a poem for you on Valentine's Day

I loved you first: but afterwards your love"
by Christina Rosetti
Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda. – Dante 
Ogni altra cosa, ogni pensier va fore
E sol ivi con voi rimansi amore. – Petrarca 
I loved you first: but afterwards your love
    Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
    Which owes the other most? my love was long,
    And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
    Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
    With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
         For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
         Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.

 

I've enjoyed Christina Rosetti's poems since I studied them in school. Of the Romantic poets, I always felt like I "got it" when I read her poems moreso than some of the others. Coupled with the fact that she is John Polidori's niece, about whom I wrote my first Master's essay that I then presented at a conference, I have had an affinity for Rosetti for some time. 

When I remembered and went searching for this poem, I was thinking of my own relationship. (Of course, don't we understand the world through our own experiences?) I believe I fell in love first. I said, "I love you," first. And I say it frequently, but I often feel that the sacrifices and the way M loved outsoars my own capacities. I am insecure about how to care and often do too much of one kind of care, not enough in other ways. In the end, Rosetti tells us, it's the combination not the equal measures that matter. 

There's something incredibly appealing about that for me and something real. 

Happy Valentine's Day!