Author:

The Angel In The House. Book I. Canto Xii.

Preludes.

I The Chace
She wearies with an ill unknown;
In sleep she sobs and seems to float,
A water-lily, all alone
Within a lonely castle-moat;
And as the full-moon, spectral, lies
Within the crescent’s gleaming arms,
The present shows her heedless eyes
A future dim with vague alarms.
She sees, and yet she scarcely sees,
For, life-in-life not yet begun,
Too many are its mysteries
For thought to fix on any one.
She’s told that maidens are by youths
Extremely honour’d and desired;
And sighs, ‘If those sweet tales be truths,
‘What bliss to be so much admired!’
The suitors come; she sees them grieve;
Her coldness fills them with despair;
She’d pity if she could believe;
She’s sorry that she cannot care.
But who now meets her on her way?
Comes he as enemy or friend,
Or both? Her bosom seems to say,
He cannot pass, and there an end.
Whom does he love? Does he confer
His heart on worth that answers his?
Or is he come to worship her?
She fears, she hopes, she thinks he is!
Advancing stepless, quick, and still,
As in the grass a serpent glides,
He fascinates her fluttering will,
Then terrifies with dreadful strides.
At first, there’s nothing to resist;
He fights with all the forms of peace;
He comes about her like a mist,
With subtle, swift, unseen increase;
And then, unlook’d for, strikes amain
Some stroke that frightens her to death,
And grows all harmlessness again,
Ere she can cry, or get her breath.
At times she stops, and stands at bay;
But he, in all more strong than she,
Subdues her with his pale dismay,
Or more admired audacity.
She plans some final, fatal blow,
But when she means with frowns to kill
He looks as if he loved her so,
She smiles to him against her will.
How sweetly he implies her praise!
His tender talk, his gentle tone,
The manly worship in his gaze,
They nearly made her heart his own.
With what an air he speaks her name;
His manner always recollects
Her sex, and still the woman’s claim
Is taught its scope by his respects.
Her charms, perceived to prosper first
In his beloved advertencies,
When in her glass they are rehearsed,
Prove his most powerful allies.
Ah, whither shall a maiden flee,
When a bold youth so swift pursues,
And siege of tenderest courtesy,
With hope perseverant, still renews!
Why fly so fast? Her flatter’d breast
Thanks him who finds her fair and good;
She loves her fears; veil’d joys arrest
The foolish terrors of her blood.
By secret, sweet degrees, her heart,
Vanquish’d, takes warmth from his desire;
She makes it more, with hidden art,
And fuels love’s late dreaded fire.
The generous credit he accords
To all the signs of good in her
Redeems itself; his praiseful words
The virtues they impute confer.
Her heart is thrice as rich in bliss,
She’s three times gentler than before;
He gains a right to call her his
Now she through him is so much more;
‘Tis heaven where’er she turns her head;
Tis music when she talks; ’tis air
On which, elate, she seems to tread,
The convert of a gladder sphere!
Ah, might he, when by doubts aggrieved,
Behold his tokens next her breast,
At all his words and sighs perceived
Against its blythe upheaval press’d!
But still she flies. Should she be won,
It must not be believed or thought
She yields; she’s chased to death, undone,
Surprised, and violently caught.

II Denied
The storm-cloud, whose portentous shade
Fumes from a core of smother’d fire,
His livery is whose worshipp’d maid
Denies herself to his desire.
Ah, grief that almost crushes life,
To lie upon his lonely bed,
And fancy her another’s wife!
His brain is flame, his heart is lead.
Sinking at last, by nature’s course,
Cloak’d round with sleep from his despair,
He does but sleep to gather force
That goes to his exhausted care.
He wakes renew’d for all the smart.
His only Love, and she is wed!
His fondness comes about his heart,
As milk comes, when the babe is dead.
The wretch, whom she found fit for scorn,
His own allegiant thoughts despise;
And far into the shining morn
Lazy with misery he lies.

III The Churl
This marks the Churl: when spousals crown
His selfish hope, he finds the grace,
Which sweet love has for even the clown,
Was not in the woman, but the chace.

