Coventry Patmore

(23 July 1823 - 26 November 1896 / Essex, England)

The Angel In The House. Book Ii. Canto Iv. - Poem by Coventry Patmore

Preludes.

I Honour and Desert
O queen, awake to thy renown,
Require what 'tis our wealth to give,
And comprehend and wear the crown
Of thy despised prerogative!
I, who in manhood's name at length
With glad songs come to abdicate
The gross regality of strength,
Must yet in this thy praise abate,
That, through thine erring humbleness
And disregard of thy degree,
Mainly, has man been so much less
Than fits his fellowship with thee.
High thoughts had shaped the foolish brow,
The coward had grasp'd the hero's sword,
The vilest had been great, hadst thou,
Just to thyself, been worth's reward.
But lofty honours undersold
Seller and buyer both disgrace;
And favours that make folly bold
Banish the light from virtue's face.


II Love and Honour
What man with baseness so content,
Or sick with false conceit of right,
As not to know that the element
And inmost warmth of love's delight
Is honour? Who'd not rather kiss
A duchess than a milkmaid, prank
The two in equal grace, which is
Precedent Nature's obvious rank?
Much rather, then, a woman deck'd
With saintly honours, chaste and good,
Whose thoughts celestial things affect,
Whose eyes express her heavenly mood!
Those lesser vaunts are dimm'd or lost
Which plume her name or paint her lip,
Extinct in the deep-glowing boast
Of her angelic fellowship.

III Valour misdirected
‘I'll hunt for dangers North and South,
‘To prove my love, which sloth maligns!’
What seems to say her rosy mouth?
‘I'm not convinced by proofs but signs.’


Love In Idleness.

I
What should I do? In such a wife
Fortune had lavish'd all her store,
And nothing now seem'd left for life
But to deserve her more and more.
To this I vow'd my life's whole scope;
And Love said, ‘I forewarn you now,
‘The Maiden will fulfil your hope
‘Only as you fulfil your vow.’


II
A promised service, (task for days),
Was done this morning while she slept,
With that full heart which thinks no praise
Of vows which are not more than kept;
But loftier work did love impose,
And studious hours. Alas, for these,
While she from all my thoughts arose
Like Venus from the restless seas!

III
I conn'd a scheme, with mind elate:
My Uncle's land would fall to me,
My skill was much in school debate,
My friends were strong in Salisbury;
A place in Parliament once gain'd,
Thro' saps first labour'd out of sight,
Far loftier peaks were then attain'd
With easy leaps from height to height;
And that o'erwhelming honour paid,
Or recognised, at least, in life,
Which this most sweet and noble Maid
Should yield to him who call'd her Wife.

IV
I fix'd this rule: in Sarum Close
To make two visits every week,
The first to-day; and, save on those,
I nought would do, think, read, or speak,
Which did not help my settled will
To earn the Statesman's proud applause.
And now, forthwith, to mend my skill
In ethics, politics, and laws,
The Statesman's learning! Flush'd with power
And pride of freshly-form'd resolve,
I read Helvetius half-an-hour;
But, halting in attempts to solve
Why, more than all things else that be,
A lady's grace hath force to move
That sensitive appetency
Of intellectual good, call'd love,
Took Blackstone down, only to draw
My swift-deriving thoughts ere long
To love, which is the source of law,
And, like a king, can do no wrong;
Then open'd Hyde, where loyal hearts,
With faith unpropp'd by precedent,
Began to play rebellious parts.
O, mighty stir that little meant!
How dull the crude, plough'd fields of fact
To me who trod the Elysian grove!
How idle all heroic act
By the least suffering of love!
I could not read; so took my pen,
And thus commenced, in form of notes,
A Lecture for the Salisbury men,
With due regard to Tory votes:
‘A road's a road, though worn to ruts;
‘They speed who travel straight therein;
‘But he who tacks and tries short cuts
‘Gets fools' praise and a broken shin—’
And here I stopp'd in sheer despair;
But, what to-day was thus begun,
I vow'd, up starting from my chair,
To-morrow should indeed be done;
So loosed my chafing thoughts from school,
To play with fancy as they chose,
And then, according to my rule,
I dress'd, and came to Sarum Close.

V
Ah, that sweet laugh! Diviner sense
Did Nature, forming her, inspire
To omit the grosser elements,
And make her all of air and fire!

VII
To-morrow, Cowes Regatta fell:
The Dean would like his girls to go,
If I went too. ‘Most gladly.’ Well,
I did but break a foolish vow!
Unless Love's toil has love for prize,
(And then he's Hercules), above
All other contrarieties
Is labour contrary to love.
No fault of Love's, but nature's laws!
And Love, in idleness, lies quick;
For as the worm whose powers make pause,
And swoon, through alteration sick,
The soul, its wingless state dissolved,
Awaits its nuptial life complete,
All indolently self-convolved,
Cocoon'd in silken fancies sweet.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010



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