I Wish I Could Remember

A song by the English singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, The Fourteenth of February, was inspired by a famous poem that his partner gave to him on Valentine’s Day. That poem was I Wish I could Remember by Christina Rossetti, the Victorian poet. Christina Rossetti lived in England but her father was Italian and in the sonnet that this piece came from she included lines from Italian poets Dante and Petrarch. Those Italian lines are difficult to translate but all of the writing speaks to reconnecting to special moments. In addition to turning back, I appreciate how Billy’s lyrics also look to the future. My husband Greg and I were friends for a couple of years before dating and I don’t remember all of the details of our first encounters. I can relate to the poem and lyrics that ruminate on wanting to better remember the first time that they met their lover. Maybe you will find one of these as touching as I did!

Monna Innominata (I wish I could remember)

Era già  l’ora che volge il desio. It was now the hour that turns back the longing. – Dante

Ricorro al tempo ch’ io vi vidi prima. I turn to the time when I first saw you.  -Petrarca

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 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!

by Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894