Coventry Patmore

23 July 1823 - 26 November 1896 / Essex, England

The Angel In The House. Book Ii. Canto Ix.


I The Nursling of Civility
Lo, how the woman once was woo'd:
Forth leapt the savage from his lair,
And fell'd her, and to nuptials rude
He dragg'd her, bleeding, by the hair.
From that to Chloe's dainty wiles
And Portia's dignified consent,
What distance! But these Pagan styles
How far below Time's fair intent!
Siegfried sued Kriemhild. Sweeter life
Could Love's self covet? Yet 'tis sung
In what rough sort he chid his wife
For want of curb upon her tongue!
Shall Love, where last I leave him, halt?
Nay; none can fancy or foresee
To how strange bliss may time exalt
This nursling of civility.
II The Foreign Land
A woman is a foreign land,
Of which, though there he settle young,
A man will ne'er quite understand
The customs, politics, and tongue.
The foolish hie them post-haste through,
See fashions odd, and prospects fair,
Learn of the language, ‘How d'ye do,’
And go and brag they have been there.
The most for leave to trade apply,
For once, at Empire's seat, her heart,
Then get what knowledge ear and eye
Glean chancewise in the life-long mart.
And certain others, few and fit,
Attach them to the Court, and see
The Country's best, its accent hit,
And partly sound its polity.

III Disappointment
‘The bliss which woman's charms bespeak,
‘I've sought in many, found in none!’
‘In many 'tis in vain you seek
‘What can be found in only one.’
The Friends.

Frank's long, dull letter, lying by
The gay sash from Honoria's waist,
Reproach'd me; passion spared a sigh
For friendship without fault disgraced.
How should I greet him? how pretend
I felt the love he once inspired?
Time was when either, in his friend,
His own deserts with joy admired;
We took one side in school-debate,
Like hopes pursued with equal thirst,
Were even-bracketed by Fate,
Twin-Wranglers, seventh from the First;
And either loved a lady's laugh
More than all music; he and I
Were perfect in the pleasant half
Of universal charity.

From pride of likeness thus I loved
Him, and he me, till love begot
The lowliness which now approved
Nothing but that which I was not.
Blest was the pride of feeling so
Subjected to a girl's soft reign.
She was my vanity, and, oh,
All other vanities how vain!

Frank follow'd in his letter's track,
And set my guilty heart at ease
By echoing my excuses back
With just the same apologies.
So he had slighted me as well!
Nor was my mind disburthen'd less
When what I sought excuse to tell
He of himself did first confess.

Each, rapturous, praised his lady's worth;
He eloquently thus: ‘Her face
‘Is the summ'd sweetness of the earth,
‘Her soul the glass of heaven's grace,
‘To which she leads me by the hand;
‘Or, briefly all the truth to say
‘To you, who briefly understand,
‘She is both heaven and the way.
‘Displeasures and resentments pass
‘Athwart her charitable eyes
‘More fleetingly than breath from glass,
‘Or truth from foolish memories;
‘Her heart's so touch'd with others' woes
‘She has no need of chastisement;
‘Her gentle life's conditions close,
‘Like God's commandments, with content,
‘And make an aspect calm and gay,
‘Where sweet affections come and go,
‘Till all who see her, smile and say,
‘How fair, and happy that she's so!
‘She is so lovely, true, and pure,
‘Her virtue virtue so endears,
‘That often, when I think of her,
‘Life's meanness fills mine eyes with tears—’
‘You paint Miss Churchill! Pray go on—’
‘She's perfect, and, if joy was much
‘To think her nature's paragon,
‘'Tis more that there's another such!’
Praising and paying back their praise
With rapturous hearts, t'ward Sarum Spire
We walk'd, in evening's golden haze,
Friendship from passion stealing fire.
In joy's crown danced the feather jest,
And, parting by the Deanery door,
Clasp'd hands, less shy than words, confess'd
We had not been true friends before.
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