The Abdication.

I
From little signs, like little stars,
Whose faint impression on the sense
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
Concealment, overconscious, show’d;
Her hand’s less weight upon my arm,
Her lowlier mien; that match’d with this;
I found, and felt with strange alarm,
I stood committed to my bliss.

II
I grew assured, 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
The hope, and make it trebly dear;
Thus loth to speak the word to kill
Either the hope or happy fear.

III
Till once, through lanes returning late,
Her laughing sisters lagg’d behind;
And, ere we reach’d her father’s gate,
We paused with one presentient mind;
And, in the dim and perfumed mist,
Their coming stay’d, who, friends to me,
And very women, loved to assist
Love’s timid opportunity.

IV
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.
Her dress, that touch’d me where I stood,
The warmth of her confided arm,
Her bosom’s gentle neighbourhood,
Her pleasure in her power to charm;
Her look, her love, her form, her touch,
The least seem’d most by blissful turn,
Blissful but that it pleased too much,
And taught the wayward soul to yearn.
It was as if a harp with wires
Was traversed by the breath I drew;
And, oh, sweet meeting of desires,
She, answering, own’d that she loved too.

V
Honoria was to be my bride!
The hopeless heights of hope were scaled;
The summit won, I paused and sigh’d,
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.
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,
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,
In my close-watch’d approval sought
Protection as from danger and blame;
Her soul, which late I loved to invest
With pity for my poor desert,
Buried its face within my breast,
Like a pet fawn by hunters hurt.

The Rosy Bosom’d Hours

A florin to the willing Guard
Secured, for half the way,
(He lock’d us in, ah, lucky-starr’d,)
A curtain’d, front coupé.
The sparkling sun of August shone;
The wind was in the West;
Your gown and all that you had on
Was what became you best;
And we were in that seldom mood
When soul with soul agrees,
Mingling, like flood with equal flood,
In agitated ease.
Far round, each blade of harvest bare
Its little load of bread;
Each furlong of that journey fair
With separate sweetness sped.
The calm of use was coming o’er
The wonder of our wealth,
And now, maybe, ’twas not much more
Than Eden’s common health.
We paced the sunny platform, while
The train at Havant changed:
What made the people kindly smile,
Or stare with looks estranged?
Too radiant for a wife you seem’d,
Serener than a bride;
Me happiest born of men I deem’d,
And show’d perchance my pride.
I loved that girl, so gaunt and tall,
Who whispered loud, ‘Sweet Thing!’
Scanning your figure, slight yet all
Round as your own gold ring.
At Salisbury you stray’d alone
Within the shafted glooms,
Whilst I was by the Verger shown
The brasses and the tombs.
At tea we talk’d of matters deep,
Of joy that never dies;
We laugh’d, till love was mix’d with sleep
Within your great sweet eyes.
The next day, sweet with luck no less
And sense of sweetness past,
The full tide of our happiness
Rose higher than the last.
At Dawlish, ‘mid the pools of brine,
You stept from rock to rock,
One hand quick tightening upon mine,
One holding up your frock.
On starfish and on weeds alone
You seem’d intent to be:
Flash’d those great gleams of hope unknown
From you, or from the sea?
Ne’er came before, ah, when again
Shall come two days like these:
Such quick delight within the brain,
Within the heart such peace?
I thought, indeed, by magic chance,
A third from Heaven to win,
But as, at dusk, we reach’d Penzance,
A drizzling rain set in.

The Barren Shore

Full many sing to me and thee
Their riches gather’d by the sea;
But I will sing, for I’m footsore,
The burthen of the barren shore.
The hue of love how lively shown
In this sole found cerulean stone
By twenty leagues of ocean roar.
O, burthen of the barren shore!
And these few crystal fragments bright,
As clear as truth, as strong as right,
I found in footing twenty more.
O, burthen of the barren shore!
And how far did I go for this
Small, precious piece of ambergris?
Of weary leagues I went threescore.
O, burthen of the barren shore!
The sand is poor, the sea is rich,
And I, I am I know not which;
And well it were to know no more
The burthen of the barren shore!

