I have always loved this watercolour by Rossetti and I recently brought a 2nd hand book of collected poems from 1973-1974 and this wonderful poem by Fleur Adcock leaped out at me, because I knew exactly which painting she was talking about. The poem says so much, about Paolo and Francesca, Dante, Rossetti and Ruskin and the poet herself as she compares the lovers to her own experience and as a reader I recognise that tenderness in the painting, being lost in the moment of love.The poem is wise and witty, observant and personal.
They float in a sea of whitish blobs-
fire, is it? It could have been
hail, said Ruskin, but Rossetti
'didn't know how to do hail'.
Well, he could do tenderness.
My spine trickles with little white flames.