Verse > Anthologies > The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse > 131. Sponsa Dei
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Nicholson & Lee, eds.  The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse. 1917.
  
131. Sponsa Dei
By Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore  (1823–1896)
  
WHAT is this maiden fair,
The laughing of whose eye
Is in man’s heart renew’d virginity;
Who yet sick longing breeds
For marriage which exceeds        5
The inventive guess of Love to satisfy
With hope of utter binding, and of loosing endless dear despair?
What gleams about her shine,
More transient than delight and more divine!
If she does something but a little sweet,       10
As gaze towards the glass to set her hair,
See how his soul falls humbled at her feet!
Her gentle step, to go or come,
Gains her more merit than a martyrdom;
And, if she dance, it doth such grace confer       15
As opes the heaven of heavens to more than her,
And makes a rival of her worshipper.
To die unknown for her were little cost!
So is she without guile,
Her mere refused smile       20
Makes up the sum of that which may be lost!
Who is this Fair
Whom each hath seen,
The darkest once in this bewailed dell,
Be he not destin’d for the glooms of hell?       25
Whom each hath seen
And known, with sharp remorse and sweet, as Queen
And tear-glad Mistress of his hopes of bliss,
Too fair for man to kiss?
Who is this only happy She,       30
Whom, by a frantic flight of courtesy,
Born of despair
Of better lodging for his Spirit fair,
He adores as Margaret, Maude, or Cecily?
And what this sigh,       35
That each one heaves for Earth’s last lowlihead
And the Heaven high
Ineffably lock’d in dateless bridal-bed?
Are all, then, mad, or is it prophecy?
‘Sons now we are of God,’ as we have heard,       40
‘But what we shall be hath not yet appear’d.’
O, Heart, remember thee,
That Man is none,
Save One.
What if this Lady be thy Soul, and He       45
Who claims to enjoy her sacred beauty be,
Not thou, but God; and thy sick fire
A female vanity,
Such as a Bride, viewing her mirror’d charms,
Feels when she sighs, ‘All these are for his arms!’       50
A reflex heat
Flash’d on thy cheek from His immense desire,
Which waits to crown, beyond thy brain’s conceit,
Thy nameless, secret, hopeless longing sweet,
Not by and by, but now,       55
Unless deny Him thou!

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