The Victories of Love - and Other Poems
by Coventry Patmore
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I leave this, Dear, for you to read, For strength and hope, when I am dead. When Grace died, I was so perplex'd, I could not find one helpful text; And when, a little while before, I saw her sobbing on the floor, Because I told her that in heaven She would be as the angels even, And would not want her doll, 'tis true A horrible fear within me grew, That, since the preciousness of love Went thus for nothing, mine might prove To be no more, and heaven's bliss Some dreadful good which is not this. But being about to die makes clear Many dark things. I have no fear, Now that my love, my grief, my joy Is but a passion for a toy. I cannot speak at all, I find, The shining something in my mind That shows so much that, if I took My thoughts all down, 'twould make a book. God's Word, which lately seem'd above The simpleness of human love, To my death-sharpen'd hearing tells Of little or of nothing else; And many things I hoped were true, When first they came, like songs, from you, Now rise with witness past the reach Of doubt, and I to you can teach, As if with felt authority And as things seen, what you taught me. Yet how? I have no words but those Which every one already knows: As, 'No man hath at any time Seen God, but 'tis the love of Him Made perfect, and He dwells in us, If we each other love.' Or thus, 'My goodness misseth in extent Of Thee, Lord! In the excellent I know Thee; and the Saints on Earth Make all my love and holy mirth.' And further, 'Inasmuch as ye Did it to one of these, to Me Ye did it, though ye nothing thought Nor knew of Me, in that ye wrought.' What shall I dread? Will God undo Our bond, which is all others too? And when I meet you will you say To my reclaiming looks, 'Away! A dearer love my bosom warms With higher rights and holier charms. The children, whom thou here may'st see, Neighbours that mingle thee and me, And gaily on impartial lyres Renounce the foolish filial fires They felt, with "Praise to God on high, Goodwill to all else equally;" The trials, duties, service, tears; The many fond, confiding years Of nearness sweet with thee apart; The joy of body, mind, and heart; The love that grew a reckless growth, Unmindful that the marriage-oath To love in an eternal style Meant—only for a little while: Sever'd are now those bonds earth-wrought; All love, not new, stands here for nought!' Why, it seems almost wicked, Dear, Even to utter such a fear! Are we not 'heirs,' as man and wife, 'Together of eternal life?' Was Paradise e'er meant to fade, To make which marriage first was made? Neither beneath him nor above Could man in Eden find his Love; Yet with him in the garden walk'd His God, and with Him mildly talk'd! Shall the humble preference offend In Heaven, which God did there commend? Are 'Honourable and undefiled' The names of aught from heaven exiled? And are we not forbid to grieve As without hope? Does God deceive, And call that hope which is despair, Namely, the heaven we should not share! Image and glory of the man, As he of God, is woman. Can This holy, sweet proportion die Into a dull equality? Are we not one flesh, yea, so far More than the babe and mother are, That sons are bid mothers to leave And to their wives alone to cleave, 'For they two are one flesh!' But 'tis In the flesh we rise. Our union is, You know 'tis said, 'great mystery.' Great mockery, it appears to me; Poor image of the spousal bond Of Christ and Church, if loosed beyond This life!—'Gainst which, and much more yet, There's not a single word to set. The speech to the scoffing Sadducee Is not in point to you and me; For how could Christ have taught such clods That Caesar's things are also God's? The sort of Wife the Law could make Might well be 'hated' for Love's sake, And left, like money, land, or house; For out of Christ is no true spouse. I used to think it strange of Him To make love's after-life so dim, Or only clear by inference: But God trusts much to common sense, And only tells us what, without His Word, we could not have found out On fleshly tables of the heart He penn'd truth's feeling counterpart In hopes that come to all: so, Dear, Trust these, and be of happy cheer, Nor think that he who has loved well Is of all men most miserable. There's much more yet I want to say, But cannot now. You know my way Of feeling strong from Twelve till Two After my wine. I'll write to you Daily some words, which you shall have To break the silence of the grave.


You think, perhaps, 'Ah, could she know How much I loved her!' Dear, I do! And you may say, 'Of this new awe Of heart which makes her fancies law, These watchful duties of despair, She does not dream, she cannot care!' Frederick, you see how false that is, Or how could I have written this? And, should it ever cross your mind That, now and then, you were unkind. You never, never, were at all! Remember that! It's natural For one like Mr. Vaughan to come, From a morning's useful pastime, home, And greet, with such a courteous zest His handsome wife, still newly dress'd, As if the Bird of Paradise Should daily change her plumage thrice. He's always well, she's always gay. Of course! But he who toils all day, And comes home hungry, tired, or cold, And feels 'twould do him good to scold His wife a little, let him trust Her love, and say the things he must, Till sooth'd in mind by meat and rest. If, after that, she's well caress'd, And told how good she is, to bear His humour, fortune makes it fair. Women like men to be like men; That is, at least, just now and then. Thus, I have nothing to forgive, But those first years, (how could I live!) When, though I really did behave So stupidly, you never gave One unkind word or look at all: As if I was some animal You pitied! Now in later life, You used me like a proper Wife. You feel, Dear, in your present mood, Your Jane, since she was kind and good, A child of God, a living soul, Was not so different, on the whole, From Her who had a little more Of God's best gifts: but, oh, be sure, My dear, dear Love, to take no blame Because you could not feel the same Towards me, living, as when dead. A hungry man must needs think bread So sweet! and, only at their rise And setting, blessings, to thine eyes, Like the sun's course, grow visible. If you are sad, remember well, Against delusions of despair, That memory sees things as they were, And not as they were misenjoy'd, And would be still, if aught destroy'd The glory of their hopelessness: So that, in truth, you had me less In days when necessary zeal For my perfection made you feel My faults the most, than now your love Forgets but where it can approve. You gain by loss, if that seem'd small Possess'd, which, being gone, turns all Surviving good to vanity. Oh, Fred, this makes it sweet to die! Say to yourself: ''Tis comfort yet I made her that which I regret; And parting might have come to pass In a worse season; as it was, Love an eternal temper took, Dipp'd, glowing, in Death's icy brook!' Or say, 'On her poor feeble head This might have fallen: 'tis mine instead! And so great evil sets me free Henceforward from calamity. And, in her little children, too, How much for her I yet can do!' And grieve not for these orphans even; For central to the love of Heaven Is each child as each star to space. This truth my dying love has grace To trust with a so sure content, I fear I seem indifferent. You must not think a child's small heart Cold, because it and grief soon part. Fanny will keep them all away, Lest you should hear them laugh and play. Before the funeral's over. Then I hope you'll be yourself again, And glad, with all your soul, to find How God thus to the sharpest wind Suits the shorn lambs. Instruct them, Dear, For my sake, in His love and fear. And show now, till their journey's done, Not to be weary they must run. Strive not to dissipate your grief By any lightness. True relief Of sorrow is by sorrow brought. And yet for sorrow's sake, you ought To grieve with measure. Do not spend So good a power to no good end! Would you, indeed, have memory stay In the heart, lock up and put away Relies and likenesses and all Musings, which waste what they recall. True comfort, and the only thing To soothe without diminishing A prized regret, is to match here, By a strict life, God's love severe. Yet, after all, by nature's course, Feeling must lose its edge and force. Again you'll reach the desert tracts Where only sin or duty acts. But, if love always lit our path, Where were the trial of our faith? Oh, should the mournful honeymoon Of death be over strangely soon, And life-long resolutions, made In grievous haste, as quickly fade, Seeming the truth of grief to mock, Think, Dearest, 'tis not by the clock That sorrow goes! A month of tears Is more than many, many years Of common time. Shun, if you can, However, any passionate plan. Grieve with the heart; let not the head Grieve on, when grief of heart is dead: For all the powers of life defy A superstitions constancy. The only bond I hold you to Is that which nothing can undo. A man is not a young man twice; And if, of his young years, he lies A faithful score in one wife's breast, She need not mind who has the rest. In this do what you will, dear Love, And feel quite sure that I approve. And, should it chance as it may be, Give her my wedding-ring from me; And never dream that you can err T'wards me by being good to her; Nor let remorseful thoughts destroy In you the kindly flowering joy And pleasure of the natural life. But don't forget your fond, dead Wife. And, Frederick, should you ever be Tempted to think your love of me All fancy, since it drew its breath So much more sweetly after death, Remember that I never did A single thing you once forbid; All poor folks liked me; and, at the end, Your Cousin call'd me 'Dearest Friend!' And, new, 'twill calm your grief to know,— You, who once loved Honoria so,— There's kindness, that's look'd kindly on, Between her Emily and John. Thus, in your children, you will wed! And John seems so much comforted, (Like Isaac when his mother died And fair Rebekah was his bride), By his new hope, for losing me! So all is happiness, you see. And that reminds me how, last night, I dreamt of heaven, with great delight. A strange, kind Lady watch'd my face, Kiss'd me, and cried, 'His hope found grace!' She bade me then, in the crystal floor, Look at myself, myself no more; And bright within the mirror shone Honoria's smile, and yet my own! 'And, when you talk, I hear,' she sigh'd, 'How much he loved her! Many a bride In heaven such countersemblance wears Through what Love deem'd rejected prayers.' She would have spoken still; but, lo, One of a glorious troop, aglow From some great work, towards her came, And she so laugh'd, 'twas such a flame, Aaron's twelve jewels seem'd to mix With the lights of the Seven Candlesticks.


