"Dear To Maidens Are Their Rivals Dead"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Writing as a man well used to elevate the charms of married love and quite opposed to the lack of sexual restraint that he found in many of his contemporaries, Patmore tells in this poem about the first time he went out alone with his beloved Amelia. Amelia's mother had carefully sheltered her and begs the speaker to remember the girl's honor; with this single warning, she allows her daughter to accompany him to the grave of Millicent, the woman he had once loved. The quiet atmosphere of the cemetery and the speaker's praise of the almost divine Millicent cause Amelia to show her love, but the speaker, being older and recalling the mother's plea, preserves the girl's honor. By restraining himself, he discovers that he will reach the epitome of joy after marriage; thus he finds the hope for a future marriage by taking his sweetheart to the grave of his last love and watching her reactions to his eulogy upon the "rival's" beauty.

But all my praise
Amelia thought too slight for Millicent,
And on my lovelier-freighted arm she leant,
For more attent;
And the tea-rose I gave,
To deck her breast, she dropp'd upon the grave.
"And this was her's," said I, decoring with a band
Of mildest pearls Amelia's milder hand.
"Nay, I will wear it for her sake," she said:
For dear to maidens are their rivals dead.