem very rhythmic. This helps to express the emotion the narrator is feeling.

What is this emotion?

CORRECT ANSWER
anger
EDDIE SAYS
The rhythmic nature of the poem helps to express the narrator's anger. Her sister revealing her love affair has resulted in the death of her lover.
  • Question 5

Now we will study each stanza in more detail. Reread stanza one:

 

*******************

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.

 

*******************

 

 

Why does the poet use a rhetorical question at the start, and why does she repeat Maude's name?

Select two correct answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
The rhetorical question draws in the reader as we want to know the answer and find out who told her parents about her lover.
The repetition of Maude's name makes it clear to the reader exactly who did tell her parents.
EDDIE SAYS
Using a rhetorical question is a way of engaging the reader in the content of the poem. It also suggests the narrator's confusion about what has happened. The repetition is effective as it reinforces who the anger in the poem is directed at.
  • Question 6

What do the emotive words 'lurked to spy and peer' make the reader feel?

CORRECT ANSWER
sympathetic towards the narrator
EDDIE SAYS
The emotive words 'lurked to spy and peer' make the reader feel sympathetic towards the narrator. 'Lurked' suggests Maude has been very sneaky and purposefully tried to find out information to hurt her sister.
  • Question 7

Now reread stanza two:

 

*******************

Cold he lies, as cold as stone,

With his clotted curls about his face:

The comeliest corpse in all the world

And worthy of a queen's embrace.

 

*******************

 

 

What is the effect of the alliteration of the harsh 'C' sound in this stanza?

CORRECT ANSWER
a strong rhythm which adds to the angry tone
EDDIE SAYS
The alliteration of the 'c' creates a strong rhythm and this adds to the angry tone. the 'c' sound is very explosive so it suggests the anger is exploding out of her.
  • Question 8

What technique does the poet use to describe the fact that the lover is dead?

CORRECT ANSWER
simile
EDDIE SAYS
The poet uses a simile by including the word 'as': 'Cold he lies, as cold as stone.'
  • Question 9

Reread stanza four:

 

*******************

My father may sleep in Paradise,

My mother at Heaven-gate:

But sister Maude shall get no sleep

Either early or late.

 

*******************

 

 

What does the narrator suggest will happen to Maude because of what she has done?

CORRECT ANSWER
She will never escape her feelings of guilt.
EDDIE SAYS
The narrator suggests that she will never escape her feelings of guilt. By saying she 'shall get no sleep' it suggests she will be haunted by her actions and regret them forever.
  • Question 10

In the final stanza, why do you think the poet repeats the word 'sister'?

 

*******************

My father may wear a golden gown,

My mother a crown may win;

If my dear and I knocked at Heaven-gate

Perhaps they'd let us in:

But sister Maude, oh sister Maude,

Bide you with death and sin.

 

*******************

CORRECT ANSWER
to emphasise the seriousness of the betrayal because of their close relationship
EDDIE SAYS
The word 'sister' is repeated to emphasise the seriousness of the betrayal because of their close relationship as sisters. It makes it more shocking to the reader as you wouldn't expect sisters to treat each other that way.
---- OR ----

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