My dearest Aunt, the Wedding-day, But for Jane's loss, and you away, Was all a Bride from heaven could beg Skies bluer than the sparrow's egg. And clearer than the cuckoo's call; And such a sun! the flowers all With double ardour seem'd to blow! The very daisies were a show, Expanded with uncommon pride, Like little pictures of the Bride. Your Great-Niece and your Grandson were Perfection of a pretty pair. How well Honoria's girls turn out, Although they never go about! Dear me, what trouble and expense It took to teach mine confidence! Hers greet mankind as I've heard say That wild things do, where beasts of prey Were never known, nor any men Have met their fearless eyes till then. Their grave, inquiring trust to find All creatures of their simple kind Quite disconcerts bold coxcombry, And makes less perfect candour shy. Ah, Mrs. Graham! people may scoff, But how your home-kept girls go off! How Hymen hastens to unband The waist that ne'er felt waltzer's hand! At last I see my Sister's right, And I've told Maud this very night, (But, oh, my daughters have such wills!) To knit, and only dance quadrilles. You say Fred never writes to you Frankly, as once he used to do, About himself; and you complain He shared with none his grief for Jane. It all comes of the foolish fright Men feel at the word, hypocrite. Although, when first in love, sometimes They rave in letters, talk, and rhymes, When once they find, as find they must, How hard 'tis to be hourly just To those they love, they are dumb for shame, Where we, you see, talk on the same. Honoria, to whose heart alone He seems to open all his own At times, has tears in her kind eyes, After their private colloquies. He's her most favour'd guest, and moves My spleen by his impartial loves. His pleasure has some inner spring Depending not on anything. Petting our Polly, none e'er smiled More fondly on his favourite child; Yet, playing with his own, it is Somehow as if it were not his. He means to go again to sea, Now that the wedding's over. He Will leave to Emily and John The little ones to practise on; And Major-domo, Mrs. Rouse, A dear old soul from Wilton House, Will scold the housemaids and the cook, Till Emily has learn'd to look A little braver than a lamb Surprised by dogs without its dam! Do, dear Aunt, use your influence, And try to teach some plain good sense To Mary. 'Tis not yet too late To make her change her chosen state Of single silliness. In truth, I fancy that, with fading youth, Her will now wavers. Yesterday, Though, till the Bride was gone away, Joy shone from Mary's loving heart, I found her afterwards apart, Hysterically sobbing. I Knew much too well to ask her why. This marrying of Nieces daunts The bravest souls of maiden Aunts. Though Sisters' children often blend Sweetly the bonds of child and friend, They are but reeds to rest upon. When Emily comes back with John, Her right to go downstairs before Aunt Mary will but be the more Observed if kindly waived, and how Shall these be as they were, when now Niece has her John, and Aunt the sense Of her superior innocence? Somehow, all loves, however fond, Prove lieges of the nuptial bond; And she who dares at this to scoff, Finds all the rest in time drop off; While marriage, like a mushroom-ring, Spreads its sure circle every Spring. She twice refused George Vane, you know; Yet, when be died three years ago In the Indian war, she put on gray, And wears no colours to this day. And she it is who charges me, Dear Aunt, with 'inconsistency!'


Cousin, my thoughts no longer try To cast the fashion of the sky. Imagination can extend Scarcely in part to comprehend The sweetness of our common food Ambrosial, which ingratitude And impious inadvertence waste, Studious to eat but not to taste. And who can tell what's yet in store There, but that earthly things have more Of all that makes their inmost bliss, And life's an image still of this, But haply such a glorious one As is the rainbow of the sun? Sweet are your words, but, after all Their mere reversal may befall The partners of His glories who Daily is crucified anew: Splendid privations, martyrdoms To which no weak remission comes Perpetual passion for the good Of them that feel no gratitude, Far circlings, as of planets' fires, Round never-to-be-reach'd desires, Whatever rapturously sighs That life is love, love sacrifice. All I am sure of heaven is this: Howe'er the mode, I shall not miss One true delight which I have known. Not on the changeful earth alone Shall loyalty remain unmoved T'wards everything I ever loved. So Heaven's voice calls, like Rachel's voice To Jacob in the field, 'Rejoice!' Serve on some seven more sordid years, Too short for weariness or tears; Serve on; then, oh, Beloved, well-tried, Take me for ever as thy Bride!'