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

Preludes.

I The Song of Songs
The pulse of War, whose bloody heats
Sane purposes insanely work,
Now with fraternal frenzy beats,
And binds the Christian to the Turk,
And shrieking fifes and braggart flags,
Through quiet England, teach our breath
The courage corporate that drags
The coward to heroic death.
Too late for song! Who henceforth sings,
Must fledge his heavenly flight with more
Song-worthy and heroic things
Than hasty, home-destroying war.
While might and right are not agreed,
And battle thus is yet to wage,
So long let laurels be the meed
Of soldier as of poet sage;
But men expect the Tale of Love,
And weary of the Tale of Hate;
Lift me, O Muse, myself above,
And let the world no longer wait!

II The Kites
I saw three Cupids (so I dream’d),
Who made three kites, on which were drawn,
In letters that like roses gleam’d,
‘Plato,’ ‘Anacreon,’ and ‘Vaughan.’
The boy who held by Plato tried
His airy venture first; all sail,
It heav’nward rush’d till scarce descried,
Then pitch’d and dropp’d, for want of tail.
Anacreon’s Love, with shouts of mirth
That pride of spirit thus should fall,
To his kite link’d a lump of earth,
And, lo, it would not soar at all.
Last, my disciple freighted his
With a long streamer made of flowers,
The children of the sod, and this
Rose in the sun, and flew for hours.

III Orpheus
The music of the Sirens found
Ulysses weak, though cords were strong;
But happier Orpheus stood unbound,
And shamed it with a sweeter song.
His mode be mine. Of Heav’n I ask,
May I, with heart-persuading might,
Pursue the Poet’s sacred task
Of superseding faith by sight,
Till ev’n the witless Gadarene,
Preferring Christ to swine, shall know
That life is sweetest when it’s clean.
To prouder folly let me show
Earth by divine light made divine;
And let the saints, who hear my word,
Say, ‘Lo, the clouds begin to shine
‘About the coming of the Lord!’

IV Nearest the Dearest
Till Eve was brought to Adam, he
A solitary desert trod,
Though in the great society
Of nature, angels, and of God.
If one slight column counterweighs
The ocean, ’tis the Maker’s law,
Who deems obedience better praise
Than sacrifice of erring awe.

V Perspective
What seems to us for us is true.
The planet has no proper light,
And yet, when Venus is in view,
No primal star is half so bright.

Accepted.

I
What fortune did my heart foretell?
What shook my spirit, as I woke,
Like the vibration of a bell
Of which I had not heard the stroke?
Was it some happy vision shut
From memory by the sun’s fresh ray?
Was it that linnet’s song; or but
A natural gratitude for day?
Or the mere joy the senses weave,
A wayward ecstasy of life?
Then I remember’d, yester-eve
I won Honoria for my Wife.

II
Forth riding, while as yet the day
Was dewy, watching Sarum Spire,
Still beckoning me along my way,
And growing every minute higher,
I reach’d the Dean’s. One blind was down,
Though nine then struck. My bride to be!
And had she rested ill, my own,
With thinking (oh, my heart!) of me?
I paced the streets; a pistol chose,
To guard my now important life
When riding late from Sarum Close;
At noon return’d. Good Mrs. Fife,
To my, ‘The Dean, is he at home?’
Said, ‘No, Sir; but Miss Honor is;’
And straight, not asking if I’d come,
Announced me, ‘Mr. Felix, Miss,’
To Mildred, in the Study. There
We talk’d, she working. We agreed
The day was fine; the Fancy-Fair
Successful; ‘Did I ever read
‘De Genlis?’ ‘Never.’ ‘Do! She heard
‘I was engaged.’ ‘To whom?’ ‘Miss Fry.’
‘Was it the fact?’ ‘No!’ ‘On my word?’
‘What scandal people talk’d!’ ‘Would I
‘Hold out this skein of silk.’ So pass’d
I knew not how much time away.
‘How were her sisters?’ ‘Well.’ At last
I summon’d heart enough to say,
‘I hoped to see Miss Churchill too.’
‘Miss Churchill, Felix! What is this?
‘I said, and now I find ’tis true,
‘Last night you quarrell’d! Here she is.’

