Coventry Patmore

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

The Unknown Eros - Poem by Coventry Patmore

Proem

‘Many speak wisely, some inerrably:
Witness the beast who talk'd that should have bray'd,
And Caiaphas that said
Expedient 'twas for all that One should die;
But what avails
When Love's right accent from their wisdom fails,
And the Truth-criers know not what they cry!
Say, wherefore thou,
As under bondage of some bitter vow,
Warblest no word,
When all the rest are shouting to be heard?
Why leave the fervid running just when Fame
'Gan whispering of thy name
Amongst the hard-pleased Judges of the Course?
Parch'd is thy crystal-flowing source?
Pierce, then, with thought's steel probe, the trodden ground,
Till passion's buried floods be found;
Intend thine eye
Into the dim and undiscover'd sky
Whose lustres are the pulsings of the heart,
And promptly, as thy trade is, watch to chart
The lonely suns, the mystic hazes and throng'd sparkles bright
That, named and number'd right
In sweet, transpicuous words, shall glow alway
With Love's three-stranded ray,
Red wrath, compassion golden, lazuline delight.’

Thus in reproof of my despondency,
My Mentor; and thus I:

O, season strange for song!
And yet some timely power persuades my lips.
Is't England's parting soul that nerves my tongue,
As other Kingdoms, nearing their eclipse,
Have, in their latest bards, uplifted strong
The voice that was their voice in earlier days?
Is it her sudden, loud and piercing cry,
The note which those that seem too weak to sigh
Will sometimes utter just before they die?

Lo, weary of the greatness of her ways,
There lies my Land, with hasty pulse and hard,
Her ancient beauty marr'd,
And, in her cold and aimless roving sight,
Horror of light;
Sole vigour left in her last lethargy,
Save when, at bidding of some dreadful breath,
The rising death
Rolls up with force;
And then the furiously gibbering corse
Shakes, panglessly convuls'd, and sightless stares,
Whilst one Physician pours in rousing wines,
One anodynes,
And one declares
That nothing ails it but the pains of growth.

My last look loth
Is taken; and I turn, with the relief
Of knowing that my life-long hope and grief
Are surely vain,
To that unshapen time to come, when She,
A dim, heroic Nation long since dead,
The foulness of her agony forgot,
Shall all benignly shed
Through ages vast
The ghostly grace of her transfigured past
Over the present, harass'd and forlorn,
Of nations yet unborn;
And this shall be the lot
Of those who, in the bird-voice and the blast
Of her omniloquent tongue,
Have truly sung
Or greatly said,
To shew as one
With those who have best done,
And be as rays,
Thro' the still altering world, around her changeless head.

Therefore no 'plaint be mine
Of listeners none,
No hope of render'd use or proud reward,
In hasty times and hard;
But chants as of a lonely thrush's throat
At latest eve,
That does in each calm note
Both joy and grieve;
Notes few and strong and fine,
Gilt with sweet day's decline,
And sad with promise of a different sun.

'Mid the loud concert harsh
Of this fog-folded marsh,
To me, else dumb,
Uranian Clearness, come!
Give me to breathe in peace and in surprise
The light-thrill'd ether of your rarest skies,
Till inmost absolution start
The welling in the grateful eyes,
The heaving in the heart.
Winnow with sighs
And wash away
With tears the dust and stain of clay,
Till all the Song be Thine, as beautiful as Morn,
Bedeck'd with shining clouds of scorn;
And Thou, Inspirer, deign to brood
O'er the delighted words, and call them Very Good.
This grant, Clear Spirit; and grant that I remain
Content to ask unlikely gifts in vain.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010



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