Charles does me honour, but 'twere vain To reconsider now again, And so to doubt the clear-shown truth I sought for, and received, when youth, Being fair, and woo'd by one whose love Was lovely, fail'd my mind to move. God bids them by their own will go, Who ask again the things they know! I grieve for my infirmity, And ignorance of how to be Faithful, at once to the heavenly life, And the fond duties of a wife. Narrow am I and want the art To love two things with all my heart. Occupied singly in His search, Who, in the Mysteries of the Church, Returns, and calls them Clouds of Heaven, I tread a road, straight, hard, and even; But fear to wander all confused, By two-fold fealty abused. Either should I the one forget, Or scantly pay the other's debt. You bid me, Father, count the cost. I have; and all that must be lost I feel as only woman can. To make the heart's wealth of some man, And through the untender world to move, Wrapt safe in his superior love, How sweet! How sweet the household round Of duties, and their narrow bound, So plain, that to transgress were hard, Yet full of manifest reward! The charities not marr'd, like mine, With chance of thwarting laws divine; The world's regards and just delight In one that's clearly, kindly right, How sweet! Dear Father, I endure, Not without sharp regret, be sure, To give up such glad certainty, For what, perhaps, may never be. For nothing of my state I know, But that t'ward heaven I seem to go, As one who fondly landward hies Along a deck that seaward flies. With every year, meantime, some grace Of earthly happiness gives place To humbling ills, the very charms Of youth being counted, henceforth, harms: To blush already seems absurd; Nor know I whether I should herd With girls or wives, or sadlier balk Maids' merriment or matrons' talk. But strait's the gate of life! O'er late, Besides, 'twere now to change my fate: For flowers and fruit of love to form, It must he Spring as well as warm. The world's delight my soul dejects. Revenging all my disrespects Of old, with incapacity To chime with even its harmless glee, Which sounds, from fields beyond my range, Like fairies' music, thin and strange. With something like remorse, I grant The world has beauty which I want; And if, instead of judging it, I at its Council chance to sit, Or at its gay and order'd Feast, My place seems lower than the least The conscience of the life to be Smiles me with inefficiency, And makes me all unfit to bless With comfortable earthliness The rest-desiring brain of man. Finally, them, I fix my plan To dwell with Him that dwells apart In the highest heaven and lowliest heart; Nor will I, to my utter loss, Look to pluck roses from the Cross. As for the good of human love, 'Twere countercheck almost enough To think that one must die before The other; and perhaps 'tis more In love's last interest to do Nought the least contrary thereto, Than to be blest, and be unjust, Or suffer injustice; as they must, Without a miracle, whose pact Compels to mutual life and act, Whether love shines, or darkness sleeps Cold on the spirit's changeful deeps. Enough if, to my earthly share, Fall gleams that keep me from despair. Happy the things we here discern; More happy those for which we yearn; But measurelessly happy above All else are those we guess not of!


Dearest, my Love and Wife, 'tis long Ago I closed the unfinish'd song Which never could be finish'd; nor Will ever Poet utter more Of Love than I did, watching well To lure to speech the unspeakable! 'Why, having won her, do I woo?' That final strain to the last height flew Of written joy, which wants the smile And voice that are, indeed, the while They last, the very things you speak, Honoria, who mak'st music weak With ways that say, 'Shall I not be As kind to all as Heaven to me?' And yet, ah, twenty-fold my Bride! Rising, this twentieth festal-tide, You still soft sleeping, on this day Of days, some words I long to say, Some words superfluously sweet Of fresh assurance, thus to greet Your waking eyes, which never grow Weary of telling what I know So well, yet only well enough To wish for further news thereof. Here, in this early autumn dawn, By windows opening on the lawn. Where sunshine seems asleep, though bright, And shadows yet are sharp with night, And, further on, the wealthy wheat Bends in a golden drowse, how sweet To sit and cast my careless looks Around my walls of well-read books, Wherein is all that stands redeem'd From time's huge wreck, all men have dream'd Of truth, and all by poets known Of feeling, and in weak sort shown, And, turning to my heart again, To find I have what makes them vain, The thanksgiving mind, which wisdom sums, And you, whereby it freshly comes As on that morning, (can there be Twenty-two years 'twixt it and me?) When, thrill'd with hopeful love, I rose And came in haste to Sarum Close, Past many a homestead slumbering white In lonely and pathetic light, Merely to fancy which drawn blind Of thirteen had my Love behind, And in her sacred neighbourhood To feel that sweet scorn of all good But her, which let the wise forfend When wisdom learns to comprehend! Dearest, as each returning May I see the season new and gay With new joy and astonishment, And Nature's infinite ostent Of lovely flowers in wood and mead. That weet not whether any heed, So see I, daily wondering, you, And worship with a passion new The Heaven that visibly allows Its grace to go about my house, The partial Heaven, that, though I err And mortal am, gave all to her Who gave herself to me. Yet I Boldly thank Heaven, (and so defy The beggarly soul'd humbleness Which fears God's bounty to confess,) That I was fashion'd with a mind Seeming for this great gift design'd, So naturally it moved above All sordid contraries of love, Strengthen'd in youth with discipline Of light, to follow the divine Vision, (which ever to the dark Is such a plague as was the ark In Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron,) still Discerning with the docile will Which comes of full persuaded thought, That intimacy in love is nought Without pure reverence, whereas this, In tearfullest banishment, is bliss. And so, dearest Honoria, I Have never learn'd the weary sigh Of those that to their love-feasts went, Fed, and forgot the Sacrament; And not a trifle now occurs But sweet initiation stirs Of new-discover'd joy, and lends To feeling change that never ends; And duties which the many irk, Are made all wages and no work. How sing of such things save to her, Love's self, so love's interpreter? How the supreme rewards confess Which crown the austere voluptuousness Of heart, that earns, in midst of wealth, The appetite of want and health, Relinquishes the pomp of life And beauty to the pleasant Wife At home, and does all joy despise As out of place but in her eyes? How praise the years and gravity That make each favour seem to be A lovelier weakness for her lord? And, ah, how find the tender word To tell aright of love that glows The fairer for the fading rose? Of frailty which can weight the arm To lean with thrice its girlish charm? Of grace which, like this autumn day, Is not the sad one of decay, Yet one whose pale brow pondereth The far-off majesty of death? How tell the crowd, whom a passion rends, That love grows mild as it ascends? That joy's most high and distant mood Is lost, not found in dancing blood; Albeit kind acts and smiling eyes, And all those fond realities Which are love's words, in us mean more Delight than twenty years before? How, Dearest, finish without wrong To the speechless heart, the unfinish'd song, Its high, eventful passages Consisting, say, of things like these:— One morning, contrary to law, Which, for the most, we held in awe, Commanding either not to intrude On the other's place of solitude Or solitary mind, for fear Of coming there when God was near, And finding so what should be known To Him who is merciful alone, And views the working ferment base Of waking flesh and sleeping grace, Not as we view, our kindness check'd By likeness of our own defect, I, venturing to her room, because (Mark the excuse!) my Birthday 'twas, Saw, here across a careless chair, A ball-dress flung, as light as air, And, here, beside a silken couch, Pillows which did the pressure vouch Of pious knees, (sweet piety Of goodness made and charity, If gay looks told the heart's glad sense, Much rather than of penitence,) And, on the couch, an open book, And written list—I did not look, Yet just in her clear writing caught:— 'Habitual faults of life and thought Which most I need deliverance from.' I turn'd aside, and saw her come Adown the filbert-shaded way, Beautified with her usual gay Hypocrisy of perfectness, Which made her heart, and mine no less, So happy! And she cried to me, 'You lose by breaking rules, you see! Your Birthday treat is now half-gone Of seeing my new ball-dress on.' And, meeting so my lovely Wife, A passing pang, to think that life Was mortal, when I saw her laugh, Shaped in my mind this epitaph: 'Faults had she, child of Adam's stem. But only Heaven knew of them.' Or thus: For many a dreadful day, In sea-side lodgings sick she lay, Noteless of love, nor seem'd to hear The sea, on one side, thundering near, Nor, on the other, the loud Ball Held nightly in the public hall; Nor vex'd they my short slumbers, though I woke up if she breathed too low. Thus, for three months, with terrors rife, The pending of her precious life I watched o'er; and the danger, at last, The kind Physician said, was past. Howbeit, for seven harsh weeks the East Breathed witheringly, and Spring's growth ceased, And so she only did not die; Until the bright and blighting sky Changed into cloud, and the sick flowers Remember'd their perfumes, and showers Of warm, small rain refreshing flew Before the South, and the Park grew, In three nights, thick with green. Then she Revived, no less than flower and tree, In the mild air, and, the fourth day, Looked supernaturally gay With large, thanksgiving eyes, that shone, The while I tied her bonnet on, So that I led her to the glass, And bade her see how fair she was, And how love visibly could shine. Profuse of hers, desiring mine, And mindful I had loved her most When beauty seem'd a vanish'd boast, She laugh'd. I press'd her then to me, Nothing but soft humility; Nor e'er enhanced she with such charms Her acquiescence in my arms. And, by her sweet love-weakness made Courageous, powerful, and glad. In a clear illustration high Of heavenly affection, I Perceived that utter love is all The same as to be rational, And that the mind and heart of love, Which think they cannot do enough, Are truly the everlasting doors Wherethrough, all unpetition'd, pours The eternal pleasance. Wherefore we Had innermost tranquillity, And breathed one life with such a sense Of friendship and of confidence, That, recollecting the sure word: 'If two of you are in accord On earth, as touching any boon Which ye shall ask, it shall be done In heaven,' we ask'd that heaven's bliss Might ne'er be any less than this; And, for that hour, we seem'd to have The secret of the joy we gave. How sing of such things, save to her, Love's self, so love's interpreter? How read from such a homely page In the ear of this unhomely age? 'Tis now as when the Prophet cried: 'The nation hast Thou multiplied, But Thou hast not increased the joy!' And yet, ere wrath or rot destroy Of England's state the ruin fair, Oh, might I so its charm declare, That, in new Lands, in far-off years, Delighted he should cry that hears: 'Great is the Land that somewhat best Works, to the wonder of the rest! We, in our day, have better done This thing or that than any one; And who but, still admiring, sees How excellent for images Was Greece, for laws how wise was Rome; But read this Poet, and say if home And private love did e'er so smile As in that ancient English isle!'


