Coventry Patmore

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

The Open Secret - Poem by Coventry Patmore

The Heavens repeat no other Song,
And, plainly or in parable,
The Angels trust, in each man's to gue,
The Treasure's safety to its size.
In shameful Hell
The Lily in last corruption lies,
Where known 'tis, rotten-lily-wise,
By the strange foulness of the smell.
Earth, that, in this arcanum, spies
Proof of high kinship unconceiv'd,
By all desired and disbeliev'd,
Shews fancies, in each thing that is,
Which nothing mean, not meaning this,
Yea, does from her own law, to hint it, err,
As 'twere a trust too huge for her.
Maiden and Youth pipe wondrous clear
The tune they are the last to hear.
'Tis the strange gem in Pleasure's cup.
Physician and Philosopher,
In search of acorns, plough it up,
But count it nothing 'mong their gains,
Nay, call it pearl, they'd answer, ‘Lo,
Blest Land where pearls as large as pumpkins grow!’
And would not even rend you for your pains.
To tell men truth, yet keep them dark
And shooting still beside the mark,
God, as in jest, gave to their wish,
The Sign of Jonah and the Fish.
'Tis the name new, on the white stone,
To none but them that have it known;
And even these can scarce believe, but cry,
‘When turn'd was Sion's captivity,
Then were we, yea, and yet we seem
Like them that dream!’
In Spirit 'tis a punctual ray
Of peace that sheds more light than day;
In Will and Mind
'Tis the easy path so hard to find;
In Heart, a pain not to be told,
Were words mere honey, milk, and gold;
I' the Body 'tis the bag of the bee;
In all, the present, thousandfold amends
Made to the sad, astonish'd life
Of him that leaves house, child, and wife,
And on God's 'hest, almost despairing, wends,
As little guessing as the herd
What a strange Phœnix of a bird
Builds in this tree,
But only intending all that He intends.

To this, the Life of them that live,
If God would not, thus far, give tongue,
Ah, why did He his secret give
To one that has the gift of song?
But all He does He doubtless means,
And, if the Mystery that smites Prophets dumb
Here, to the grace-couch'd eyes of some,
Shapes to its living face the clinging shroud,
Perchance the Skies grow tired of screens,
And 'tis His Advent in the Cloud.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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