III
She came, and seem’d a morning rose
When ruffling rain has paled its blush;
Her crown once more was on her brows;
And, with a faint, indignant flush,
And fainter smile, she gave her hand,
But not her eyes, then sate apart,
As if to make me understand
The honour of her vanquish’d heart.
But I drew humbly to her side;
And she, well pleased, perceiving me
Liege ever to the noble pride
Of her unconquer’d majesty,
Once and for all put it away;
The faint flush pass’d; and, thereupon,
Her loveliness, which rather lay
In light than colour, smiled and shone,
Till sick was all my soul with bliss;
Or was it with remorse and ire
Of such a sanctity as this
Subdued by love to my desire?

Stars And Moon

Beneath the stars and summer moon
A pair of wedded lovers walk,
Upon the stars and summer moon
They turn their happy eyes, and talk.

Edith.

“Those stars, that moon, for me they shine
With lovely, but no startling light;
My joy is much, but not as thine,
A joy that fills the pulse, like fright.”

Alfred.

“My love, a darken’d conscience clothes
The world in sackcloth; and, I fear,
The stain of life this new heart loathes,
Still clouds my sight; but thine is clear.

“True vision is no startling boon
To one in whom it always lies;
But if true sight of stars and moon
Were strange to thee, it would surprise.

“Disease it is and dearth in me
Which thou believest genius, wealth;
And that imagined want in thee
Is riches and abundant health.

“O, little merit I my bride!
And therefore will I love her more;
Renewing, by her gentle side,
Lost worth: let this thy smile restore !”

Edith.

“Ah, love! we both, with longing deep,
Love words and actions kind, which are
More good for life than bread or sleep,
More beautiful than Moon or Star.”

The Year

The crocus, while the days are dark,
Unfolds its saffron sheen;
At April’s touch the crudest bark
Discovers gems of green.

Then sleep the seasons, full of might;
While slowly swells the pod
And rounds the peach, and in the night
The mushroom bursts the sod.

The winter falls; the frozen rut
Is bound with silver bars;
The snowdrift heaps against the hut,
And night is pierced with stars.

The Angel In The House. Book I. Canto Vii.

Preludes.

I Love’s Immortality
How vilely ’twere to misdeserve
The poet’s gift of perfect speech,
In song to try, with trembling nerve,
The limit of its utmost reach,
Only to sound the wretched praise
Of what to-morrow shall not be;
So mocking with immortal bays
The cross-bones of mortality!
I do not thus. My faith is fast
That all the loveliness I sing
Is made to bear the mortal blast,
And blossom in a better Spring.
Doubts of eternity ne’er cross
The Lover’s mind, divinely clear:
For ever is the gain or loss
Which maddens him with hope or fear:
So trifles serve for his relief,
And trifles make him sick and pale;
And yet his pleasure and his grief
Are both on a majestic scale.
The chance, indefinitely small,
Of issue infinitely great,
Eclipses finite interests all,
And has the dignity of fate.

II Heaven and Earth
How long shall men deny the flower
Because its roots are in the earth,
And crave with tears from God the dower
They have, and have despised as dearth,
And scorn as low their human lot,
With frantic pride, too blind to see
That standing on the head makes not
Either for ease or dignity!
But fools shall feel like fools to find
(Too late inform’d) that angels’ mirth
Is one in cause, and mode, and kind
With that which they profaned on earth.

Aetna And The Moon.