My dearest Niece, I'm charm'd to hear The scenery's fine at Windermere, And glad a six-weeks' wife defers In the least to wisdom not yet hers. But, Child, I've no advice to give! Rules only make it hard to live. And where's the good of having been Well taught from seven to seventeen, If, married, you may not leave off, And say, at last, 'I'm good enough!' Weeding out folly, still leave some. It gives both lightness and aplomb. We know, however wise by rule, Woman is still by nature fool; And men have sense to like her all The more when she is natural. 'Tis true, that if we choose, we can Mock to a miracle the man; But iron in the fire red hot, Though 'tis the heat, the fire 'tis not: And who, for such a feint, would pledge The babe's and woman's privilege, No duties and a thousand rights? Besides, defect love's flow incites, As water in a well will run Only the while 'tis drawn upon. 'Point de culte sans mystere,' you say, 'And what if that should die away?' Child, never fear that either could Pull from Saint Cupid's face the hood. The follies natural to each Surpass the other's moral reach. Just think how men, with sword and gun, Will really fight, and never run; And all in sport: they would have died, For sixpence more, on the other side! A woman's heart must ever warm At such odd ways: and so we charm By strangeness which, the more they mark, The more men get into the dark. The marvel, by familiar life, Grows, and attaches to the wife By whom it grows. Thus, silly Girl, To John you'll always be the pearl In the oyster of the universe; And, though in time he'll treat you worse, He'll love you more, you need not doubt, And never, never find you out! My Dear, I know that dreadful thought That you've been kinder than you ought. It almost makes you hate him! Yet 'Tis wonderful how men forget, And how a merciful Providence Deprives our husbands of all sense Of kindness past, and makes them deem We always were what now we seem. For their own good we must, you know However plain the way we go, Still make it strange with stratagem; And instinct tells us that, to them, 'Tis always right to bate their price. Yet I must say they're rather nice, And, oh, so easily taken in To cheat them almost seems a sin! And, Dearest, 'twould be most unfair To John your feelings to compare With his, or any man's; for she Who loves at all loves always; he, Who loves far more, loves yet by fits, And, when the wayward wind remits To blow, his feelings faint and drop Like forge-flames when the bellows stop. Such things don't trouble you at all When once you know they're natural. My love to John; and, pray, my Dear, Don't let me see you for a year; Unless, indeed, ere then you've learn'd That Beauties wed are blossoms turn'd To unripe codlings, meant to dwell In modest shadow hidden well, Till this green stage again permute To glow of flowers with good of fruit. I will not have my patience tried By your absurd new-married pride, That scorns the world's slow-gather'd sense Ties up the hands of Providence, Rules babes, before there's hope of one, Better than mothers e'er have done, And, for your poor particular, Neglects delights and graces far Beyond your crude and thin conceit. Age has romance almost as sweet And much more generous than this Of yours and John's. With all the bliss Of the evenings when you coo'd with him And upset home for your sole whim, You might have envied, were you wise, The tears within your Mother's eyes, Which, I dare say, you did not see. But let that pass! Yours yet will be, I hope, as happy, kind, and true As lives which now seem void to you. Have you not seen shop-painters paste Their gold in sheets, then rub to waste Full half, and, lo, you read the name? Well, Time, my Dear, does much the same With this unmeaning glare of love. But, though you yet may much improve, In marriage, be it still confess'd, There's little merit at the best. Some half-a-dozen lives, indeed, Which else would not have had the need, Get food and nurture as the price Of antedated Paradise; But what's that to the varied want Succour'd by Mary, your dear Aunt, Who put the bridal crown thrice by, For that of which virginity, So used, has hope? She sends her love, As usual with a proof thereof— Papa's discourse, which you, no doubt, Heard none of, neatly copied out Whilst we were dancing. All are well, Adieu, for there's the Luncheon Bell.



