Verse > Anthologies > > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, comp.  The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse.  1922.
The First Spousal
By Coventry Patmore (1823–1896)
TWICE thirty centuries and more ago,
All in a heavenly Abyssinian vale,
Man first met woman; and the ruddy snow
On many-ridgèd Abora turn’d pale,
And the song choked within the nightingale.        5
A mild white furnace in the thorough blast
Of purest spirit seem’d She as she pass’d;
And of the Man enough that this be said,
He look’d her Head.
  Towards their bower        10
Together as they went,
With hearts conceiving torrents of content,
And linger’d prologue fit for Paradise,
He, gathering power
From dear persuasion of the dim-lit hour,        15
And doubted sanction of her sparkling eyes,
Thus supplicates her conjugal assent,
And thus she makes replies:
  ‘Lo, Eve, the Day burns on the snowy height,
But here is mellow night!’        20
  ‘Here let us rest. The languor of the light
Is in my feet.
It is thy strength, my Love, that makes me weak;
Thy strength it is that makes my weakness sweet.
What would thy kiss’d lips speak?’        25
  ‘See, what a world of roses I have spread
To make the bridal bed.
Come, Beauty’s self and Love’s, thus to thy throne be led!’
  ‘My Lord, my Wisdom, nay!
Does not yon love-delighted Planet run,        30
(Haply against her heart,)
A space apart
For ever from her strong-persuading Sun!
O say,
Shall we no voluntary bars        35
Set to our drift? I, Sister of the Stars,
And Thou, my glorious, course-compelling Day!’
  ‘Yea, yea!
Was it an echo of her coming word
Which, ere she spake, I heard?        40
Or through what strange distrust was I, her Head,
Not first this thing to have said?
Speaks not within my breast
The uncompulsive, great and sweet behest        45
Of something bright,
Not named, not known, and yet more manifest
Than is the morn,
The sun being just at point then to be born?
O Eve, take back thy “Nay”.        50
Trust me, Belovèd, ever in all to mean
Thy blissful service, sacrificial, keen;
But bondless be that service, and let speak—’
  ‘This other world of roses in my cheek,
Which hide them in thy breast, and deepening seek        55
That thou decree if they mean Yea or Nay.’
  ‘Did e’er so sweet a word such sweet gainsay!’
  ‘And when I lean, Love, on you, thus, and smile
So that my Nay seems Yea,
You must the while        60
Thence be confirm’d that I deny you still.’
  ‘I will, I will!’
  ‘And when my arms are round your neck, like this,
And I, as now,
Melt like a golden ingot in your kiss,        65
Then, more than ever, shall your splendid word
Be as Archangel Michael’s severing sword!
Speak, speak!
Your might, Love, makes me weak,
Your might it is that makes my weakness sweet.’        70
  ‘I vow, I vow!’
  ‘And are you happy, O my Hero and Lord;
And is your joy complete?’
  ‘Yea, with my joyful heart my body rocks,
And joy comes down from Heaven in floods and shocks,        75
As from Mount Abora comes the avalanche.’
  ‘My Law, my Light!
Then am I yours as your high mind may list.
No wile shall lure you, none can I resist!’
  Thus the first Eve        80
With much enamour’d Adam did enact
Their mutual free contract
Of virgin spousals, blissful beyond flight
Of modern thought, with great intention staunch,
Though unobliged until that binding pact.        85
Whether She kept her word, or He the mind
To hold her, wavering, to his own restraint,
Answer, ye pleasures faint,
Ye fiery throes, and upturn’d eyeballs blind
Of sick-at-heart Mankind,        90
Whom nothing succour can,
Until a heaven-caress’d and happier Eve
Be join’d with some glad Saint
In like espousals, blessed upon Earth,
And she her Fruit forth bring;        95
No numb, chill-hearted, shaken-witted thing,
’Plaining his little span,
But of proud virgin joy the appropriate birth,
The Son of God and Man.

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