I
To soothe my heart I, feigning, seized
A pen, and, showering tears, declared
My unfeign’d passion; sadly pleased
Only to dream that so I dared.
Thus was the fervid truth confess’d,
But wild with paradox ran the plea,
As wilfully in hope depress’d,
Yet bold beyond hope’s warranty:

II
‘O, more than dear, be more than just,
‘And do not deafly shut the door!
‘I claim no right to speak; I trust
‘Mercy, not right; yet who has more?
‘For, if more love makes not more fit,
‘Of claimants here none’s more nor less,
‘Since your great worth does not permit
‘Degrees in our unworthiness.
‘Yet, if there’s aught that can be done
‘With arduous labour of long years,
‘By which you’ll say that you’ll be won,
‘O tell me, and I’ll dry my tears.
‘Ah, no; if loving cannot move,
‘How foolishly must labour fail!
‘The use of deeds is to show love;
‘If signs suffice let these avail:
‘Your name pronounced brings to my heart
‘A feeling like the violet’s breath,
‘Which does so much of heaven impart
‘It makes me amorous of death;
‘The winds that in the garden toss
‘The Guelder-roses give me pain,
‘Alarm me with the dread of loss,
‘Exhaust me with the dream of gain;
‘I’m troubled by the clouds that move;
‘Tired by the breath which I respire;
‘And ever, like a torch, my love,
‘Thus agitated, flames the higher;
‘All’s hard that has not you for goal;
‘I scarce can move my hand to write,
‘For love engages all my soul,
‘And leaves the body void of might;
‘The wings of will spread idly, as do
‘The bird’s that in a vacuum lies;
‘My breast, asleep with dreams of you,
‘Forgets to breathe, and bursts in sighs;
‘I see no rest this side the grave,
‘No rest nor hope, from you apart;
‘Your life is in the rose you gave,
‘Its perfume suffocates my heart;
‘There’s no refreshment in the breeze;
‘The heaven o’erwhelms me with its blue;
‘I faint beside the dancing seas;
‘Winds, skies, and waves are only you;
‘The thought or act which not intends
‘You service, seems a sin and shame;
‘In that one only object ends
‘Conscience, religion, honour, fame.
‘Ah, could I put off love! Could we
‘Never have met! What calm, what ease!
‘Nay, but, alas, this remedy
‘Were ten times worse than the disease!
‘For when, indifferent, I pursue
‘The world’s best pleasures for relief,
‘My heart, still sickening back to you,
‘Finds none like memory of its grief;
‘And, though ’twere very hell to hear
‘You felt such misery as I,
‘All good, save you, were far less dear
‘Than is that ill with which I die!
‘Where’er I go, wandering forlorn,
‘You are the world’s love, life, and glee:
‘Oh, wretchedness not to be borne
‘If she that’s Love should not love me!’

III
I could not write another word,
Through pity for my own distress;
And forth I went, untimely stirr’d
To make my misery more or less.
I went, beneath the heated noon,
To where, in her simplicity,
She sate at work; and, as the Moon
On Ætna smiles, she smiled on me.
But, now and then, in cheek and eyes,
I saw, or fancied, such a glow
As when, in summer-evening skies,
Some say, ‘It lightens,’ some say, ‘No.’
‘Honoria,’ I began—No more.
The Dean, by ill or happy hap,
Came home; and Wolf burst in before,
And put his nose upon her lap.

The Azalea

There, where the sun shines first
Against our room,
She train’d the gold Azalea, whose perfume
She, Spring-like, from her breathing grace dispersed.
Last night the delicate crests of saffron bloom,
For this their dainty likeness watch’d and nurst,
Were just at point to burst.
At dawn I dream’d, O God, that she was dead,
And groan’d aloud upon my wretched bed,
And waked, ah, God, and did not waken her,
But lay, with eyes still closed,
Perfectly bless’d in the delicious sphere
By which I knew so well that she was near,
My heart to speechless thankfulness composed.
Till ‘gan to stir
A dizzy somewhat in my troubled head–
It was the azalea’s breath, and she was dead!
The warm night had the lingering buds disclosed,
And I had fall’n asleep with to my breast
A chance-found letter press’d
In which she said,
‘So, till to-morrow eve, my Own, adieu!
Parting’s well-paid with soon again to meet,
Soon in your arms to feel so small and sweet,
Sweet to myself that am so sweet to you!’