The truths of Love are like the sea For clearness and for mystery. Of that sweet love which, startling, wakes Maiden and Youth, and mostly breaks The word of promise to the ear, But keeps it, after many a year, To the full spirit, how shall I speak? My memory with age is weak, And I for hopes do oft suspect The things I seem to recollect. Yet who but must remember well 'Twas this made heaven intelligible As motive, though 'twas small the power The heart might have, for even an hour. To hold possession of the height Of nameless pathos and delight!


In Godhead rise, thither flow back All loves, which, as they keep or lack. In their return, the course assign'd, Are virtue or sin. Love's every kind. Lofty or low, of spirit or sense, Desire is, or benevolence. He who is fairer, better, higher Than all His works, claims all desire, And in His Poor, His Proxies, asks Our whole benevolence: He tasks, Howbeit, His People by their powers; And if, my Children, you, for hours, Daily, untortur'd in the heart, Can worship, and time's other part Give, without rough recoils of sense, To the claims ingrate of indigence, Happy are you, and fit to be Wrought to rare heights of sanctity, For the humble to grow humbler at. But if the flying spirit falls flat, After the modest spell of prayer That saves the day from sin and care, And the upward eye a void descries, And praises are hypocrisies, And, in the soul, o'erstrain'd for grace, A godless anguish grows apace; Or, if impartial charity Seems, in the act, a sordid lie, Do not infer you cannot please God, or that He His promises Postpones, but be content to love No more than He accounts enough. Account them poor enough who want Any good thing which you can grant; And fathom well the depths of life In loves of Husband and of Wife, Child, Mother, Father; simple keys To what cold faith calls mysteries.


The love of marriage claims, above All other kinds, the name of love, As perfectest, though not so high As love which Heaven with single eye Considers. Equal and entire, Therein benevolence, desire, Elsewhere ill-join'd or found apart, Become the pulses of one heart, Which now contracts, and now dilates, And, both to the height exalting, mates Self-seeking to self-sacrifice. Nay, in its subtle paradise (When purest) this one love unites All modes of these two opposites, All balanced in accord so rich Who may determine which is which? Chiefly God's Love does in it live, And nowhere else so sensitive; For each is all that the other's eye, In the vague vast of Deity, Can comprehend and so contain As still to touch and ne'er to strain The fragile nerves of joy. And then 'Tis such a wise goodwill to men And politic economy As in a prosperous State we see, Where every plot of common land Is yielded to some private hand To fence about and cultivate. Does narrowness its praise abate? Nay, the infinite of man is found But in the beating of its bound, And, if a brook its banks o'erpass, 'Tis not a sea, but a morass.


No giddiest hope, no wildest guess Of Love's most innocent loftiness Had dared to dream of its own worth, Till Heaven's bold sun-gleam lit the earth. Christ's marriage with the Church is more, My Children, than a metaphor. The heaven of heavens is symbol'd where The torch of Psyche flash'd despair. But here I speak of heights, and heights Are hardly scaled. The best delights Of even this homeliest passion, are In the most perfect souls so rare, That they who feel them are as men Sailing the Southern ocean, when, At midnight, they look up, and eye The starry Cross, and a strange sky Of brighter stars; and sad thoughts come To each how far he is from home.


Love's inmost nuptial sweetness see In the doctrine of virginity! Could lovers, at their dear wish, blend, 'Twould kill the bliss which they intend; For joy is love's obedience Against the law of natural sense; And those perpetual yearnings sweet Of lives which dream that they can meet Are given that lovers never may Be without sacrifice to lay On the high altar of true love, With tears of vestal joy. To move Frantic, like comets to our bliss, Forgetting that we always miss, And so to seek and fly the sun, By turns, around which love should run, Perverts the ineffable delight Of service guerdon'd with full sight And pathos of a hopeless want, To an unreal victory's vaunt, And plaint of an unreal defeat. Yet no less dangerous misconceit May also be of the virgin will, Whose goal is nuptial blessing still, And whose true being doth subsist, There where the outward forms are miss'd, In those who learn and keep the sense Divine of 'due benevolence,' Seeking for aye, without alloy Of selfish thought, another's joy, And finding in degrees unknown That which in act they shunn'd, their own. For all delights of earthly love Are shadows of the heavens, and move As other shadows do; they flee From him that follows them; and he Who flies, for ever finds his feet Embraced by their pursuings sweet.


Then, even in love humane, do I Not counsel aspirations high, So much as sweet and regular Use of the good in which we are. As when a man along the ways Walks, and a sudden music plays, His step unchanged, he steps in time, So let your Grace with Nature chime. Her primal forces burst, like straws, The bonds of uncongenial laws. Right life is glad as well as just, And, rooted strong in 'This I must,' It bears aloft the blossom gay And zephyr-toss'd, of 'This I may;' Whereby the complex heavens rejoice In fruits of uncommanded choice. Be this your rule: seeking delight Esteem success the test of right; For 'gainst God's will much may be done, But nought enjoy'd, and pleasures none Exist, but, like to springs of steel, Active no longer than they feel The checks that make them serve the soul, They take their vigour from control. A man need only keep but well The Church's indispensable First precepts, and she then allows, Nay, more, she bids him, for his spouse, Leave even his heavenly Father's awe, At times, and His immaculate law, Construed in its extremer sense. Jehovah's mild magnipotence Smiles to behold His children play In their own free and childish way, And can His fullest praise descry In the exuberant liberty Of those who, having understood The glory of the Central Good, And how souls ne'er may match or merge, But as they thitherward converge, Take in love's innocent gladness part With infantine, untroubled heart, And faith that, straight t'wards heaven's far Spring, Sleeps, like the swallow, on the wing.


