Coventry Patmore

23 July 1823 - 26 November 1896 / Essex, England

The Angel In The House. Book I. The Prologue.

Mine is no horse with wings, to gain
‘The region of the spheral chime;
‘He does but drag a rumbling wain,
‘Cheer'd by the coupled bells of rhyme;
‘And if at Fame's bewitching note
‘My homely Pegasus pricks an ear,
‘The world's cart-collar hugs his throat,
‘And he's too sage to kick or rear.’
Thus ever answer'd Vaughan his Wife,
Who, more than he, desired his fame;
But, in his heart, his thoughts were rife
How for her sake to earn a name.
With bays poetic three times crown'd,
And other college honours won,
He, if he chose, might be renown'd,
He had but little doubt, she none;
And in a loftier phrase he talk'd
With her, upon their Wedding-Day,
(The eighth), while through the fields they walk'd,
Their children shouting by the way.
‘Not careless of the gift of song,
‘Nor out of love with noble fame,
‘I, meditating much and long
‘What I should sing, how win a name,
‘Considering well what theme unsung,
‘What reason worth the cost of rhyme,
‘Remains to loose the poet's tongue
‘In these last days, the dregs of time,
‘Learn that to me, though born so late,
‘There does, beyond desert, befall
‘(May my great fortune make me great!)
‘The first of themes, sung last of all.
‘In green and undiscover'd ground,
‘Yet near where many others sing,
‘I have the very well-head found
‘Whence gushes the Pierian Spring.’
Then she: ‘What is it, Dear? The Life
‘Of Arthur, or Jerusalem's Fall?’
‘Neither: your gentle self, my Wife,
‘And love, that grows from one to all.
‘And if I faithfully proclaim
‘Of these the exceeding worthiness,
‘Surely the sweetest wreath of Fame
‘Shall, to your hope, my brows caress;
‘And if, by virtue of my choice
‘Of this, the most heart-touching theme
‘That ever tuned a poet's voice,
‘I live, as I am bold to dream,
‘To be delight to many days,
‘And into silence only cease
‘When those are still, who shared their bays
‘With Laura and with Beatrice,
‘Imagine, Love, how learned men
‘Will deep-conceiv'd devices find,
‘Beyond my purpose and my ken,
‘An ancient bard of simple mind.
‘You, Sweet, his Mistress, Wife, and Muse,
‘Were you for mortal woman meant?
Your praises give a hundred clues
‘To mythological intent!
And, severing thus the truth from trope,
‘In you the Commentators see
‘Outlines occult of abstract scope,
‘A future for philosophy!
‘Your arm's on mine! these are the meads
‘In which we pass our living days;
‘There Avon runs, now hid with reeds,
‘Now brightly brimming pebbly bays;
‘Those are our children's songs that come
‘With bells and bleatings of the sheep;
‘And there, in yonder English home,
‘We thrive on mortal food and sleep!’
She laugh'd. How proud she always was
To feel how proud he was of her!
But he had grown distraught, because
The Muse's mood began to stir.

His purpose with performance crown'd,
He to his well-pleased Wife rehears'd,
When next their Wedding-Day came round,
His leisure's labour, ‘Book the First.’
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