The Angel In The House. Book I. Canto I.

Preludes.

I The Impossibility
Lo, Love’s obey’d by all. ‘Tis right
That all should know what they obey,
Lest erring conscience damp delight,
And folly laugh our joys away.
Thou Primal Love, who grantest wings
And voices to the woodland birds,
Grant me the power of saying things
Too simple and too sweet for words!

II Love’s Reality
I walk, I trust, with open eyes;
I’ve travell’d half my worldly course;
And in the way behind me lies
Much vanity and some remorse;
I’ve lived to feel how pride may part
Spirits, tho’ match’d like hand and glove;
I’ve blush’d for love’s abode, the heart;
But have not disbelieved in love;
Nor unto love, sole mortal thing
Of worth immortal, done the wrong
To count it, with the rest that sing,
Unworthy of a serious song;
And love is my reward; for now,
When most of dead’ning time complain,
The myrtle blooms upon my brow,
Its odour quickens all my brain.

III The Poet’s Confidence
The richest realm of all the earth
Is counted still a heathen land:
Lo, I, like Joshua, now go forth
To give it into Israel’s hand.
I will not hearken blame or praise;
For so should I dishonour do
To that sweet Power by which these Lays
Alone are lovely, good, and true;
Nor credence to the world’s cries give,
Which ever preach and still prevent
Pure passion’s high prerogative
To make, not follow, precedent.
From love’s abysmal ether rare
If I to men have here made known
New truths, they, like new stars, were there
Before, though not yet written down.
Moving but as the feelings move,
I run, or loiter with delight,
Or pause to mark where gentle Love
Persuades the soul from height to height,
Yet, know ye, though my words are gay
As David’s dance, which Michal scorn’d,
If kindly you receive the Lay,
You shall be sweetly help’d and warn’d.

The Cathedral Close.

I
Once more I came to Sarum Close,
With joy half memory, half desire,
And breathed the sunny wind that rose
And blew the shadows o’er the Spire,
And toss’d the lilac’s scented plumes,
And sway’d the chestnut’s thousand cones,
And fill’d my nostrils with perfumes,
And shaped the clouds in waifs and zones,
And wafted down the serious strain
Of Sarum bells, when, true to time,
I reach’d the Dean’s, with heart and brain
That trembled to the trembling chime.

II
‘Twas half my home, six years ago.
The six years had not alter’d it:
Red-brick and ashlar, long and low,
With dormers and with oriels lit.
Geranium, lychnis, rose array’d
The windows, all wide open thrown;
And some one in the Study play’d
The Wedding-March of Mendelssohn.
And there it was I last took leave:
‘Twas Christmas: I remember’d now
The cruel girls, who feign’d to grieve,
Took down the evergreens; and how
The holly into blazes woke
The fire, lighting the large, low room
A dim, rich lustre of old oak
And crimson velvet’s glowing gloom.

III
No change had touch’d Dean Churchill: kind,
By widowhood more than winters bent,
And settled in a cheerful mind,
As still forecasting heaven’s content.
Well might his thoughts be fix’d on high,
Now she was there! Within her face
Humility and dignity
Were met in a most sweet embrace.
She seem’d expressly sent below
To teach our erring minds to see
The rhythmic change of time’s swift flow
As part of still eternity.
Her life, all honour, observed, with awe
Which cross experience could not mar,
The fiction of the Christian law
That all men honourable are;
And so her smile at once conferr’d
High flattery and benign reproof;
And I, a rude boy, strangely stirr’d,
Grew courtly in my own behoof.
The years, so far from doing her wrong,
Anointed her with gracious balm,
And made her brows more and more young
With wreaths of amaranth and palm.

