Coventry Patmore

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

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

I
‘Ah, dearest Wife, a fresh-lit fire
‘Sends forth to heaven great shows of fume,
‘And watchers, far away, admire;
‘But when the flames their power assume,
‘The more they burn the less they show,
‘The clouds no longer smirch the sky,
‘And then the flames intensest glow
‘When far-off watchers think they die.
‘The fumes of early love my verse
‘Has figured—’ ‘You must paint the flame!’
‘'Twould merit the Promethean curse!
‘But now, Sweet, for your praise and blame.’
‘You speak too boldly; veils are due
‘To women's feelings.’ ‘Fear not this!
‘Women will vow I say not true,
‘And men believe the lips they kiss.’
‘I did not call you 'Dear' or 'Love,'
‘I think, till after Frank was born.’
‘That fault I cannot well remove;
‘The rhymes’—but Frank now blew his horn,
And Walter bark'd, on hands and knees,
At Baby in the mignonette,
And all made, full-cry, for the trees
Where Felix and his Wife were set.
Again disturb'd, (crickets have cares!)
True to their annual use they rose,
To offer thanks at Evening Prayers
In three times sacred Sarum Close.

II
Passing, they left a gift of wine
At Widow Neale's. Her daughter said:
‘O, Ma'am, she's sinking! For a sign,
‘She cried just now, of him that's dead,
‘'Mary, he's somewhere close above,
‘'Weeping and wailing his dead wife,
‘'With forceful prayers and fatal love
‘'Conjuring me to come to life.
‘'A spirit is terrible though dear!
‘'It comes by night, and sucks my breath,
‘'And draws me with desire and fear.'
‘Ah, Ma'am, she'll soon be his in death!’


III
Vaughan, when his kind Wife's eyes were dry,
Said, ‘This thought crosses me, my Dove;
‘If Heaven should proffer, when we die,
‘Some unconceiv'd, superior love,
‘How take the exchange without despair,
‘Without worse folly how refuse?’
But she, who, wise as she was fair,
For subtle doubts had simple clues,
Said, ‘Custom sanctifies, and faith
‘Is more than joy: ah, how desire
‘In any heaven a different path,
‘Though, found at first, it had been higher?
‘Yet love makes death a dreadful thought!
‘Felix, at what a price we live!’
But present pleasures soon forgot
The future's dread alternative;
For, as became the festal time,
He cheer'd her heart with tender praise,
And speeches wanting only rhyme
To make them like his winged lays.
He discommended girlhood. ‘What
‘For sweetness like the ten-years' wife,
‘Whose customary love is not
‘Her passion, or her play, but life?
‘With beauties so maturely fair,
‘Affecting, mild, and manifold,
‘May girlish charms no more compare
‘Than apples green with apples gold.
‘Ah, still unpraised Honoria, Heaven,
‘When you into my arms it gave,
‘Left nought hereafter to be given
‘But grace to feel the good I have.’


IV
Her own and manhood's modesty
Made dumb her love, but, on their road,
His hand in hers felt soft reply,
And like rejoinder fond bestow'd;
And, when the carriage set them down,
‘How strange,’ said he, ‘'twould seem to meet,
‘When pacing, as we now this town,
‘A Florence or a Lisbon Street,
‘That Laura or that Catherine, who,
‘In the remote, romantic years,
‘From Petrarch or Camoens drew
‘Their songs and their immortal tears!’
But here their converse had its end;
For, crossing the Cathedral Lawn,
There came an ancient college-friend,
Who, introduced to Mrs. Vaughan,
Lifted his hat, and bow'd and smiled,
And fill'd her kind large eyes with joy,
By patting on the cheek her child,
With, ‘Is he yours, this handsome boy?’


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010



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