April 27th is the day the Anglican Church remembers Christina Rosetti, one of the church’s and of England’s most gifted poets. I have included some of her powerful devotional poetry in my Advent anthology Waiting on the Word, but today I want to remember one of her many beautiful love poems. I want to remember it because it is a poem about forgetting! A poem that freely admits forgetting the first moment of meeting, the first touch of hands. Yet even in that admission she does remember what was forgotten and she recognizes, looking back, how we fail to recognize the really significant moments when they are just budding, like the half hidden leaf on a tree in early spring. Only when they have blossomed do we look back and say, ‘ah back then, even then, came the first hint of green, that I was to ‘dull to mark’, back then I was given the promise whose flower and fruit I am enjoying now. I take great comfort in knowing that something happening now that ‘seems to mean so little’ might one day ‘mean so much’. Her poem ‘awakens my minds attention,’ as Coleridge says all poetry should, and makes me look around me with fresh eyes, eager at last to ‘mark’ what I might dully have missed.
I hope you enjoy this. as always you can hear me reading the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.
I wish I could remember that first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom yet for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand – Did one but know!