Coventry Patmore

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

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

Preludes.

I Platonic Love
Right art thou who wouldst rather be
A doorkeeper in Love's fair house,
Than lead the wretched revelry
Where fools at swinish troughs carouse.
But do not boast of being least;
And if to kiss thy Mistress' skirt
Amaze thy brain, scorn not the Priest
Whom greater honours do not hurt.
Stand off and gaze, if more than this
Be more than thou canst understand,
Revering him whose power of bliss,
Angelic, dares to seize her hand,
Or whose seraphic love makes flight
To the apprehension of her lips;
And think, the sun of such delight
From thine own darkness takes eclipse.
And, wouldst thou to the same aspire,
This is the art thou must employ,
Live greatly; so shalt thou acquire
Unknown capacities of joy.


II A Demonstration
Nature, with endless being rife,
Parts each thing into ‘him’ and ‘her,’
And, in the arithmetic of life,
The smallest unit is a pair;
And thus, oh, strange, sweet half of me,
If I confess a loftier flame,
If more I love high Heaven than thee,
I more than love thee, thee I am;
And, if the world's not built of lies,
Nor all a cheat the Gospel tells,
If that which from the dead shall rise
Be I indeed, not something else,
There's no position more secure
In reason or in faith than this,
That those conditions must endure,
Which, wanting, I myself should miss.

III The Symbol
As if I chafed the sparks from glass,
And said, ‘It lightens,’ hitherto
The songs I've made of love may pass
For all but for proportion true;
But likeness and proportion both
Now fail, as if a child in glee,
Catching the flakes of the salt froth,
Cried, ‘Look, my mother, here's the sea.’
Yet, by the help of what's so weak,
But not diverse, to those who know,
And only unto those I speak,
May far-inferring fancy show
Love's living sea by coasts uncurb'd,
Its depth, its mystery, and its might,
Its indignation if disturb'd,
The glittering peace of its delight.

IV Constancy rewarded
I vow'd unvarying faith, and she,
To whom in full I pay that vow,
Rewards me with variety
Which men who change can never know.


The Wedding.

I
Life smitten with a feverish chill,
The brain too tired to understand,
In apathy of heart and will,
I took the woman from the hand
Of him who stood for God, and heard
Of Christ, and of the Church his Bride;
The Feast, by presence of the Lord
And his first Wonder, beautified;
The mystic sense to Christian men;
The bonds in innocency made,
And gravely to be enter'd then
For children, godliness, and aid,
And honour'd, and kept free from smirch;
And how a man must love his wife
No less than Christ did love His Church,
If need be, giving her his life;
And, vowing then the mutual vow,
The tongue spoke, but intention slept.
'Tis well for us Heaven asks not how
We take this oath, but how 'tis kept.

II
O, bold seal of a bashful bond,
Which makes the marriage-day to be,
To those before it and beyond,
An iceberg in an Indian sea!

III
‘Now, while she's changing,’ said the Dean,
‘Her bridal for her travelling dress,
‘I'll preach allegiance to your queen!
‘Preaching's the thing which I profess;
‘And one more minute's mine! You know
‘I've paid my girl a father's debt,
‘And this last charge is all I owe.
‘She's your's; but I love more than yet
‘You can; such fondness only wakes
‘When time has raised the heart above
‘The prejudice of youth, which makes
‘Beauty conditional to love.
‘Prepare to meet the weak alarms
‘Of novel nearness: recollect
‘The eye which magnifies her charms
‘Is microscopic for defect.
‘Fear comes at first; but soon, rejoiced,
‘You'll find your strong and tender loves,
‘Like holy rocks by Druids poised,
‘The least force shakes, but none removes.
‘Her strength is your esteem; beware
‘Of finding fault; her will's unnerv'd
‘By blame; from you 'twould be despair;
‘But praise that is not quite deserv'd


‘Will all her noble nature move
‘To make your utmost wishes true.
‘Yet think, while mending thus your Love,
‘Of matching her ideal too!
‘The death of nuptial joy is sloth:
‘To keep your mistress in your wife,
‘Keep to the very height your oath,
‘And honour her with arduous life.
‘Lastly, no personal reverence doff.
‘Life's all externals unto those
‘Who pluck the blushing petals off,
‘To find the secret of the rose.—
‘How long she's tarrying! Green's Hotel
‘I'm sure you'll like. The charge is fair,
‘The wines good. I remember well
‘I stay'd once, with her Mother, there.
‘A tender conscience of her vow
‘That Mother had! She's so like her!’
But Mrs. Fife, much flurried, now
Whisper'd, ‘Miss Honor's ready, Sir.’


IV
Whirl'd off at last, for speech I sought,
To keep shy Love in countenance;
But, whilst I vainly tax'd my thought,
Her voice deliver'd mine from trance:
‘Look, is not this a pretty shawl,
‘Aunt's parting gift.’ ‘She's always kind,’
‘The new wing spoils Sir John's old Hall:
‘You'll see it, if you pull the blind.’


V
I drew the silk: in heaven the night
Was dawning; lovely Venus shone,
In languishment of tearful light,
Swathed by the red breath of the sun.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010



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