IV
Was this her eldest, Honor; prude,
Who would not let me pull the swing;
Who, kiss’d at Christmas, call’d me rude,
And, sobbing low, refused to sing?
How changed! In shape no slender Grace,
But Venus; milder than the dove;
Her mother’s air; her Norman face;
Her large sweet eyes, clear lakes of love.
Mary I knew. In former time
Ailing and pale, she thought that bliss
Was only for a better clime,
And, heavenly overmuch, scorn’d this.
I, rash with theories of the right,
Which stretch’d the tether of my Creed,
But did not break it, held delight
Half discipline. We disagreed.
She told the Dean I wanted grace.
Now she was kindest of the three,
And soft wild roses deck’d her face.
And, what, was this my Mildred, she
To herself and all a sweet surprise?
My Pet, who romp’d and roll’d a hoop?
I wonder’d where those daisy eyes
Had found their touching curve and droop.

V
Unmannerly times! But now we sat
Stranger than strangers; till I caught
And answer’d Mildred’s smile; and that
Spread to the rest, and freedom brought.
The Dean talk’d little, looking on,
Of three such daughters justly vain.
What letters they had had from Bonn,
Said Mildred, and what plums from Spain!
By Honor I was kindly task’d
To excuse my never coming down
From Cambridge; Mary smiled and ask’d
Were Kant and Goethe yet outgrown?
And, pleased, we talk’d the old days o’er;
And, parting, I for pleasure sigh’d.
To be there as a friend, (since more),
Seem’d then, seems still, excuse for pride;
For something that abode endued
With temple-like repose, an air
Of life’s kind purposes pursued
With order’d freedom sweet and fair.
A tent pitch’d in a world not right
It seem’d, whose inmates, every one,
On tranquil faces bore the light
Of duties beautifully done,
And humbly, though they had few peers,
Kept their own laws, which seem’d to be
The fair sum of six thousand years’
Traditions of civility.

The Circles

‘Within yon world-wide cirque of war
What’s hidden which they fight so for?’
My guide made answer, ‘Rich increase
Of virtue and use, which are by peace,
And peace by war. That inner ring
Are craftsmen, working many a thing
For use, and, these within, the wise
Explore the grass and read the skies.’
‘Can the stars’ motions give me peace,
Or the herbs’ virtues mine increase?
Of all this triple shell,’ said I,
‘Would that I might the kernel spy!’
A narrower circle then I reach’d,
Where sang a few and many preach’d
Of life immortal. ‘But,’ I said,
‘The riddle yet I have not read.
Life I must know, that care I may
For life in me to last for aye.’
Then he, ‘Those voices are a charm
To keep yon dove-cot out of harm.’
In the centre, then, he show’d a tent
Where, laughing safe, a woman bent
Over her babe, and, her above,
Lean’d in his turn a graver love.
‘Behold the two idolatries
By which,’ cried he, ‘the world defies
Chaos and death, and for whose sake
All else must war and work and wake.’

The Angel In The House. Book I. Canto Viii.

Preludes.

I Life of Life
What’s that, which, ere I spake, was gone:
So joyful and intense a spark
That, whilst o’erhead the wonder shone,
The day, before but dull, grew dark?
I do not know; but this I know,
That, had the splendour lived a year,
The truth that I some heavenly show
Did see, could not be now more clear.
This know I too: might mortal breath
Express the passion then inspired,
Evil would die a natural death,
And nothing transient be desired;
And error from the soul would pass,
And leave the senses pure and strong
As sunbeams. But the best, alas,
Has neither memory nor tongue.

II The Revelation
An idle poet, here and there,
Looks round him; but, for all the rest,
The world, unfathomably fair,
Is duller than a witling’s jest.
Love wakes men, once a lifetime each;
They lift their heavy lids, and look;
And, lo, what one sweet page can teach,
They read with joy, then shut the book.
And some give thanks, and some blaspheme
And most forget; but, either way,
That and the Child’s unheeded dream
Is all the light of all their day.

III The Spirit’s Epochs
Not in the crises of events,
Of compass’d hopes, or fears fulfill’d,
Or acts of gravest consequence,
Are life’s delight and depth reveal’d.
The day of days was not the day;
That went before, or was postponed;
The night Death took our lamp away
Was not the night on which we groan’d.
I drew my bride, beneath the moon,
Across my threshold; happy hour!
But, ah, the walk that afternoon
We saw the water-flags in flower!

