The Martyr by Nick Joaquin (Poem) - Analysis

As per Wikipedia, a martyr is "someone that suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, or refusing to renounce or advocate, a religious belief or other cause as demanded by an external party". This is the general definition of a martyr. In the context of a romantic relationship, a martyr is someone who is more than willing to sacrifice everything in the name of love. This is the context that surrounds Nick Joaquin's poem The Martyr. The poem is about selfless love, blind love, uncompromising love, the kind of love that ignores everything to make the opposite party happy and free from any form of distress, emotional or physical.

The poem is about the ultimate romantic sacrifice. There's a saying in Filipino: "magpaka-martyr". This is exactly the content and theme of this poem. Now, as a reader, you can have your own opinion on the "magpaka-martyr" thing. You may think it's dangerous. Or you may think it's romantic. But it's something that exists. And very common at that. Love can enslave people. Love causes people to throw logic and reason out the window.

Being in love means never having to say you’re sorry
After all, at some point in your life
That love was the most important thing to you,
That love might be the one that you hoped would last forever,
That love made you believe that destiny does exist,
And that love made you question,
Why you were afraid to fall in love in the first place.

Lines 1-7: The speaker gushes with pride and nostalgia about falling in love, and rightly so. Everyone has been there. Meeting someone, falling in love, and believing that the universe has given you everything. According to the speaker, because of these reasons, you are not supposed to ever say sorry. Because saying sorry will be a betrayal of these things.

At that time in your life,
Everything just seemed so perfect,
Everything seemed so beautiful,
Everything seemed to glow for you,
And you were my everything.

Lines 8-12: The speaker trudges on with the superlatives he started on the first stanza of the poem. Love is perfect. Love is beautiful. Love shines on everyone. Love is everything.

I wouldn't even think twice about sacrificing my own happiness for yours,
I was even willing to bare up this walled but crumpled heart of mine,
Just so I could be with you.
All I ever did was care for you.
All I ever did was to make you happy.
And all I ever did was love you.

Lines 13-18: In this stanza, the speaker is now referring to the martyrdom of being completely and uuterly in love. A person in love will sacrifice everything for the person he loves. He is willing to be unhappy to make the loved one happy. He is willing to uncover his flaws and dark secrets just to be with his loved one. His only goal it to make the loved one happy.

Being in love means never having to say you’re sorry
But I needed to ask forgiveness from the one who was hurt the most…

Lines 19-21: Here, the speaker divulges that there's a catch to never saying sorry to someone you love. In one way or another, there will come a time when you are going to say sorry. So if you are not going to say sorry to the person you love, who are you going to say sorry to? Your own self of course. Again, it's another sacrifice. Another show of martyrdom. You're a martyr of love. That's what martyrs do.