Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
From “The Angel in the House”
Coventry Kersey Dighton Patmore (1823–96)

THE LADIES rose. I held the door,
  And sigh’d, as her departing grace
Assur’d me that she always wore
  And heart as happy as her face;
And, jealous of the winds that blew,        5
  I dreaded, o’er the tasteless wine,
What fortune momently might do
  To hurt the hope that she ’d be mine.
Towards my mark the Dean’s talk set:
  He praised my “Notes on Abury,”        10
Read when the Association met
  At Sarum; he was pleas’d to see
I had not stopp’d, as some men had,
  At Wrangler and Prize Poet; last,
He hop’d the business was not bad        15
  I came about: then the wine pass’d.
A full glass prefaced my reply:
  I lov’d his daughter, Honor; I told
My estate and prospects; might I try
  To win her? At my words so bold        20
My sick heart sank. Then he: He gave
  His glad consent, if I could get
Her love. A dear, good Girl! she ’d have
  Only three thousand pounds as yet;
More by and by. Yes, his good will        25
  Should go with me; he would not stir;
He and my father in old time still
  Wish’d I should one day marry her;
But God so seldom lets us take
  Our chosen pathway, when it lies        30
In steps that either mar or make
  Or alter others’ destinies,
That, though his blessing and his pray’r
  Had help’d, should help, my suit, yet he
Left all to me, his passive share        35
  Consent and opportunity.
My chance, he hop’d, was good: I ’d won
  Some name already; friends and place
Appear’d within my reach, but none
  Her mind and manners would not grace.        40
Girls love to see the men in whom
  They invest their vanities admir’d;
Besides, where goodness is, there room
  For good to work will be desir’d.
’T was so with one now pass’d away;        45
  And what she was at twenty-two,
Honor was now; and he might say
  Mine was a choice I could not rue.
He ceas’d, and gave his hand. He had won
  (And all my heart was in my word)        50
From me the affection of a son,
  Whichever fortune Heaven conferr’d!
Well, well, would I take more wine? Then go
  To her; she makes tea on the lawn
These fine warm afternoons. And so        55
  We went whither my soul was drawn;
And her light-hearted ignorance
  Of interest in our discourse
Fill’d me with love, and seem’d to enhance
  Her beauty with pathetic force,        60
As, through the flowery mazes sweet,
  Fronting the wind that flutter’d blithe,
And lov’d her shape, and kiss’d her feet,
  Shown to their insteps proud and lithe,
She approach’d, all mildness and young trust,        65
  And ever her chaste and noble air
Gave to love’s feast its choicest gust,
  A vague, faint augury of despair.

From little signs, like little stars,
  Whose faint impression on the sense        70
The very looking straight at mars,
  Or only seen by confluence;
From instinct of a mutual thought,
  Whence sanctity of manners flow’d;
From chance unconscious, and from what        75
  Concealment, overconscious, show’d;
Her hand’s less weight upon my arm,
  Her lovelier mien; that match’d with this;
I found, and felt with strange alarm,
  I stood committed to my bliss.        80
I grew assur’d, before I ask’d,
  That she ’d be mine without reserve,
And in her unclaim’d graces bask’d,
  At leisure, till the time should serve,
With just enough of dread to thrill        85
  The hope, and make it trebly dear;
Thus loth to speak the word to kill
  Either the hope or happy fear.
Till once, through lanes returning late,
  Her laughing sisters lagg’d behind;        90
And, ere we reach’d her father’s gate,
  We paus’d with one presentient mind;
And, in the dim and perfum’d mist,
  Their coming stay’d, who, friends to me,
And very women, lov’d to assist        95
  Love’s timid opportunity.
Twice rose, twice died my trembling word;
  The faint and frail Cathedral chimes
Spake time in music, and we heard
  The chafers rustling in the limes.        100
Her dress, that touch’d me where I stood,
  The warmth of her confided arm,
Her bosom’s gentle neighborhood,
  Her pleasure in her power to charm;
Her look, her love, her form, her touch,        105
  The least seem’d most by blissful turn,
Blissful but that it pleas’d too much,
  And taught the wayward soul to yearn.
It was as if a harp with wires
  Was travers’d by the breath I drew;        110
And, oh, sweet meeting of desires,
  She, answering, own’d that she lov’d too.
Honoria was to be my bride!
  The hopeless heights of hope were scal’d;
The summit won, I paus’d and sigh’d,        115
  As if success itself had fail’d.
It seem’d as if my lips approach’d
  To touch at Tantalus’ reward,
And rashly on Eden life encroach’d,
  Half-blinded by the flaming sword.        120
The whole world’s wealthiest and its best,
  So fiercely sought, appear’d, when found,
Poor in its need to be possess’d,
  Poor from its very want of bound.
My queen was crouching at my side,        125
  By love unsceptred and brought low,
Her awful garb of maiden pride
  All melted into tears like snow;
The mistress of my reverent thought,
  Whose praise was all I ask’d of fame,        130
In my close-watch’d approval sought
  Protection as from danger and blame;
Her soul, which late I lov’d to invest
  With pity for my poor desert,
Buried its face within my breast,        135
  Like a pet fawn by hunters hurt.

Why, having won her, do I woo?
  Because her spirit’s vestal grace
Provokes me always to pursue,
  But, spirit-like, eludes embrace;        140
Because her womanhood is such
  That, as on court-days subjects kiss
The Queen’s hand, yet so near a touch
  Affirms no mean familiarness,
Nay, rather marks more fair the height        145
  Which can with safety so neglect
To dread, as lower ladies might,
  That grace could meet with disrespect,
Thus she with happy favor feeds
  Allegiance from a love so high        150
That thence no false conceit proceeds
  Of difference bridged, or state put by;
Because, although in act and word
  As lowly as a wife can be,
Her manners, when they call me lord,        155
  Remind me ’t is by courtesy;
Not with her least consent of will,
  Which would my proud affection hurt,
But by the noble style that still
  Imputes an unattain’d desert;        160
Because her gay and lofty brows,
  When all is won which hope can ask,
Reflect a light of hopeless snows
  That bright in virgin ether bask;
Because, though free of the outer court        165
  I am, this Temple keeps its shrine
Sacred to Heaven; because, in short,
  She ’s not and never can be mine.
Feasts satiate; stars distress with height;
  Friendship means well, but misses reach,        170
And wearies in its best delight
  Vex’d with the vanities of speech;
Too long regarded, roses even
  Afflict the mind with fond unrest;
And to converse direct with Heaven        175
  Is oft a labor in the breast;
Whate’er the up-looking soul admires,
  Whate’er the senses’ banquet be,
Fatigues at last with vain desires,
  Or sickens by satiety;        180
But truly my delight was more
  In her to whom I ’m bound for aye
Yesterday than the day before,
  And more to-day than yesterday.


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