Coventry Patmore

23 July 1823 - 26 November 1896 / Essex, England

The Angel In The House. Book I. Canto Vii.


I Love's Immortality
How vilely 'twere to misdeserve
The poet's gift of perfect speech,
In song to try, with trembling nerve,
The limit of its utmost reach,
Only to sound the wretched praise
Of what to-morrow shall not be;
So mocking with immortal bays
The cross-bones of mortality!
I do not thus. My faith is fast
That all the loveliness I sing
Is made to bear the mortal blast,
And blossom in a better Spring.
Doubts of eternity ne'er cross
The Lover's mind, divinely clear:
For ever is the gain or loss
Which maddens him with hope or fear:
So trifles serve for his relief,
And trifles make him sick and pale;
And yet his pleasure and his grief
Are both on a majestic scale.
The chance, indefinitely small,
Of issue infinitely great,
Eclipses finite interests all,
And has the dignity of fate.

II Heaven and Earth
How long shall men deny the flower
Because its roots are in the earth,
And crave with tears from God the dower
They have, and have despised as dearth,
And scorn as low their human lot,
With frantic pride, too blind to see
That standing on the head makes not
Either for ease or dignity!
But fools shall feel like fools to find
(Too late inform'd) that angels' mirth
Is one in cause, and mode, and kind
With that which they profaned on earth.
Aetna And The Moon.

To soothe my heart I, feigning, seized
A pen, and, showering tears, declared
My unfeign'd passion; sadly pleased
Only to dream that so I dared.
Thus was the fervid truth confess'd,
But wild with paradox ran the plea,
As wilfully in hope depress'd,
Yet bold beyond hope's warranty:
‘O, more than dear, be more than just,
‘And do not deafly shut the door!
‘I claim no right to speak; I trust
‘Mercy, not right; yet who has more?
‘For, if more love makes not more fit,
‘Of claimants here none's more nor less,
‘Since your great worth does not permit
‘Degrees in our unworthiness.
‘Yet, if there's aught that can be done
‘With arduous labour of long years,
‘By which you'll say that you'll be won,
‘O tell me, and I'll dry my tears.
‘Ah, no; if loving cannot move,
‘How foolishly must labour fail!
‘The use of deeds is to show love;
‘If signs suffice let these avail:
‘Your name pronounced brings to my heart
‘A feeling like the violet's breath,
‘Which does so much of heaven impart
‘It makes me amorous of death;
‘The winds that in the garden toss
‘The Guelder-roses give me pain,
‘Alarm me with the dread of loss,
‘Exhaust me with the dream of gain;
‘I'm troubled by the clouds that move;
‘Tired by the breath which I respire;
‘And ever, like a torch, my love,
‘Thus agitated, flames the higher;
‘All's hard that has not you for goal;
‘I scarce can move my hand to write,
‘For love engages all my soul,
‘And leaves the body void of might;
‘The wings of will spread idly, as do
‘The bird's that in a vacuum lies;
‘My breast, asleep with dreams of you,
‘Forgets to breathe, and bursts in sighs;
‘I see no rest this side the grave,
‘No rest nor hope, from you apart;
‘Your life is in the rose you gave,
‘Its perfume suffocates my heart;
‘There's no refreshment in the breeze;
‘The heaven o'erwhelms me with its blue;
‘I faint beside the dancing seas;
‘Winds, skies, and waves are only you;
‘The thought or act which not intends
‘You service, seems a sin and shame;
‘In that one only object ends
‘Conscience, religion, honour, fame.
‘Ah, could I put off love! Could we
‘Never have met! What calm, what ease!
‘Nay, but, alas, this remedy
‘Were ten times worse than the disease!
‘For when, indifferent, I pursue
‘The world's best pleasures for relief,
‘My heart, still sickening back to you,
‘Finds none like memory of its grief;
‘And, though 'twere very hell to hear
‘You felt such misery as I,
‘All good, save you, were far less dear
‘Than is that ill with which I die!
‘Where'er I go, wandering forlorn,
‘You are the world's love, life, and glee:
‘Oh, wretchedness not to be borne
‘If she that's Love should not love me!’
I could not write another word,
Through pity for my own distress;
And forth I went, untimely stirr'd
To make my misery more or less.
I went, beneath the heated noon,
To where, in her simplicity,
She sate at work; and, as the Moon
On Ætna smiles, she smiled on me.
But, now and then, in cheek and eyes,
I saw, or fancied, such a glow
As when, in summer-evening skies,
Some say, ‘It lightens,’ some say, ‘No.’
‘Honoria,’ I began—No more.
The Dean, by ill or happy hap,
Came home; and Wolf burst in before,
And put his nose upon her lap.
53 Total read