Lovers, once married, deem their bond Then perfect, scanning nought beyond For love to do but to sustain The spousal hour's delighted gain. But time and a right life alone Fulfil the promise then foreshown. The Bridegroom and the Bride withal Are but unwrought material Of marriage; nay, so far is love, Thus crown'd, from being thereto enough, Without the long, compulsive awe Of duty, that the bond of law Does oftener marriage-love evoke, Than love, which does not wear the yoke Of legal vows, submits to be Self-rein'd from ruinous liberty. Lovely is love; but age well knows 'Twas law which kept the lover's vows Inviolate through the year or years Of worship pieced with panic fears, When she who lay within his breast Seem'd of all women perhaps the best, But not the whole, of womankind, Or love, in his yet wayward mind, Had ghastly doubts its precious life Was pledged for aye to the wrong wife. Could it be else? A youth pursues A maid, whom chance, not he, did choose, Till to his strange arms hurries she In a despair of modesty. Then, simply and without pretence Of insight or experience, They plight their vows. The parents say 'We cannot speak them yea or nay; The thing proceedeth from the Lord!' And wisdom still approves their word; For God created so these two They match as well as others do That take more pains, and trust Him less Who never fails, if ask'd, to bless His children's helpless ignorance And blind election of life's chance. Verily, choice not matters much, If but the woman's truly such, And the young man has led the life Without which how shall e'er the wife Be the one woman in the world? Love's sensitive tendrils sicken, curl'd Round folly's former stay; for 'tis The doom of all unsanction'd bliss To mock some good that, gain'd, keeps still The taint of the rejected ill.


Howbeit, though both were perfect, she Of whom the maid was prophecy As yet lives not, and Love rebels Against the law of any else; And, as a steed takes blind alarm, Disowns the rein, and hunts his harm, So, misdespairing word and act May now perturb the happiest pact. The more, indeed, is love, the more Peril to love is now in store. Against it nothing can be done But only this: leave ill alone! Who tries to mend his wife succeeds As he who knows not what he needs. He much affronts a worth as high As his, and that equality Of spirits in which abide the grace And joy of her subjected place; And does the still growth check and blur Of contraries, confusing her Who better knows what he desires Than he, and to that mark aspires With perfect zeal, and a deep wit Which nothing helps but trusting it. So, loyally o'erlooking all In which love's promise short may fall Of full performance, honour that As won, which aye love worketh at! It is but as the pedigree Of perfectness which is to be That our best good can honour claim; Yet honour to deny were shame And robbery: for it is the mould Wherein to beauty runs the gold Of good intention, and the prop That lifts to the sun the earth-drawn crop Of human sensibilities. Such honour, with a conduct wise In common things, as, not to steep The lofty mind of love in sleep Of over much familiarness; Not to degrade its kind caress, As those do that can feel no more, So give themselves to pleasures o'er; Not to let morning-sloth destroy The evening-flower, domestic joy; Not by uxoriousness to chill The warm devotion of her will Who can but half her love confer On him that cares for nought but her;— These, and like obvious prudencies Observed, he's safest that relies, For the hope she will not always seem, Caught, but a laurel or a stream, On time; on her unsearchable Love-wisdom; on their work done well, Discreet with mutual aid; on might Of shared affliction and delight; On pleasures that so childish be They're 'shamed to let the children see, By which life keeps the valleys low Where love does naturally grow; On much whereof hearts have account, Though heads forget; on babes, chief fount Of union, and for which babes are No less than this for them, nay far More, for the bond of man and wife To the very verge of future life Strengthens, and yearns for brighter day, While others, with their use, decay; And, though true marriage purpose keeps Of offspring, as the centre sleeps Within the wheel, transmitting thence Fury to the circumference, Love's self the noblest offspring is, And sanction of the nuptial kiss; Lastly, on either's primal curse, Which help and sympathy reverse To blessings.


God, who may be well Jealous of His chief miracle, Bids sleep the meddling soul of man, Through the long process of this plan, Whereby, from his unweeting side, The Wife's created, and the Bride, That chance one of her strange, sweet sex He to his glad life did annex, Grows more and more, by day and night, The one in the whole world opposite Of him, and in her nature all So suited and reciprocal To his especial form of sense, Affection, and intelligence, That, whereas love at first had strange Relapses into lust of change, It now finds (wondrous this, but true!) The long-accustom'd only new, And the untried common; and, whereas An equal seeming danger was Of likeness lacking joy and force, Or difference reaching to divorce, Now can the finish'd lover see Marvel of me most far from me, Whom without pride he may admire, Without Narcissus' doom desire, Serve without selfishness, and love 'Even as himself,' in sense above Niggard 'as much,' yea, as she is The only part of him that's his.


I do not say love's youth returns; That joy which so divinely yearns! But just esteem of present good Shows all regret such gratitude As if the sparrow in her nest, Her woolly young beneath her breast, Should these despise, and sorrow for Her five blue eggs that are no more. Nor say I the fruit has quite the scope Of the flower's spiritual hope. Love's best is service, and of this, Howe'er devout, use dulls the bliss. Though love is all of earth that's dear, Its home, my Children, is not here: The pathos of eternity Does in its fullest pleasure sigh. Be grateful and most glad thereof. Parting, as 'tis, is pain enough. If love, by joy, has learn'd to give Praise with the nature sensitive, At last, to God, we then possess The end of mortal happiness, And henceforth very well may wait The unbarring of the golden gate, Wherethrough, already, faith can see That apter to each wish than we Is God, and curious to bless Better than we devise or guess; Not without condescending craft To disappoint with bliss, and waft Our vessels frail, when worst He mocks The heart with breakers and with rocks, To happiest havens. You have heard Your bond death-sentenced by His Word. What, if, in heaven, the name be o'er, Because the thing is so much more? All are, 'tis writ, as angels there, Nor male nor female. Each a stair In the hierarchical ascent Of active and recipient Affections, what if all are both By turn, as they themselves betroth To adoring what is next above, Or serving what's below their love? Of this we are certified, that we Are shaped here for eternity, So that a careless word will make Its dint upon the form we take For ever. If, then, years have wrought Two strangers to become, in thought. Will, and affection, but one man For likeness, as none others can, Without like process, shall this tree The king of all the forest, be, Alas, the only one of all That shall not lie where it doth fall? Shall this unflagging flame, here nurs'd By everything, yea, when reversed, Blazing, in fury, brighter, wink, Flicker, and into darkness shrink, When all else glows, baleful or brave, In the keen air beyond the grave? Beware; for fiends in triumph laugh O'er him who learns the truth by half! Beware; for God will not endure For men to make their hope more pure Than His good promise, or require Another than the five-string'd lyre Which He has vow'd again to the hands Devout of him who understands To tune it justly here! Beware The Powers of Darkness and the Air, Which lure to empty heights man's hope, Bepraising heaven's ethereal cope, But covering with their cloudy cant Its ground of solid adamant, That strengthens ether for the flight Of angels, makes and measures height, And in materiality Exceeds our Earth's in such degree As all else Earth exceeds! Do I Here utter aught too dark or high? Have you not seen a bird's beak slay Proud Psyche, on a summer's day? Down fluttering drop the frail wings four, Missing the weight which made them soar. Spirit is heavy nature's wing, And is not rightly anything Without its burthen, whereas this, Wingless, at least a maggot is, And, wing'd, is honour and delight Increasing endlessly with height.


