Coventry Patmore

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

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

Preludes.

I In Love
If he's capricious she'll be so,
But, if his duties constant are,
She lets her loving favour glow
As steady as a tropic star;
Appears there nought for which to weep,
She'll weep for nought, for his dear sake;
She clasps her sister in her sleep;
Her love in dreams is most awake.
Her soul, that once with pleasure shook,
Did any eyes her beauty own,
Now wonders how they dare to look
On what belongs to him alone;
The indignity of taking gifts
Exhilarates her loving breast;
A rapture of submission lifts
Her life into celestial rest;
There's nothing left of what she was;
Back to the babe the woman dies,
And all the wisdom that she has
Is to love him for being wise.
She's confident because she fears,
And, though discreet when he's away,
If none but her dear despot hears,
She prattles like a child at play.
Perchance, when all her praise is said,
He tells the news, a battle won,
On either side ten thousand dead.
‘Alas!’ she says; but, if 'twere known,
She thinks, ‘He's looking on my face!
‘I am his joy; whate'er I do,
‘He sees such time-contenting grace
‘In that, he'd have me always so!’
And, evermore, for either's sake,
To the sweet folly of the dove,
She joins the cunning of the snake,
To rivet and exalt his love;
Her mode of candour is deceit;
And what she thinks from what she'll say,
(Although I'll never call her cheat),
Lies far as Scotland from Cathay.
Without his knowledge he was won;
Against his nature kept devout;
She'll never tell him how 'twas done,
And he will never find it out.
If, sudden, he suspects her wiles,
And hears her forging chain and trap,
And looks, she sits in simple smiles,
Her two hands lying in her lap.
Her secret (privilege of the Bard,
Whose fancy is of either sex),
Is mine; but let the darkness guard
Myst'ries that light would more perplex!


II Love Thinking
What lifts her in my thought so far
Beyond all else? Let Love not err!
'Tis that which all right women are,
But which I'll know in none but her.
She is to me the only Ark
Of that high mystery which locks
The lips of joy, or speaks in dark
Enigmas and in paradox;
That potent charm, which none can fly,
Nor would, which makes me bond and free,
Nor can I tell if first 'twas I
Chose it, or it elected me;
Which, when I look intentest, lo,
Cheats most mine eyes, albeit my heart,
Content to feel and not to know,
Perceives it all in every part;
I kiss its cheek; its life divine
Exhales from its resplendent shroud;
Ixion's fate reversed is mine,
Authentic Juno seems a cloud;
I feel a blessed warmth, I see
A bright circumference of rays,
But darkness, where the sun should be,
Fills admiration with amaze;
And when, for joy's relief, I think
To fathom with the line of thought
The well from which I, blissful, drink,
The spring's so deep I come to nought.


III The Kiss
‘I saw you take his kiss!’ ‘'Tis true.’
‘O, modesty!’ ‘'Twas strictly kept:
‘He thought me asleep; at least, I knew
‘He thought I thought he thought I slept.’


The Koh-I-Noor.

I
‘Be man's hard virtues highly wrought,
‘But let my gentle Mistress be,
‘In every look, word, deed, and thought,
‘Nothing but sweet and womanly!
‘Her virtues please my virtuous mood,
‘But what at all times I admire
‘Is, not that she is wise or good,
‘But just the thing which I desire.
‘With versatility to sing
‘The theme of love to any strain,
‘If oft'nest she is anything,
‘Be it careless, talkative, and vain.
‘That seems in her supremest grace
‘Which, virtue or not, apprises me
‘That my familiar thoughts embrace
‘Unfathomable mystery.’


II
I answer'd thus; for she desired
To know what mind I most approved;
Partly to learn what she inquired,
Partly to get the praise she loved.


III
I praised her, but no praise could fill
The depths of her desire to please,
Though dull to others as a Will
To them that have no legacies.
The more I praised the more she shone,
Her eyes incredulously bright,
And all her happy beauty blown
Beneath the beams of my delight.
Sweet rivalry was thus begot;
By turns, my speech, in passion's style,
With flatteries the truth o'ershot,
And she surpass'd them with her smile.

IV
‘You have my heart so sweetly seized,
‘And I confess, nay, 'tis my pride
‘That I'm with you so solely pleased,
‘That, if I'm pleased with aught beside,
‘As music, or the month of June,
‘My friend's devotion, or his wit,
‘A rose, a rainbow, or the moon,
‘It is that you illustrate it.
‘All these are parts, you are the whole;
‘You fit the taste for Paradise,
‘To which your charms draw up the soul
‘As turning spirals draw the eyes.
‘Nature to you was more than kind;
‘'Twas fond perversity to dress
‘So much simplicity of mind
‘In such a pomp of loveliness!
‘But, praising you, the fancy deft
‘Flies wide, and lets the quarry stray,
‘And, when all's said, there's something left,
‘And that's the thing I meant to say.’
‘Dear Felix!’ ‘Sweet, my Love!’ But there
Was Aunt Maude's noisy ring and knock!
‘Stay, Felix; you have caught my hair.
‘Stoop! Thank you!’ ‘May I have that lock?’
‘Not now. Good morning, Aunt!’ ‘Why, Puss,
‘You look magnificent to-day.’
‘Here's Felix, Aunt.’ ‘Fox and green goose!
‘Who handsome gets should handsome pay!’
‘Aunt, you are friends!’ ‘Ah, to be sure!
‘Good morning! Go on flattering, Sir;
‘A woman, like the Koh-i-noor,
‘Mounts to the price that's put on her.’


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010



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