IV The Prototype
Lo, there, whence love, life, light are pour’d,
Veil’d with impenetrable rays,
Amidst the presence of the Lord
Co-equal Wisdom laughs and plays.
Female and male God made the man;
His image is the whole, not half;
And in our love we dimly scan
The love which is between Himself.

V The Praise of Love
Spirit of Knowledge, grant me this:
A simple heart and subtle wit
To praise the thing whose praise it is
That all which can be praised is it.

Sarum Plain.

I
Breakfast enjoy’d, ‘mid hush of boughs
And perfumes thro’ the windows blown;
Brief worship done, which still endows
The day with beauty not its own;
With intervening pause, that paints
Each act with honour, life with calm
(As old processions of the Saints
At every step have wands of palm),
We rose; the ladies went to dress,
And soon return’d with smiles; and then,
Plans fix’d, to which the Dean said ‘Yes,’
Once more we drove to Salisbury Plain.
We past my house (observed with praise
By Mildred, Mary acquiesced),
And left the old and lazy grays
Below the hill, and walk’d the rest.

II
The moods of love are like the wind,
And none knows whence or why they rise:
I ne’er before felt heart and mind
So much affected through mine eyes.
How cognate with the flatter’d air,
How form’d for earth’s familiar zone,
She moved; how feeling and how fair
For others’ pleasure and her own!
And, ah, the heaven of her face!
How, when she laugh’d, I seem’d to see
The gladness of the primal grace,
And how, when grave, its dignity!
Of all she was, the least not less
Delighted the devoted eye;
No fold or fashion of her dress
Her fairness did not sanctify.
I could not else than grieve. What cause?
Was I not blest? Was she not there?
Likely my own? Ah, that it was:
How like seem’d ‘likely’ to despair!

III
And yet to see her so benign,
So honourable and womanly,
In every maiden kindness mine,
And full of gayest courtesy,
Was pleasure so without alloy,
Such unreproved, sufficient bliss,
I almost wish’d, the while, that joy
Might never further go than this.
So much it was as now to walk,
And humbly by her gentle side
Observe her smile and hear her talk,
Could it be more to call her Bride?
I feign’d her won; the mind finite,
Puzzled and fagg’d by stress and strain
To comprehend the whole delight,
Made bliss more hard to bear than pain.
All good, save heart to hold, so summ’d
And grasp’d, the thought smote, like a knife,
How laps’d mortality had numb’d
The feelings to the feast of life;
How passing good breathes sweetest breath;
And love itself at highest reveals
More black than bright, commending death
By teaching how much life conceals.

IV
But happier passions these subdued,
When from the close and sultry lane,
With eyes made bright by what they view’d,
We emerged upon the mounded Plain.
As to the breeze a flag unfurls,
My spirit expanded, sweetly embraced
By those same gusts that shook her curls
And vex’d the ribbon at her waist.
To the future cast I future cares;
Breathed with a heart unfreighted, free,
And laugh’d at the presumptuous airs
That with her muslins folded me;
Till, one vague rack along my sky,
The thought that she might ne’er be mine
Lay half forgotten by the eye
So feasted with the sun’s warm shine.

V
By the great stones we chose our ground
For shade; and there, in converse sweet,
Took luncheon. On a little mound
Sat the three ladies; at their feet
I sat; and smelt the heathy smell,
Pluck’d harebells, turn’d the telescope
To the country round. My life went well,
For once, without the wheels of hope;
And I despised the Druid rocks
That scowl’d their chill gloom from above,
Like churls whose stolid wisdom mocks
The lightness of immortal love.
And, as we talk’d, my spirit quaff’d
The sparkling winds; the candid skies
At our untruthful strangeness laugh’d;
I kiss’d with mine her smiling eyes;
And sweet familiarness and awe
Prevail’d that hour on either part,
And in the eternal light I saw
That she was mine; though yet my heart
Could not conceive, nor would confess
Such contentation; and there grew
More form and more fair stateliness
Than heretofore between us two.