If unto any here that chance Fell not, which makes a month's romance, Remember, few wed whom they would. And this, like all God's laws, is good; For nought's so sad, the whole world o'er, As much love which has once been more. Glorious for light is the earliest love; But worldly things, in the rays thereof, Extend their shadows, every one False as the image which the sun At noon or eve dwarfs or protracts. A perilous lamp to light men's acts! By Heaven's kind, impartial plan, Well-wived is he that's truly man If but the woman's womanly, As such a man's is sure to be. Joy of all eyes and pride of life Perhaps she is not; the likelier wife! If it be thus; if you have known, (As who has not?) some heavenly one. Whom the dull background of despair Help'd to show forth supremely fair; If memory, still remorseful, shapes Young Passion bringing Eshcol grapes To travellers in the Wilderness, This truth will make regret the less: Mighty in love as graces are, God's ordinance is mightier far; And he who is but just and kind And patient, shall for guerdon find, Before long, that the body's bond Is all else utterly beyond In power of love to actualise The soul's bond which it signifies, And even to deck a wife with grace External in the form and face. A five years' wife, and not yet fair? Blame let the man, not Nature, bear! For, as the sun, warming a bank Where last year's grass droops gray and dank, Evokes the violet, bids disclose In yellow crowds the fresh primrose, And foxglove hang her flushing head, So vernal love, where all seems dead, Makes beauty abound. Then was that nought, That trance of joy beyond all thought, The vision, in one, of womanhood? Nay, for all women holding good, Should marriage such a prologue want, 'Twere sordid and most ignorant Profanity; but, having this, 'Tis honour now, and future bliss; For where is he that, knowing the height And depth of ascertain'd delight, Inhumanly henceforward lies Content with mediocrities!


Whene'er mine eyes do my Amelia greet It is with such emotion As when, in childhood, turning a dim street, I first beheld the ocean. There, where the little, bright, surf-breathing town, That shew'd me first her beauty and the sea, Gathers its skirts against the gorse-lit down And scatters gardens o'er the southern lea, Abides this Maid Within a kind, yet sombre Mother's shade, Who of her daughter's graces seems almost afraid, Viewing them ofttimes with a scared forecast, Caught, haply, from obscure love-peril past. Howe'er that be, She scants me of my right, Is cunning careful evermore to balk Sweet separate talk, And fevers my delight By frets, if, on Amelia's cheek of peach, I touch the notes which music cannot reach, Bidding 'Good-night!' Wherefore it came that, till to-day's dear date, I curs'd the weary months which yet I have to wait Ere I find heaven, one-nested with my mate. To-day, the Mother gave, To urgent pleas and promise to behave As she were there, her long-besought consent To trust Amelia with me to the grave Where lay my once-betrothed, Millicent: 'For,' said she, hiding ill a moistening eye, 'Though, Sir, the word sounds hard, God makes as if He least knew how to guard The treasure He loves best, simplicity.' And there Amelia stood, for fairness shewn Like a young apple-tree, in flush'd array Of white and ruddy flow'r, auroral, gay, With chilly blue the maiden branch between; And yet to look on her moved less the mind To say 'How beauteous!' than 'How good and kind!' And so we went alone By walls o'er which the lilac's numerous plume Shook down perfume; Trim plots close blown With daisies, in conspicuous myriads seen, Engross'd each one With single ardour for her spouse, the sun; Garths in their glad array Of white and ruddy branch, auroral, gay, With azure chill the maiden flow'r between; Meadows of fervid green, With sometime sudden prospect of untold Cowslips, like chance-found gold; And broadcast buttercups at joyful gaze, Rending the air with praise, Like the six-hundred-thousand-voiced shout Of Jacob camp'd in Midian put to rout; Then through the Park, Where Spring to livelier gloom Quicken'd the cedars dark, And, 'gainst the clear sky cold, Which shone afar Crowded with sunny alps oracular, Great chestnuts raised themselves abroad like cliffs of bloom; And everywhere, Amid the ceaseless rapture of the lark, With wonder new We caught the solemn voice of single air, 'Cuckoo!' And when Amelia, 'bolden'd, saw and heard How bravely sang the bird, And all things in God's bounty did rejoice, She who, her Mother by, spake seldom word, Did her charm'd silence doff, And, to my happy marvel, her dear voice Went as a clock does, when the pendulum's off. Ill Monarch of man's heart the Maiden who Does not aspire to be High-Pontiff too! So she repeated soft her Poet's line, 'By grace divine, Not otherwise, O Nature, are we thine!' And I, up the bright steep she led me, trod, And the like thought pursued With, 'What is gladness without gratitude, And where is gratitude without a God?' And of delight, the guerdon of His laws, She spake, in learned mood; And I, of Him loved reverently, as Cause, Her sweetly, as Occasion of all good. Nor were we shy, For souls in heaven that be May talk of heaven without hypocrisy. And now, when we drew near The low, gray Church, in its sequester'd dell, A shade upon me fell. Dead Millicent indeed had been most sweet, But I how little meet To call such graces in a Maiden mine! A boy's proud passion free affection blunts; His well-meant flatteries oft are blind affronts, And many a tear Was Millicent's before I, manlier, knew That maidens shine As diamonds do, Which, though most clear, Are not to be seen through; And, if she put her virgin self aside And sate her, crownless, at my conquering feet, It should have bred in me humility, not pride. Amelia had more luck than Millicent, Secure she smiled and warm from all mischance Or from my knowledge or my ignorance, And glow'd content With my—some might have thought too much—superior age, Which seem'd the gage Of steady kindness all on her intent. Thus nought forbade us to be fully blent. While, therefore, now Her pensive footstep stirr'd The darnell'd garden of unheedful death, She ask'd what Millicent was like, and heard Of eyes like her's, and honeysuckle breath, And of a wiser than a woman's brow, Yet fill'd with only woman's love, and how An incidental greatness character'd Her unconsider'd ways. But all my praise Amelia thought too slight for Millicent And on my lovelier-freighted arm she leant, For more attent; And the tea-rose I gave, To deck her breast, she dropp'd upon the grave. 'And this was her's,' said I, decoring with a band Of mildest pearls Amelia's milder hand. 'Nay, I will wear it for her sake,' she said: For dear to maidens are their rivals dead. And so, She seated on the black yew's tortured root, I on the carpet of sere shreds below, And nigh the little mound where lay that other, I kiss'd her lips three times without dispute, And, with bold worship suddenly aglow, I lifted to my lips a sandall'd foot, And kiss'd it three times thrice without dispute. Upon my head her fingers fell like snow, Her lamb-like hands about my neck she wreathed. Her arms like slumber o'er my shoulders crept, And with her bosom, whence the azalea breathed, She did my face full favourably smother, To hide the heaving secret that she wept! Now would I keep my promise to her Mother; Now I arose, and raised her to her feet, My best Amelia, fresh-born from a kiss, Moth-like, full-blown in birthdew shuddering sweet, With great, kind eyes, in whose brown shade Bright Venus and her Baby play'd! At inmost heart well pleased with one another, What time the slant sun low Through the plough'd field does each clod sharply shew, And softly fills With shade the dimples of our homeward hills, With little said, We left the 'wilder'd garden of the dead, And gain'd the gorse-lit shoulder of the down That keeps the north-wind from the nestling town, And caught, once more, the vision of the wave, Where, on the horizon's dip, A many-sailed ship Pursued alone her distant purpose grave; And, by steep steps rock-hewn, to the dim street I led her sacred feet; And so the Daughter gave, Soft, moth-like, sweet, Showy as damask-rose and shy as musk, Back to her Mother, anxious in the dusk. And now 'Good-night!' Me shall the phantom months no more affright. For heaven's gates to open well waits he Who keeps himself the key.


Perchance she droops within the hollow gulf Which the great wave of coming pleasure draws, Not guessing the glad cause! Ye Clouds that on your endless journey go, Ye Winds that westward flow, Thou heaving Sea That heav'st 'twixt her and me, Tell her I come; Then only sigh your pleasure, and be dumb; For the sweet secret of our either self We know. Tell her I come, And let her heart be still'd. One day's controlled hope, and then one more, And on the third our lives shall be fulfill'd! Yet all has been before: Palm placed in palm, twin smiles, and words astray. What other should we say? But shall I not, with ne'er a sign, perceive, Whilst her sweet hands I hold, The myriad threads and meshes manifold Which Love shall round her weave: The pulse in that vein making alien pause And varying beats from this; Down each long finger felt, a differing strand Of silvery welcome bland; And in her breezy palm And silken wrist, Beneath the touch of my like numerous bliss Complexly kiss'd, A diverse and distinguishable calm? What should we say! It all has been before; And yet our lives shall now be first fulfill'd. And into their summ'd sweetness fall distill'd One sweet drop more; One sweet drop more, in absolute increase Of unrelapsing peace. O, heaving Sea, That heav'st as if for bliss of her and me, And separatest not dear heart from heart, Though each 'gainst other beats too far apart, For yet awhile Let it not seem that I behold her smile. O, weary Love, O, folded to her breast, Love in each moment years and years of rest, Be calm, as being not. Ye oceans of intolerable delight, The blazing photosphere of central Night, Be ye forgot. Terror, thou swarthy Groom of Bride-bliss coy, Let me not see thee toy. O, Death, too tardy with thy hope intense Of kisses close beyond conceit of sense; O, Life, too liberal, while to take her hand Is more of hope than heart can understand; Perturb my golden patience not with joy, Nor, through a wish, profane The peace that should pertain To him who does by her attraction move. Has all not been before? One day's controlled hope, and one again, And then the third, and ye shall have the rein, O Life, Death, Terror, Love! But soon let your unrestful rapture cease, Ye flaming Ethers thin, Condensing till the abiding sweetness win One sweet drop more; One sweet drop more in the measureless increase Of honied peace.


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 that 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!'


It was not like your great and gracious ways! Do you, that have nought other to lament, Never, my Love, repent Of how, that July afternoon, You went, With sudden, unintelligible phrase, And frighten'd eye, Upon your journey of so many days, Without a single kiss, or a good-bye? I knew, indeed, that you were parting soon; And so we sate, within the low sun's rays, You whispering to me, for your voice was weak, Your harrowing praise. Well, it was well, To hear you such things speak, And I could tell What made your eyes a growing gloom of love, As a warm South-wind sombres a March grove. And it was like your great and gracious ways To turn your talk on daily things, my Dear, Lifting the luminous, pathetic lash To let the laughter flash, Whilst I drew near, Because you spoke so low that I could scarcely hear. But all at once to leave me at the last, More at the wonder than the loss aghast, With huddled, unintelligible phrase, And frighten'd eye, And go your journey of all days With not one kiss, or a good-bye, And the only loveless look the look with which you pass'd: 'Twas all unlike your great and gracious ways.


My little Son, who look'd from thoughtful eyes And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise, Having my law the seventh time disobey'd, I struck him, and dismiss'd With hard words and unkiss'd, His Mother, who was patient, being dead. Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep, I visited his bed, But found him slumbering deep, With darken'd eyelids, and their lashes yet From his late sobbing wet. And I, with moan, Kissing away his tears, left others of my own; For, on a table drawn beside his head, He had put, within his reach, A box of counters and a red-vein'd stone, A piece of glass abraded by the beach And six or seven shells, A bottle with bluebells And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art, To comfort his sad heart. So when that night I pray'd To God, I wept, and said: Ah, when at last we lie with tranced breath, Not vexing Thee in death, And Thou rememberest of what toys We made our joys, How weakly understood, Thy great commanded good, Then, fatherly not less Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay Thou'lt leave Thy wrath, and say, 'I will be sorry for their childishness.'


'If I were dead, you'd sometimes say, Poor Child!' The dear lips quiver'd as they spake, And the tears brake From eyes which, not to grieve me, brightly smiled. Poor Child, poor Child! I seem to hear your laugh, your talk, your song. It is not true that Love will do no wrong. Poor Child! And did you think, when you so cried and smiled, How I, in lonely nights, should lie awake, And of those words your full avengers make? Poor Child, poor Child! And now, unless it be That sweet amends thrice told are come to thee, O God, have Thou no mercy upon me! Poor Child!


With all my will, but much against my heart, We two now part. My Very Dear, Our solace is, the sad road lies so clear. It needs no art, With faint, averted feet And many a tear, In our opposed paths to persevere. Go thou to East, I West. We will not say There's any hope, it is so far away. But, O, my Best, When the one darling of our widowhead, The nursling Grief, Is dead, And no dews blur our eyes To see the peach-bloom come in evening skies, Perchance we may, Where now this night is day, And even through faith of still averted feet, Making full circle of our banishment, Amazed meet; The bitter journey to the bourne so sweet Seasoning the termless feast of our content With tears of recognition never dry.


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 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, 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 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 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? 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, 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, 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, '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 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!' 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, Unless deny Him thou!


A florin to the willing Guard Secured, for half the way, (He lock'd us in, ah, lucky-starr'd,) A curtain'd, front coupe. 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.


Bright thro' the valley gallops the brooklet; Over the welkin travels the cloud; Touch'd by the zephyr, dances the harebell; Cuckoo sits somewhere, singing so loud; Two little children, seeing and hearing, Hand in hand wander, shout, laugh, and sing: Lo, in their bosoms, wild with the marvel, Love, like the crocus, is come ere the Spring. Young men and women, noble and tender, Yearn for each other, faith truly plight, Promise to cherish, comfort and honour; Vow that makes duty one with delight. Oh, but the glory, found in no story, Radiance of Eden unquench'd by the Fall; Few may remember, none may reveal it, This the first first-love, the first love of all!


{1} Written in 1856.


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